Photos of the Two-Month Occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden Prior to its Violent Eviction

30.10.19

The Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford on the eve of its occupation, August 28, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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One year ago yesterday, the two-month occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a community garden in Deptford, in south east London, came to a violent end when bailiffs hired by Lewisham Council evicted the occupiers in a dawn raid.

It was a disturbing end to a long-running effort on the part of the local community to save the garden — and Reginald House, a block of structurally sound council flats next door — from destruction as part of a plan to re-develop the site of the old Tidemill primary school. The garden — a magical design of concentric circles — had been created by pupils, teachers and parents 20 years before, and the community had been given use of it after the school moved to a new site in 2012, while efforts to finalise the plans proceeded, with the housing association Family Mosaic (which later merged with Peabody) and the private developer Sherrygreen Homes.

The garden was not only a magical green space; it also helped to mitigate the worst effects of pollution on nearby Deptford Church Street, but the council weren’t interested in considering alternative plans that would have spared the garden and Reginald House, and terminated the lease on the garden on August 28 last year. However, instead of giving the keys back, the community occupied the garden instead, embarking on a two-month experiment in community resistance that resonated around the world.

A year ago yesterday, after the eviction, whose intended swift conclusion was delayed as one brave activist, high in a tree, survived efforts to bring her down that were patently dangerous and in contravention of health and safety protocols, there was a stand-off, and numerous skirmishes, between the bailiffs — 130 of them in total —- and many dozens of police officers brought in to “protect” them, and the local community and activists and campaigners who had been part of the occupation, or had been part of the longer struggle to save the garden from destruction, or who, in some cases, only got involved when the eviction took place, and were instantly radicalised by the violence on show.

The eviction cost over £100,000, and the council subsequently spent over a million pounds paying the bailiffs to guard the garden 24 hours a day, causing serious distress in the immediate neighbourhood, as the bailiffs were not always friendly, the garden was floodlit at night, and guard dogs in the garden barked all night. Eventually, after campaigners persuaded a tree services company hired to cut down the trees to withdraw from their contract, the council found a more pliable company, and that destruction took place on February 27 this year, on the same day that, with breathtaking hypocrisy, the council declared a “climate emergency.”

The campaigners, however, continued their resistance, symbolically occupying the green next to the garden and causing the council further headaches, but in May they withdrew, fearing crippling legal costs in a court case. However, although the green was soon boarded up, building works have not begun.

Instead, Sherrygreen Homes and Peabody have begun work on a second site, Amersham Vale, which was stealthily twinned with Tidemill at the planning stage, where 120 new properties are to be built, 81 of which will be for private sale, in a development marketed, without a trace of irony, as ‘The Muse.’ Once this cash cow is underway, the development of the Tidemill site — where only 51 of the proposed 209 properties are for private sale — will presumably begin, and it will be interesting to see, when this does eventually happen, what resistance there will be, as campaigners have not given up on the residents of Reginald House, whose homes shouldn’t be destroyed, and who have never been given a ballot to ask what they want, and campaigners also continue to insist that the garden should be re-planted and retained, which would actually be a significant gesture on the council’s part towards tackling the “climate emergency” that they so hollowly declared back in February.

Keep watching for updates — and do check out what’s happening at Amersham Vale — but in the meantime enjoy my photos below, of the beauty of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, and its exhilarating two-month occupation last year.

We all still miss it every day.

Tents in the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford on the eve of its occupation, August 28, 2018.
A treehouse erected for the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, and a wonderful shed made by campaigners from found materials, August 28, 2018.
Campaigners outside the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford at the start of its two-month occupation, August 29, 2018.
A treehouse made out of found materials by the entrance to the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, August 30, 2018.
Posters on the front gates of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, August 30, 2018.
Campaigners arriving at Fordham Park in New Cross for the Party in the Park community festival, September 1, 2018, whose theme, coincidentally, was housing; and, specifically, the threat to social housing. The campaigners had marched to the park in a samba parade from the occupied Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford.
One of many placards and banners made by the Tidemill campaigners, this one supporting the right of the residents of Reginald House, next to the garden, to have a ballot regarding Lewisham Council’s proposals to demolish their homes for the Tidemill development, September 2, 2018.
A banner criticising Peabody, the housing association behind the plans for the Tidemill development, working with Lewisham Council and the private developer Sherrygreen Homes, September 7, 2018.
‘Green home not gold’, made by one of the occupiers of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, September 16, 2018.
A beautiful day in the occupied Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, September 16, 2018, The photo features the children’s tree house and leaves of one of the two wonderful Indian bean trees that were at the heart of the garden.
Campaign badges, September 21, 2018. Campaigners held several fundraising gigs – mostly at the Birds Nest, just across Deptford Church Street from the garden – to raise money for printing posters and fliers, and to make badges.
Recycling, September 25, 2018.
A banner – one of many on the external perimeter fence of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden – showing solidarity with campaigners fighting to save the ancient Hambacher Forest in Germany from destruction by a mining company, September 26, 2018. Campaigners have been fighting to save the forest since 2012.
The view from inside the beautiful shed made by campaigners from found materials in the Old Tidemill Garden, September 29, 2018, when the garden featured several artworks as part of the internationally acclaimed Deptford X arts festival.
A Lewisham Council sign, on the external perimeter fence of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, modified by campaigners, September 30, 2018.
The view from the garden of the former playground of the Tidemill primary school, which was also part of the occupation site, October 2, 2018. Behind is the former school, guarded at great expense by Lewisham Council, where the intention is for the development’s flats for private sale to be built.
Accordions in the greenhouse, October 2, 2018.
Campaigners wearing gas masks as part of a photo shoot for the Mail on Sunday, which included the garden in a campaign to save Britain’s threatened parks, October 4, 2018.
The glory of the Indian bean trees, October 11, 2018.
Artist and local resident Glenn ‘Fitzy’ Fitzpatrick left numerous masks made from found nitrous oxide canisters in the garden, as protection, October 15, 2018.
A salvaged promotional board from some other housing development found its way to the garden, where it served as an ironic commentary on the plans of Lewisham Council and Peabody, October 24, 2018.
The Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden on the last day of the occupation, October 28, 2018. Bailiffs arrived at dawn on October 29.
A last comment to Lewisham Council as we took some personal belongings from the garden – and some of Fitzy’s sculptures – on the last day of the occupation, October 28, 2018.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or here for the US, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

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10 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    My latest article features 24 photos I took during the two-month occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, from August 28 to October 28, 2018, which I was part of, before we were violently evicted on October 29. I hope these photos capture something of the beauty of the garden, and of the spirit of resistance that is so necessary in the many struggles we face.

    Also included: a re-cap of the reasons for the occupation – to save an environmental asset and rare green community space from wanton destruction, and also to save Reginald House next door, a block of structurally sound council flats – as well as much-needed reminder of the shameful behaviour of Lewisham Council and Peabody, and the thugs they hired to show their power.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Jason Símon de Souza said:

    I’m very much proud of the battle that we fought to save the nature reserve (and the green) from Lewisham Council and although the battle was lost, the war continues. These excellent photos by Andy stand as a memorial to what we had attempted to protect and the ecological and societal tragedy of what has been lost through greed, corruption and myopia.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Jason!

  4. Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden one year after eviction – Trespass says...

    […] Source and lots of fotos at Andy Worthington’s blog […]

  5. Damo says...

    Great and poignant photos the great landgrab continues.. Though be carefull on Facebook as it seems now Anyone who dares to criticise or call out right wing or anti environmental trols is reported and banned for a week as I called out a particularly spiteful trol who was relentlessly attacking Greta Thunberg this seems to be the trols new weapon

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m very glad you like the photos, Damo. It was quite a labour of love going through my photos and choosing a selection that captured the garden and the occupation – and quite sad too, as the photos really brought back to life for me what it was like being in the garden, which was, genuinely, a unique environment.
    Thanks also for the warning about Facebook. I’m sure you know my long-standing concerns about how Facebook’s police bots are horribly unaccountable, arbitrarily shutting people down with no opportunity to challenge the decisions. It’s completely unacceptable that they can be so aloof, and not, as they should, employ a huge customer services department.

  7. Damo says...

    Looking at the pictures again it seems absurd that the council is declaring a climate emergency while destroying a beautiful garden to fill it with high density flats it’s like just up the road from me the old south Acton estate that used to be 1970s maisonettes with gardens and roof patios were there probably 500 people there are now huge canyons of these 10 storie buildings looming and when their full probably about 1500 people all needing power all pissing and shitting needing water that’s not very good for the environment surely.. Facebook is yes it keeps people in touch… But at a price.. It’s mainly Inane babble and visual diarrhea on Facebook.. White noise.. The trade off is our information is harvested and sold.. A trade off as most things are

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, the council’s hypocrisy regarding its climate emergency is pretty sickening, Damo – and they weren’t the only ones. Hackney Council also declared a climate emergency at the same time that they cut down 65 mature trees in Shoreditch Park: http://hackneypost.co.uk/residents-condemn-shameful-cutting-of-mature-trees-in-shoreditch-park/
    I do still need to get out to Acton to see what’s happening there, although it sounds, of course, as dispiriting as redevelopments everywhere else. The saddest thing is seeing decent, well-built, well-planned housing replaced by something that is clearly inferior.

  9. Damo says...

    Ealing council is so corrupted full of shit it’s like a banana Republic the sad thing is all those maisonettes had lovely gardens mature trees they have built on a park to build one of the blocks it’s also were they plonked the family’s in shipping containers

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Are those the shipping container homes in this Londonist article, Damo? https://londonist.com/london/housing/what-s-it-like-to-live-in-a-shipping-container

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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