Pocket Parks: Pompey’s Top Hidden Green Spaces

Inspired by the many fabulous environmental initiatives taking place in Portsmouth, Pens of the Earth was set up to encourage writers to celebrate existing projects, and to imagine what might be.

For the next three weeks, Star & Crescent will be featuring articles by environmentalists on the theme ‘Planting Portsmouth’ alongside the stories and poems inspired by them.

This week ‘SC’ reports on Pocket Parks.

In 1840 the philanthropist Joseph Strutt created England’s first urban public park. The Derby Arboretum inspired a new vision for public spaces as inclusive places for recreation and relaxation for people of all ages, backgrounds and ability.

The first public park in Portsmouth was Victoria Park, called the people’s park when it opened on 25th May 1878. It covers 15 acres and has fine specimen trees – not exactly a pocket park. Green spaces don’t have to be that big to be of benefit.

Green oases offer people a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of life to relax, improve health, learn about nature and spend time together. Not all communities in Portsmouth enjoy easy access to such usable space.

Existing pocket parks are used for everything from a quiet escape from busy city life to physical exercise, growing vegetables, children’s play and community events; they can include trees, shrubs, sensory areas, raised beds and benches. In Hong Kong there are small areas set aside for elders to meet, sit and while away the time, with room to do some Tai Chi.

On 27th October 2019 Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick launched a £1.35 million fund that community groups can bid for, to create new parks or reimagined spaces for the benefit of the mental and physical health of local people.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has offered grants for pocket parks, defined as small pieces of urban land of up to 0.4 hectares, although many are around 0.02 hectares, the size of a tennis court: a green oasis, tailored to the needs of the local area by a community group.

The space may already be under grass, but is basically unused, undeveloped or derelict. Ownership of the site may rest with the community, the local authority or other public sector body, or a private sector body or trust including a housing association.

A Pocket Parks project is being run by Emma Loveridge, lead gardener at Treadgolds Community Garden, supported by volunteers and Portsmouth tree wardens. Twenty-three volunteers met at Sea Mills Gardens, Portsea, on Saturday 28 September 2019, planting fruit trees, spring bulbs and wild flowers. Two more pocket park gardens are to be planted soon at Three Tuns Close, in Portsea, and Victoria Street Park, Landport.

A plum tree growing at Charles Dickens Activity Centre

Food Portsmouth, a charity that is helping to eliminate food poverty and inequalities, has successfully applied for grants for the three pocket parks, seeing them as opportunities to bring the Portsmouth community together and combat loneliness and mental health issues.

With volunteers drawn from the community and Treadgolds, the three pocket parks will have a range of seating, raised beds, fruit trees and sensory planting.

Do you know of any unloved, neglected or derelict urban spaces which can be transformed into new green havens?


Find out more:


Other community gardens located around the city include:



Pens of the Earth is about environmental tales from a positive Portsmouth – encouraging writers to celebrate existing environmental initiatives, and to imagine what might be. This year, we will also be supporting two charities, one global, one local.

Help us to support our global reforestation charity Tree Sisters and plant 2,000 trees by March 2021.

Click on the logo above to donate via Pens of the Earth’s TreeSisters page. Every £10 plants around 25 trees.

More about our plans to raise money for our local charity, WilderPortsmouth, in the coming weeks.

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Images by Helen Salsbury


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