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The power of pocket parks

Posted: 22 May 2013

The Edible Bus Stop at Landor Road

The Edible Bus Stop at Landor Road

London’s first pocket park provides a blueprint for making small-scale green infrastructure interventions a reality

When The Edible Bus Stop officially opened its garden along the 322 bus route on Landor Road on Saturday 18 May, it became London’s first ‘pocket park’ to be completed with matched funding from the Mayor’s Pocket Park Programme. If the Mayor meets his target, we can expect to see another 99 innovative pocket parks pop up all over the capital, along with thousands more street trees, by March 2015.

But to start the story of the Landor Road project with how it was funded is to start the story near its end. Founded by Makaela Gilchrist and Will Sandy under the ethos of “guerilla gardening with permission”, The Edible Bus Stop team worked with the local community around the site for two years before any money arrived.

“First you need to find out if the community actually wants it,” says Gilchrist. “Then you animate the space - and you do that humbly by getting people to donate their time and plants. This shows people what even a little bit can do and gets them behind it.”

That time is also important for building your reputation. As early as May 2012, The Edible Bus Stop was being profiled in The Atlantic and being featured in the Guardian and The Telegraph for its Riot of Colour Garden at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Successful pocket parks need a strong design ethos

The next stage is to realise the aspirations for the site as detailed designs. Sandy, who is a landscape architect, says “high-quality design engenders pride in community spaces”, and that this is recognised by the Pocket Parks Programme, which is looking for high standards of design.

It's only at this stage that you can start applying for funding. With support from Lambeth Council’s Neighbourhood Enhancement Programme, The Edible Bus Stop received £20,000 matched funding for its pocket park at Landor Road and has since been awarded a further £10,000 to develop a plot at at West Norwood Fire Station Bus Stop H further along route 322.

“Our grand plan is to create a network of gardens along route 322,” explains Gilchrist, who is also talking to Bromley Council about a third pocket park in Crystal Palace.

So what advice would Gilchrist and Sandy give to any of the designers behind New London Landscape projects such as Wynne James’ Bus Roots, Ross Minett’s Green Roots - which demonstrates how planted bus shelter roofs could add 10 ha of green space to the capital - or Vicki Berger’s Kentish Town Station Allotments?

Gilchrist says: “You’ve got to be passionate, because the money isn’t going to come that quickly. It’s about reputation building and a lot of hard work - but the rewards will bring tears to your eyes.

“The evening before Landor Road opened I watched someone walk past the road and choose to go the long way round so as to walk through the garden. Another couple sat canoodling with a bag of crisps on one of our benches, while another man chose to sit, waiting for the bus, on our bench instead of at the bus shelter, looking at the herbs.”

Explore more

If you’re interested in developing a proposal for a pocket park in the capital, why not get in touch with one of designers behind these New London Landscape schemes:

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