It has been a spectacular year for Chris (locally known as “The Tomato Man”) Kimberley. A string of awards has celebrated Chris’s work this year culminating in the 2010 Volunteer of the Year Award from Volunteer Action Islington. His work with the Whitecross Goes Green Gardening Club has changed his life and made a huge impact on his community.
Chris has lived on the Peabody Estate in EC1 for 10 years. The Whitecross Estate Gardening Club which he runs along with fellow Master Gardener Vicky Cunningham was founded in 2009 by a small group of neighbours with a common interest in creating a greener environment for their friends and families. Volunteer led, they are recruiting residents from 5-50 years old and have benefitted from an Edible Islington grant and support from the Peabody Estates to build new planters and buy tools and soil to increase the food growing on the estate.
The Gardening Club is working with residents to grow fruit and vegetables organically to both educate about the joys of home grown food but also to get people invested in their community. They have also sold seedlings at Whitecross Street Mark and Chris has been offering horticultural advice to members of the public from the stall. He’s also been offering new residents window boxes to grow their own salad / herbs; a lovely welcome to a new home, to be offered the chance to literally put down roots.
Chris has osteoarthritis and prior to getting involved with the Gardening Club and the community centre earlier this year he admits he spent a lot of time indoors trapped by the physical constraints of his illness. Since starting the club and becoming a Master Gardener his outlook on life has changed completely and helping and supporting others learn to grow has placed him firmly in the centre of the community. One long time resident stopped to speak to Chris in the Summer having seen him gardening every day and said that the planting and having regular faces active in the communal areas of the estate had made him feel safer around the estate.
The planting and the growing activities on the estate has started to change the way people are with each other on the estate, as Chris says, “I want more people involved, I want more people to enjoy what I’m enjoying and the way it’s changed my life.”
Winter hasn’t slowed him down either, on 5th December he’ll be handing out window boxes planted with bulbs to the first 28 residents who come to collect them. The gardening club will be planting them up over the next couple of weekends.
The Whitecross Goes Green club also won an RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood Level 2 Award and an Islington in Bloom 3rd place Silver Gilt Award in the Community Gardens category. Vicky and Chris personally both won awards from Islington in Bloom Container Gardening Category for their work making the borough a greener place and Chris has also won recognition from Peabody Estates for his voluntary work. Peabody Estates are so impressed with the fledgling project and it’s effect on the community that they are putting more funding towards 10 new planters to be spread across 3 areas of the estate.
Last but not least Chris won 1st prize for his first ever victoria sponge (certificate proudly displayed above) at the Islington Horticultural Show in September.