St Joseph’s, Camberwell

Background:  St Josephs is a primary school in the heart of Camberwell, SE London.  They won a wildlife garden competition funded by VEOLIA and run by London Wildlife Trust.  The competition was open to schools London wide and entrants were asked to submit ideas for creating wildlife friendly gardens. The outright winner (judged by me and a panel from VEOLIA)  was to have their garden design developed by me and then built to a value of £10K.   A very generous  prize indeed!   VEOLIA and I were immediately impressed by the enthusiasm and creativity behind the ideas for the St Josephs site, which were driven  by the boundless energy of teacher, Lucy McKiernan and her pupils, who clearly valued outside learning and wanted to develop a garden which would be a mini beast haven.

The garden before – functional but uninspiring

The Brief:   The garden at St Joseph’s was a long narrow space with some trees, a shed, an undulating lawn and boundary hedge.  It functioned well enough but was not very inspiring to people or wildlife and did to have much educational value for the children to learn about biodiversty.   I developed the plan to create a native species rich hedge, planted beds, flowering grassy meadow and long grassy areas, benches, mini beast ‘hotels’, a wooden ring path, a living willow den and even a 2 story tree house!  Thats alot to fit into a space that is only 3m at it’s widest but the enthusiasm of Lucy and her pupils to have as many wildlife friendly features in their garden as possible was an inspiring challenge!

The Final Plan

Click here for a higher res image of this plan 

The Garden:  I built the main garden over a week with volunteers from VEOLIA  – the willow den and tree house were crafted by specialists shortly after.  The transformation from dull strip to educational wildlife haven and nature trail was complete!


Build in progress with wood ring path in place and plants laid out and ready for planting

The plants and features have established very well and the children have been able to spot a variety of bird and bug visitors to their garden.

Tree House for the children to get a birds eye view

Mini beast hotel and planted beds







Beds, flowering lawn and establishing meadow

Areas of shady woodland planting

Grasses and aliums


Living willow den


Inventive welly bot holder


The garden was officially launched with a jubilee style street party for everybody who had contributed to its creation and the mayor of Southwark was invited to cut the ribbon on the tree house.  A very auspicious event indeed!

The mayor with Lucy in the big hat and some of the pupils at the garden launch

A garden launch cake that looked too good to eat







The tree house with ceremonial ribbon

Launch garden party








The children were also invited to draw what they think of their new garden….

A sketch from one of the pupils of St Josephs.  I think that I am the ‘lady’ with the ‘spayd’