Two supervisors at North Acton station have created an award-winning garden that provides all-year-round colour to the delight of passengers.
The Central Line station’s glorious displays scooped first place in the Cultivated Garden category, as well as coming runner-up in the Best Overall Garden section, in last year’s annual Underground in Bloom contest hosted by TfL.
The man-made flower beds are the work of supervisors Terry Murrell and Bharat Vagani, built with the help from other station staff including contract cleaner Abraham Soubair.
It all began in a small way back in 2005 when Bharat, a veteran of 22 years with London Underground, put up some hanging baskets on the platforms to brighten up the dingy surroundings.
When Terry Murrell, with London Underground for five years, transferred to North Acton from Embankment, Bharat persuaded him to share in his vision of bringing a lot more natural colour to the station forecourt.
Months of hard work followed. Working by hand, they brought in around 15 tons of soil to create the extensive raised beds, which are edged with railway sleepers. All of the work was done in their spare time, including days off and during annual leave.
It was a true labour of love as the station has no vehicle access and all the soil had to be brought down a long slope from the nearby road.
As well as nurturing the flower beds and hanging baskets, Terry and Bharat grow up to 24 different varieties of vegetables in pots.
They receive a small annual ‘gardening’ grant from London Underground but contribute their own money to buy additional plants and garden tools.
Their hard work has not gone unnoticed. As well as winning numerous Underground in Bloom awards the green-fingered duo has received several commendations on the TfL website.
They have also been filmed for The Tube, a six-part documentary on the activities of London Underground staff, being shown on BBC Television.
Passenger response has been extremely positive. “Customers often take photos of the gardens, while one woman recently offered us a job looking after her garden,” said Terry.
“Another elderly lady, who uses the station twice a week, said the flowers reminded her of the displays she saw at suburban stations 40 years ago, and has helped make her feel safer when travelling.”
He added that their efforts have spurred one regular customer to tackle his own small garden, which he had neglected for years.
“It has been very satisfying to plan and create the gardens and to know that our customers appreciate all our efforts,” said Bharat.
“We are doing it for them, so that they feel happy when they come through every day and see splashes of colour, whatever the season.”
Words and photograph by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend