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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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