The St John’s Society Greening Team were thrilled to bits to learn that we’d won the ‘Community SuDS’ award at the susdrain SuDS Awards 2024, held in Cardiff yesterday.   Since 2018, susdrain has been celebrating outstanding Sustainable Drainage System projects all over the country, so we were overjoyed to have won in our category.  Marcus Gayle, Flood Risk Manager at Lewisham Council was at the ceremony to collect the trophy.  Marcus was instrumental in the rain garden and we received so much help, knowledge and enthusiasm from him over the two years of working on the project.

We made a very short video describing the journey we’ve been on, the wider benefits of such a project, and a glimpse of what we plan to do next.

Taking inspiration from the Grey to Green scheme in Sheffield, the St John’s Society decided to start looking at green infrastructure interventions that recognise the beauty and value of nature but also increase resilience in the community.

An area at the junction of Thornville Street and Friendly Street was chosen as the site due to relatively light road traffic and the presence of existing drainage that could act as an overflow. The aim of the project was to transform a grey, dead tarmacked area into a functioning green space, increasing local biodiversity and helping to reduce the urban heat island effect and slowing down water flows from rainfall into local combined sewer network. 

Of course, a single rain garden is not singlehandedly resolving climate change issues, it is not stopping flooding or fixing the air quality issues.  But it is an important, albeit small, contribution to help to raise awareness of these issues.  It empowers people and shows the community what is possible when working together. 

The Thornville Street raingarden is intended to be the first of many in the area and the St Johns Society is looking to develop a masterplan for further greening projects. The Society aims to publish some ‘lessons learned’ on their experience on the project and share this with other groups looking to implement similar schemes.

We must again thank all those who made the project possible: Marcus Gayle and Martin O’ Brien at Lewisham Council, Stephen Porter and the team at Thames Water, Sarah Raven and the very generous donation of hardy plants which look resplendent with their purple blooms, and the many, many members of the community who joined the planting day and continue to look after the garden.  Congratulations to all of you!