Often described by locals who find it as an ‘oasis of calm’, Winsford Gardens is a small public park situated off the Croydon Road, between Ancaster Garage and Aldi’s supermarket.
The gardens were formerly part of the grounds of Winsford House, built as a private residence in the 1930s by Stephen Gee, a wealthy property developer. There were once a number of large houses along Croydon Road but from the 1960s many were cleared and replaced by flats such as Benwick Court and later Burmarsh Court.
In the late 1970s, Stephen Gee’s house and gardens were bequeathed to the London Borough of Bromley. Winsford Gardens opened as a public park, but later became neglected. In 2011, the national environmental charity BTCV [since re-named The Conservation Volunteers, TCV] worked with Bromley Council and intu Bromley to establish Penge Green Gym to undertake the task of restoring and transforming the gardens as an open space for the community and wildlife. Penge Green Gym is a group of local volunteers that, since being set-up in 2011, have worked tirelessly to restore and improve many of the features from the original gardens [including ornamental shrub beds, fruit trees, rose gardens, areas of lawn].
In May 2013 Penge Green Gym [also known as Friends of Winsford Gardens] was established as a community group independent of TCV and now manages Winsford Gardens on behalf of the London Borough of Bromley. Penge Green Gym aims to develop the gardens for the benefit of the local community and wildlife, as well as improving the physical and mental well-being of those who volunteer at the gardens. Weekly work sessions have increased colour and vibrancy in the gardens; a sustainable food-growing space, herb garden and propagation area have been created and native wildflower meadows have been planted. Increased wildlife habitats have been created through constructing stag beetle loggeries, insect hotels, leaf mulch areas and wood piles and an urban orchard and hedgerows have been planted. Some natural seating and a new children’s play area have been installed, several hundred spring bulbs have been planted, and the disused pond area has been transformed into a bog garden.
Where possible the volunteers use only natural, locally-sourced materials, with an emphasis on bio-diversity and sustainability wherever possible. Without any direct funding, Penge Green Gym is continually bidding for external funding. More funds are currently being sought to create a fourth rose bed, and improve the entrance off the Croydon Road.
Winsford Gardens is a beautiful and peaceful community environment and has won a number of awards, including an environmental award from Bromley Council in 2012, and Penge in Bloom awards every year since 2013. In 2015, Winsford Gardens was recognised by Keep Britain Tidy and awarded the coveted Green Flag Community Award. We also gained further national recognition as a gardening group doing excellent work for the local community; our wildlife garden and wildflower meadows were recognised in the Cultivation Street national awards under the special category ‘Pollination Street’. The prize of national garden vouchers will be spent on making the gardens an even more attractive place for wildlife and local residents.
The gardens were featured in the Spring 2015 edition of The Transmitter [Issue 35]. Described by reporter Justine Crow as a ‘sublime little island of sanity’ Winsford Gardens offers somewhere to ‘pop in, sit down and take a breather among the blooms’. Local artist, Lis Watkins has spent time in the gardens sketching scenes from our weekly gardening sessions – some of her illustrations have been used in this article [see more of her work on www.lineandwash.blogspot.co.uk].
If you find yourself with a few hours to spare on a Wednesday, and like being out in the fresh air, why not come along [between 11am – 2pm] and join in with other volunteers to continue to enhance the gardens?
Winsford Gardens, Croydon Road or Garden Road, SE20 7RN; www.pengegreengym.org.uk