By Tiziana Murgo
If you used to live in Stamford Hill in the 1970s or ’80s, you probably wouldn’t know about Allens Gardens; the big white buildings surrounding them would hide the place from outside. It was only in the ’90s that Allens Gardens were opened to the public, thanks to the pressure of local people, and are now a public space managed by the London Borough of Hackney.
When they were first built, in 1874, the gardens ran behind blocks of flats created as ‘dwellings for the middle classes’, then closed for almost 100 years, and reopened in the early 1990s with the purpose of bringing wilderness back into use.
Allens Gardens are now one of Hackney’s most unusual green spaces, tucked away behind Bethune Road in Stoke Newington. Because of its hidden location and stretched layout, it remains a secret little park, with only a few people passing by. No wonder the gardens represent a great venue to practice outdoor activities like tai-chi or yoga. Residents love its serenity, seclusion and beauty—it is literally a breathing space in this crowded city.
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The gardens are structured in neat separate areas: a play area for little ones with some lovely little tables (my daughter used them to serve me at her own restaurant and ice cream shop), a little maze, a zip line (one you don’t have to queue for, at last!), a picnic area, an adventure trail area for kids and parents alike.
Allens gardens are also home to Growing Communities, a food-growing social enterprise, which thanks to its volunteers produces a large array of organic fruit and salads.
However, the gardens are not just a place for tranquillity for people; they are also an oasis for insects, animals and greenery. No surprise that we discovered the place thanks to a tree walk organised by another social enterprise, the Tree Musketeers, who, as the name suggests, love to share their knowledge of tree species.