Elmstead Woods Station Gardening Club

Why are we gardening at the station?

Elmstead Woods station garden is a local treasure and loved by many thousands of commuters, visitors and occasional users alike. Our gardening club, currently around 15 strong, aims to maintain and improve it, ensuring that everyone can continue to enjoy it for years to come.

How does the club work?

Club members meet every few weeks and are a friendly bunch of all ages and backgrounds, with varying levels of green-fingered knowledge. Gardening should be a pleasure and there's a great deal of banter and good humour. We email future dates to members and they show up as and when they can - and sometimes individuals or smaller groups will do an extra session to work on a particular task.  It's all very relaxed and self-organising...

What's the background?

The whole thing started when Steve Leggett, one of the guys who works regularly in the ticket office, and I got chatting about the history of the station garden.  All the serious work, and awards to match, was done twenty years ago by 2 former station staff and what a task it was. Literally tonnes of rubble removed and extensive planting and landscaping.  Since then station staff and some of their relatives had done a sterling job keeping on top of the endless list of tasks - but it's such a big garden we thought that it would be great to open it up to local people who simply loved the garden and wanted to put something back.

How did we get the club going?

We approached Chislehurst Society and they put the word out - several people came forward immediately - and we put notices up at the station which proved to be a quick and easy way to reach people. We quickly realised that we needed more equipment, plants and other gardening paraphernalia and went back to Chislehurst Society, this time with a modest grant application, and we got in touch with Homebase to see if they could discount the items we needed.  The application was successful and the support of both organisations has made a huge difference to us (if you're reading this, a huge thank you from us all!).

Who else is involved?

On top of the material support we've enjoyed from our sponsors, the wider station customer community has been great!  We regularly get offers of plants and a recent request for pots yielded a great result - we were inundated!  It's more of the good feeling that surrounds the station working it's magic.  The other crucial cornerstone is of course Southeastern which has given wholehearted support to the gardening club, and several members of the staff team give up their own time to participate. 

So what have we done so far?  

In a word, loads!  But it's still early days - we've only been going for a year or so.  The first job was to tackle the overgrowth and prune like mad, weed and start to shape the beds on the centre platforms. Then in the summer came a magic moment - putting up 2 largish pergolas right in the centre of the garden with some bird tables and feeders to boot.  We took away some of the dead Lavender and Rosemary and replaced it, planted all sorts of flowers along the way, and painted some of the benches to preserve them.  This year we have installed a new pump for the water feature in the smaller of the 2 ponds, cleared both ponds out, and used several of the donated pots to cheer-up some of the duller platform areas.  We have also started a herb garden, the idea being that busy commuters can pick a bit of something they fancy on their way home. 

What's on the horizon?

There's still so much to do but gardens are built over time so we try not to stress!  We want to tackle the bare, huge trellis on the far platform and we want to put up another pergola to replace an old one that blew down in the wind earlier in the year.  We would love to create a simple nature trail for small school parties if we can, and given the station is home to all sorts of wildlife (rabbits, foxes, frogs, dragonflies, woodpeckers, owls, jays etc.) enhance their habitat too. We need to work out a way of making water available more readily, and sort a noticeboard out.  Oh yes, and get rid of about 5 skips worth of dead branches and garden waste that has built up and needs removing.  On top of all this, more tinkering, pottering and pruning...you know what gardens are like!   

So, how does that sound?  

Is this something you, or someone you know, might like to do?  You'll be welcome to join in and have fun - because at the end of the day this is a club and everyone should enjoy coming along!  Watch out for dates of the sessions posted in the ticket office, or contact me, Chris Spencer, to let me know you're interested.  If you're thinking of setting up a similar club in another station we'd be happy to share our experiences with you - you never know, it might help!  If getting involved in the gardening doesn't take your fancy but you would like to contribute plants or flowers, wheelbarrows of cash, support services or other garden items let us know. We could also do with a gardening expert or two from time to time to advise and inspire us. Failing that sit back and enjoy the garden - that's what it's all about!

Best wishes from all of us at the Elmstead Woods Station Gardening club

Contact: Sally and Ed Bywater 020 8467 2768, email: sallyby@yahoo.com and edbywater@yahoo.comor Steve at the station

Got a great local interest story? contact us and tell us more  - we love hearing all about groups and individuals that are creating a vibrant community life in Chislehurst.