Velorutionaries - Tom Massey
Velorutionaries aims to tell one person's cycling story, with a foray into their passions and finally, a glance at the bike they ride. This time it's garden designer Tom Massey and his Carbo electric bike in the spotlight...
What do you do for a living?
I'm a garden designer, I design a mix of private residential projects or public installations. I've also done gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show, I've done various show gardens for people like UNHCR and the Lemon Tree Trust. Alongside that I've done some TV work. I was on a garden show called Your Garden Made Perfect. So I do a range of things, but my main focus is garden design.
What are you passionate about?
For me growing up I was lucky enough to have a small back garden and live really close to Richmond Park. Also our family went on long holidays down to Cornwall. So we spent lots of time outside, connecting with the natural world, connecting with nature. I think thats something that is increasingly missing in kids lives, particularly in inner city children's lives - those early connections to the natural world. So, for me it is something I always felt connected to and felt very passionately about and loved to see things growing. See a pear grow and ripen on a tree and to pluck it and eat - you get that experimental moment of reward. It's gratifying I suppose being able to do that.
I drifted away from gardening for a bit and did a BA Honours Degree in animation - then came back to it slightly later in life and retrained at the London College of Garden Design at Kew which was a really great experience. I lecture there a couple of days a term, help out in the studio sessions and help the students develop their design. It's a nice thing to add to the mix of work that I do.
One of the first gardens I designed was for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and it was playing on this idea that as gardeners we are very prejudice and selective with the plants that we grow. So non-native plants are sometimes seen as invaders, enemies or have a certain stigma attached them. They can actually be beneficial or good for native wildlife and we thought that was quite an interesting parallel to play with the way people perceive refugees, or migrants coming to our country. They can add a lot of diversity, different skills and it was just an interesting juxtaposition.
That led onto a garden with the Lemon Tree Trust where I visited a refugee camp in Northern Kurdish Iraq and spent time talking to refugees, gardener to gardener, about what they were growing in the camp. It was really incredible to find out that people had the presence of mind to collect seeds when they were fleeing for their lives. And as soon as they arrived at a camp they would start to create gardens and plant their favourite rose, or their favourite herbs - things that would remind them of home.
Another of the gardens I designed was the Hothouse at the IQL. This was an exhibition that was installed for London design festival in 2020. It was a collaboration with Studio Weave. I designed the planting scheme inside - Studio Weave designed the structure. The concept of this installation was inspired by climate change. All the stuff in the Hothouse is the kind of stuff you might be able to grow outside in London in the not too distant future. Things like Lemons, Avocados, Pomegranate - things that sound very exotic or tropical but actually in the not too distant future you'll be able to grow them outside in London. That's kind of scary, but in a weird way kind of exciting. To a gardener, to have a wider palette of plants or more things you can experiment with does feel quite exciting but at the same it's kind of terrifying. The rate that the climate is changing is so unprecedented now.
What bike are you riding?
I bought two Carbo Model X for our studio. It folds really easily. You can lift it with the saddle so going up and down the stairs - you know its super lightweight. It's actually really nice to ride. I think some folding bikes are a bit bumpy or a bit raw on slightly more off-road trails. I'm often going up and down the Thames Path and although its slightly bumpy I think because the bike has a carbon fibre frame its got a bit more give in it.
Why did you choose an electric bike?
For me I've always loved cycling and I think in London cycling is really great way to get around. Often my journey's are from south-west to south-east and that could be an hour and half cycle on a manual bike. Having a bike that can fold that you can take on the train and is also an e-bike, so you don't turn up pouring with sweat - that's not a great look when you're going to a client meeting.
It's a really great way to get around the city. To jump on a train if you need to - a more sustainable way of getting around. I try not to drive if I can, the projects that are further away you might have to, but often I'd get on a train or take my electric bike and go further afield.