Cultivation Street

Penge Green Gym (Friends of Winsford Gardens)

Introduction

How it all began…
In 2011, The Conservation Volunteers [TCV] worked with The London Borough of Bromley and the corporate sponsor, The Glades to kick-start the transformation of a neglected park called Winsford Gardens situated off a busy main road running from Penge, at the north end of the borough, towards Croydon. The previously private gardens had been bequeathed to the borough in the 1960s. TCV established a ‘green gym’ in the small park with the aim of attracting local volunteers to come to the open space for weekly practical gardening and conservation sessions.

What’s happening in Penge Green Gym at the moment?
We are transforming one of the wildflower meadows into a Beth Chatto style gravel garden. This is being funded through monies secured via 'Tesco Bags of Help Scheme' in 2017.

penge green team

The work of Penge Green Gym

The bench area in autumn
Red clover flowers

In 2013, Penge Green Gym Community Group [also known as The Friends of Winsford Gardens] was established as an independent group of local volunteers. Since that time, we have continued to improve the park, in sustainable ways. For example, we have: built a series of compost bins for recycling green waste; created leaf-mulching bays to hold the annual ‘leaf fall’; established a growing area with a series of cold frames in which to grow on seedlings and cuttings to re-stock borders. We have transformed neglected areas of the gardens through planting-up native hedging around the perimeter of the gardens (formerly edged in concrete fencing) in order to attract a wide range of birds and insects, turned a disused and broken pond system into a bog garden, re-stocked formal rose beds and created wildflower meadows and an urban orchard.

But overall we wanted to make the whole area a more welcoming and safe environment for locals. To do this we have created a children’s play area and two natural seating areas; improved sight-lines around the gardens through judicious pruning of shrubs, bushes and roses; re-established herbaceous borders with a mix of spring bulbs, perennials and annuals attractive to pollinators. We have also installed some durable raised beds around the open space, and replaced the signage at both entrances to the garden (with help from a local business).

There are now many more regular visitors to the gardens including families, office workers, dog walkers, as well as children from local nurseries. These folk, and those who come to our annual Open Days are always very complimentary about the park. We have transformed it from a run-down and neglected open space into a welcoming ‘oasis of calm’.

In 2013, Penge Green Gym Community Group [also known as The Friends of Winsford Gardens] was established as an independent group of local volunteers. Since that time, we have continued to improve the park, in sustainable ways. For example, we have: built a series of compost bins for recycling green waste; created leaf-mulching bays to hold the annual ‘leaf fall’; established a growing area with a series of cold frames in which to grow on seedlings and cuttings to re-stock borders. We have transformed neglected areas of the gardens through planting-up native hedging around the perimeter of the gardens (formerly edged in concrete fencing) in order to attract a wide range of birds and insects, turned a disused and broken pond system into a bog garden, re-stocked formal rose beds and created wildflower meadows and an urban orchard.

But overall we wanted to make the whole area a more welcoming and safe environment for locals. To do this we have created a children’s play area and two natural seating areas; improved sight-lines around the gardens through judicious pruning of shrubs, bushes and roses; re-established herbaceous borders with a mix of spring bulbs, perennials and annuals attractive to pollinators. We have also installed some durable raised beds around the open space, and replaced the signage at both entrances to the garden (with help from a local business).

There are now many more regular visitors to the gardens including families, office workers, dog walkers, as well as children from local nurseries. These folk, and those who come to our annual Open Days are always very complimentary about the park. We have transformed it from a run-down and neglected open space into a welcoming ‘oasis of calm’.

Achievements

In 2015 we won the Cultivation Street Pollination Street and received £1,000 in gardening vouchers. We also won the Keep Britain Tidy Community Green Flag and the local Penge in Bloom awards.  

What's next for Penge Green Gym...

The wildflower meadows tend to be in full bloom for a relatively short period during the year (although seed heads from various plants are around for longer periods). So we decided to alter one of the meadows into an area where drought tolerant plants might flourish for longer periods and have scope to plant-up species which have an interesting appearance and shape throughout the year, alongside plants that are attractive to pollinators.  

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Community gardens across the UK are not only growing rapidly in numbers but are also doing incredible work, transforming lives as well as the land itself. We would love you to join us now.

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