From a casual stroll in the park to the perfect place to picnic, Cortlyn Stovall recaps the best lesser-known parks in west London to relax in
1 Kensington Gardens
The 242 acres of Kensington Gardens originally started off as part of the neighboring Hyde Park. Aside from housing the redbrick building that is Kensington Palace, the Gardens are also inhabited by the Diana Memorial Playground created in 2000 in memory of Princess of Wales. Near the palace, the Round Pond has been used since Victorian times to sail model boats and is now a popular place to spot swans, as well. If you decide to bike around the gardens, be on the lookout for the Peter Pan statue and Albert Memorial that are along the outskirts of the park.
2 St James’s Park
Amidst the hustle and bustle of its surrounding famous landmarks, the 58 acres of St James’s Park offer a tranquil getaway from the heart of ceremonial London. Along with being the oldest RoyalPark in London, it is also the setting for the Horseguards Parade where traditional ceremonies Trooping the Colour and Beating Retreat are held annually. Priding itself on its flora and fauna, visitors can relax in a deckchair and enjoy the flower beds and shrubberies all year round or witness the daily pelican feedings near the lake.3 St Luke’s Garden
Until the late 1800s, St Luke’s Garden was used as a burial ground to the Neo-Gothic St Luke’s Church. The gravestones were converted to form a boundary wall that are still present today and unusually coloured yet attractive flower displays were planted in their place. During World War II the green suffered from bomb damage, and the original railings surrounding the park were removed in the early 1940s to help with the war effort. Unlike many of its surrounding gardens, the park offers a new children’s playground and multi-use games arena open to the public from dusk until dawn.
4 Brompton Cemetery
Located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Brompton Cemetery covers 39 acres and is Britain’s only Crown Cemetery. Opened in 1840, it is regarded as one of the finest Victorian Metropolitan garden cemeteries in the country and contains people buried from all walks of life. Under its evergreen canopies, over 35,000 monuments and 205,000 burials reside – many of historical importance. The residents of BromptonCemetery include Dr. John Snow, Emmeline Pankhurst and at least 12 recipients of the Victoria Cross. During all seasons the cemetery offers paths for walkers and cyclists and hours of diversion for historians and connoisseurs of memorial art and monuments.
5 Chelsea Physic Garden
Tucked away beside the Thames, the Chelsea Physic Garden is one of the most important centers of botany and plant exchange in the world. The garden’s close proximity to the water allows for the survival of many non-native plants through the harsh British winters. The garden plays a major role in public education of natural medicines and pharmaceuticals. Recently, the Garden of Medicinal Plants opened and offers a journey through the contemporary and historical use of medical plants around the world. Along with visiting the garden, guests can take part in workshops and talks for gardening and botany. Tickets £9.90