West Londoners are truly blessed to have so many wonderful green spaces on our doorstep – something that makes our postcodes the envy of much of London, and indeed still one of the most desirable areas in the world in which to live, Brexit or no Brexit
Words: Emily Manson
The start of spring marks the light at the end of what seems, this year especially, to have been a very grey and turbulent winter tunnel – and we’re not just talking about the weather. But while the political thunderstorms rumble on unabated, the weather has turned, so here’s a run-down of the best places to get away from it all and see this season in all its glory.
As a dyed in the wool west Londoner, I’m the first to admit that our two best known local green spaces never cease to enthral. No springtime is complete for me without a stroll down Kew Gardens’ Cherry Walk, where wind-blown blossoms become nature’s confetti, and a quick nip through the bluebells by Queen Charlotte’s Cottage. The sea of blue they create is the stuff of fairytales.
Over in Richmond Park, it’s time to catch the stunning azaleas and rhododendrons in full bloom at Isabella Plantations. Tucked away in the middle of the park, this 40 acre woodland is the only dog free zone in the park, making it ideal for my hubby and anyone else who’s not a canine fan, and it also boasts the most endearingly babbling stream for kids to paddle in (wellies are a must).
Chiswick House and Gardens has its own floral rival with its annual Camellia Show featuring 33 different varieties of the beautiful species. At nearly 200 years of age, they’re the oldest collection in the western world, but be quick as the display closes in early April and the radiant blooms will fade away for another year.
Meanwhile Ham House and Garden has a living exhibition of Four Centuries of Tulips starting this month and running till May. With over 1,500 bulbs including rare varietals the rainbow of colours is sure to be an absolute feast for the eyes.
My top tips for families include the gorgeous Osterley House & Park. Run by the National Trust there’s plenty of free space to roam including a natural play area, but my favourite spot is the meadow behind the Main House for a picnic, followed by one of their seasonal activities (look out for the popular Cadbury’s Easter Egg Trail around the 17th century garden). A spot of den building always proves to be a winner.
Barnes Wetland Centre is also a top family spot to view some spring wildfowl as well as their natural habitat coming to life, with visitors guaranteed to see plenty of our real feathered friends alongside bugs and buds while celebrating all things spring.
As a local-lifer, I really reckoned I knew most of the area’s local green spaces, having been dragged by my parents round most of them as a small child and then, more recently, dragged my own offspring around the same and more.
But until now, I had never come across the delights of Boston Manor Park – a real hidden gem starting in the unlikely surrounds under the M4, but extending along the canal towards Brentford lock and up towards the River Brent.
The gardens are beautifully kept, a real delight and feature not just greenery in ornamental gardens, but a pond teeming with wildlife, a fitness park, tennis courts, a great children’s play area (hours of fun guaranteed!) and a community run Pavilion Café (open weekends and school holidays). It is also home to one of the borough’s largest Cedar of Lebanon trees.
A new orienteering course and nature trail has been devised by the park’s volunteer supporters, which makes for a great afternoon ramble while enjoying the wildlife in all its glory (course available at the cafe or see friendsofbostonmanor.com).
So whether you feel we’re up a hard Brexit stream without a paddle, getting stuck in the soft Euro mud or just seeking shelter from a spring shower of Trump, at least the enduring beauty of our local nature is guaranteed to lift our spirits whether you’re a horticulturalist, a nature lover or just a family needing some fresh seasonal spring air – until one of your small people gets puddle water in their wellies, that is.