Covid-19 and our gardening - please read

Gentle Gardening at Bernie Spain Gardens

Two women gardening; one holding a trowel

Here’s a chance to learn a little more about this very beautiful garden on the South Bank, on the boundary with Southwark.

Local green spaces bring much needed colour and vibrancy to urban environments. Volunteering in community gardens like Bernie Spain has therapeutic benefits, helping alleviate isolation and depression though the combination of gentle exercise, getting outside, growing plants and social interaction. Read more about why Bernie Spain Gardens are a hidden oasis along the South Bank.

Could you tell us a little about the Bernie Spain Garden and in particular the Gentle Gardening group?

In 2014 a community garden was created within the south park, supported by Bankside Open Spaces Trust. Gentle Gardening sessions are held weekly on Tuesday mornings (but obviously it’s tricky right now with the covid restrictions).

Why do you think it’s important to have this food growing space in this very urban environment?

Because many of the volunteers that join the sessions have no garden of their own and have limited opportunities to grow their own food. This regular session provides a chance to connect with what we are eating, to learn about the seasons – and we think the food tastes so much better if we’ve grown it ourselves.

We feel that food growing is a great way of connecting with nature – we have come to realise that if we don’t look after the soil and the wildlife (we love to watch the sparrows, bees and butterflies), the crops don’t grow so well – we know that everything is connected.

What are your biggest challenges?

The garden is in a public park which means it is open at all times. This means we can suffer from anti-social behaviour, rubbish and occasional theft (we are still mourning a rhubarb plant that was stolen last year). It also means that it is more difficult for us to put in some features that we would like, such as a pond and wormery! 

And what are your greatest successes?

Each season has its own successes, and things that could have gone better!  Recent achievements have been putting in a bug hotel and planting four new fruit trees in partnership with the Orchard Project. The main success is the way the group works together, learning so much about gardening and about the site and what will grow best. The sessions include gardening outside if the weather is good or projects inside in bad weather, over a shared lunch. Volunteers develop skills in gardening and outdoor education, often taking plants home to grow. These sessions make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable and isolated people in the local area and have been described as a lifeline during COVID-19.

What is most helpful about being involved with Incredible Edible Lambeth?

During lockdown, we have all needed to support each other and learn new ways of working. Through IEL, we like having connections with other local gardens, being able to visit and see what they do is really inspiring. 

And what’s next for Bernie Spain Garden?

We are seeking funding from the Council and the Lord Mayor’s Fund for a “Pollinator Garden” which will focus on biodiversity, sustainability and community. It will transform the northern part of the garden. You can support the Gardens by going here