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

Welcome to a new member of our team!

We are so pleased to welcome Michelle to the Incredible Edible Lambeth team. She is running the London Community Foundation project ‘Growing our communities’ from now through until the end of March.

Growing up on the West Coast of Canada, she is deeply connected to Nature and she continues to share that passion by volunteering at her local Lambeth school garden, where she helps children become excited about natural, healthy food and to connect them with Nature through gardening. 

Michelle brings a range of business development and project management skills with her, having worked for many years as an independent software developer helping small, medium, and large businesses hone their web based offerings. She has created an environmentally focused business helping parents reduce the number of plastic toys thrown away each year. 

She is excited to bring her diverse skillset to IEL to help us create food resilience and a greater sense of community involvement through supporting this particular project.

Launch of Sprout Up Schools

There’s a great new initiative in Lambeth called Sprout Up Schools. It is a kind of ‘one stop shop’ for any school that is eager to explore the possibilities of outdoor learning, growing food and re-connecting with Nature.

Founder Seonaid Royall has worked with Jubilee Primary School and other schools in the Windmill Cluster. She co-designed (with the kids) an RHS show garden ‘Believe in Tomorrow’ for Hampton Court in 2019 and shares a passion for change.

Sprout Up School’s mission is to help schools make the most of their outdoor spaces and reconnect children with nature. Seonaid’s belief is that when children have a strong relationship with the outside world, they’re happier, more confident, and more responsive.

It’s good for kids, it’s good for teachers, and it’s good for the planet. Together, we can develop a plan to maximise the potential of schools outdoor spaces and provide the skills, knowledge, and partnerships necessary to help make it happen.” Seonaid said.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed working with Sprout Up Schools on past outdoor projects and are thrilled with how successful the various projects and gardening clubs have taken shape.” (from a Head Teacher)

Visit the website for more information or email

Blooming Lambeth Awards 2020 – voting is now over

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to vote for their favourite garden in the public vote this year, we were so chuffed that we had so many people voting. Results night is 17th November at 7pm, info can be found here – PLEASE JOIN US!

The public vote categories were:

  • Most imaginative container or food growing space
  • Get Creative
  • School Garden

Growing our communities

We plan to support and escalate food growing across the borough, providing seedlings and advice on how to grow through the difficult winter months. We will provide regular videos to keep you on track and will distribute seedlings in two waves – at the end of November and in February.

We will also create new walking trails, to enable more people to get out and about and find their nearest green spaces and community gardens.

Would you like to be involved? Here’s how:

  • sign up to grow veg through the winter months – we will support you all the way, with hot tips and shortcuts, using videos to guide you.
  • become a walking guide for our maps of the green spaces in Lambeth. Get in touch today if you’d like to know more at

 Photo courtesy of Hitherfield School


‘Growing our Communities’ is funded by the London Community Foundation

The third of our Lambeth Food Stories: celebrating our Urban Harvest!

Donna, Styles Gardens, photo courtesy of Johanna Gilmour

One gardener commented to us “My garden has been like a second home over this covid-19 period of isolation and cut-off. A place to cultivate and be at one with Nature”.

We have loved welcoming so many new growers to IEL in 2020 and wanted to celebrate our combined harvest so, as part of Capital Growth’s Urban Harvest Festival week, we invited growers to tell us about their experiences this year.

You can read the transcript here or watch it on our youtube channel here.

Continue reading…

Glyphosate is history on our estates!

THANK YOU to everyone who continues to put pressure on our Council to change it’s policies on the use of this harmful chemical. We need to keep going and achieve a similar result for our streets.

Press release, Friday 7th August 2020

Lambeth Council says it has today (Friday) ended the use of
glyphosate on its housing estates, “effective immediately.”

“We have beeen phasing out our use of glyphosate across the board,
working towards ceasing to use the pesticide across all its services
by the time its new contracts for waste collection and street
cleansing begin in 2021″ says a council statement.

“The use of herbicides has a significant impact on the environment by
removing plants that are an important source of food for a variety of
native insects. “The council acknowledges that we are facing climate
and biodiversity crises and is committed to doing all it can to tackle

“The use of glyphosate for routine weed management is now banned
across all parks and open spaces and on Lambeth housing estates, as
well as to treat weed growth in tree pits across the borough. “On top
of this, the council has cut its use to treat weeds on streets by a
third and continues to trial alternative methods.

“The way local councils are funded doesn’t usually allow for research
and development, but Lambeth is committed to investigating all
potential ways of ending its use of glyphosate and improving its

“Trials of alternative methods, such as hot foam treatments, are
ongoing, but they tend to have a separate set of severe negative
environmental impacts including huge amounts of wasted water. “We are
continuing to explore selective weeding and increased manual weeding
too as ways to control excessive weed growth.

“We also continue to offer residents the chance to group together and
opt their street out of the weed-spraying schedule, whilst taking
responsibility for keeping their street free of weeds until the new
service begins.”

Word from the Cabinet

Cllr Jennifer Brathwaite, Lambeth’s cabinet member for housing and
homelessness said: “One of my priorities since I took over this role
was to look at how we could quickly end the use of glyphosate on our
estates as part of our commitment to improving the borough’s

“I am pleased that we have been able to do it and we will look to
suitable alternatives to ensure we keep our estates clean, tidy and
free of trip hazards as well as places where nature thrives.” (Source:
Lambeth council’s official website Love Lambeth)

Meet a group – Larks Garden


Hi Sylvie, it was great to meet you last week and have a tour of your garden. (watch the virtual tour here). Could you let us know a little more here please?

How many people are involved with the garden?

We have 25 members but volunteers come when they want, so it is quite irregular; it could be in winter time: 4 volunteers, but some weeks ago we had 20 volunteers turn up, so we have to adapt. We are all volunteers, no one is paid to work in the garden

Wow – 20 people all at once must have been challenging! Could you remind us when you are open for volunteers please?

Every Saturday – 11am – 2pm

What are your greatest challenges?

On two occasions, we have felt out of our depth, when working with people who suffer from serious mental health. We want to support everybody and we know that the benefit of gardening is very powerful to help in moments of distress, but we also have to protect everyone. It is a fine balance but generally, it works very well.

That’s so true – we all know the value of getting into the garden but keeping everyone safe must be a priority too..

What do you consider to be your greatest successes?

I think our greatest success is that after years working in the community garden, all the park has changed; more people are using it and respect it too. When we first gardened here, we used to find a lot of needles, dog poo … it is now very rare. And people love to walk in the Larks garden and involve their children. We feel people are talking more and we feel more connected to the local community.  And of course, we have seen the beautiful plants growing from the hard work all the volunteers put in.

That’s such a great achievement!

And finally, what would you like help with (from IEL and/or its members?)

We always need soil and manure, and trees and plant donations. And we would like to be connected with our local doctor’s surgery. 
We would also love to know more about the plants we already grow and what are their (medicinal) benefits. And what other plants that we could grow safely to help certain conditions…

I think there’s an opportunity for an event here (maybe online for now!) – talking about the medicinal qualities of the plants we grow..great idea Sylvie! Thanks for sharing with usyou have worked miracles here.

FIND OUT MORE about the Larks by going here