Growing people power in Peckham

Interviewing The Friends of Kelly Avenue Park about their Grow Wild funded project.

An abstract concrete shape for seating in Kelly Avenue Park

We visited Kelly Avenue Park in Peckham to explore the space they are transforming with a grant from Grow Wild. Here volunteer Michelle and Working Party Coordinator Victor talk about how they got started and some of the challenges involved in their community project.

Tracy, our chair, spotted the opportunity of the grant just before the Working Party for Kelly Avenue Park was due to meet. We had a meeting to discuss what we wanted to do in the park to get things up and running, following the COVID lockdowns.

Our goal is to set the space up as a wellbeing hub for the area, that can be used by all ages. We've got play equipment for the very young, sports courts for the older children and even a skate bowl. Having the sensory nature elements, for people to sit near a tree in a calm environment would make it complete.


A man stood in a yellow hi-vis jacket next to a woman wearing a red top, sat in a wheelchair, in a park in front of a building site


It all began with a park that children were scared to visit because the crime was horrendous here. The Working Party for Kelly Avenue Park started after a Peckham Citizens Delegate Assembly in 2015. At this Assembly the fear and safety of Kelly Avenue Park had been discussed, following that there was a rally where more than 600 people attended. At the rally people signed up for various jobs such as housing, finance and one of the options was the park because it was in a bad state. There were 120 people from a school, surrounding areas and a local church who decided to help in cleaning up Kelly Avenue Park.

'It all started with a park that children were scared to visit'

 Following this we started having committee meetings and then planned a fun day in 2016, which now happens every year. We even ran a COVID secure fun day as we were coming out of lockdown.

For the Grow Wild project, we have split the park into four different zones, for example near the slide, there's a big slope that just seems redundant and is looking worse for wear. One idea suggested by some of the volunteers was that the area could become a wildflower slide. We’ve run with that, so we’re seeing how we can make it happen. Everyone liked the idea of some natural colour in the park, increasing the biodiversity and the pollinators.


A grassy area of a park, surrounded by trees and high rise building works


'Everyone liked the idea of some natural colour in the park, increasing the biodiversity and the pollinators.'

 There is also a growing area that has stopped functioning the way it had previously. There are planters that have existed for a while which the working party hadn’t had time to tend to, or the volunteers to get them going. People wanted more planters and to restart the existing ones because all we've ever done is tidy them up. We've never got around to planting and adding compost, but it would be great to get them filled.

Within a workshop this summer we started developing an area where we hope to introduce living willow structures. There are already some trees but we’re trying to encourage more wildflowers in the area as well. Our next steps are digging out the planters, preparing the ground to put the wildflower seeds in, getting the next planter built for the growing area and getting some hugel mounds built. Then everyone will be able to get planting in autumn.


A road sign reading 'Kelly Avenue' next to some purple flowers


The other main thing we’re focusing on is promotion and recruiting volunteers to complete the work. The engagement of young people has mostly occurred through adults. If people have children that are interested, they often bring them along to help. We started by involving the children who came to the park, some of the families then came back repeatedly because they enjoyed the sessions and got more involved. The first one that we had with Jo the artist was in 2019, where we created a display with coloured words on the wall reading ‘We’re glad you’re here’, painted by the children.

One of the major challenges was that we didn’t realise how much Michelle (volunteer) was going to be doing towards the project. Tracy is the original project leader but due to some unforeseen circumstances plans have changed. There were also volunteers who had planned to be more committed at the beginning who weren’t able to be as involved as intended.

Hopefully, the upcoming works and plants we introduce will attract different varieties of bird life, wildlife, insects, and different species of butterfly. We’ve seen a lot of Brimstone butterflies around. Following this we want to create some educational boards that say what the wildlife and plants are. Once we've reestablished local connections, schools will be able to come and learn in the space, even if there isn't one of us here to help.


Wooden planters with paintings by children on


'Hopefully, the upcoming works and plants we introduce will get different varieties of bird life, wildlife, insects, and different species of butterfly.'

The Friends of Kelly Avenue Park

Find out more about The Friends of Kelly Avenue Park, the work they are doing and other projects of theirs.

Grow Wild Community Grants

The project at Kelly Avenue Park was one of seven projects supported by a Grow Wild Community Grant in 2022. If you're interested in applying for a grant or finding out more about the other groups funded, explore the resources below.  

Stay in touch

We're passionate about UK native plants and fungi, and how they can help people grow and learn together. Sign up to find out more!