London Garden Squares Day - 8th June 2003
A Good Day Out

The 2004 event will take place over two days, Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th June 2004.

The Visitor's Tale
by Catherine Miller

I HAVE seen the posters on the Underground and the booklet listing all the gardens open on June 8th, and I have my £5 ticket that allows me to visit all 98 of the participating gardens. Now I'm setting out to see how the scheme works in practice. It's a fine summer day and the first port of call is Culpeper Community Garden in the Angel, full of climbing roses and masses of colour. Kate, the garden worker, is kept busy with visitors of all ages and cultures. My friend stocks up on plants for a new garden at the little stall.

Culpeper Community Garden

Visitors enjoying Culpeper Community Garden in Islington

Thrifty gardeners will of course be aware that not only are they supporting a good cause by purchasing plants in this way, but the plants are likely to be tougher than those mollycoddled in commercial nurseries, and will settle into the garden more quickly. A pot of sisyrincium bought here can also be split into a dozen plants.

Next stop is the Ismaili Roof Garden in South Kensington. The staff here are extremely welcoming and are obviously very proud of their garden. A simple design featuring water channels is reminiscent of the Generalife garden in the famous Moorish Alhambra palace of Granada. In the Koran, the paradise awaiting believers is described as "gardens underneath which rivers flow". The colour scheme is grey-leaved and white-flowering plants, some scented, which have to be hardy enough to withstand the occasional buffeting of wind whistling round the rooftops. You can see the roof of the Natural History Museum, just across the road but a world away.

On the District Line to the Temple, where there are two ancient open spaces tucked away in the middle of the legal establishment. The Inner Temple Garden boasts huge planes, catalpas, mulberry, and ailanthus, spreading themselves out and creating a luxuriant sense of space in crowded central London. There's also some well-maintained herbaceous borders. The fascinating Middle Temple has a secret rose garden, and little evidence of the twenty-first century.

Walking up though Chancery Lane to Gray's Inn Road, I reach a lively multicultural festival hosted by the Calthorpe Project Community Garden. Gavin and Louise, the garden workers, are in there somewhere, amid Chinese, Spanish and Bangladeshi revellers.

Counting the impulse buys of plants, and the cost of a travelcard, my day out has cost around £12. It is very impressive that the organising of the day is carried out entirely by volunteers from the London Parks & Gardens Trust. The best thing about the scheme is that you feel that you have been invited to all the gardens. There are so many lovely little green spaces in London, whether in well-heeled or deprived parts of town. Who owns them? Can you have a look? This scheme enables you to indulge your curiosity without treading on any toes, and see the many ways in which people celebrate the history and recreational value of their cherished green spaces.

Catherine Miller is Outer London Regional Officer for the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens.

A map of London's City Farms and Community Gardens is available from FCFCG, PO Box 25359, London NW5 4ZN.

The Organiser's Tale
by Ian Kennaway

NEARLY 100 squares and gardens, including 26 new venues, took part in this year's event and, judging by the reports that we have received so far, everyone seems to have had an enjoyable time on the Day: comments have been received, such as "the best yet".

The weather, apart from a short sharp shower, was certainly far kinder to us than in the previous two years.

We await receipt of all the returns from the participating venues before we can tell how successful the event has been financially. The Trust divides the net return between those participating venues which are not normally open to the public and itself.

This year the Trust's share will go towards the costs of updating its London-wide inventory of parks, squares, gardens and cemeteries.

John Lewis Roof Garden

The Day was preceded by a curtain-raiser kindly arranged by John Lewis, who opened their roof garden on the Saturday. Over 5000 people streamed onto the roof and were able to enjoy a glass of champagne and join in a question-and-answer session with members of the BBC's Gardeners' World team. Many bought tickets for the Day.

I would like to thank all our sponsors for their support and I am delighted that a number of them have already said that they would like to support next year's event. We do need more sponsors and we would welcome any suggestions as to whom we could approach.

Grateful to Volunteers

I am also particularly grateful to all the volunteers, who helped on the day and/or in advance of the Day. Without their support, we could not run the event. We hope that they and others will come forward to help us next year.

I would like to thank all my team, who worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the event, in addition in most cases to having a full time and demanding job and/or other extensive commitments. Most of our work has been exhilarating and rewarding, although inevitably there have been some disappointments.

We are determined to ensure that the event is ever more firmly fixed in London's calendar of events. We are already looking out for new venues for next year, particularly in those boroughs where there are few or none at present. Suggestions are always welcome. We will extend the guided walks leaflet to other areas and improve the map arrangements.

Positive Feedback

Finally, amongst the many comments that we have received so far was this from Lincoln's Inn: "We had a very successful day, with twice as many visitors as last year (thanks perhaps to the better weather conditions). Our gardening staff enjoyed the interest shown by the many visitors. Our Head Gardener missed the occasion this year, but may be excused as she gave birth to a baby daughter just before midnight on the Saturday night!".