Library Services


Green spaces near our libraries

28 July 2022

Kristy Campbell, PhD Student at UCL, shares her five favourite parks in Bloomsbury to help you relax during Late Summer Assessments.

A person sitting on a bench in Gordon Square, central London

The summer term can be an exciting and simultaneously strenuous time for students. As the outdoor temperature is gradually cranked up and the temptation to pack up the picnic basket heightens, many of us are also experiencing the pressures of revision and assessment period. For some of us, this can bring about overwhelming feelings of stress, but it’s essential to remember that at UCL there is a fantastic community of staff and peers available to provide you with support and encouragement all year round (see links below to UCL well-being pages).

This article is here to remind you about the significance of balance during this important time of the year, to advise you to take some time away from the screen, and to address both your mental and physical well-being.

Working from home has changed the way we manage our time and space; for a while we would sit at our homemade desks, gradually resorting to the sofa for a change of scene, and then to the kitchen window for some air and a cup of tea. Many of us have since taken up new activities to get us out of the house - a lunchtime run, an afternoon stroll with a podcast, calling in at our local coffee shops, or visits to campus to make use of the many re-opened libraries and study spaces.

During the Late Summer Assessment period it’s vital that you continue to make time for these activities. London has a number of wonderful calming green spaces that are open to the public each day, just a stone’s throw away from many of the UCL buildings, ideal for that much-needed break!

Russell Square (close to the IOE Library and the Senate House Hub)

Russell Square, central London, with water fountain in the background
I took the afternoon away from my laptop to explore those green spaces and have settled on five great parks to add to your summer schedule. It all started with a refreshing can of lemonade in Russell Square.

I have always appreciated the vitality of Russell Square, the hustle and bustle from the on-site restaurant, the vivid green hues from the trees tunnelling the pathways, and on this particular afternoon the water fountain spraying high into the air. As I sat on one of the many benches lining the path, I looked about at the site alive with solo readers and their reusable water bottles, workers unpacking their sandwiches, friends sharing picnic blankets, and leaves being kicked up by passers-by.

The Square is populated with vibrant flowerbeds and tall trees. Russell Square is the largest of my five recommended outdoor spaces, within which you could walk circuits around the outer path, arrange social gatherings on the grass, or simply take a few minutes in the fresh air.

Gordon Square Garden (close to the Student Centre and IOA Library)

People sitting on the grass in Gordon Square, central London
My can of lemonade and I ventured onwards for about five minutes to another popular outdoor spot, Gordon Square Garden. This space is situated only a short walk from Tavistock Square. As I entered the garden, I noticed the ‘Garden Kiosk’ from which hot drinks were being served, and people cheerfully lounging on the grass in the afternoon sun.

Many of the benches lined the garden, their shade provided by the dark overhanging trees. Through these, outlines of the great buildings towering over on each side could be seen, and the garden began to feel enclosed. Much of the space appeared to be in the spotlight of the sun, the expanse of grass facing upwards to a clear view of the sky.

Bloomsbury Square Garden (close to the Senate House Hub)

The green space in Bloomsbury Square, central London
Bloomsbury Square Garden was my next stop, it was much larger with an assortment of seating areas. At the heart of this outdoor spot was a large piazza, with benches of people looking inwards to the centre where an oval engraving lay amongst the paving. It reads:
"Dined at my Lord Treasurers the Earle of Southampton in Bloomsbury, where he was building a noble square or piazza, a little towne. John Evelyn’s diary 1665 – "

To think that this garden was designed in the 1600s, and to this day continues to cater for the public, providing a space for entertainment, for quiet, for gathering, away from the fast-paced roaring thoroughfares. Just off the main road, this park has a greater footfall than my next destination.

Queen Square Gardens (close to the Queen Square Library and UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health Library)

The gardens of Queen Square looking at the Queen Square Library building
Queen Square Gardens, is beautifully placed betwixt the distinct Institute of Neurology buildings.

I stood, lemonade in hand (still), counting the flowerbeds. Six superb arrangements of flowers thriving in this elegantly symmetrical space. There was an air of calm as I entered the garden; it was a peaceful and sheltered place, the immediate aesthetic surroundings providing contentment. I noticed the statues; a proud Queen Charlotte is standing on a plinth looking out thoughtfully over the garden. It has been noted that for some time she would call in at the garden while George III was being treated for his ailments. The other statue is a stunning bronze work by Patricia Finch depicting Mother and Child, a memorial purchased by the Friends of Children of Great Ormand Street Hospital.

St George’s Gardens (close to the LaSS Library and School of Pharmacy Library)

With food for thought, I strolled to my final green space for the afternoon. I had eagerly been wanting to visit St George’s Gardens ever since my trip to the LaSS Library. Situated on the bend of the road, I rolled down into the garden to discover a burial ground turned public garden, with a long winding pathway meandering through the trees. Pockets of seating appeared among the shrubbery, thick wooden one-person seats scattered about the space; there was an assortment of birdbaths, headstones, and raised graves dotted about on the grass. Spaces like this have been fought over through the centuries to ensure that the glorious nature hidden amongst London’s fierce tower blocks remained available to everyone. That afternoon, the sun pierced through the trees onto this tranquil and fascinating spot.

So, there you have it, five reasons to venture outdoors this summer – and I’ve no doubt there are many more to add to my list!

More information

If you have any concerns about your mental or physical well-being during assessments or at any time of the year, UCL have a wealth of support available to you, just check out the Student Support and Wellbeing pages.