‘…The Phoenix Garden is the best-kept secret of London’s West End. Open daily, it provides a peaceful green retreat for local residents, workers and tourists all year round, and is a haven for a wide range of urban wildlife.
Created by local volunteers in 1984 on the site of a former car park, this is the last of the Covent Garden community gardens. The location can be challenging, yet the Phoenix Garden demonstrates what can be achieved with ingenuity upon a bedrock of West End rubble. Phoenix Gardens…’.
Trees give shade but are also interesting – birch, elder, fruit trees – and a gingko biloba.
This is a haven of quiet – somewhere to escape from Oxford Street and just sit quietly for a while, or perhaps read the book bought at nearby Foyles.
A pond attracts dragonflies and damselflies, and, I assume, frogs to eat the snails. And there are clever planting ideas for the very dry ‘rubble bed’, created when the new centre was built. Plant your old parsnips and carrots, let them flower, and you have tall heads resembling Queen Anne’s Lace! And what about Phacelia Campanularis, salvias, and lychnis (instead of knautia macedonica) for fast-draining, hot and dry beds?
The Tower or Rotherhithe Shaft was the original entrance to the Thames Tunnel, the first tunnel a river anywhere in the world. The Tunnel was built between 1825-43. The day the Tunnel opened 50,000 paid to walk under the Thames! The Tunnel was built to facilitate trade across the river, however, not as a tourist attraction. Today the shaft is used as a performance space and the garden on top of the shaft is home to the cocktail bar, The Midnight Apothecary, whose cocktails use flavourings grown in the garden or foraged locally.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s work is humourously remembered in two benches at the Museum – the Hungerford Bridge (1845) and the Royal Albert Bridge in Saltash (1854). And don’t miss the striking seats and table behind the Museum, or the remains of the priming pump from the Surrey Docks.
The Garden Barges at Tower Bridge are absolutely fascinating – literally gardens on the roofs of barges linked to one another and moored on the bank of the Thames. The gardens are filled with trees, shrubs, and flowers, and there are even bee hives!
Winterton House is a ‘Hidden Gem’ in Open Garden Squares Weekend on 18 June 2017. This wonderful garden is tucked away behind a building that gives no hint of anything horticulturally special. But do visit! The photographs give you a taste of the garden where plants of all kinds and varieties are on show and there is also a small allottment area and speciality poultry and ducks.
Woollon House is a small block of flats on one side of Sidney Square in Tower Hamlets. The Square was developed in the 1820s and the central garden was bought by the LCC in 1904 and opened to the public in 1904. Currently local residents are working to restore the gardens. Behind Woollon House is a rectangular garden which stretches the length of the block and which has been created by a dedicated and determined lady for the benefit of the residents. This unexpectedly peaceful garden is just a few minutes’ walk from the busy Commercial Road and it will be open on Sunday 18 June during Open Garden Squares Weekend.
Behind the reeds in front of the Pumphouse at Lavender Pond is another secret pond and a cool woodland area, and you can visit both on Saturday 17 June 2017 during the Open Garden Squares Weekend. This small nature reserve in the former Surrey Commercial Docks is a haven for wildlife – peaceful and quiet on the edge of the Thames and in sight of the towers of Canary Wharf. The entrance is on Rotherhithe Street, past the ‘works end’ of the site.
The Pumphouse stands at the head of the Pond and the remains of the lock gate are still in place, and still functioning. The channel into the Thames is clear and from the mouth, at river, Canary Wharf is just a stone’s throw away. Traffic up and down the river is slightly different these days and it is startling to realise how quickly the changes have come.
The large pond in front of the Pumphouse is enjoyed by the birds, and the local residents throughout the year – you can sit on the benches and enjoy the flowers and wildlife in complete peace and quiet.
And then there is the ‘secret pond’ behind the rushes, with an area of woodland which will develop into a magical place as the years pass.
The irises are beautiful now, glorious colours alongside the paths, tucked away amongst the cabbages and roses.Cable Street Community Gardens does not offer the ordered ranks of park beds, or even the manicured and managed herbaceous borders of country mansions and National Trust properties, but instead you will find plants and flowers which are loved and enjoyed with gusto and enthusiasm. Linger here with an open mind, and heart and find the beauty alongside the DLR – do visit on Sunday 18 June when the gardens will be open during Open Garden Squares Weekend.