West Norwood’s global garden open again for locals

large Victorian house with luxuriant garden
The South London Botanical Institute in West Norwood

The South London Botanical Institute in West Norwood went global during lockdown, but is now welcoming visitors again, fuelled by a surge in interest inspired by its online talks and workshops.

They attracted viewers from South Africa, India and the USA.

Visitors can once again enjoy its botanical garden with a pre-booked visit. Resumed school visits will teach young people about plants and where their food comes from.

Its learning programme, Botany on Your Plate, is funded by a £55,700 grant from the City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, which also gave the Institute a £5,000 emergency grant to help it through lockdown.

South London Botanical Institute (SLBI) project manager Caroline Pankhurst said: “We’ve definitely seen an increase in interest during the pandemic, with lots more local people visiting us as they explore the area, and the online talks have meant we’ve been able to reach more people from a much wider area than would normally be the case.

“The Botany on your Plate project is about getting people engaged in where their food comes from and helping them realise how important plants are – not just for food but in all aspects of life.”

During lockdown, the institute delivered online talks on subjects including growing plants in pots or small balcony gardens, vegetables available at Brixton Market and using fruit and vegetables to dye clothes.

City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said: “Like many of our grantees, the South London Botanical Institute has faced extraordinary challenges during the pandemic but found innovative and creative ways to adapt its services.

“It’s great that the institute, while continuing its successful online workshops, is now once again able to welcome visitors to experience the health benefits of getting close to nature and learning about where their food comes from.”

Any schools interested in a visit to the Institute for children to find out more about plants can get in touch via the SLBI  website.

The botanical garden is open for timed visits, which must be pre-booked via the website or by calling 020 8674 5787.

children and adults gardening
Quincy Johnson (front) planting in the vegetable bed with her father Jamie Johnson and volunteer Ellie Pritchard

The children and teachers loved it

Polly Tullberg, a teacher from Rosemead preparatory school and nursery in Dulwich, brought her class to SLBI to learn about “The Amazing World of Food Plants”.

She said: “We were so pleased to be able to take our class to visit the SLBI this term. The children and teachers loved it. The sessions were pitched accurately and were fun and informative. 

two boys in learning mode
Charles and Frederick Searle making seed bombs at SLBI

“It was lovely to enjoy the sunshine in the garden and extra special because we could walk there.

“I’d recommend any teacher to take their class to the SLBI to learn more about plants.”

small girl with large watering can
Kiara Luna Arciniegas watering the plants

Charity with a 1,000-year history

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

The corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge Houses Estates, founded getting on for 1,000 years ago in 1097 to maintain London Bridge.

Bridge House Estates is also responsible for maintaining Tower, London, Southwark, Millennium and Blackfriars Bridges.


South London Botanical Institute
323 Norwood Road, SE24 9AQ
020 8674 5787

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