A side street in Shadwell has a small pocket park with gates leading to a space once filled with housing.

Cavell Street Gardens is located directly above a tunnel for the London Overground line running between Whitechapel and Shadwell stations, however, it owes its existence to post-WW2 clearance.

The site used to be lined with terraced houses built to replace those torn down during the construction of the railway, and while most survived the war, a couple nearby were ruined. Eventually, it was decided to pull the lot down — but not until the 1980s.

So the garden is a mere 30 or so years old, and hasn’t been touched since it was first laid out — although that is soon to change.

At the moment, it’s a park of two halves, with a small grassy circle surrounded by a path, and thanks to the ageing trees, the centre struggles to support much in the way of grass, so does a good impression of a mud field.

Some desultory plants line the edges.

The southern end of the gardens appears to be a fenced-off courtyard when seen from the side, but it’s actually a ventilation shaft for the London Overground running beneath your feet.

The other half is a paved area with four wonky trees.

There is a plan though, recently approved by the council to revamp the garden. The narrow footpath around the edge will be replaced with a large paved area in the middle, and the existing hard paved area to the north side will be replaced with a play area. The four maple trees there will be removed as they’ve been planted too close together and have grown up leaning away from each other to get at the light.

A lot of new planting, and some new trees, but a major change will be to remove the railings and gates as these are thought to create a barrier that puts people off using the garden.

Permission for the revamping works was granted back in May, it’s not currently clear when they can start though.


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