Why we love Bernie Spain Gardens

Volunteers weeding plants in the community gardens in Bernie Spain south

Learn a little more about this hidden oasis on the South Bank, that we take care of with a little help from some amazing volunteers! 

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. 

Our Gentle Gardeners volunteer in weekly gardening sessions and explain a little more about the group here...

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

In 2014 a community garden was created within Bernie Spain Gardens south park, supported by Bankside Open Spaces Trust. Gentle Gardening sessions are held weekly on Tuesday mornings (with Covid-19 restrictions it’s tricky but we have been able to continue the outdoor sessions).

We are delighted to have been picked to be in receipt of the Lambeth Wellbeing Fund to help support these sessions.

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.

Gentle gardening volunteers

Volunteers at gentle gardening session

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.

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 and signing your name in support https://coinstreet.org/bsg/

Would you like to make a donation to Coin Street?
If you like the work that we’re doing and would like to kindly donate to Coin Street Centre Trust, you can do so through our Virgin Money Giving page here. We are grateful for your support, as it helps us continue the work we do in your community.