You can just about make out the small group of allotments at the back of the garden in this photo by their green plastic polytunnels, and see the trees which flank the land on the other side. There are 14 vegetable plots in all: 10 share a home with the chickens in the vegetable part of the garden, and 4 nestle alongside the main garden, which is a riot of colour in June. When I arrived, Antonio, a plot holder, was busy tending his plot, bringing kitchen waste from home for his compost bin. He was a man in search of Valerian, a herb, which he had been told speeds up the compost process, but the black gold in his bin was well on its way to nurturing his plants later in the spring without it.
The summer splendour of the garden is a great contrast to the rather austere environment in which it sits, with the tower block an ever-present feature looming over it. Five years ago Melvyn Smith sat in his flat looking down at the windswept scrubland that it was - a neglected garden, the odd evergreen shrub, pruned religiously, with the odd useful feature such as a brick pergola. The council announced plans to turn the 'garden' into a car park and this galvanised Melvyn into action - and he was swiftly joined by fellow resident Ken Davis. The rest is history.
Vines now trail over the brick pergola. I didn't enquire as to the vintage of the produce it gives, but feel sure that its grapes or its wine would be delectable.
The people who garden here and fill these allotments with an abundance of produce for the summer come from all walks of life and backgrounds. Gardening is a marvellous leveller. Actors brush shoulders with social workers, consultant psychologists, post office engineers and managing directors with many people from different professions now enjoying their retirement here. A Bulgarian prunes and tends the grapes, others are Londoners, with their rich heritage from so many countries, Yorkshire, Birmingham and Bangladesh included.
This is Melvyn at the front of the block, which is managed by Tower Hamlets Community Housing. Watch out for the 2017 Open Garden Squares guidebook. An emerald green gem logo will delineate gardens selected for the 'Hidden Gem' competition with details of how to enter.
If I lived in this tower block I'd be down in the garden every day. There is a warm welcome for all the residents in the block - don't just look down and admire, glorious as that must be in summer - go down to smell the flowers.
Information on visiting Winterton House Organic Garden on Open Garden Squares Weekend »