Leo’s Garden, the highly-valued and hidden-away balcony garden at South Thames College in Tooting held a celebratory event this week. STC staff and friends marked two years on from its opening (see our 2015 blog report here) and did some autumn planting.

This kind of local oasis is so relevant to a new study published this week by the Mayor of London, the National Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund. It’s called Natural capital accounts for public green space in London & is intended to help shape future policy and decision-making. All the info here. In turn the report is relevant to the Tooting Bec & Broadway Neighbourhood Forum’s work on developing a local Neighbourhood Plan.  

Back to Leo’s Garden:

A sunny November day…

The photo shows, from left to right: 
Peter Mayhew-Smith, Principal of South Thames Colleges (STC) Group,  
Rosemary Scott, (STC Branch UCU member),  
Angie Birtill (STC UCU H&S Convenor),  
Kate Turney (STC UCU Environment Convenor),  
Jamie StevensonDirector of Business Centre STC.

Named in memory of STC Facilities Officer ‘Leo’ Mumuney Olusanya, the garden is a great example of a green space that’s developed because people in the team had the vision and perseverance to create it. 

Angie Birtill said at the opening: 
> “We wanted a place where workers could rest and enjoy our own garden right above Tooting Broadway: an area badly lacking in green spaces.

> We know this garden isn’t going to get rid of our stress all by itself, but it will always be a lovely place for people to recuperate when they can find time to do so.

> We know that Leo’s Garden won’t do away with the toxic air we breathe daily in London. However plants in Leo’s garden help restore clean air while offering us a place to rest. The tests that the University and College Union, Greener Jobs Alliance and Furzedown Low Carbon Zone have carried out directly outside this Tooting site show that the levels of Nitrogen Dioxide are over twice the legal limit. We need to continue campaigning on this.”

Angie recognised contributions by many people:   
“Artura West, ACL lecturer carved us a beautiful plaque in his own time. Staff from Tooting have contributed plants and bulbs ever since it was opened and Carlos waters the plants and keeps the balcony clean for us. Alan (another brilliant Facilities officer) offered to make us planters for us on his weekends and gave us the valuable link to the sale of planters on the internet. David and Kamil put the planters together. 
Thanks to Peter too for supporting the union’s request that the college buy the planters.”

Leo’s Garden in 2015
What other special gardens and surprising growing spaces are tucked away locally, and what are their contributions to wellbeing, pollination, air quality, nature, habitat and learning?
  1. Have you visited Tooting Community Garden? This Sunday 26th November at 1:00pm  we’re enjoying some of our own autumn and winter produce: harvested, juiced, sliced, dressed and cooked on the spot into great vegan taster dishes.
  2. Have you been to the Share Community garden which is open to visit within Springfield University Hospital?
  3. Have you seen the first community orchard in the borough? It’s not far from Southside. Contact by email here.
  4. There’s Bramford Community Garden, Putney Community Gardens, Doddington & Rollo Community Roof Garden, Growhampton, the ROSE Community Centre in Nine Elms and Paradise Co-operative near Wandsworth Common.
  5. There are many great school gardens locally.
  6. There are many allotments, plus home gardens on balconies, terraces and in backyards – all worth celebrating. See Pollinator Paths Wandsworth for shared stories from 2017.
  7. Have a look in passing at the growing boxes and vertical beds created with young people from the Tooting refugee and asylum charity CARAS by their office at the corner of Blakenham Road and Derinton Road. 
  8. See the Greater London National Park City project’s brand new map of green spaces across London. You’ll enjoy how London’s landscape looks without any buildings marked: 49.5% of London is green or blue!