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A thousand yellow crocuses planted in Red Cross Garden

London SE1 website team

117 years after Octavia Hill planted a thousand yellow crocuses in Red Cross Garden, local primary school pupils have helped to recreate the scene in the newly restored garden.

Red Cross  Garden

Pupils from Cathedral School, St Joseph's School and Charles Dickens School joined volunteers from PricewaterhouseCoopers to plant bulbs in the newly re-laid lawns.

This event mirrors part of Octavia Hill's original vision for Red Cross Garden. In her annual report of 1888, 'Letter to My Fellow Workers', she wrote of the laying out of the garden: "…a small pond has been made, crossed by a little bridge. We have planted bulbs in plenty, and 1000 yellow crocus, which thrive better than most flowers in London".

Octavia Hill, a founder member of the National Trust, originally laid out the garden in 1887 on the site of a derelict paper factory. Described as 'an open air sitting room' for the people of Southwark, the garden was the scene of the annual Southwark Flower Show and many fetes and concerts in its heyday.

Red Cross  Garden

Heritage Lottery funding of 514,500 has enabled Bankside Open Spaces Trust to work with local residents, businesses, and historians to restore the original layout of this delightful Victorian garden, including pond and bridge, for the enjoyment of visitors and the local community. PricewaterhouseCoopers has supported the idea of restoring the garden since the inception of the project 10 years ago.

Anne Wolfe, community affairs senior manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, has been a member of the Steering Group since 1997: "I'm so glad we've been able to play a part in this project and think of the crocus blooming again as an icon of success! This is so much more than the restoration of a beautiful garden – it's an important education resource for local schoolchildren. The whole concept fits perfectly into our community affairs programme, which aims to help raise young people's educational achievement and develop their citizenship skills. Octavia Hill's understanding of the need to nurture the emotional environment of people living in inner cities is a wonderful example of citizenship."

Red Cross  Garden

"So many of the plants in this garden are significant in the life and work of Octavia Hill," added project manager Verena Cotton. " She made sure that the plants were chosen carefully to cope with the thick smog and pollution of nineteenth century Bankside. Happily the air is much cleaner now but the importance of this small city oasis remains – these crocuses will again provide a golden carpet to welcome the spring."

BOST has employed a community gardener, based in the Red Cross Garden in Redcross Way, to take care of it with help from volunteers, and run gardening groups in nearby parks. The garden will continue to develop with opportunities to learn about its social and natural history through activities, talks and exhibitions. It is open seven days a week. You can call for information on opening hours, volunteering opportunities, and events on 020 7403 3393.

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