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'Back to the Garden' by Shirley Ford

When I saw the invitation from Sustainable Merton in October 2020, it immediately appealed to me as I had been wanting a sewing project but couldn’t motivate myself. This community project was perfect for me and straight away I could envisage what mine would look like. Through lockdown I had taken every opportunity, once we could, to meet family and friends... at the Windmill, Cannizaro, Cannon Hill, Morden Parks and Richmond Park. These times through the summer and autumn were very precious so my sewing has reflected my love of being together in these places... the Wandle, the rose garden, bright fields of grass, the beautiful trees and the chance to pick blackberries.

I had a bag full of saved bits of material and an old piece of cross stitch material which was just right for this project. There was already a cross-stitched butterfly that dated back to the 90s, so I kept that and created my picture around it (the parrot will appear in my next Loving Earth creation).

I never once felt it a chore to make this textile panel and it has given me a feeling of calm and most importantly linking with others in the community with our Zoom chats. Also through our conversations, I am thinking more about ways for us all to get back to the garden.

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'City Children' by Linda Murgatroyd

So many city children are cut off from the natural world!

They live in flats with no safe outdoor places to run or play. They travel along hard pavements between cars, concrete and asphalt, and their school playgrounds have been paved over. Many schools even have plastic “grass”! So there is nowhere to muck about with mud, earth, stick, leaves or wild creatures. There are no wild animals to speak of, except perhaps an occasional crow, pigeon or mangy fox foraging among dustbins or litter. Where could a bird find a juicy worm? Where are their safe nesting places? During the COVID lockdown this was exacerbated, with children confined to their homes and physically isolated much of the time.  When there was less traffic, some small birds reappeared briefly.  I walked the local streets and parks I realised how many wild places have recently been built on or replaced with car parks, and how the commercial use of parks has diminished lawns and trees and wildlife.

 

I have planted flowers around some of the trees in my street and prune and water them as necessary. I have also asked the council not to spray weed killer around the trees as this makes them susceptible to disease. I will explore what more can be done to re-wild local parks and other public and school land, and to foster biodiversity locally, including in spaces where children can play.

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'In Appreciation of Butterflies' by Ann Tagholm

During the first lockdown and the months afterwards, I found solace in nature. Being surrounded by nature was healing. I looked at the plants and flowers in my garden far more closely, but the real joy came when the butterflies arrived and began their search for nectar among the flowerheads.  I became more conscious of the impact nature can have on us, and in particular, how it affects our mental well-being.

I began researching which butterflies need our help and protection and began to learn about the beautiful bright orange Monarch butterflies. These butterflies make an epic, 3000-mile journey every autumn, from the north east of the US to south west Mexico.  But I learned that their numbers are dwindling because the milkweed on which the Monarch caterpillars feed before their journey is no longer so plentiful  This is due to the large-scale use of herbicides by US farms.  Added to this is the decline in the oyamal fir trees in which Monarch butterflies breed because of logging and climate change.

I found this very upsetting and it made me think of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo who found the wildlife in her country so important and inspiring, and such a source of joy. This is why I have Frida Kahlo on my panel, surrounded by Monarch butterflies, like living brooches.

I discovered that the Monarch butterfly is also called the harvester butterfly in Mexico because they appear when it is time to harvest the corn.  Mexico’s famous Day of the Dead holiday also occurs when the Monarch butterflies arrive and, according to traditional beliefs, the butterflies are the souls of ancestors who are returning to earth for their annual visit.

Now, back here in Merton, we must plant enough flowers which are nectar rich – like borage, calendula, cornflower, nasturtium and viola – for our own beautiful butterflies.

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'Fish in the Sea' by Gillian Leigh

Before the pandemic the campaign to reduce single use plastic was gathering momentum. Now it has been derailed by the urgent need for protection from the virus. I have found it really painful to see all the plastic waste mounting up. Efforts will have to be really doubled as we come out of the pandemic and life begins to normalise. My panel shows plastic in the sea to remind us that we are on the way to having as much plastic as fish in our oceans by 2050 unless our habits change.

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'Don’t Let’s Waste Our Food!' by Diana Sterck

Each year 6.6 million tonnes of household food is thrown away. This costs an average family with children around £60 a month. 70% of this is food that is still edible. The carbon associated with this food is equivalent to that generated by 1 in 5 cars on the road.

 

The Action we took

In April 2020 Sustainable Merton, a local environmental charity, decided to take action and set up Merton’s First Community Fridge. Our aim was to influence behaviour change and get the community working together to reduce food waste and support those living in food poverty.

 

Over the first 9 months we supported 128 unique families (many of whom attend weekly), including 120 children. We collected 67 Fareshare Go donations from local supermarkets and saved 8,356kg of food (equivalent to 20,025 meals and 26,729 kg of CO2). We now have 30 Fridge Friends, who have contributed 500 volunteer hours over the past 9 months.

 

In September 2020 we were also pleased to extend the Community Fridge Network to 3 other locations in the borough - Commonside Development Trust in Mitcham, the Wimbledon Guild in Wimbledon Town Centre and the Polish Families in Colliers Wood, together with our Fridge in Morden Baptist Church.

 

I am so pleased we took action when we did - it was a difficult decision because we opened during the first Lockdown. I know that we are influencing people’s behaviour to make a difference and that we have made a difference and will continue to do so.

 

I hope you will think about where your food comes from. If we buy local produce, buy food in season and think how long it takes to grow or be produced, we can all reduce the unnecessary food waste that is currently part and parcel of acceptable everyday life.

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'A Walk in the Park' by Holly Archdall-John

I took inspiration from two parks; Queen Mary’s & Morden Park.

 

What it means to me: peace, beauty and relaxation because you can relax in every corner of a park.

 

This panel shows the sky, sun, clouds, trees, blackberry bushes, grass and birds. I used paint and water on fabric and used the potato printing method.

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'An Invincible Summer' by Blanca Peña-Méndez

I decided to make a Loving Earth Panel because I felt that the pandemic has been a very significant event in our lives and it was necessary to leave a legacy that explained how we, as a community, have been affected by the Coronavirus.

 

As with most people, lockdown gave me a lot of spare time which I used to volunteer for Sustainable Merton, as well as to practice yoga and meditation at home. Every week, I looked forward to Wednesday mornings, when I would go to Phipps Bridge Community Garden. Spending time next to nature, growing vegetables, contributed greatly to keeping physically and mentally fit during lockdown.

 

The pandemic has taught me two main lessons. The first is that we are stronger when we are together. Unless we act together to create communities that live sustainably, we will struggle to find the right “vaccine” against climate change. The second, was very well expressed by Albert Camus many years ago, “I realised, through it all, that in the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger, something better, pushing right back”.

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'Rapture' by Ann Tagholm

Seeing the pink and white blossom of the cherry tree burst forth during the lockdown in spring last year, and again this year, gave us all much joy and comfort. How reassuring it is to know that nature offers us this display year on year –and how important it is that we care for it.

 

The Japanese have a single word, hanami, which they use to describe how they relish the fleeting sight and scent of blossom.  The English poet AE Houseman felt this rapture too. He said: ‘Loveliest of trees, the cherry now is hung with blossom along the bough.’

 

We must notice all our trees.  In our city streets we can draw attention to them by planting flowers around their trunks. If each household did this, gave their individual tree a garland, our streets would be transformed.

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'Bee Friendly' by Shirley Ford

I chose to make my panel about bees and used as inspiration an embroidered bee that a friend showed me. I’ve included flowers as they are so important for bees and it is sad to know that so many flower meadows and hedgerows have disappeared from our countryside.

 

I knew that bees were having a hard time but as I was making my panel I learnt more by reading the Friends of the Earth website, and began to understand the bigger picture and particularly how at risk the bee population is. Without bees, so many of our fruits and vegetables would not be pollinated and so we do need to protect the bees. Pesticides are one major cause of the decline of bees. I’ve signed the Friends of the Earth petition and am also growing lots of bee friendly flowers in my garden.

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'Exploring My Garden' by Viola Lazzarino

When we were in lockdown I enjoyed discovering all the creatures around me and in my garden. Sometimes I dig for worms and I have learnt how important all the creatures are so I wanted to put them on my panel.

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'Fragile Abundance' by Linda Murgatroyd'

I love the variety of fruit that we are blessed with. Many varieties are grown in Wimbledon itself, and we are able to import other varieties. But with the rapid decline in insect populations, the future of fruit and many other foods is at risk.

 

Pesticides and herbicides are still being sprayed on our streets and elsewhere, including in bedding plants sold in most outlets. These and pollution from other sources poison the pollinating insects and our local bird and insect life has been hard-hit.

 

I hope that council policy on environmental management will be revised with this in mind, and contractors no longer being paid to kill the life around us, unless it is really a danger to health. We need to learn different ways. Climate breakdown and lack of food is a much greater danger in the long term, and we humans need to live in balance with the rest of the natural world if this abundance is not to become a thing of the past.

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'Danger of Flooding' by Linda Murgatroyd

This panel was inspired by the waterlogged parks and commons around Wimbledon this winter, and awareness of flooding in many other places. Flooding has been getting more prevalent and the situation will get worse as extreme weather events become more frequent and sea levels rise. Locally, the barrage at Wimbledon Park Lake has been identified as requiring replacement for some time; if it gives way many houses on the Southfields grid will be flooded. Other low-lying areas around the Wandle and its tributaries are also vulnerable to flooding.

 

We need to act locally and globally. Radical reductions in our carbon footprints are needed, to avoid runaway global climate breakdown. But we also need to look at managing our water and local environment better to minimise and mitigate risks of flooding. Land covered in plastic grass, and paved front gardens should be replanted. In Wimbledon Park the lake needs to be reinforced, and much land given back to trees, and wilderness, with a view to holding the soil, soaking up floods and providing shade and moisture retention when droughts come.

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'Closed Borders: The Right to Travel?' by Linda Murgatroyd

This panel was made during a period when rules for travelling between countries became more restrictive, both to avoid spreading COVID -19 and due to Brexit. Suddenly, many of us were prevented from visiting places and people that were dear to us. We have been prevented from exploring new lands, meeting new people or returning home if we happened to be away at the wrong time.

 

It made me reflect on the experiences of refugees, and also on how casually most of us treat travelling as a right, irrespective of its impact on the environment. I realise that we should not be travelling so frequently or importing so much from abroad. Many of us have discovered new treasures on our doorsteps during lockdown; less time spent travelling means more time for other things. Fewer cars and planes means less pollution, less noise and slower climate change.

 

I really miss the possibility of visiting particular places. But lockdown has shown that we can manage well without so much travel. Perhaps instead of closing borders we should be thinking about limiting how far anyone can travel in the year, so that we stop travelling more casually. Banning Air Miles, and taxing aviation fuel would be a good start and we certainly don’t need airport expansion! Meanwhile I will seek to travel less often in future, but perhaps stay away for longer, and try to make the most of wherever I am.

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'Fox Life' by Cecilija Berg

During the first lockdown, in the stillness of less traffic and people I started noticing the nocturnal residents of our neighbourhood. A fox family moved into our garden and sometimes napped in the green patches of sunlight. Their squabbles, moments of affection and nocturnal shrieks provided entertainment and made me think more about my local environment and how easily we forget them when caught up in the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.

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'The Human Resource' by Ellie Smallshaw

Lockdown made it impossible for me to ‘get things done’ in my home. In the past I’d ask professionals to come and do jobs I was unable to do, such as clean the windows, put up shelves and fix things.

 

Without these resources at my disposal made me realise more than ever, my desire to become a little more self-sufficient in this domain and coming out of lockdown, I intend to book onto classes to learn basic DIY. It also made me realise that things don’t have to be perfect or done immediately and often we can ‘make do’ with things as they are.

 

I believe we can all learn new practical skills, and in doing so, we can become empowered, save money and increase the longevity of useful and much loved items.

 

The handprints on the panel are made by my sons, Zachary and Marcus and it is my hope that they grow up with the desire to learn, be fantastic human resources and care for the planet they live in.

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'The Weeds Will Take Over!  (Let Them!)' by Farah Yamin

This panel was inspired by three pandemic experiences: the garden at my parents' house; a nature walk by botanist Sophie Leguil; and the ‘trending’ of a new type of litter.

 

It has been challenging to help manage my parents' home during lock-down, so last summer their garden became overgrown. Convention expects lawns to be manicured, so a garden with knee-high grass, nettles and dandelions seemed to be a suburban outrage. However, I thought that it looked rather magical: butterflies and birds flourished and I saw a grasshopper up close for the first time ever. Sophie Leguil of the morethanweeds.co.uk project champions the value of ‘weeds’ to the wider ecosystem. This year, I plan to let the weeds take over part of the garden and to enjoy some butterfly-spotting!

 

In public spaces too, plants enjoyed unhampered growth during lock-down. But there was also an increase in litter, especially face masks; this is obvious human-created environmental damage that requires ‘weeding out’. We could all go litter-picking but what we really need is preventative behaviour change. We can all learn to value diverse plant life in gardens and public spaces – and dispose of our rubbish responsibly.

 

The panel has three sections. On the left are face masks raining down, litter choking and killing flowers. On the right are anonymous litter-pickers and flowers blooming unencumbered. In the centre is a distant, fantasy future where we have allowed the 'weeds' to take over, growing taller than houses and grey office blocks.  Flowers and insects thrive."

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'Church Bells Beyond the Stars Heard' by Geraldine Gerawera

My panel is all about resilience as revealed through people coming together to make something wonderful and lovely, and the combined efforts of a group of people can add to the value of things. Resilience is an important response to current threats to our environment. We cannot survive for long if we distance ourselves from 'the natural world' and we cannot solve the problems working alone.

 

Lockdown put a stop to our bellringing. I missed the camaraderie when we were forced to stop. I only started in 2018 but had already learned about people who have always rung the bells, from the farm labourers who spent Sundays walking miles to ring in some far away village, the mathematics of group theory as revealed in rounds and changes of bells and worked out in the C17th, to modern day bell ringers who tour five or six or more churches each day for their holidays to ring and notch up another tower. I even found myself being welcomed like a family member in village churches when I claimed to be a bell ringer, too.

 

I celebrate the tradition of bellringing across the country and through the generations down the centuries, and look forward to that tradition continuing onwards through future generations. There is resilience in traditions, in coming together to work and play and ring bells. You can’t do things on your own. It was a small glimpse of all we have to lose.

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'Ninety Five Percent' by Gillian Leigh

During this pandemic I have thought a lot about the land we use to farm animals. More than ninety five percent of the animals on our planet are made up of us humans and the animals that we rear for our food. Only five percent are wild creatures and these are getting less at massive speed and with a frightening loss of species.

 

Sometimes lockdown has felt like time has stood still. But there is no longer plenty of time to just think about all this. Listening to the increased bird song during lockdown gave me a false sense of security.

 

What can we do?

 

We need to eat less meat, educate people on human population control and stop invading and destroying nature's irreplaceable wild habitats.

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'Grow Your Own' by Lottie Percival

A stitched story of my own 'lockdown veg patch' experience. Like many other locked down humans last year, I found myself doing lots of digging and planting seeds in the garden. Spending more time at home has invited us to be more caring, curious and adventurous when cooking and preparing meals. It's also inspired us to be more intimate with our food by growing it ourselves or carefully limiting the plastic packaging we buy and bin.

 

This hand stitched textile embodies the 'hands on' experience of sustainably and personally producing your food yourself. It upcycles domestic materials like a tea towel, tin foil and a torn eco-friendly shopper, echoing the traditional objects we carry food in and the importance of mending and reusing. Whilst using bright turmeric, pink and earthy onion skin fabric dyes to share the positive nature of recycling food waste.

 

Ultimately this piece intends to encourage us to enjoy and care for the journey our food makes to our plates, and to feel more connected to our natural environment along the way.

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'The Importance of Parks' by Sue McGhie

My home backs onto a public park and I have always appreciated being next to green space, with the lockdown I am even more grateful for the park. Quieter activity from the street brought the wildlife out even more. I am very grateful to be isolated in such a location and find hopefulness in how much nature everywhere seemed to reassert its presence in response to lighter human activity.

 

I have reflected on the changes lockdown has presented to all in many ways, including recognition in an article: Evening Standard April 2021 – Homes and Property: How the Covid pandemic re-shaped London’s property market

 

“Being close to a London park is more important than being next to the Tube”

 

Going forward I will be involved in efforts to protect our parks and green spaces which are so important to the health and well-being of the whole community.

 

Photo: Ravensbury Park along the River Wandle, Morden Surrey, London Borough of Merton – printed on cotton fabric, all materials on hand, both new and recycled.

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'Light at the End of the Tunnel' by Sarah McAlister

My panel is made entirely from materials that other people have given me or have been left over from previous projects. It is titled Light at the end of the Tunnel for several reasons.

 

We spent two weeks in the summer of 2020 on a canal boat and travelled through the Standedge Tunnel, which is the longest canal tunnel in Britain at 5,698 yards long. I am not a tunnel lover but this experience was quite magical. The sight of the light at the end of the tunnel from just past halfway through took such a long time to reach and was quite hypnotic.

 

Making the panel in spring of 2021, the end of the Covid-19 lockdown is in sight, but by no means straightforward or clear-cut.

 

The challenge for me was to weave the fabric in two colours, which is a technique I have never used before. The pattern was woven by eye rather than measured out, hence it’s not circular, but then nothing in life is perfectly shaped is it?

 

I have been lucky enough to be the recipient of other peoples’ crafting cast-offs, so the yarn, beads and ribbon used in the panel have all been given to me by people who no longer had a use for them. The backing fabric is left over from another project. It really is upcycling at its most basic.

 

My ambition for the future is to only use fabrics that I have woven myself to use in my hat business.  I will weave up my own tweed fabric to sew into hats and caps. My plan is to weave them using either commercially recycled yarns or surplus yarns recovered from other people. Since making the panel and reflecting on more ways I can help reduce my impact on the environment, I have looked into the Textiles 2030 and Love Your Clothes initiatives run by WRAP.  The clothing industry is incredibly wasteful at present and these initiatives are a good place where everyone can start to think about reducing their impact. If producers like me make our garments from recycled raw materials, then it’s much easier for consumers to make that choice.

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'Fun in the Park' by Ella Tulloch

When we were in lockdown I enjoyed discovering all the creatures around me and in my garden. Sometimes I dig for worms and I have learnt how important all the creatures are so I wanted to put them on my panel.

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'An Elderly Woman Reflecting on how She Relates to the Environment During the Pandemic.' by Nicola Buitrago(on behalf of the members of ‘Friends of St Helier’, a social group for the over 55’s in Merton.)

From 24th March 2020 the over 70’s were asked to stay indoors to protect themselves and to protect the NHS. Some of them would not step outside their front door for the next 12 months. Their relationship with the outside world was through their windows. If they were lucky, they had access to a back garden.

I work for a charity that helps the elderly avoid social isolation. This pandemic made them feel more isolated than ever. I was able to set up networks, where they called one another, and I made sure all of them had food and medicines being brought to them.

Their gardens were their lifelines. Observing nature going about its business restores some of their resolve and their optimism. They enjoyed the simple pleasures of tending to their plants and watching the wildlife come and go. Life slowed down. The isolation was bearable.

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'The Joy of Helping Nature be Beautiful Again' by Nicola Buitrago

On daily dog walks during lockdown, the amount of rubbish in parks and on green spaces so obviously grew. It was everywhere.

I decided to follow in my Mother’s footsteps and do something about it. I bought 4 litter pickers via the internet. Then I made a very visible presence everyday by picking up the litter, encouraging my family to help if they were around.

The message spread. People said ‘thank you’, when passing. Other dog walkers also started to pick up litter. People exercising in the park would pick up litter before their session.

If I didn’t have a bag with me, I would put the rubbish into heaps. If they were near lampposts then the road sweepers could clear up the little piles. A person living near the park came out with a plastic bag to help me. The area is now being kept tidier.

Enjoying the sights and sounds of nature on my doorstep was my reward, and I hope to continue to motivate others by my visible presence.

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'Hope' by Genevieve Escudier

During the Covid 19 pandemic there were lots of positives; what struck me the most is how the community where I live got together. At the beginning of the lockdown I only knew 3 people in my little street, but as soon as the lockdown was announced support groups were created. We are now 20 houses, communicating, helping each other, exchanging ideas, shopping, etc. It is still going strong and will continue, I am sure, once the crisis is “over”.

 

The second benefit was discovering, thanks to a neighbour, a very neglected orchard which was in need of some love. I spend a lot of time there and will continue to do so as part of my commitment to help the planet. Another community is being renewed! This panel is trying to express those feelings. The little lady was made by my 5 year old grandson Harry.

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'Mushroom in Winter' by Sally Somerville-Woodivis

This is a mushroom in winter. Lockdown was hard especially throughout the winter and these velvet shanks were popping up through the frost. Through the Lockdown I found ease in drawing lots of mushrooms and learning about them, how they can eat plastic, how they can help absorb pollution. They spring up out of nowhere and give you hope and also I quite like how it looks like a vale tail in the ocean.

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'Disappearing Sparrows' by Chris Green

90% of London’s sparrows have disappeared from central parks since 1990.

No one really understands why.

The collapse in numbers coincides with the advent of unleaded petrol but it is thought there is more than one cause.

My response…? To put out 3 bird feeders in our garden and watch a colony of sparrows make nests in the hedges nearby. Numbers have improved dramatically. We are on at least the 2nd brood since March 2021.

I have a new found respect for these cheeky lovable survivors.

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'Faces in the Clouds' by Carolyn Green

Like so many others who have family living abroad I am faced with the constant tension between wanting to minimise flying and wanting to see my family.

 

This panel illustrates that tension as familiar faces are clouded over showing that their memory is fading away. The sky is grey and the sun blood red, showing the levels of pollution in the sky.

 

As I experience this tension and make it my own, my response is to use other forms of technology, like Zoom or WhatsApp for example, to connect more with loved ones far away, and when I do fly to see them (I cannot give this up!) to try and offset the carbon footprints of my flights.