Enter our micro-poetry competition for a chance to win two free weekend tickets

We are excited to launch a brand new micro-poetry competition today, inviting submissions via our Open Garden Squares Weekend social media channels. The winner will receive two free adult tickets to Open Garden Squares Weekend 2018.

We’d love to receive your poems, which must be of 200 characters or less, and accompanying photos or other visuals will be very welcome too. The theme is “London’s green spaces: discover, explore, enjoy”. 

OGSW_Poem_Square
(c) Emma Filtness

Please see the ‘how to enter’ section below for details of the tags and hashtags that must be included with your poem.

We are very grateful to Dr Emma Filtness, poet and Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University, London, who will judge the competition. As well as teaching on the Creative Writing BA and MA programmes, Emma writes poetry and short fiction often inspired by the natural world, and her work has been published in a number of magazines and journals. Emma kindly wrote the verse reproduced here, which beautifully demonstrates what can be achieved in just a few characters.

How to enter 

All submissions must have a maximum character count of 200 characters (including spaces). Submissions will only be accepted via the Open Gardens Squares Weekend social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. No other method of submission will be accepted. The following information must be included with all submissions:

  • Twitter: @opensquares #ogsw2018poems
  • Instagram: @opensquaresweekend #ogsw2018poems
  • Facebook: @londonogsw #ogsw2018poems

Submissions will be accepted from 00.01am on Monday 19 March to 11.59pm on Friday 20 April. The winner will be announced by Friday 4 May at the very latest, and the judge’s decision on the winning entry is final.

All entrants agree that the London Parks and Gardens Trust and the Open Garden Squares Weekend organising team may share or repost their entries, including the author’s profile name and other publicly available profile details. The winner and other shortlisted entrants may be asked to provide further details, such as their full name and address, in order to promote their winning entry.

Public ballot to visit the garden of 10 Downing Street now open

We’re delighted to confirm that the garden of 10 Downing Street will join over 200 unique and special gardens opening for Open Garden Squares Weekend.

Entry is allotted via a public ballot – you can enter the ballot online on the OGSW website. The ballot closes on 1 May 2018 at 5pm, and winners will be notified soon afterwards.

Downing Street Gardens
No 10 Downing Street © Jay Allen

10 Downing Street is the official residence and office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and also the place where the Prime Minister welcomes guests – from Her Majesty The Queen, to world leaders, to businesses and charities. The garden is shared by residents in Number 10 and Number 11.

The terrace and garden at Downing Street were constructed in 1736, shortly after Robert Walpole moved in. The garden is dominated by an open lawn of half an acre that wraps around in an L-shape. Tubs of flowers line the terrace and roses line the main pathway through the garden.

The garden is looked after by Paul Schooling, who was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in 2015 for his 31 years of public service to some of London’s most precious and unique spaces. He has worked at Downing Street for 27 years.

Guest blog: Candy Blackham, Area Coordinator for the Docklands

We are delighted to welcome Candy Blackham to our guest blog. Candy is Open Garden Squares Weekend Area Coordinator for the Docklands, one of the team of volunteers upon whom OGSW depends. Area coordinators represent and coordinate groups of gardens in designated geographical areas across the capital. Her blog paints a wonderful picture of the Docklands area.

All photographs (c) Candy Blackham


I was in a dark place, feeling very isolated, when I found a call for volunteers to work with Open Garden Squares Weekend. I sent off the application form, chatted to a nice lady over coffee, and hey presto – I was an Area Coordinator! I had to ensure ‘my sites’ were ready for a successful OGSW and I thought I might contribute by taking photos, so I set off to meet the gardeners. I was new to volunteering – I had always been in full-time work – and had no idea that I was at the beginning of a personal and very rewarding journey. It seems I have gained a great deal more than I have given, not only from the gardeners, but also from my fellow Coordinators.

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I had walked London with Bradshaw’s Handbook to London, 1862, and so I was familiar with the area between London Bridge and the River Lea. I had also explored the former Surrey Commercial Docks with a late 19th century map, but I had been an observer – now I would meet people of the 21st century in these areas.

My interest in photography grew as I tried to communicate what I was feeling and seeing in my area, the Docklands.17-12-16, 4709, Cody Dock, Candy Blackham, LR-4709 Initially I took photographs to ‘document’ the sites, but increasingly started exploring photography itself.

At the start of the 19th centure London was the world’s largest industrial power and the world’s largest port. The West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs were a revolutionary way of handling shipping and brought great wealth to the founders. It was fun to look for traces of the Docks which can still be found around Canary Wharf.

17-6-7, 9380, Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Candy Blackham, LR-9380Today, with shipping gone, Canary Wharf continues to trade, but while my ‘responsibility’ is Crossrail Place Roof Garden I have found so much more in the surrounding area – the architecture, the Jubilee Park Roof Garden, the marvellous pieces of art both inside and outside, and the beautiful reflections in the water. I have spent many happy hours here, trying to catch the moods of the area. Some days, I just visit to watch the swans!

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Again and again I was heartened and uplifted by personal endeavour. I had enjoyed the peaceful parkland of the former Surrey Commercial Docks alongside the River Thames, but now I met two remarkable people who are managing eight acres of woodland and wetland with only the help of volunteers. You and I retreat indoors on cold winter days but they are outside, laying paths, coppicing, dry fencing, and looking after the flora and fauna for our enjoyment – humbling.

A tall tower block on the Commercial Road and two grandfathers seem an unlikely gardening story but here I found  hard work, persistence and determination, resulting in a beautiful and interesting garden, a collection of rare breed chickens, and even a small allotment area. The bonus was the Watney Street Market round the corner and its wonderful fabric stall!

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A thriving nursery and Japanese mustard greens – not perhaps what you expect in Tower Hamlets? Determination, but also great skill, mark the ‘meanwhile garden’ (what a lovely term!) next to the Royal London Hospital, and the rooftop garden at Providence Row. 18-2-8, 6205, Providence Row, Candy Blackham, LR-6205Gardening and conservation are at the highest standards, achieved by people who are either ill, or in unfortunate circumstances. The ladies in charge expect the best, kindly but firmly, and they achieve it.

Cable Street is associated with strife and shipping, but today the garden (forty years old) is a haven for flora, fauna, and people, many of whom are helped through bad times by their fellow gardeners and by the remarkable organiser of the site. 17-5-23, 8082, Cable Street, Candy Blackham, LR-8082I have met people from all walks of life here, learning how to grow, producing honey, just in love with beautiful flowers.

How can you not be uplifted by places like this?