Paul's story

Almost a farmer’s boy

My parents were farmers during the Second World War and had to grow food to support themselves.

My family have been urban fruit and veg growers for several generations - my grandfather supported his family and several neighbours during World War II by growing food on an allotment. For my parents, as it was for my grandfather, self-sufficiency was not a lifestyle option, it was a way of life.

Growing was obviously in my blood as I took to it from a very young age. At three I tended my own bed of annuals grown from a penny packet of seeds and became a lifelong worm botherer too! I don’t keep them in my pockets anymore but even then I began to appreciate, as Darwin did decades before, their importance in the soil cycle and the circle of life.

20 years later

During my childhood my family was not very well off so we grew most of our own fruit and veg. I watched and learned as my parents improved the heavy London clay in our 200-foot garden into extremely fertile loam over 20 years. I earned pocket money by working in the garden by doing things like turning the compost as soon as I was strong enough to do it.

My parents also had a strong interest in natural history and nurtured the same in me. By the time I was five I knew all the wild flowers and bird songs in my area; so my job as scientific photographer at the Natural History Museum felt like a logical step.

Worms in motion

I started to see the world in an extraordinary way and developed a deeper understanding of soil, microbes and worms, this understanding became the bedrock for my workshops. This was advanced further by my recent studies in my Open University Environmental Science course .

My understanding of nature from a generalist standpoint meant I could work out how to grow things in the difficult London climate and soil.


I started to put my advanced skills into action as Deputy Chair for Brentford Recycling Action Group since 1996. During this time I met many people, including Arthur Potts Dawson who founded Acorn House, who was having problems with his wormeries.

My ‘growing in tricky places’ phase started at Acorn House where I developed many of my ideas. It was from here that I run my first workshops for staff about gardening.At this point I realised how limited most urbanites’ knowledge of agriculture and growing was, and the amount of experience and information I had accumulated over the years.

I was fortunate to link up with the eco-charity Global Generation, working with them I have designed and installed several innovative and unusual organic gardens such as the Skip Garden and Hoop Garden in the middle of the biggest development zone in Europe.