Spring has sprung, so head out into the beautiful outdoors and explore the green spaces of Notting Hill and the surrounding areas – from historic garden squares in Chelsea to contemporary rooftops in the City…
Notting Hill plays host to some incredible natural spaces. In fact, the novelist and playwright Dodie Smith once said of Hyde Park: ‘It came to me that Hyde Park has never belonged to London – that it has always been, in spirit, a stretch of countryside. And that it links the Londons of all periods together most magically – by remaining forever unchanged at the heart of an ever-changing town.’
It is certainly the case for many of the parks in the area, as they are much larger than those in the rest of the city. But they all have something unique to offer and are different from other, which is why we decided to explore some of the most special spaces a little deeper this month. It’s no surprise that people are green with envy for those who are lucky enough to reside in this neck of the woods.
As part of the public park of Holland Park, on part of the former extensive estate of Holland House, the Kyoto Garden is a Japanese paradise in London that was donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991 and offers pure tranquillity with waterfalls, fauna and koi carp.
This space is particularly popular with the mothers of Notting Hill, who gather in the cafeteria or keep fit with the Buggy Fit classes held here. Throughout all of the spaces, they are each used for something different. What is perhaps nice to note for Mothering Sunday is that The Ecology Centre at Holland Park runs a wildlife club for children, holiday activities, and a full programme of events for all ages, so it’s worth keeping an eye on family days out.
EMSLIE HORNIMAN PLEASANCE
Although not very large, this special space near Kensal Rise epitomises the community centric ways of the area and offers an insight into the artistic talents of the locals.
It all came about in 1911 when, during a meeting with the County Council, the chairman read out a letter from politician Emslie J. Horniman: ‘Recently I have been able to secure nearly one acre of land, which I consider suitable to lay out as a public garden, with sand-pit,’ he said. ‘The only condition being that the land be dedicated in perpetuity to the people of London as a recreation-ground.’
Horniman lived in Chelsea, but was inspired to create the park by Sister Ruth, a nun who worked with the poor of Kensal Town. As he was interested in the arts, he gave the commission to design the park to the architect Charles Voysey. Today, the park is the official launch pad of the Notting Hill Carnival, maintaining the ethos of the original desire for the space. But it also contains tennis courts, football pitches and a children’s playground – a little more than the lowly sandpit it started off with.
As the Borough’s first designated nature reserve, the 67 hectare space is perfect for those who want to experience more than just the fresh air of the outdoors and instead want to immerse themselves in wildlife. It’s a space that has a sense of openness, a rugged feel and an abundance of valuable wildlife.
The land was part of the Great Middlesex Forest at first, but became pasture by the early 19th century. In the 80s, a number of areas were planted with native whips, which have now grown up into scrub and woodland, adding interest to the landscape, and providing cover for a variety of birds.
It is this that makes the Scrubs – as it is known to the locals – particularly special, where for once in the city, wildlife and nature is prioritised above anything else.
It has almost 100 species of birds and 250 species of wildflowers (making up one sixth of the UK flora). You can also find 20 different species of butterfly in the wildlife reserve and, perhaps as a surprise to you, even the common lizard. It’s no surprise that adventurer Ben Fogle considers the reserve a treasured place. ‘We are so lucky to have such a raw space like Wormwood Scrubs,’ he says. ‘There’s no excuse for a Londoner to go through a day without stepping on some green grass or hearing some birdsong.’
It wouldn’t be a true taste of Notting Hill if we didn’t mention the private garden squares that still exist in the city, something that sets London apart from many other capital cities. The abundance of private garden squares in the area truly pays homage to the nostalgic vision of old London and W11 has the majority of them on their doorstep.
Estate Agent Kaye and Carey feel that they are what really makes the city distinguished in its residential offerings too, compared to other major European cities. ‘These exclusive gated gardens are steeped in history and are treasured sanctuaries amongst busy London living,’ says Matthew Kaye. ‘London is the greenest city of its size in the world and the private garden squares are an essential contributor to the preservation of its biodiversity. London gardens are cherished. English Heritage, The National Trust and The London Parks and Gardens Trust work to document, protect and enhance the numerous green spaces around the city.’