Alternative London – Idyllic subculture at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

Let me enthuse about this delightful place I found in the midst of London. In London, a megacity with 8 million inhabitants, impressive skyscrapers and the oldest underground in the world. I immediately noticed by how much green I was surrounded here in London: seemingly endless parks and forest paths I followed for a few kilometers.

Traveling with minimalistic hand luggage

In May last year, I arranged to meet an old friend of mine in London. Ryanair had just introduced its latest regulations for carry-on baggage at that time, reducing the free allowance to just a tiny handbag. I didn’t see why I should pay those extra 8€ and decided to take it as a challenge to travel with as little luggage as possible for the upcoming 4 days.

I carried: 1 outfit (including a pair of shoes and a scarf) that I was wearing during the flight, 1 summer dress, 1 thermal tights, underwear, 1 pair of earrings, 1 toothbrush, mascara, 1 portion ghassoul and vinegar as sour rinse, my camera*, water bottle, textile bag, teaspoon, a permanent marker and my purse with ID card. The hotel provided towels, I slept in my underwear and for other open wishes like toothpaste I gratefully turned to my friend. This way, I even managed to fit a banana and some bread in my roughly 13 liters urban backpack.

The “pineapple house” used for workshops or as meeting room for staff and volunteers

If I think about it today, I’m disappointed about myself for choosing to take the plane, especially for such a short route from Eindhoven to Stansted. Even though it was my cheapest option, it caused a lot of carbon emissions. In the past months, I intensified my green lifestyle quite a bit and immersed deeper into the “low impact movement”.

The lounge area

My flight from Eindhoven left very early in the morning. Unfortunately, I was not aware that some airports are closed overnight. When my rideshare from Stuttgart dropped me at the airport in Eindhoven in the middle of the night, they locked up the entire airport terminal. Overnight guests have two options: pay the expensive hotel in the building or spend the night on a park bench outside in the cold. I went for the bench. For this circumstance, my minimalistic luggage was not much of a help. Even my scarf did not really keep warm given the icy wind. Gracefully, one of the overnighters altruistically distributed his luggage (sleeping bag, blanket, winter jacket etc.) to us others for the night. Still, I could not find real sleep.

Urban Gardening: edible subculture in London

Alternative means of transport: Hitchhiking from Stansted to London

But even this night went by, and I was looking forward to the reunion with my friend. Once I had reached Stansted, I decided to hitchhike to the hotel (I wrote a guide to hitchhike that you can find here). Hitchwiki read: “The roundabout is about a 10 minute walk from the terminal. Go towards the sign saying the M11 towards London. Decent spot, never had to wait to long, usually ends up faster than the bus.” Managable!, I thought and started walking.

However, unfortunately, I was unable to find the suggested sign. So I walked further and further until the cars were flashing past me very quickly. Apparently I had gotten myself onto the motorway… I returned to the ramp, where a cab stopped for me. The driver had seen me walking on the side of the road and drove an extra round to take me in. I didn’t want to sit in a taxi. He assured me that he would not charge any money, since he had to return to London anyway. Alright then. He brought me safely to the outskirts of London from where I could take the underground and navigated myself to my friend’s hotel.

“Keep cities wild” – London meets subculture

The green, alternative London

Together with my friend, we explored the touristic spots such as Camden Town, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, the area around Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and many more. When she then participated in a training, I looked for less crowded, more peaceful subculture, the so-called “alternative London”. Cities usually stress me out so my first destination was a four kilometers long walk through the forest (the Parkland Walk) that leads along a former railway line. One of the platforms is still visible. I also participated in the Alternative London Walking Tour through London’s East End that I can recommend very much. The neighborhood has a thrilling history plus you learn first hand about graffiti art and its artists.

The Dalson East Curve Garden – a modern botanical garden
Alternative places to see in London

Alternative London – alternative botanical garden:
The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

The most dreamy place and highlight of my London tour was the botanical Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, which is depicted in all of the images. It arose, same as the Parkland Walk, from a former railway line, although the garden only corresponds to a single curve, the “Dalston Eastern Curve”.

Today, the garden offers a café, urban gardening, and a publicly accessible social space. Volunteers help year-round to keep the project alive – by planning events, gardening and helping in the kiosk.

At this mentioned kiosk at the entry, I purchase a chai latté with vegetable milk and meander through the botanical garden. In 2010, all the trees and shrubs were planted. A team of architects did a great job in designing the cozy lounge under the wooden pavilion and the “pineapple house”. The latter is used during workshops or for the diligent helpers. Chairs and tables have been distributed between the trees. Every guest can decide individually how secluded he/she prefers to sit.

The Dalson Eastern Curven Garden: Choose yourself how secluded you like to sit.

The botanical garden appears wonderfully wild with its flowers and plants. The goal is to attract bees and butterflies. Signs are placed in the flowerbed between the trees, reading “Special plants growing here – no bags, buns or bean bags“. In one of the corners, I see raised beds with vegetables and herbs.

I seek a place under the trees to take in the botanical idyll. It’s so peacefully quiet. Nothing to hear of the bustle in the streets. If I lived in London, this would be my place to come to every day.

The Dalston Botanical Garden: A place to retreat and to philosophize about the world.

I think about how each city may offer such alternative places. I text an acquaintance in Stuttgart to find out where places like this exist in my own home city. Even in car-focussed and profit-minded cities like Stuttgart, they occur, the tiny places and initiatives that strive to shape life in an alternative, more human-oriented way.

I decide to join and support them on this journey.

After finding this lovely “Alternative London” spot, it was clear to me that from now on, I would look for such places and initiatives, whichever city I go to. On my following work-related visit to Berlin, I was able to find a similar hub: the Klunkerkranich, which you can read about here.

At the very end, I would now like to ask you: Where is your favorite alternative spot in London? Where do you like to hang out and unwind?

The pictures in this article are unedited.

This article reflects my own personal opinion and experiences. I visited the places anonymously and was not paid by any of the institutions to name them here.

*Affiliate links. They come at no extra cost for you and you can support me to run this website.

You Might Also Like...

No Comments

    Leave a Reply