British top model for more than 30 years: Mak Gilchrist has led an eventful life. But, she says, her greatest achievement to date is founding The Edible Bus Stop – an award-winning creative collective that transforms neglected urban environments into green spaces, reports The Guardian.
The seed was planted when Gilchrist saw a planning notice pinned to a local lamp-post. “It said that this strip of pavement near my house in Brixton was being sold to a private developer,” she says. “I felt really strongly that we needed to save it and drummed up support in the community to oppose the planning permission”.
“A month later we had a ‘dig day’ and 30 people turned up to help, planting shrubs, vegetables, herbs and fruit. From that, The Edible Bus Stop was born.”
Gilchrist joined forces with landscape gardener Will Sandy, gradually gathering a group of landscape architects, horticulturalists, builders, designers and artists. Together, the “urban greening” collective has since created pocket-sized parks across London, from an estate in Brixton to a pub in Hackney, and designed installations at Hampton Court Flower Show and The Southbank Centre, inviting local communities to plant and maintain the gardens.
“I’ve lost count of the number of times people have thanked me because they enjoy the garden so much, but I say: ‘Don’t thank me – you’re making this space what it is.’”
A Londoner born and bred, Gilchrist says she loves the “rhythm and pulse” of living in cities – as a model she lived in New York, Paris, Tokyo and Sydney – but has always sought out moments of solace in parks and gardens.
“I think being in green space, however small, isn’t just important, it’s vital for our psychological wellbeing. So many studies have found that mental health is directly improved by being in nature. Our first Edible Bus Stop garden was opposite a mental health clinic and lots of outpatients would come and sit there and tell me they felt calmer.”
Currently having conversations with communities in Bristol and Bath, Gilchrist would love to grow the project nationwide. “Every time I walk past one of our gardens, I smell the herbs and watch the bees and it brings me immense joy,” she says. “It’s so wonderful to see these spaces being looked after by people with such passion.”
Earlier, we wrote that in the US, the key trend is “food” forests — specially planted areas designed to collect wild edible crops.