Tag Archives: squatting

The Old Dairy at Vauxhall City Farm

We think we may have identified the most child-friendly corner of Greater Kennington, with the opening of the new extension to Vauxhall City Farm, and its star attraction, The Old Dairy Cafe.

Vauxhall City Farm extension - kenningtonrunoff.com

A slick building with clean, minimal lines, it is at odds with the crafty, homespun aesthetic of the original farm buildings, which started life as a squat, and a neat visual metaphor for the area it sits in. It’s been busy on both occasions that we have visited, but there is plenty of seating both inside and out, with picnic tables around the duck pond for finer days.

The Old Dairy Dining Room - kenningtonrunoff.com

The Old Dairy dresser - kenningtonrunoff.com

They offer superior sandwiches and cakes – including gluten and dairy free options – and simple, homespun food, with a soup, salad, quiche, open sandwich and hot dish of the day in smaller and larger portion sizes, mostly vegetarian. We ordered the white bean “risotto” with asparagus, spinach and onion broth, and understood why quotation marks had been inserted once it arrived without a grain in sight. The leek and feta tart with olives and capers, and sun-dried tomato Spanish omelette were more satisfying and accurately described.

White bean risotto with aspargus, spinach and onion broth at The Old Dairy - kenningtonrunoff.comLeek & feta puff pastry tart with olives and capers at The Old Dairy - kenningtonrunoff.com

The cake stand:

The Old Dairy cake stand - kenningtonrunoff.com.JPG

For their core customer, they also provide a wide variety of Ella’s Kitchen products, a hot kids’ meal of the day (again in smaller and larger portion sizes), as well as a selection of mini sandwiches for smaller hands, and a pile of the iconic Ikea Antelop highchairs stacked in one corner, all in immaculate condition. There is a children’s play area in one corner of the cafe, and when we visited during their ‘Spring Spectacular’ there was a charming and well-attended story and rhyme time with an animal theme, complete with props. Watch out Tea House Theatre, pay attention NCT groups, there’s a new destination in Kennington’s own Nappy Valley.

Kenneth Clarke’s house

Kenneth Clarke is one of many politicians who live in Kennington, and squatters visited his home in 2011 when, as justice secretary, he was responsible for removing the 700 year old right to shelter in unoccupied residential buildings (we got that fact from the guy in the video; who knows if it’s true?). See the video here.

Squatting in commercial premises remains legal and squatters briefly occupied The Duchy Arms, a former pub at the top of Ken’s road Courtenay Street, in 2013, turning it into a community centre.

Fathers for Justice also staged a protest at Ken’s house once. It’s like the Trafalgar Square of Kennington. We might head down there ourselves for a dirty protest if no-one does anything about the dog poo on Kennington Road.

Bonnington Square

Imagine if a community took over an abandoned square and restored its houses and communal areas to their former glory, planted mimosa, beech and mulberry trees, lavender, vines, ferns and palms where there had been a derelict playground, and turned the whole square into an oasis of peace and beauty. Imagine they started a café and community centre where volunteers fed the residents vegan food while they rebuilt the kitchens in their derelict homes. Then imagine one of London’s finest delis and cafes opened on the square. Imagine no longer – this is Bonnington Square in West Kennington, a magical, tranquil yet vibrant area, just yards from the noise of the Vauxhall gyratory. The only thing you might have to imagine is the part where Coalition politicians make the short walk from Parliament to Bonnington Square, then have an epiphany about the positive side of squatting.

The square was built in the 1870s, and was earmarked for demolition in the late 1970s, until squatters moved in. This video from The Guardian’s website tells the story of the remarkable work the squatters carried out.

Here’s the community garden in the middle of the square, dubbed Bonnington Square Pleasure Garden in honour of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens:

Bonnington Square Gardens - kenningtonrunoff.com

Not bad for a former WWII bomb site. Channel 4 gardener Dan Pearson was amongst the residents responsible for it.

In 1998 the squats were legitimised when the housing cooperative the squatters had formed was allowed to purchase the buildings. Nowadays Bonnington Square is one of the most desireable addresses in London thanks to its beautiful houses and gardens, its location, the Bonnington Cafe, and Italo Deli. Oh, and there’s a ley line running directly through the square, which also takes in Brunswick House, Sally White and lane seven of the Palace Bowl in Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre.

Bee Ridgway writes evocatively about her time staying on Bonnington Square here.