Tooting community project opens to the public as part of Open Garden Squares Weekend

By Jacqueline Fanchini

Private and secret gardens all over London were opened to the public last weekend to highlight the importance of their contribution to the capital.

Open Garden Squares Weekend celebrated its 17th anniversary this year and has grown to include 219 gardens, one of which is the Share Community Horticulture Project in Tooting.

The event allows the public to see first hand the different approaches to gardening and the varied benefits that can be drawn from it.

“We use it as an opportunity to raise awareness locally of what we do in this garden,” said Horticulture Project manager Jenny Shand.

Based on the grounds of Springfield University Hospital the 2.5-acre walled garden is where the Share Community provides a sanctuary for the people with disabilities it works with.

The charity aims to train and provide employability to those with disabilities while catering to their needs and ensuring their personal growth, all of which can be achieved in the garden.

The garden space is used as a platform for the achievement of these goals.

“As they grow in experience and as they get the qualifications, our students develop their knowledge and also start to play a role in running the garden,” said Share Community CEO Annie McDowall.

“It’s fantastically rewarding to see our students progress and do well, to find out what they want to do in life.”

Chris Nobbs, 26, became part of the social enterprise because of his brother Raymond Nobbs, 29, who suffers from a mild learning disability along with a physical one.

Both brothers said that being in the garden makes them happy and as Raymond attends to it four days a week Chris sees it as great respite from the office.

“I like interacting with the students, helping out, planting seeds, seeing them grow and it’s amazing how they come into flowers,” said Chris.

The weekend event relies on 1,200 volunteers and is organised by the London Parks & Gardens Trust in collaboration with the National Trust.

Notable gardens with limited places allotted via ballots include No.10 Downing Street and the Highbury Stadium Square.

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