W Bro Joseph Le Roi-Smith SLGR reports

In these difficult times of Covid-19 restrictions, many are facing loneliness, uncertainty and depression. Freemasons are no less affected than the rest of the population, so the facilities provided at Walworth Garden will be to our benefit as well as that of the wider community.

Gardening can be a lifetime companion, but finding the time and vision to create your own personal idyll can seem an arduous chore. With 30 years of experience building and growing functional, biodiverse gardens, the team at Walworth Garden, a charity established in 1987 to provide welfare and education in South East London, can transform gardens and balconies of any size and location, providing solutions that combine modern living with environmental responsibility.


In 2020, the Masonic Charitable Foundation awarded a £10,000 grant to this organisation which has a School of Horticulture and training centre running accredited City & Guilds courses. Its aim is to build student confidence and motivation, and provide the skills needed to work in horticulture and gardening. Many of its students go on to full-time employment, some making a successful career in horticulture. The training provided covers, among other things, plant propagation, pests and disease, pruning, equipment handling and maintenance, and health and safety.

Tutors take every opportunity to develop the practical skills of local young people as apprentices and trainees, and equip them with jobs. Practicing what they preach, the grant has been used towards improvements in the infrastructure, making its gardens accessible to greater numbers of the community throughout all seasons. And who better to create this new environment than the staff and students.


The Central Courtyard has been covered and re-landscaped. New all-weather, selfbinding gravel allows the charity to welcome visitors, even in the depths of winter when the area would otherwise have been covered in mud. This work placed great demands on staff and volunteers alike, including the excavation and disposal of large tracts of the existing land and the laying of tons of hard core. The hard-wearing and permeable surface has made a huge improvement to the site.

The Trustees wanted to demonstrate to the community that, even in shallow depths, water can attract an abundance of wildlife so that parents need not be afraid of creating a similar space in their own gardens. Working on the basis that most wildlife exists primarily in the shallows of any water system, volunteers dug a large, shallow, wildlife pond. Once filled, wildlife began arriving almost immediately, with birds swooping down for a drink and to bathe, and bees resting on the rocks to take a drink. They also carried, by hand, reclaimed hardwood sleepers to construct raised plant beds. Housed in raised planting areas, this system gives wheelchair users greater access to the planting (for instance to the pumpkins being grown).

CEO and Chief Gardener, Oli Haden, informed us that, “To see, touch, smell, hear and in timeto taste, the planting juxtaposes a twenty-five metre native hedge with edibles and ornamentation. In the process of growing food for us and our volunteers, we have ensured, by choosing nectar-rich planting, that insects are also fed.” He especially thanked the MCF Trustees for their generosity.

To find out more about supporting this charity, the email address is: info@walworthgarden.org.uk The team would be delighted to hear from you.


This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 42 October 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 42.