With Open Garden Squares Weekend taking place from 14-15 June 2014– it has inspired us to look at 17 floral gems around the Islington area


1 Arlington Square, N1 7DR 

The Victorian terraces around Arlington Square date from 1850, but the open land in the middle was left unkempt, used during WWII for trench shelters and barrage balloon moorings and only became a garden square in the early 1950s. Recently volunteers have dug in over 20 tonnes of compost and manure and planted more than 30,000 bulbs, magnolias, acers, palms, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, 150 rose bushes and a handkerchief tree. 

 2 Barnard Park, Charlotte Street off Copenhagen Street, N1 0JW

This ten-acre park saw the beginnings of cricket with Thomas Lord in the 18th century. In an area of dense housing with very little open space, the park has recently been transformed by the local Friends group, including the creation of three new gardens with hundreds of plants and bulbs. There’s an herbaceous area in an old shrub bed and a herb garden in the children’s play area, partially maintained by a local primary school. 

Islington’s most beautiful hidden gardens

Arlington Square

3 Barnsbury Square, Thornhill Road, N1 1JL 

This peaceful square framed by trees in the heart of residential Islington features roses chosen by local people and a woodland planting scheme.

4 Barnsbury Wood, Crescent Street, off Huntingdon Street, N1 1BW     

Barnsbury Wood is London’s smallest local nature reserve. This delightful hidden woodland was originally the garden of a house built in the 1840s, eventually abandoned to nature and now home to a wealth of wildlife. Due to its small and vulnerable nature, it is seldom open to the public.

5 Bunhill Fields, City Road, Bunhill Row, EC1Y 1AU
This Grade I-listed garden is a former Dissenters’ burial ground, laid out as a public garden in the 1870s. It contains grassland and shrubbery along with fine native and exotic mature trees, home to birds and bats. The ground flora includes annual meadow grass, greater plantain, perennial rye grass and common chickweed and flowers including spring beauty (Claytonia perfoliata), white clover, selfheal and procumbent yellow sorrel.

Islington’s most beautiful hidden gardens

Barnsbury Square (photo by Nicholas Kilborn)

6 Caledonian Park and Community Orchard, Market Road, N7 9PL 

Located on the site of the 19th-century Metropolitan Cattle Market and retaining the market’s Italianate clocktower and railings, the park has extensive tree and shrub planting home to many nesting and visiting birds and offering contoured woodland walks. Formal garden spaces and extensive tree, shrub and herbaceous planting were opened last year, along with a small community orchard of apple, plum and pear trees, both modern and heritage varieties.

7 Culpeper Community Garden, Cloudesley Road, N1 0EJ

Named after the herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, this green oasis is a unique project with small plots for local people and community groups to tend. It has a communal lawn, ponds, a rose pergola, wildlife area and a dry garden, inspired by Beth Chatto, as part of Islington’s climate-change adaptation strategy. The garden contains a vast array of shrubs and herbaceous perennials. 

8 Freightliners City Farm, Chalfont Road off Sheringham Road, N7 8PF 

The farm’s paddocks, hedgerows and wild corners reflect sustainable management practices on rural farms, with hedgerow improvements such as planting for biodiversity and traditional laying, meadow flowers and field edges. There is a potager garden with decorative herbs and vegetables used as bedding amongst the flowers, and visitors can meet traditional and rare-breed farm animals.

Islington’s most beautiful hidden gardens

Culpeper Community Garden


9 Highbury Stadium Square, Avenell Road, N5 1FE

Football fans can tread the hallowed turf at Highbury Square, the home of Arsenal Football Club until 2006. The stadium, designed by Archibald Leitch and built in the Art Deco style, has been converted into private apartments. The pitch is now a minimalist, modern garden, comprising evergreen hedges and grassy spaces, intersected by glass walls with integrated lighting and water features. The garden is usually closed to the public and will open for the first time for OGSW 2014.

10 HM Prison Holloway, Parkhurst Road, N7 0NU

This inner-city prison garden is planted and maintained by prisoners. The central garden features seasonal flowerbeds, a new perennial flowerbed and standard roses, set in grass and surrounded by low clipped hedges. A new project with the British Hen Welfare Trust sees ex-battery hens adopted for the prisoners to look after and gain experience in small-animal care, which it is hoped will lead to a qualification in the future.

11 King Henry’s Walk Garden, King Henry’s Walk, N1 4NX

Once-derelict, this is now a beautiful organic garden, where local residents can grow their own vegetables, fruit and flowers and join in workshops and events. A large south-facing raised bed with espalier and fan-trained fruit trees is split into small plots for local people, there’s a wildlife pond and bridge, the garden was specially designed to be accessible to wheelchairs, and was voted Best Community Garden in London in Bloom 2011, 2010 and 2008.

Islington’s most beautiful hidden gardens

Higbury Stadium Square

12 Lloyd Square, WC1X 9BA 

The secluded garden of Lloyd Square has a traditional layout, with trees around the perimeter and a central flowerbed surrounded by smaller beds, planted with shrub roses and perennials in an informal design. A gravelled path leads to a pergola, and the lawned children’s play area was originally a tennis court. Leaving the square at the south-west end, a walkway leads through St Helena’s Garden, recently replanted by the local community group with shade-loving plants.

13 Melissa Garden Bee Sanctuary, 19 Compton Terrace, via side gate, N1 2UN 

This very small ‘hidden’ garden next to the Union Chapel is a bee sanctuary, with two beehives installed in 2012. Due to its high percentage of greenery, Islington is a favourite location for bees and this garden provides a protected home for them. It has been planted with mostly native plants, including some bee-friendly ones. It is open to members of the association and neighbours, but has so far remained unknown to the rest of Islington.

14 The Olden Garden, Whistler Street, N5 1NH 

A haven for wildlife, this community garden on a two-acre site is an oasis of quiet with a fully-accessible formal garden, woodland, apple and plum trees, a wildflower meadow, allotments and growing spaces. Children from DraytonParkPrimary School have started their own vegetable garden and students from City & IslingtonCollege’s Learning Difficulties Department have set up a food-growing project.

Islington’s most beautiful hidden gardens

King Henry’s Walk

15 Pooles Park Primary School Community Garden, Hatley Road, N4 3NW 

This beautiful, interactive green space includes a productive GlobalFoodGarden where staff, children, families and many volunteers grow a variety of organic fruit and vegetables from all over the world including chillis, aubergines and okra. There’s a mini orchard and a collection of friendly hens, wildlife pond, attached bog garden, mini-woodland, native hedgerows and wildflower meadows.

16 St James Close, Bishop Street, N1 8PH 

This private communal garden surrounded on three sides by a church and Victorian almshouses consists of a small lawned area and beds of herbaceous perennials and shrubs. It is a secluded haven of calm in a busy, densely populated area and much appreciated by the residents.

17 St Joseph’s Garden, Lamb’s Passage, Bunhill Row, EC1Y 8LE

The garden was designed by young landscape gardener Simon-Peter Stobart, whose influences included Japanese design, as a place of sanctuary and reflection in a built-up environment and as a tribute of the late Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster.

Islington’s most beautiful hidden gardens

LLoyd Square