What is it? A two-for-the-price-of-one offering this time: Harleyford Road Community Garden is an apparenty shape-shifting (for which read ‘compact but easy to get lost in’), shady nature garden replete with benches, swings and a pond. Bonnington Square Pleasure Garden is a small but perfectly formed green patch fashioned from an old bomb site. The two are connected by a secret passage.
Where is it? Harleyford Road is actually a stretch of the A202 which is one of the busiest arteries of South East London: the Oval is but a strong-armed pitch over over the road, and the upper levels of MI6 are quite visible. The rather chi-chi Bonnington Square is just over the hedge and behind a row of buildings: the two gardens are all but joined at the hip. (And seemingly enjoyed by the hip.)
Why has it tickled our fancy? Because both plots truly are blooming examples of what community effort can do. It was the community (which at that time included garden designer Dan Pearson) that took control of the Bonnington Square space from the council in the 1990s, and it remains community led and fed and watered. The use of ‘Pleasure Gardens’ in the title also offers an affectionate throwback to the original gardens near the site: the Vauxhall Pleaure Gardens. The inclusion of the old waterwheel, and sundry bits of architectural salvage and mosaic, make this a delightful and quirky spot to while a way an hour or so on a sunny July afternoon. Not that Londonist gets two hour lunch breaks or anything.
Nature notes: There is nothing wild or particularly random about these two gardens – they are well maintained and full of well-thought out blooms (including an awful lot of pretty thistles). When we visited there were murmurous bees, and butterflies, and it was all, well, just so. The Harleyford Road garden has just enough overhanging trees and nooks and crannies for one to think that it might perhaps come alive more at night….