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St Mary’s Garden in Lambeth Road now a brighter, greener place

London SE1 website team

St Mary's Garden near Lambeth Bridge is now a brighter and more welcoming open space thanks to a team effort by local volunteers.

St Mary’s Garden in Lambeth Road now a brighter, greener place
St Mary’s Garden in Lambeth Road now a brighter, greener place
Helen Lees receives flowers from designer Stephen Crisp at the event to mark the unveiling of a new sign in the park

St Mary's Garden is a small public park created in the 1930s when Lambeth Bridge was realigned. It sits between Lambeth Road and the churchyard of the former parish church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, now home to The Garden Museum.

At the end of last month a new sign was installed at the garden entrance explaining the history of the area and the background to the renovation project.

In recent years the garden has been somewhat run-down, so two years ago local resident Helen Lees, chair of the Friends of Archbishop's Park, applied for Lottery funding from the Breathing Places programme, an initiative to promote the regeneration of under-utilised green space and encourage the sustainability of wildlife.

In June the Big Lottery Fund confirmed a grant of nearly 10,000 for St Mary's Garden. Helen also sought funding and in-kind support from a range of local groups and businesses.

Landscape designer Stephen Crisp came up with designs while Putting Down Roots, the horticultural arm of St Mungo's homelessness charity, helped with the planting and were out in the rain and shine.

Funding from Biffa supported the restoration of the leaking fountain while volunteers from Ringway Jacobs laid the mosaic stepping stones and prepared the undercoat for the railings, a finance team from Shell ran a team-building event one afternoon to paint the top coat, then Jubilee Walkway Trust gave money for bulbs.

Waterloo social enterprise Southbank Mosaics incorporated colour and designs from nature into the garden's fountain base by creating a pool of koi carp.

Helen herself made the six stepping stones around the fountain depicting animals, insects and flowers, inspired by ideas from local children. Lambeth Council contributed funding and will oversee the future maintenance of the garden.

The new design and planting of the gardens reflects the pattern of fields that once divided the Lambeth landscape, although the hedges contribute a contemporary twist.

The garden is designed for year-round interest by incorporating a variety of structure, height, texture and colour in the planting which will also be attractive to wildlife and contribute to the area's biodiversity.

The garden also incorporates two educational pods which are currently full of sunflowers but which will change with the seasons. The pods are maintained by The Garden Museum and will encourage children to learn more about nature.

"It's been a challenging journey involving many cross sections of our community, but hopefully it shows that with a bit of effort and determination, you can work together to create something different, even in the heart of the city," says Helen Lees.

"People have literally been out in the rain and shine so it's fantastic to see their hard work come to fruition, although we're not yet finished, and there's still bulb planting to be done and new pathways and lights to be installed. There were so many people who have contributed to this project, and I hope its success acts as an inspiration to other people."

Cllr Mark Bennett, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport on Lambeth Council, added: "This is a truly inspirational story of what can be achieved when local people, whether as individuals or groups, work together to change their community for the better."

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