Creating Change, Growth and Enablement: Edible Rotherhithe, Southwark

Edible Rotherhithe is a community food growing, gardening and arts charity based in Southwark. They are a local project that works between schools, educational facilities and community centres, to offer food growing, gardening and arts & crafts workshops for children and adults. Rosanna Head

We spoke to Christina Nilsen Wheatley, Trustee, Edible Rotherhithe who told us more about the charity and how they are enabling Southwark residents to grow their own food to eat healthily.

Christina Nilsen Wheatley, Trustee, Edible Rotherhithe

Christina founded the project in 2014 to enable Southwark residents to grow their own food, understand where their food comes from and eat healthily. In 2016 they became a Community Interest Company and this year successfully converted to a registered charity.

Christina said: “We are interested in how gardening and food growing can promote a greater awareness around healthy eating and where our food comes from. Our programme of workshops and after-school clubs explore how practical education can take place across different age ranges outside the classroom.

“I am one of five trustees and a trained Southwark Master Gardener. I help deliver food growing, DIY and arts & crafts clubs, workshops and projects for young people and residents at various venues in Southwark including Surrey Square School and Age UK. Away from Edible Rotherhithe, I campaign for period poverty in Southwark and have caring responsibilities for older people. In 2019, I won Volunteer of the Year at Southwark Stars Awards Ceremony at Tate Modern.”

Partnerships that deliver

As well as delivering clubs, workshops and projects at schools and community centres, such as Surrey Square School and Age UK, Edible Rotherhithe also partner with The Southwark Food Action Alliance, Walworth Community Gardening Network, University of the Arts London, Goldsmiths University and The Old Operating Theatre. 

Recently the team has been lucky to work with Sanira Emon, founder of Paper Fight Art. Sanira has helped deliver print-making workshops for young people in Southwark. You can see a range of her work on Instagram where she makes posters, prints and cards, using a variety of mediums including linoprint, watercolour, collage, paint, ink and pencil. Most recently Paper Fight Art has been producing handprinted totebags and aprons based on artwork by children from the after school printing workshops arranged by Edible Rotherhithe. The totebags and aprons are available at the following link:

Creating Change

Edible Rotherhithe partnered with Surrey Square School, Walworth, Southwark to build a Polytunnel garden.

Christina said: “We were delighted to partner with the School to help transform their outdoor space so that it resembled something similar to the home of the Telletubbie! Following a successful Spacehive crowdfunding campaign, we installed and customised a new 18ft x 16ft polytunnel community garden in August 2019, including new raised planter beds, on the roof of Surrey Square School’s pavilion adjoining the brow of its hill.”

Eight tonnes of soil mix was transferred to the raised planter beds by local volunteers, and corporate volunteers from Hands on London and Good Gym Southwark got involved. The new polytunnel garden has enabled an additional weekly food growing and gardening after-school education club. The clubs are free and open to all students aged 5 to 11. Surrey Square School is situated in the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in England for quality of living environment (English Indices of Multiple Deprivation, 2019), and the classes provide a vital opportunity for local children to learn about sustainability and provide them with hands-on experience of growing.

Polytunnel, Surrey Square School

In September 2020, we installed a new edible green wall and mini-orchard in the School grounds which includes several different species of fruit trees and bushes; and 435 vegetable plants in new raised planter beds with safe step decking for all 500 children in the School, parents and staff to enjoy and improve well-being. The green wall acts as a partial screen to onlookers and improves air quality and biodiversity. Everything grown in the polytunnel and School garden is used in the School’s kitchen for lunches. 

For a full list of projects see the Projects page on their website:

Surrey Square School Food Growers

What challenges have you faced along the way?

“Covid-19 and lockdown has been challenging as the weekly food growing clubs and workshops have been suspended and has had a knock on effect on our fundraising. We have worked with Sanira (above) to produce a range of  handprinted totebags and aprons based on artwork by children from the after school printing workshops as a way to raise funds.

“We look forward to restarting the weekly food growing programme of clubs and workshops, completing the Edible Green Wall at Surrey Square School and recruiting more volunteers.” said Christina. Please see their website donation page:

What has been a most memorable time for ER?  
“Installing the 18 ft x 16ft polytunnel garden on the roof of Surrey Square School, and the public performance of the young poets at Tate Exchange, was inspirational. “

Tate Exchange Performance

If you were to give some advise to others maybe wanting to get involved in community project what advise would you give?
Find something that you are interested in, and give it a go!

How can you get involved with Edible Rotherhithe?

Individual volunteers and corporate volunteers are welcome to get involved, see website links:

Where are your favourite spots in SE London?
The Old Operating Theatre, Brigade Bar & Kitchen at London Bridge, Surrey Docks Farm, Walworth Garden, The Yellow House, Poppy Hana restaurant, Glengall Wharf Garden at Burgess Park and local community gardens and parks generally. 

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