The new 'Beelines Pocket Park' in New Malden- people and plants creating a better place.
Over the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with ‘Shed X', a community-led regeneration project based in Tolworth.
Using funding from the Greater London Authority Good Growth Fund and the Royal Borough of Kingston (RBK), the SHEDx team worked with officers at RBK to plan the new ‘pocket park’, just outside New Malden station. The space forms the entrance for the new GoCycle route from New Malden to Raynes Park and, aside from the planting, incorporates street furniture and street art. I was delighted when Shed X asked me to develop the planting scheme, as this was an opportunity to work with the local community to create a beautiful, bio-diverse space in an area that was previously barren and vandalised.
The brief was to create a pollinator-friendly planting scheme that would be hardy, require minimal maintenance and provide year-round interest. I needed to select tough plants that would be able to survive harsh winters and baking summers without any watering or winter protection. The park has water mains running directly underneath, so it was crucial to avoid plants known to have deep root systems. As the scheme will be maintained by the local community and is in the public realm, it was also important to avoid plants with high levels of toxicity and those that would be ‘thuggish’ and take over the borders if left unchecked. And of course, it needed to look fabulous to create a welcoming space for local people to sit, wander and reflect.
On Saturday, a small army of local volunteers arrived at New Malden Beelines Pocket Park to help plant the design. As the scheme includes 755 plants we had plenty of work to do! The guys from 121 Collective worked tirelessly all day to get the plants into heavily compacted soil; they also created the stunning benches using 90% up-cycled materials. Five runners from the Good Gym gave their muscles a pounding workout, alongside a sea of helpers from the Kingston Environment Centre, Alex from The Mindful Compass and his horticulturally savvy tot, and of course the team from Community Brain. There were plenty of other folks digging and sweating to get the plants in, not all of whom I managed to meet personally, but many hands make short work and by the end of the day, the vast majority of plants were in that heavy clay soil!
It was fantastic to see the design come to life and listen to the enthusiasm of both passers-by and the volunteers for what we were creating. This is an excellent example of a small local charity working with local people and local start-ups (like my own) to create something truly special. There's still a little more planting to go in so we'll be back there shortly finishing off.
I'll shortly post a list of all the plants in the park; please subscribe for updates if you'd like to receive this to your inbox.