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24 June 2007

Could this be Forest Hill's Next Beauty Spot?

For my neighbours and me, there's just one thing that spoils our enjoyment of life in Forest Hill. We live on Stanstead Road (the quiet part, round the back of the South Circular) and our houses look out on bricks, thousands of bricks, in the form of Travis Perkins' enormous warehouse wall. In front of the wall is an ugly 3 metre-wide strip of paving, currently home to a motley collection of scrubby bushes and fly-tipped rubbish.

Last autumn, we called the council to see if they could plant some trees. But then, an article in Lewisham Life about the community garden at Brockley Cross caught our eye. If they could do it there, could we do the same here?

We contacted the Forest Hill Society to see if there were members on Stanstead Road who could support us. In January, we had our inaugural meeting and the Stanstead Road Garden Project was born. John Paschoud, our local councillor, found out who owns the land, set us up with a dedicated email address and gave us good advice.

The next step was to find a garden designer. A couple of phone calls one rainy afternoon yielded fantastic results when Saina Tebble of "Gardens by Design" in Kemble Road, uttered the words: "I'd love to work on your project, and I'm happy to do it for free!" Not only that - the next day she visited Travis Perkins and Shannons garden centre next door and won promises of free or cost-price materials and plants!

The environmental regeneration charity, Groundwork, will help with funding bids and have promised the services of their 'Green Team' who will help with the heavy labour. Envirowork Lewisham has also pledged support. In fact, everyone has been very positive, with many neighbours offering help and saying how nice it will be to have an opportunity to meet each other.

Plans for the garden will soon be circulated to the street. The feel is Mediterranean and herby, with creepers to cover the ugly wall, beautiful trees, and plants to attract birds and bees. There will be flowerbeds for children to experiment with and scented and textured plants for older people to enjoy. We're hoping to involve local young people, too.

The next step is to apply for funding. If you would like to get involved, we'd love to hear from you! Please email us at stanstead.gardeners@lewisham.org.uk

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