This is a pocket park in Bloomsbury next to the Brunswick Centre that was once a private garden and fenced off, but just over a decade ago was opened up as a public space.
The slice of land that’s the park is the result of an accident when the Brunswick Centre development was being built. Originally expected to be much longer than it is, it was halted when the Territorial Army refused to release land to the north of the shopping centre for redevelopment. That left this thin gap between the shopping centre and the Georgian houses to the north.
This has been used over the years variously as a private playground, wasteland, twice as a building depot, and more recently, a basement private garden for the local flats that was pretty shabby. This gap was earmarked for social housing development in 2004, but that was blocked, and in the end, it was decided to open up the space as a community garden.
Reportedly, it’s the first new public garden to be created in Camden for over 200 years.
The local community was able to secure £100,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, which together with £34,000 from Camden’s Section 106 ‘pot’ and a ‘peppercorn’ lease agreement on the site allowed the private rather spartan garden space to be redeveloped into the garden we have here today.
It wasn’t an easy site to convert as it sits above utility equipment, and you can see the stairs down to the basement facilities in the garden, and one end is higher than the other, so they had to landscape heavily in order to create step-free access. This is not just good for people using the park to sit and relax, but it’s now also a very useful pedestrian link between two previously segregated roads.
There’s now a mix of wood and compacted flooring creating a slightly winding path through the park, with deeply planted bedding on either side, and a mix of benches and single seating dotted around. The concrete walls focus the sun into the otherwise slightly overlooked space that slips between two blocks of tall buildings. A handful of older trees remain casting shadows on a hot day, but otherwise, it’s a bright space, and the planting along the path is a delight.
A simple thing, but I particularly liked the low-level wooden waste bins, so much nicer looking than generic council bins that you usually find in parks.
The garden opened in September 2011, with local MP Frank Dobson doing the ceremonial opening, and local resident, the actor, Rupert Everett planting the final tree.
It has since twice won prizes in the Camden in Bloom annual competition.