These two pocket parks next to the OXO Tower on the Southbank, created in the 1980s, are named after a local campaigner and present two very different aspects depending on which you visit.

The two gardens sit on land that was reclaimed from derelict buildings, a warehouse next to the river, and behind it the large Eldorado ice cream factory. They had closed down and were earmarked for redevelopment into offices. However, the buildings gained the nickname of the “berlin wall” and and locals mounted a campaign to block the development, which they eventually won.

The gardens are named after Bernadette Spain, who lived nearby and was a founder member of the Coin Street Action Group. Her action group led the campaign against the property developer and to secure the area’s future for local residents.

Sadly, Bernadette (Bernie) died in April 1984 while on holiday in the Cairngorms, before, and regrettably, just after she died, the developers gave up the fight and sold the site to the GLC and Lambeth Council, which in turn leased it to the local campaigners.

It took about four years to clear the land of the derelict buildings, with two parks being laid out on either side of the road that separated the buildings. The north side was laid out first, very much to the design it has today, but at the time, without any trees. They were added later.

The southern garden has more recently been given a modest makeover and is much more of an open lawn space, with a large sunken hollow created from a partially filled-in basement from the former factory on the site.

A circular space at the far end is filled with bedding plants, and on my visit, a small cat with ambitions to attack a crow that was larger than it was, and several hedge-lined paths to the local roads.

The metal seating at the other end of the park has a small sign on it saying they are in memory of the actor Calvin Simpson, who was working as a cycle courier between acting jobs but was hit by a lorry next to the park in April 1990.

The north garden looks rather rough today, though, because it was still being set aside for development. Thanks to that, it has the air of being a bit of grass that sits next to the much busier riverside walk rather than a well-defined pocket park of its own.

However, it will soon look much nicer, as the Coin Street Community Builders were recently granted planning permission to revamp the north garden with new planting and paths, and some of the work has already started, creating a new wall on the south side to replace the old fencing.

Eventually, some of the tired lawns will become filled with flowers, and there will be a more obvious boundary with the riverside path that will probably attract people into the garden as it will be easier to understand that there’s a garden here to visit rather than an old lawn to walk past.


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