London Parks and Gardens

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…the City is Full of Beautiful and Relaxing Green Spaces

Taking into account that London parks and gardens are spread over large extensions of land, including in the heart of the city, London is considered to be one of the greenest capitals of the world, with a vast extension since medieval times. Some parks and gardens, like Hampstead Heath were originally used by smallholders for grazing pasture. Others, like Richmond Park and Holland Park, were Royal hunting grounds and garden for manor houses. Nowadays it is possible to cross Central London walking from St. James’s Park, at east, towards Kensington Gardens.

From the intimacy of the Chelsea Physic Garden to the open spaces of Hampstead Heath, each park of London has its own charm. For those seeking outdoor options – sports, life or natural flowers – the following is a summary of the more interesting London parks and gardens.


Floral Gardens

The British are famous for their love for gardens and flowers, which is reflected in the several parks and gardens spread around London. Those interested in gardening will find everything they want to know at Kew Gardens and Chelsea Physic Garden, dedicated to herbs. Closest to the city centre, St. James’s Park is proud of its beautiful flower beds filled with flowers that change in every season. During spring, Hyde Park presents daffodils and crocus in large scale. The most beautiful rose garden is the Queen Mary, at Regent’s Park. In Kensington Gardens the paths are flanked by typically English flower beds. The Museum of Garden History has a lovely little garden of the 17th century. Battersea Park also has a lovely garden of flowers. Those who want to see greenhouses garden should go to the Barbican Centre.


Formal Gardens

The most spectacular is the Hampton Court, with examples from various historical periods from the Tudor. The gardens of Chiswick House are full of statues and kiosks from the 18th century. Others restored parks and gardens are the ones from Ham House, from the 17th century, and the one from Osterley Park, from the 18th century. Fenton House has a beautiful walled garden. Kenwood, with its woodland area, is less formal, and The Hill is lovely during summer. The lowered garden of Kensington Palace is another example of a formal layout and Holland Park has flowers around the statue.


Resting Parks and Squares

The squares of London are shaded and cool places, but many are reserved for users with keys, usually the people living nearby. Among those open to the public, Russell Square is the largest and more barren. Berkeley Square is open, but devoid of vegetation. Green Park with its shady trees and deck chairs, offers places to picnic in Central London. The Inns of Court has nice sheltered areas, such as Gray’s Inn, Middle Temple and Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Soho Square, surrounded by streets, is more urban and lively.


Summer Music

Lying on the grass or sit in a deck chair to listen to the concert is a British tradition. Several concerts occur during summer in the parks of St. James, Hyde and Regent, and also in Parliament Hill Fields. The program is posted at the park, near the site of presentation. Outdoor festivals of classical music are held in various parks during the summer.


Wildlife

In St. James’s Park there are flocks of ducks and other well-fed birds, including some pelicans. Who likes ducks can also see them in London parks such as Regent, Hyde, Hampstead Heath and Battersea. Deer live in Richmond and Greenwich. The London Zoo in Regent’s Park has a wide variety of animals in captivity. Many London parks and gardens, such as Kew Gardens and Syon House, have aquariums and aviaries.


Sports

Cycling is not encouraged in the London parks and gardens and the paths are not favourable for skating. However, most London parks offer tennis courts which must be booked in advance. In Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and Battersea Park, you can rent boats. There are athletics tracks in Battersea and Parliament Hill. The public can swim in the Serpentine in Hyde Park and in the ponds of Hampstead Heath. The latter is an ideal place for kite flying.


Historic Cemeteries

In the late 1930s, several private cemeteries were set up around London to relieve the overcrowded and unhealthy areas in the inner city. Highgate Cemetery and Kensal Green deserve a visit for the Victorian monuments. Bunhill Fields is older and was used for the first time during the Plague of 1665.


Green London

Greater London has approximately 1,700 parks covering an area of 174 sq. km. These lands are home to over 2,000 species of plants and over 100 birds. Trees help improve air quality by producing oxygen from the air polluted. Below, few of the species that can be found in London:

  • The London Plane Tree – the tree is more common on city streets;
  • English Oak – is growing across Europe. The Royal Navy used to built ships with its wood;
  • The Common Beech – is much like the copper beech, with red-purple leaves;
  • The Chestnut – yield hard and round fruits, used by children to play conkers.

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