The Community Wildlife Garden is a hidden gem, tucked away off York Bridge Road, south of the Will to Win tennis centre. There are two entrances, one from York Bridge Road and one from the Inner Circle, both with signs for Will to Win tennis. The whole area was once the domain of the Toxophilite Society, a society for archery, from the 1830s to the 1930s. In the Second World War, it became a dumping ground for rubble from bomb damaged buildings and was grassed over as open parkland without any garden features. And it was designed in its current form in 2006 providing wildlife habitats and garden features, funded by RSPB and constructed over a 3 year period, 2006-09. The garden is maintained by Royal Parks volunteers.
One of the garden’s objectives is to provide a physical demonstration for the public of small garden features such as raised timber flower beds and the slate drive with planting where a vehicle could be parked (shown above).
From York Bridge Road, see the slate drive on your right and go through the arch in the wall (covered in clematis, ivy and honeysuckle) to find a little lawn on your left and a raised flower bed on your right. The garden area beyond is grassy meadow and splendid trees with cow parsley, brambles and nettles here and there according to the season. The wheelchair accessible path meanders round past flowerbeds, a grass sculpture of a newt (on your right) until you reach a pond good for wildlife.
Beyond the pond, past a huge red oak, find the cascade ( pictures left and right) running round and down into the lake. The path continues back up to the tennis courts and the exit on to the Inner Circle. Most plants are there to benefit birds, small mammals and insects.
- There is quite a range of wonderful trees: for example, along the path next to the tennis courts, you can find London plane, horse chestnut, Indian horse chestnut (flowers on the left) , Ginkgo, tulip tree and Catalpa. Then alongside the path there are some fine cherries for blossom in spring and elsewhere birch, alder, oak, ash, hornbeam, willow, hawthorn (flowers on the right), holly and more besides. More unusually, near the pond there’s a huge Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and an American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) which lost the top half of its trunk in a storm in autumn 2020. At the back of the pond is the big red oak (Quercus rubra).
- Come in spring for glorious displays of daffodils, Camassia and cherry blossom.
- Enjoy the water features: the wildlife pond, the cascade and the lake.
- Wildlife: you may spot ducks in the cascade, a heron or a coot in the lake but mainly this garden gives space for bugs and birds to enjoy themselves.
- As this garden is a haven for wildlife, we ask you to keep your dogs on leads.