Hedge

The Garden of Discovery Pocket Park

Nicola Murphy-Evans of City Hall’s environment team is interviewing the project managers of some of her favourite Pocket Parks.

The Garden of Discovery Pocket Park

The Garden of Discovery was planned by a team of people at Mitcham Lane Baptist Church in Wandsworth. Phil Barnard, the Minster led the team and project managed the creation of the Pocket Park. It’s part of our ‘community strand’ of parks created entirely by local groups volunteering their time and expertise.

How did the garden come about?

We were working with an architect about how best to use our buildings and space around the church. There were some great ideas, but they were all very expensive. At the same time, a number of our church members had started to think about a community garden at the rear of church. We thought it was a great idea. It had a purpose, would offer something new for the community, it was more fundable, and much more grassroots. We talked to the local community and they were really enthusiastic about it. So we decided to focus on the garden and scale back our plans for the buildings.

Were there any objections to the cost of the garden?

Some doubts were raised within the church as some people felt it wasn’t a priority. We had been approached by a developer who wanted to build 50 units on the site. We did seriously consider selling it. However, as Christians, we wanted the land to be used by the community – something that would improve the build and urban environment. Local people were really supportive. They couldn’t believe that we’d create a garden, rather than sell the land. Those who weren’t so keen have come round, and now say that actually, it’s brilliant.

How involved have the local community been in the project?

Local people have been involved in every aspect of the garden – the design and all planting was done by local volunteers. We were lucky enough to have a professional horticulturist in our congregation. He designed the entire planting regime. He just told me what to order and where to plant it! We have two very enthusiastic volunteers who lead a team who look after the garden. We also host gardening days for local residents and schoolchildren come for visits. Lots of different people enjoy the garden, not just those who attend our church.

Why did you call it ‘Garden of Discovery’?

We wanted to create a special place within the city where you could discover a new approach to nature, or yourself, and provide a place for reflection. We also wanted something that would help show that the church is not a dry and dusty place with hymn books, but it can be somewhere different and vibrant. So that’s where the idea for the name came from.

What were your biggest challenges?

Project managing the creation of the garden was challenging. It was really time consuming, and I was also running the church. It’s difficult to sustain the community’s interest too, as well as making sure it helps make our networks stronger. We used social media a lot, posting lots of pictures and creating fun events all helped to keep people involved.

Is there anything you’d do differently?

You need to be really cautious about creating a public space. It needs to be hardwearing landscape. If I was doing this again, I might be more rigorous with the landscaper to ensure it can cope with lots of people. It’s not like running your own garden; you have to plant it in a way that puts people off trampling over it. I’ve had to rebuild the water feature four times! That’s been a learning curve.

 

Facts and stats

Pocket Parks grant: £9,300

Other grants: £60,500

459m2 of land improved