New riverside community garden

by Eleanor Margolies in London, Greater London, United Kingdom

Total raised £11,141

raised so far

+ est. £613.75 Gift Aid



Help us build a community garden in London’s largest self-build community housing project for increased biodiversity, play and connection

by Eleanor Margolies in London, Greater London, United Kingdom

We're still collecting donations

On the 21st February 2024 we'd raised £10,891 with 92 supporters in 111 days. But as every pound matters, we're continuing to collect donations from supporters.

Our aim

Help us create a completely new, publicly accessible community garden alongside London’s Ravensbourne River in southeast London. The Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS) is a volunteer-led Community Land Trust which  has built 36 uniquely sustainable and permanently affordable flats at 12 Church Grove, Ladywell, in southeast London. The flats are a mixture of homes for sale, shared ownership and rent. The garden will be permanently open and free for members of the public, local residents, schools and community groups to enjoy.

Provision for neighbourhood green spaces has declined by roughly one third in 21st-century developments (NEF, 2022). We have a chance to protect this land in perpetuity and to create a space for the benefit of the local community and environment.

'It's more than just a project, it's an idea. It's the idea of land not being a commodity but a resource.' Anurag Verma, RUSS Chair

What is our campaign?

We are aiming to raise £50,000 by the end of 2023. This will allow us to build raised beds, install the play area, green screen and benches, and plant trees and hedges between December and March. We will then plant more delicate shrubs in the warmer months. We aim to complete the work funded by this crowdfunder in spring 2023, so that the local community can enjoy sitting in the garden in the summer, and even feast on a harvest of local fruit and veg.

We are aiming to raise £50,000 by the end of 2023. We are delighted that this project has been approved for extra support from the 'Save Our Wild Isles Community Fund. This fund will provide £2 for every £1 you donate - up to £500 extra funding for each unique supporter - an amazing opportunity to make the most of your donation to support the garden.

You'll see that there are some special Church Grove 'rewards' available as well as donations. Please note that these are not eligible for Gift Aid. If you are a tax-payer and able to 'gift aid' a donation, that's the most effective way to give. Whatever you give, we will welcome you to the garden and find a way to thank you!

RUSS is about a community living sustainably and our green roof bike and bin stores will help fulfil that mission by getting more people cycling as well as sustainable urban drainage and providing habitats for insects. Full details and costs for our plans are provided below.

History of the site

The land at 12 Church Grove was previously the site of a foundry, and then of a school. The railway and the Ravensbourne River run along one side of the site. After the demolition of the school, the site remained derelict and inaccessible for many years. In 2018, Lewisham Council granted RUSS planning permission for the flats. In 2019, RUSS successfully crowdfunded to build its Community Hub, with the support of the Mayor of London. Around 100 volunteers built the hub, using reclaimed and donated materials. The hub is an accessible and flexible space available for free / low-cost use by local community groups and is regularly booked by third sector organisations for training and information exchange events.

Who we are

'Having an active role in how our city looks and feels, and how we use public assets. Not just having stuff done to us, but taking a lead.' Kareem Dayes, RUSS founder. 

'This project combines both the social and environmental... it's got a strong view towards a net-zero carbon future.' -- Gwyn Rhodes, Triodos Bank.

Over the last 14 years RUSS has built a network of more than 1,000 members who support its aims and principles. Key to these are reducing the environmental impact of our neighbourhoods by both using resources efficiently and generating  our own energy and food. The flats are highly insulated with shared rainwater butts and air source heat pumps for communal hot water. There are solar panels on the roof and generous spaces for food growing, fruit trees and composting. As a volunteer-run Community Land Trust, RUSS relies on people like you to make our vision of affordable, sustainable living a reality.

Watch this video from our start on site event in 2021, with comments from Tom Copley of the Greater London Authority and Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan. 


More trees

We plan to plant around 40 trees on the site, including fruit and nut trees. The Orchard Project has already donated six fruit trees, including a mulberry, and will run its renowned orchard design and care course from our community hub building in 2024. The Woodland Trust has pledged to support with hazel, crab apple and rowan saplings.

A new hedgerow

A mixed hedgerow of native species along the river will support pollinators and help create a corridor for bats, extending the sensitively restored riparian landscape of nearby Ladywell Fields and linking it to Brookmill Park and Deptford Creek. 


More play

Children will be able to explore nature with boulders and tree trunks along the riverside, and play together on a bespoke installation designed for intergenerational imaginative play, to be created through an artist commission developed by working with local communities.

Community benches

We will create spaces for relaxing, stopping for a chat or just to watch insects and birds enjoying the flowers and fruit in the hedgerow.

Food growing

Raised beds for fruit and vegetables will be installed at ground level. In addition, each of the 36 flats has a dedicated balcony box for herbs, salads and climbers. Planting and growing workshops with local schools and community groups are being planned.

Cleaner air

The planting of new trees, climbers and hedgerow will help to remove particulate pollutants caused by traffic on local roads from the air and contribute to a cleaner atmosphere for the local area. We're proud to be part of the Breathe London Community Programme and will be sharing updates and research on how the Church Grove planting reduces pollution levels.


Accessible to all

The new riverside garden and playground area will be permanently open to the public and wheelchair accessible via ramps. There are three blue badge parking spaces, including an electric car-charging point, which can be used by visitors to the garden. There's a toilet and a baby changing station in the hub, as well as a kitchenette for making refreshments. A range of planting to accentuate scent and sound, and the provision of both quiet and sociable spaces, will provide opportunities for visitors of all ages, neurodivergent people and people with sensory impairments to access the garden.

Community learning

We are building bike storage with living green roofs, including a repair station with tools and a bike pump. There will be room for non-standard bikes, such as cargo bikes and trikes, and opportunities for repair and maintenance classes for all on the deck overlooking the river.


A space for art

We will commission a mural or mosaic from a local artist for the dilapidated boundary wall, including community workshops to develop the design. Church Grove is home to one of the Lewisham 'White Deer' murals, and previously hosted sessions with students of the London School of Muralism. We will incorporate the names of our volunteers and supporters into the artwork for the wall.


How can you help?

Thank you for supporting our aim to enhance biodiversity in a former industrial space and create a new garden that the whole community can use for play and connection. Please donate whatever you can and help us spread the word far and wide.

RUSS is also looking for volunteers to help us bring this project to life. Please get in touch via [email protected]. To join as a member, check out our website.


How much will it cost? 

  • Trees, hedgerow plants and shrubs: £17,000
  • Repair of boundary wall and community artwork: £15,250
  • Raised beds, balcony box liners and compost for vegetable growing: £14,101
  • A living green ivy screen to shelter the garden from the street: £12,000
  • Constructing shelters for bikes and bins with living green roofs: £34,000
  • Climbing boulders: £2,100
  • Benches: £2,610
  • Tree-planting rings to protect the river wall: £7,000



This project offered rewards

£100 or more

Come dine with us!

Join other donors for an exclusive supper club in one of the new flats

£20 or more

Larch doorstopper

Prop your doors in style with a RUSS doorstopper, made from offcuts of larch timber from the construction of our long bike shed with a living roof.

£50 or more

Cocktails on the deck

Join us for drinks, with cocktails (or mocktails) for two mixed for you by resident DJ Doctor Copper, served on the deck overlooking the Ravensbourne River.

£75 or more

Gardening session

A two-hour session with Matt, landscape gardener and RUSS resident, to tidy up your garden or advise on landscaping ideas

£200 or more

A room with a view

A free overnight stay in our guest bedroom for two people, overlooking the Ravensbourne river and the new garden.

£300 or more

Exclusive use of the RUSS Hub for daytime event

Book a day in our community hub for up to 30 people for a meeting, social event or film screening.

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