Galleywall Nature Reserve is a small patch of ground on the corner of Lynton Road and Galleywall Road SE16. It is a living, breathing part of the urban environment in which we live. It has been looked after since 2004 by The Friends of Galleywall Nature Reserve – a small group of people originally local to the area. Although some of them have now moved away, you will find them at least once a month on a Sunday from 1-3pm enjoying the stillness, the birdlife, the berries and the leaves in a patch just by the No 1 bus stop. We have Southwark’s only compost toilet! It is a site of importance for nature conservation and as such has a level of protection. However, if it were not for the Friends and the support of Southwark Council, this could have become yet another piece of local history buried under a block of hastily thrown up flats. The patch of ground was previously managed as a nature garden by Galleywall School. Following the closure of the school, and the take-over of the building by Southwark Park School, pupils and staff have been involved in activities coordinated by the Friends. Business volunteers from Barclays, Princes Trust, Soul in the City, and more recently Deutsche Bank have worked at the Reserve under the expert eye of Ben Dewhurst and teams from The Conservation Volunteers, Lavender Pond and Russia Dock Woodland. Local nursery, primary and secondary schools, ThamesReach Bondway, City Hope Church, and 16th Bermondsey Scouts have over the years all contributed to the maintenance and design of the garden.
In autumn 2014, Galleywall Nature Reserve hosted a series of Forest School sessions for 8 children from Southwark Park School. Forest School is an outdoor education movement based on Scandinavian practice and steadily gaining popularity across the UK. Forest School focuses on child-led play, allowing children to create their own learning experience in the outdoors and develop independence and confidence in a safe yet exciting environment. Through a variety of activities, the children are offered the chance to explore all their senses, use simple equipment and manage their own risk, teaching them the importance of safety and self awareness.
The sessions were very successful. Each session had a fire circle over which the children would cook snacks such as chocolate bananas and chocolate fondue. These were hugely popular and the group loved seeing how the food changed in look and taste after being cooked on the fire. The children had a chance to dip in the pond, build natural structures and hunt for bugs under logs and stones while the adults took a step back and allowed them to follow their interests and discover the reserve in a way which seemed exciting to them. In April a trained Forest School expert, Jenny Hickman talked local families through the approach and we built a cob hearth where we can boil kettle or warm up food. The sight of a campfire has drawn children and adults to the reserve; nobody can resist the chance to warm themselves in front of a real fire!
On Sunday 7 June for Big Lunch, we had over 25 visitors, who enjoyed baked potatoes, grown in the raised beds, flavoured with chives. The local people who have looked after the raised beds have benefited from the quiet and seclusion of the place to wind down after a busy day, and the increased use of the reserve to grow plants will we hope give others confidence to explore the plot. We have other open weekends planned throughout the year; an outdoor craft and art session, an introduction to permaculture, beekeeping, and mushroom identification are all in the calendar.
If you just want a chance to dig and enjoy the earth that we all live on, be in touch with Jane Stokes, Secretary of the Friends of Galleywall Nature Reserve at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make 2015 the year that you find out more!