Hackney Herbal: an urban gardening project

Hackney Herbal is a community herb-growing project, teaching people how to grow on their own land, or inviting them to garden collaboratively on a site in Hackney. The herbs are then used to make teabags. We caught up with founder Nat Mady…

Nat Mady, 28, grew up in south London but spent her childhood summers in the countryside. She now lives in Hackney.

(This was originally published in January 2016)

“Hackney Herbal launched earlier this year. The idea is to connect people and herbs and also to create a locally grown herbal tea that can be sold to raise funds for our projects.

By supporting and engaging individuals and groups to grow herbs, this pilot will pool together a collective harvest throughout the year. This herb stock will be used for community workshops, stalls and events centred around the extensive and beneficial uses of herbs.

Hackney Herbal will also produce a unique herbal tea blend that will be sold at Tiosk on Broadway Market, Hackney, with proceeds funding further community herbal work as well as workshops at the Centre for Better Health.

Hackney Herbal - theearlyhour.com

The other side to the project is carrying out research; collecting herbal anecdotes (stories/remedies etc) from the different cultures in Hackney. There is so much knowledge and interesting history relating to herbs and people and this is something that I wanted to capture and celebrate.

Hackney Herbal is an offshoot of Cordwainers Grow; a Hackney-based social enterprise focusing on connecting people and place through discovery. We specialise in projects and events that bring people and their natural environment together in a collaborative and creative way.

I founded Cordwainers Grow in 2014 with Kate Poland. It evolved from Cordwainers Garden, a volunteer run community garden on Mare Street. Both of us wanted to increase the reach and impact of the garden and work on projects which bring different people together and engage them over fun and interesting projects relating to the environment.

Hackney Herbal 2

Hackney Herbal is just one of our projects. I work almost full time on Cordwainers Grow but also work for a few other organisations in environmental education/community gardening. As a child, influenced and encouraged by my parents, I spent a lot of time outdoors and was fascinated by the natural world – clearly, I still am.

Having projects like this in cities provides people with the opportunity to engage with nature and learn about the environment with the aim of promoting more sustainable and ecologically friendly lifestyles. For the sake of future generations, we need to encourage children to interact with nature from an early age so they can understand its value and importance.

There are now countless studies proving that spending time in nature can have a huge effect on both physical and mental wellbeing

I like living and working in Hackney, it’s a really interesting place with lots of energy, diverse cultures and lot of opportunities for community-orientated projects. However, I’ll probably move out of the city eventually. I have dreams of creating a project in a rural setting where people can come to learn.

I think that the city poses so many other attractions as forms of entertainment and a lot of people aren’t interested in getting their hands dirty! London has so many great green spaces, parks/city farms/community gardens that can be explored for free but perhaps people aren’t aware of these.

There are now countless studies proving that spending time in nature can have a huge effect on both physical and mental wellbeing so I hope that Hackney Herbal will continue to teach and inspire people and encourage more people to engage with nature and plants in the city.”

For more information about Cordwainers Grow and Hackney Herbal, visit the website