Behind the brick façade of Carers Lewisham’s centre in Forest Hill, visitors to the charity can now find two small garden spaces nestled against the back of the building. Once a patch of dirt overgrown with weeds, one of these spaces is now paved with blue slate chippings, the walls lined with newly constructed wooden flower beds in which a smattering of brightly coloured flowers bloom. At the head of the wedge of land, a freshly planted shrub sprouts upwards, defying its concrete encasing. In the other garden area, the wild tendrils of existing trees and shrubs have been pruned back and a new square stone patio laid, topped by a wooden gazebo and a picturesque bench. The gardens offer a small oasis in the brick and chimney urbanity of Forest Hill.
Carers Lewisham is a registered charity that provides support to over 2,500 carers in the borough of Lewisham. A carer is anyone who age 5 and upwards who provides unpaid support for friend or family member who could not manage on their own due to illness or disability. The organization offers a range of services including advice, information, emotional support, breaks, opportunities to meet other carers, time out from caring activities such as relaxation days and well-being sessions, coping strategies, and specialist support. The charity completed the project of renovating the gardens in mid-April after having a grant proposal successfully funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery, which donates 32% of its funds to charities like Carers Lewisham.
On an unusually warm Friday in April, carers and staff recently gathered in the shade of the new garden to share a bite to eat and enjoy the space. It was the first of many events planned by the organization to make use of the gardens. Carers Lewisham already has a volunteer lined up to head a gardening club for carers, expected to begin next month. Other plans include a healthy eating club as well as use of the space for socialization, events, and relaxation. Being outdoors has a demonstrably positive impact on physical and mental health. Because caring can be very isolating, the new gardens promise to provide carers with both the benefits of socialization and a slice of nature at an organization that acts as a safe space for many.
With the warmth of summer months already peeking through the clouds in London, Carers Lewisham’s gardens are here just in time to allow its beneficiaries to step outside and enjoy the sun. Thanks to the generosity of the People’s Postcode Lottery, they are expected to be a frequented space for many months and years to come.