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Sydenham Garden: An Oasis in the City (Lewisham Community Gardens Series Part 1)

Updated: Feb 16

by Josey Crane Burrows (Good Food Lewisham volunteer)

I had the pleasure of visiting Sydenham Garden at the beginning of December - a community oasis nestled amongst the houses in a quiet street in Sydenham, created for those living with mental health struggles and dementia. I’d heard about the centre a few years back, so it was a real honour to finally visit. I met with their Director, Beth Jaichand.  


Sydenham Garden is a special place, you can feel the love and warmth from the moment you wander down the entrance path. It was set up in 2002 by some volunteers and local GP Dr. Sirkorski. Those who attend are known as co-workers rather than patients. 


There’s a resource centre, greenhouse and nature reserve with mud hut and outdoor wood-fired pizza oven for cosey community get togethers. The centre offers weekly group sessions at Wynell Road and their De Frene Market Garden site, some of which include: 


Growing Lives 

The Growing Lives programme is based at the De Frene site - a 1.5 acre site where people living with mental health issues can escape the city and reconnect with nature. A small social enterprise which grows cut flowers for local florists is also run from here and provides opportunities for co-workers to learn vocational skills: 


A social and therapeutic horticulture and creative arts based project for 18–25-year-olds living in Lewisham.  


Sow & Grow  


A creative and gardening project which aims to support people in the early stages of dementia to live well. 


Art and craft  


A social and therapeutic group project, using art and crafts to help people with their recovery. 


African and Caribbean  


The African and Caribbean project helps people who identify with having African or Caribbean heritage to improve their mental health and build supportive relationships with fellow co-workers. People can take part in weekly activities including growing plants and food, art and craft and cooking, 

Sydenham Garden, what a beautiful retreat space. I hope many more green spaces in the Borough of Lewisham and beyond are transformed into similar places which harness the power of nature and community to help support people’s physical, mental and overall health.  


What a powerful tonic, as one co-worker said: 

“I’m sleeping better, I’ve lost weight and working at the garden has contributed to me taking less medication”.  


To find out more about the projects and the great work that Sydenham Garden do visit: 


Lewisham residents living with mental health difficulties interested in accessing Sydenham Garden activities can contact Lewisham Well-being Hub on or 0203-228-0760 to make a referral.


For those wishing to access the dementia services please visit: and for self referrals for m.u.d please visit:  

If you'd like to be added to our Food Growing WhatsApp group or if you'd like your garden to be featured, please email:


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