London’s Pocket Parks: Bernie Spain Gardens, SE1

These two pocket parks next to the OXO Tower on the Southbank, created in the 1980s, are named after a local campaigner and present two very different aspects depending on which you visit.

The two gardens sit on land that was reclaimed from derelict buildings, a warehouse next to the river, and behind it the large Eldorado ice cream factory. They had closed down and were earmarked for redevelopment into offices. However, the buildings gained the nickname of the “berlin wall” and and locals mounted a campaign to block the development, which they eventually won.

The gardens are named after Bernadette Spain, who lived nearby and was a founder member of the Coin Street Action Group. Her action group led the campaign against the property developer and to secure the area’s future for local residents.

Sadly, Bernadette (Bernie) died in April 1984 while on holiday in the Cairngorms, before, and regrettably, just after she died, the developers gave up the fight and sold the site to the GLC and Lambeth Council, which in turn leased it to the local campaigners.

It took about four years to clear the land of the derelict buildings, with two parks being laid out on either side of the road that separated the buildings. The north side was laid out first, very much to the design it has today, but at the time, without any trees. They were added later.

The southern garden has more recently been given a modest makeover and is much more of an open lawn space, with a large sunken hollow created from a partially filled-in basement from the former factory on the site.

A circular space at the far end is filled with bedding plants, and on my visit, a small cat with ambitions to attack

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