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Remarkable garden that refused to die bids for top spot in Camden in Bloom show

Kate Spencer who lives in Cayford House and looks after the communal garden. Picture: Nigel Sutton Kate Spencer who lives in Cayford House and looks after the communal garden. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
3:08 PM

An award-winning garden with a remarkable history will return to the annual Camden in Bloom competition this month.

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Camden in Bloom 2014

Camden in Bloom is now open for entries from businesses and residents who want to make the borough even more beautiful.

The competition’s theme this year is “greener together” and there are five categories:

* Best community project

* Best communal garden

* Best balcony

* Best business entrance

* Best environmental project

If you, your community or business are keen gardeners, now is your opportunity to enter.

All prize winners will receive a voucher from sponsors Camden Garden Centre.

The closing date for entries is Friday, August 1.

* For more information visit camden.gov.uk/camdeninbloom

The Cayford House garden, which lines Lawn Road in Belsize Park, has been devastated four times in the last 15 years by maintenance works at the housing block.

Since the garden finished in second place in the 1999 Camden in Bloom competition, Camden Council has had to install a central heating system, replace windows, attend to a gas leak, and install piping from the Royal Free Hospital at the estate.

Yet the garden has recovered on all four occasions, going on to win several prizes at the Gospel Oak Gardening and London in Bloom competitions as well as at the annual gardening awards run by the council.

Retired restaurant manager Kate Spencer, 80, a Cayford House resident who maintains the garden, puts this feat down to its “special energy”.

She said: “It gives so much pleasure to everyone. And the tenants, they appreciate it.

“We used to have a lady who lived somewhere near us and she had cancer, and she used to come and sit in our garden because she had a special feeling about it.

“Everybody thinks that in a high-rise nobody knows each other. In our block, we are a community and you get that feeling when you come.

“Vivienne [a neighbour] has a class on a Thursday. She brings her pupils and they’ll sit in the garden and do maths.

“Then the other children will come down and play.

“When the kids play in the garden, for me that’s the nicest time because you can see the garden is being used, and they all respect it.”

The latest round of works, which took nearly 18 months to complete, saw the lawn, for the most part, entirely dug up.

Yet two months later, the garden looks like it has not been tampered with in years.

“It’s always been my ambition for the garden to come first in Camden,” said Mrs Spencer.

“And I don’t think it will come first this year. But next year the garden will be something else!”

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