St John’s is the proud steward of a beautiful churchyard and wide, undulating garden, right in the heart of London's busy Waterloo. With its landscape features, network of pathways, mosaic sculptures and architect-designed 'Memory Bench', this is a treasured and welcoming sanctuary.
The garden is the winner of a Green Flag, the national standard for high-quality open spaces, was awarded the Silver Eco-Church Award and in 2017, entering for the first time, won a London in Bloom Silver award. In 2018 the garden won Silver Gilt award.
In February 2019, Rishi Sunak MP, Minister for Parks & Green Spaces, visited the Churchyard. He told ES London Live: "Green spaces like this are so vital in a big urban city like London. These little patches of greenery are vital to the well-being of Londoners." The visit was broadcast on ES London Live.
Viv Williamson, St John's community gardener, has planted pollution-reducing hedge at the street-facing corner of the churchyard; variegated aucuba and fatsia. Their golden foliage traps pollution and creates colour in a shady corner.
Working with volunteers, Viv also dug out and planted a new wildlife garden over a disused part of the Churchyard, creating a welcome sanctuary for bees and butterflies.
St John's Churchyard also features a walnut tree, two beautiful cork trees grown from seed, blossom trees, three huge planes, a carefully planted Garden of Remembrance, an apiary in a bee-friendly location, a wild garden and a large parterre with box, bulbs, hellebores and many self-seeded echiums.
The front churchyard features the ever-popular food stalls selling legendary falafels, Japanese streetfood and more. With its outdoor tables, this has become a lunchtime destination for King's College students, office workers, local residents and visitors to nearby Southbank.
We are currently in an exciting partnership with Roots and Shoots, providing rewarding, monitored work experience for several Horticulture students. The students are working towards the NPTC Level 1 Award, the Certificate or the Diploma in Practical Horticultural Skills.
In addition, up to eight Floristry students from Roots and Shoots are responsible for providing floral decoration in the church several times a term, under guidance from their tutor.
Local Scouts, Beavers and Cubs, members of our local 72 Lambeth Scout Group, are also actively involved in maintaining the garden. Members of the St John's Waterloo Scout Group work towards their Community Impact badges by taking part in regular 'Garden Saturdays' here.
Also weeding, pruning and leaf-clearing on a weekly basis, mentored by community gardener Viv Williamson, are St John's Garden Volunteers (including several former clients of St Mungo’s Homeless Charity).
If you would like to join us as a garden volunteer, please contact Philippa Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org
In June 2017 a beautiful bench was installed in St John's churchyard to celebrate the 200th anniversary of nearby Waterloo Bridge. Designed by Carles Dedeu of MSMR Architects (one of the sponsors of the garden, and based opposite the church), the bench was installed as their contribution to the London Festival of Architecture.
Echoing the arches of Waterloo Bridge, it features the inspiring quote by the Anglican poet and priest George Herbert:
"Those who cannot forgive break the bridge over which they themselves must pass."
Another quote from Herbet can also be seen in the mosaic freize on the side of the church. The bench is positioned in a sunny spot below Herbert’s mosaic verse, so that the poet’s lines can be read and considered together. To read more about how the bench was conceived and fabricated, click here.