The benefits of greenery in urban spaces are well documented and Herne Hill is lucky to have a large park and some beautiful street trees, but with nearly 3 million passengers passing through each year, the area around the station was in need of some greening up. We worked with Veolia, traders, Turney school and local residents to plant up Station Square and the tree pits outside Brockwell Park, hoping to cheer people up as they walk by and give insects some much-needed pollen.
What we did
Our first task was to dismantle all of the old planters that had become dilapidated over the years. In doing so we found a surprising amount of stag beetle larvae, which was quickly relocated to the stag beetle loggery at Brockwell Greenhouses. Any of the wood that was still usable was taken to a nearby allotment, weeds were composted and plants were potted up to be replanted later. We also had to remove the wooden borders around the tree pits as building up and planting in tree pits can actually rot the trees!
Next we teamed up with Veolia’s Freshview project and organised two days of community planter building. We bought some second-hand scaffolding planks, put up posters and crossed our fingers. Luckily the sun was shining and we had a fantastic show of local people to help build and paint the planters. We were especially lucky to have two local carpenters turn up, which was a great help!
Over the two days in May 2019 we built ten planters were then lined and filled with Veolia peat-free compost. This is made from garden waste collected from homes across London. Pupils from Turney School helped to plant the planters with a selection of plants carefully chosen by local garden designer Catriona Andrew. Catriona volunteered her expertise and designed a planting scheme that was drought-tolerant, had some evergreen plants and was attractive to insects.
Each planter has a local trader associated with it so the plants can be watered and maintained throughout the year. A bespoke care guide was produced with seasonal instructions. Turney School pupils came every week throughout the year and helped with watering and litter picking. They also planted annual meadow seed in the tree pits – this was specially selected to be of minimal competition to the trees’ water supply and to only have shallow roots. The meadow seed worked really well and looked lovely when in bloom.
Another strand to the project was to weed and plant up the tree pits outside the entrance to Brockwell Park. The smaller tree pits were relatively easy to do but the largest tree pit turned out to be too big a task and we have had to ask for help from Lambeth Council. Again the tree pits were planted up with drought-tolerant plants that were chosen so as not to disturb the tree roots. Unfortunately the summer of 2019 was so hot that many of the plants struggled and may need replacing.
Feedback from the public has been positive and we hope that some of the 3 million passersby agree that Herne Hill looks bloomin’ lovely.
Turney School is a special school for pupils with autism and complex learning difficulties. The young people gained a lot from the opportunity to participate in community-based learning as they seek to develop the confidence and social skills which they will need when they leave school.
Collin Jones, Head of 6th Form, Turney School