It’s easy to miss such gardens amid London’s sensory overload, even for locals living in their easy reach. London’s Vauxhall neighborhood, for instance, is full of rollicking after-hours clubs and traffic-choked streets and bridges. Seek out relief in Bonnington Square Garden, a ragtag oasis of trees, vines, and flowering shrubs in a closed-off square of Victorian townhouses. This is a true diamond in the rough. Known in the 1970s as a warren for hippies and squatters, Bonnington Square reflects its eccentric past, planted as it is with a tangle of mimosa, beech, and mulberry trees as well as lavender, giant ferns, low-growing palms—and the appropriately vegan Bonnington Café.
Open: Saturday 10:00–17:00 + Sunday 10:00–17:00
The pleasure garden here was once a bombsite, then a derelict playground, before it was imaginatively re-designed by the Bonnington Square Garden Association, a group of local residents with backgrounds in film, art, design and horticulture.
Funded by grants and local sponsorship, the garden includes a 9-metre Industrial Revolution iron waterwheel, a huge Helping Hand sculpture and evocative, lush sub-tropical planting.
Further planting under the umbrella of the Paradise Project includes trees, groundcover planting, vines and endless street gardens. The pleasure garden is today regarded as one of the finest community gardens in London.
Activities: Refreshments, activities.
Entrance: On north side
Nearest postcode: SW8 1GA
Buses: 2, 36, 88, 185, 436 + 44, 77, 87, 156, 196, 322, 344
Cycle hire station: Kennington Lane Rail Bridge (Map)
Public toilets: Vauxhall Bus Station: Saturday 06:30-20:00 + Sunday 10:00-17:30
Dogs: Working assistance dogs only
Organised by the London Parks and Gardens Trust, the weekend will take place immediately after the extended Diamond Jubilee Bank Holiday on Saturday and Sunday, June 9 & 10, 2012. For the first time, the event will be in association with the National Trust.
Around 200 communal gardens, many that are not usually open to the public, will be taking part ranging from the historic to the traditional through to roof gardens and allotments. Among the green spaces open especially for Open Garden Squares
Weekend will be many of the much loved and popular gardens such as HMP Wormwood Scrubs; Eaton Square, Bonnington Square, Cable Street Community Gardens, The Regent’s Park Allotment Garden, The Royal College of Physicians’ Medicinal Garden, The Kensington Roof Gardens, Canons Park – George V Memorial Garden – which will be celebrating its 75th Anniversary and the National Trust’s Carlyle’s House.
Our recent trip to check out the gardens in Bonnington Square left us sorely in need of refreshment – and fortunately the area is very well endowed on the catering front. On this occasion we chose to get our caffeine fix at Italo, a bustling, fragrant and by all accounts popular deli-cafe which kind of spills out on to the pavement when the weather is warm enough.
The place is run by a pedigree partnership of the Di Lieto family, who ran Di Lieto in Stockwell for over 20 years, and Charlie Boxer, erstwhile novelist and closet foodie (and, incidentally, father of Frank, of Frank’s Campari Bar fame). As corner delis go, this place has got it all: piles of beautifully packaged bits of Italy (with quite a lot from other bits of the Med thrown in), a great range of hot home-made foods and general lunch fodder, cheeses, salamis, and hand-crafted cakes. But it is the smell of coffee which entices and domninates – and jolly good coffee it is too.
The coffee is Caffe Dolce, a fairly exclusive blend being offered at just a few London outlets. Our expresso was a full and manly affair, with a pleasant nutty aftertaste. None of that weird fruitiness that you get with some coffee. All in all Italo is definitely worth a detour next time you swing by the Oval or are Vauxhall bound.
Italo is at 13, Bonnington Square SW8 1TE, and is open Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 7.45pm, and Saturdays from 9.30am to 2pm. Tel: 020 7450 3773.
This is the first spring in several years that isn’t marked by the reawakening of the garden in Peckham. It is a curious feeling to be without an established plot and for the tiny arc of treasures that I moved to my Somerset farm to not be in context. I am saved by my studio garden in Waterloo for the time I am in town. I would find it impossible to live in the city without engaging with something living and green and ever-changing in this hostile setting. I went through several steps to work my way up to the garden in Peckham: an alley in Bethnal Green, a roof garden in Bonnington Square and the community garden there we built. But the garden in Peckham has been my lifeline for the past 13 years.
Hiring the garden for weddings or other events
If you are living in our neighbourhood and want to have an informal party in our space, please let us know your plans and we can try to make sure that you have a great time and the garden looks great at the end of it. Refundable deposit required donations invited.
Please contact us here.
The garden receives no financial support apart from donations, so we really do rely on them and the good will of all the volunteers who give their time so kindly to the garden. A big THANK YOU to all of who have helped us over the years.
We’re featured in the Observer in Hidden corners: How can you find a secluded spot in our busiest parks? Ask the park keepers
Other havens in the capital include the incongruously lush pleasure garden in Vauxhall’s Bonnington Square.
Recent books on Bonnington Square Gardens
Sat 23rd May 2-5pm
Sat 30th May
A clip from a recent feature on BBC Gardeners World.
Hope you have been enjoying the spectacular weather — almost TOO hot for gardening.
We have the BIG weekend coming up in June 7-8th (we’re open all the time of course but I suppose for the purposes of that day and keeping an eye on the garden we should say 10-5pm), with loads of visitors who will make a detour to see our very special gardens and square. We are looking forward to the event, and hope that you will all be able to spare an hour or two for the next couple of weekends.
We are calling our clean up a Green Gym, as it is a great work out, and no garden knowledge needed.
Please look at the pdf and we look forward to seeing you.
James did mowing, raking and weeding on Sat.
Outlook is cooler for the weekend…