London's Stockwell Studios' gardens are a hidden little bit of almost-paradise. Located behind an old and dilapidated building housing artists' studios, the gardens are a labour of love for the inhabitants and the community.
The building itself is an old maternity hospital from 1915, turned into artists' studios in 1987. There is no heat, except for space heaters, the place is falling apart and it's under threat of sale by the local Council, but for 25 artists it is a close-knit and thriving co-operative community, with interesting and creative people working in every studio.
One artist has been working on the garden since 2006. Using reclaimed and recycled bits from everywhere, he is in the process of creating a little piece of green and beauty in the area.
A pond, which took three days of digging and bog gardens have been created. Old Georgian bricks were found and became a lovely pathway around it.
There is a slate and fern garden and other wood and water areas to encourage wild life. At the frog spawn in the spring ten tiny frogs were spotted.
Ernst & Young accountants donate money and staff volunteer on workdays. They helped to build this sitting out area with a patio and growing areas and a kitchen garden. They had to dig down two and a half feet to get rid of all the buried rubble. Plenty of daffodils, hyacinths and fruit trees were all planted in November with the help of local volunteers and Ernst & Young. Cherry trees in the spring are magical.
With the London Bee Keepers Association, four hives have been established, yielding award winning honey. Classes have also been held to teach bee-keeping.
Geoff Routh has made the garden the subject of his beautiful, realistic paintings. Having had a studio for the past twenty years in the building, he has made it his life's work to portray the trees and local buildings that he can see from his window on the third floor and by working in the garden itself, in all kinds of weather.
Neel Bakhle who is the designer and main force behind the garden also uses forest and wilderness images in his work. He burns the pictures onto large sheets of found plywood. Working from photos and his imagination, he follows the grain of the wood and portrays lakes, trees and woodland scenes, some reminiscent of Canada's Group of Seven painters, although he admits that he has only seen photos of them.