Jim Craddock, one of the founding ‘Hornbeamers’ tells the story of how The Hornbeam came into being.
Twenty five years ago on St Georges Day – at the Bakers Arms end of Hoe Street – something special happened. A group of concerned environmentalists had coalesced around an idea – an Environmental Centre for Waltham Forest – and on 23 April 1994 – they opened the doors to The Hornbeam Centre and Café.
From left to right it’s David ‘Nod’ Ellis, Jowanna Lewis, Bundy Braga, Diane Sizer, Dave Cullen, George Warren, Lesley Broadbent and Christian Mountney.
There had been a vegetarian café in Palmerston Road, which had provided a focus for locals, but that had closed. Forest Recycling Project (which is still going from strength to strength after nearly 30 years) had just started out, so Jowanna Lewis and Diane Sizer, who’d met at the Palmerston Road café, decided an old newsagents on Hoe Street would be the perfect venue for the new one.
Their vision was amazing and their enthusiasm soon rubbed off on other people. And so with a small amount of funding, a lot of volunteer time and effort and an incredible amount of dust, Hornbeam Environmental Centre opened on 23rd April 1994. And it’s still going today, with its vegan café and restaurant (called Gannets) and community space providing that continuing focus for environmental action in the borough.
This Easter Saturday (20th April 2019), some of those idealists are meeting up at Hornbeam to see how their vision has evolve. Jim Craddock, a local Greenpeace volunteer in the early 1990s is among those coming back to the centre for the first time in almost 20 years.
Jim said: “We didn’t realise what we were getting into back then, but there was something infectious about giving up your weekends to build the place, and then, once it had opened, volunteering at the restaurant once you’d finished your day job. Seeing it thriving 25 years later has made that investment so worthwhile.”
The Hornbeam Environmental Centre and Café now has many more strings to its bow. Their Learning Lodge at Pimp Hall Nature Reserve runs family events on weekends and during school holidays and one of the groups it has formed and supported through to independence – the Hornbeam JoyRiders Women’s Cycle Club – have been awarded Club of the Year by London Sports.