Top 5 lesser known green spaces in London
The English winter is just a distant memory and students can finally gear up, pack their picnic baskets and head to one of the many lesser known green spaces in London. We all love a stroll around Regent’s Park (just a stone’s throw from The Bartlett) or eating gelato at Hyde Park’s Italian Gardens but summer’s long and thankfully the City provides animal packed, architecturally rich and naturally colourful green spaces for students to discover. I will be listing my favourite top 5 green spaces in London for a summer in the city.
5. Holland Park
Walk among large Victorian houses and enter the gates of Holland Park in West London’s Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Only some remains give a hint of Holland House’s previous splendour, a massive early Jacobean estate lost during the blitz. However, visitors can still wonder in the House’s formal gardens and pop into the Orangery. Lesser known are the otherworldly Kyoto Gardens frequented by a muster of peacocks which present the perfect oasis for some post exam zen. With small traditional Japanese temples, a crystal clear waterfall featuring koi fish and colourful Japanese trees, this part of Holland Park is the furthest you are ever going to be from London without actually hopping on a plane.
4. Hampton Court Palace and Grounds
London’s own Versailles, this Tudor-Baroque amalgamation of a Palace is every architect’s dream. Hampton Court however, is much more than the Palace itself as it features 60 acres of formal gardens and 750 acres of informal gardens. Walk towards Banqueting House, a quiet 1700’s pavilion overlooking an unrecognisable River Thames. The sunken gardens, the impressive maze, the rose garden and the King’s Beasts are only some of the numerous interesting features found within the Palace Grounds. For the wine enthusiasts, the Great Vine is supposedly the largest and oldest in the world possibly supplying Henry VIII’s wine fountain (a replica exists today) from which red and white wine was flowing for the courtier’s pleasure.
3. Richmond Park
For the animal lovers, no other place in London compares to Richmond Park. A deer-packed landscape of Jurassic character stretching as far as the eye can see. Charles the I’s hunting ground was created as an idyllic escape from plague-ridden London. Britain’s most important site for ancient flora and with an array of rare species of fauna, this park is for those seeking a real break from urban life. The hills provide with vistas over London and can be an ideal spot for a coffee break at one of the old hunting lodges offering outdoor seating.
2. Kew Gardens
Although not much of a secret, Kew Gardens are the essence of a great park. From Victorian greenhouses featuring exotic plants to Kew palace and Queen Charlotte’s rustic Cottage, the Gardens is the closest you’ll ever get to walking into a fairytale. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kew contains 4 Grade I listed buildings and 36 Grade II listed ones, creating the perfect mix of great architecture and sublime natural landscapes. The Great Pagoda built in 1761 for Princess Augusta pierces the sky and with its 80 golden dragons, is thought to be the greatest structure inspired by China on European grounds. The Japanese Garden of Peace, Activity and Harmony is exactly what its name suggests. This tranquil garden is packed with symbolism, posing as a great spot for reflection with Chokushi-Mon (Gateway of the Imperial Messenger) surrounded by white cherry blossoms being the best spot to catch up on your reading.
1. West Hampstead and Hampstead Pergola
Not far from Hampstead Heath (its much more popular neighbour) lies a landscape impossible to be found anywhere else in the city. Once the private garden of a long gone Manor House, this romantic complex of verandas overtaken by vegetation is the perfect backdrop to a sunny day. Within a few minutes, you will find Golders Hill Park where you can see lemurs, laughing kookaburras and wallabies among other animals in the middle of a sprawling public space with formal gardens, cafes, a beautiful gazebo, water features and a butterfly house.
I hope this list will keep you busy during your time in London and present some good alternatives to the old time classics found within central London. These places are worth visiting throughout the year and are all (except from Kew Gardens) a free activity to share with friends and family.
About the author
Hello! I'm Georgios, a full-time MSc Urban Regeneration student at the Bartlett. I am originally from Athens, Greece but for the past few years I lived in Sweden, Singapore and the United States, before eventually calling London home.