In 1998 Queen's Wood Lodge was derelict and its gardens were a riot of knotweed and brambles. Originally built in 1898 as a wood keeper’s lodge and tea-room, from the late 1960s the property suffered increasingly from neglect. By 1998 the only prospect seemed to be demolition. However, in that year the council were approached by Wanjiku Kamau and Murray Shelmerdine, with a view to setting up an eco-project which would preserve and restore the building and the gardens. The Friends of Queen's Wood supported the project from the start and have continued to do so ever since.
The Queen’s Lodge Project
The cafe and Gardens have been run as a Social Enterprise by CUE (London) Ltd since the company took up the lease in 1998. In that year the company financed, from its own resources, the main refurbishment of a handsome but derelict Victorian building.
Wanjiku and Murray today.
An associated charity, Conservation and Urban Ecology, obtained a grant from the Lottery Fund which financed the reconstruction of the tearoom with advanced insulation including double glazing in keeping with the architectural ethos of the building, the installation of solar panels and the creation of a children’s playground in front of the café. Apart from the Lottery grant, the whole Project has been self-financing – and has not cost a single penny of rate-payers’ money.
The Project has saved from destruction and renovated a charming and historically important public building, introducing features both helpful to the environment and appropriate to the setting, whilst remaining respectful of the original architect’s intentions. In recognition of its achievements the project received a Community Action award from the Empty Homes Agency for the “best use of an empty building in the UK in the year 2000”.
With the help of a dedicated band of volunteers led by Lucy Roots (still a volunteer to this day), the lodge garden was transformed from an overgrown jungle of knotweed, brambles and nettles into a beautiful and productive organic garden which regularly wins prizes from ‘Haringey in Bloom’. The splendid condition of the garden was a contributing factor to the awarding of a green flag to Queen's Wood. The garden demonstrates cutting-edge urban food growing, including a fully working aquaponics system, advanced composting, a wildlife pond, provision for butterflies, birds and other wildlife.
The Project has been largely responsible for transforming the ambience of Queen’s Wood from a neglected, gloomy, forgotten corner of Haringey, visited only by dog- walkers and local historians, into a vibrant and lively resource, ringing with the sound of children’s laughter and showing the signs of diligent local volunteers from the charity, Friends of Queens Wood, whose hard work and enthusiasm is bringing back life to an ancient woodland.
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