- When I step on to this ground, I feel part of something good.
- This garden is like paradise for us – because when I came here I was very depressed and without hope. It was winter and now for me it’s spring [refugee volunteer]
- For me this is the heart of London where real peace exists.
Culpeper Community Garden is open every day of the year and free to all visitors. It is run and maintained by local people who volunteer their labour with the help of two part time paid garden workers. It depends very largely on charitable donations from trusts and individuals. It is one of the few green spaces in Islington and a place where anyone can come and enjoy the garden and relax. Come and see for yourselves.
Culpeper is hidden by high walls and encircled by great trees. It keeps its secrets until the moment you enter the garden. From the top of the steps the first impression is of lush green – a lawn, a weeping willow, a pond and rushes. Venture further through a wisteria and rose-covered arch, you come to the second surprise. Although Culpeper is open to the public every day of the year, it bears little resemblance to the normal public park. Apart from the communal areas, there are forty-six small plots, gardened by local people, each one different. The wide ethnic mix of garden members, each stamping their own particular style, prevents the garden from looking the slightest bit municipal.
The first impression is of a cottage garden with its joyous abundance of all the old favourites – the roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, forget-me-nots, daffodils, nasturtiums – spilling over the winding paths. These take you past a patchwork of small plots. Some are raised beds for the disabled. Some are filled with exotic vegetables, some with plants that are rare or unusual. There is plenty of interest for the plant connoisseur.
The community areas include the central lawn and pond, the dry garden, the rockery, the shady wildlife garden, the Culpeper herb plot, with a lollipop tree in its centre, and the long rose walk (a summer highlight). There is also a work area with greenhouse, compost bins and a tool shed.
Steps lead up to a vine-covered shed. This is the Tea hut, where members take tea, chat and enjoy the sun on the terrace outside. Another building clothed in climbers, is the Resource Centre, in constant use for workshops and other everts and where our garden workers have a small office. At the far end of the garden is a shaded wildlife area full of birds, wild flowers and an insect hotel.
The garden is known for its friendliness. There are benches among the flowers for people to come and relax. The lawn is often packed with office workers catching the sunshine in their lunch-break; the pond might be surrounded by children absorbed by the vibrant frog life. There might be groups barbecuing on the terrace by the tea hut. You will likely to find one of our Garden Workers – the life and soul of the place –supporting volunteers to tackle the many tasks that are needed to keep the garden up to scratch, or preparing an event.
The garden works hard to live up to its claim of being a ‘A garden for the people by the people’ by reaching out to and drawing in the community at large.