London is renowned for its abundance of parks and green spaces, and now that the sunshine is out and the flowers are in bloom, London Living has gone off the beaten track to find the most secluded and picturesque natural spaces in the capital.
If dipping your toes into the cold waters of the Serpentine or dodging moorhens in Hampstead Heath while exploring London’s top 5 outdoor swimming spots isn’t for you, then perhaps you’d prefer soaking up the rays in a secluded garden where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the capital and get back to nature. So without further ado, here is our list of London’s top five alternative green spaces:
1. Dalston Roof Park
What do nature lovers do when they run out of green space in a city? Make a park on a roof! After running a pilot scheme last year, local enterprise organisation Bootstrap have announced that the Dalston Roof Park is once again open to visitors. To access the garden, you have to register for free membership on their website – but then you have total freedom to enjoy the park in your own time.
Aptly put by Londonist, “the building’s roof has been covered with grass and dotted with deckchairs. Grow bags made from recycled waste have been planted around the edges, and the aim is to touch on those zeitgeisty subjects of sustainability and food self-sufficiency whilst giving local folk an Arcadian respite from the mad bustle of E8 down below.”
Another similar local project is the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden – so named because of the superannuated piece of railway track that once connected services out of Broad Street to the North London line.
2. Kyoto Garden, Holland Park
Japanese gardens are often heralded as the epitome of peaceful and tranquil natural spaces, which is what makes the Kyoto Garden in North London’s Holland Park so special.
Donated by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce, it was built in 1991 by a team of specialists flown in from Kyoto for the London Festival of Japan. You have to search well to find it through a narrow path, (clue: it’s behind the rose garden and stables) but once inside, the sense of serenity that these gardens bring is priceless. The waterfall and Japanese maple tree are so distinct that you’ll know instantly when you’ve found it.
3. Geffrye Museum Gardens, Hackney
Better known for its exploration of “the changing style of the English domestic interior”, the Geffrye Museum in Hackney also boasts beautiful 18th century grounds (complete with a bandstand) and a traditional herb garden with over 170 different herbs and plants.
“The walled herb garden opened in 1992,” The Balcony Gardener notes, “and has matured into an oasis of beauty and botanical interest, which is particularly fitting considering its location in the East End – an area with strong tradition of gardening.”
4. Red Cross Garden, Southwark
“Nature breathes in darkest Southwark”, wrote Octavia Hill in triumph of her achievement at opening this first Victorian community garden in 1887. Now the charming backstreet Red Cross Garden in Southwark has been restored to its original Victorian glory, with a cottage, pond, exotic shrubs and herbaceous borders.
“Red Cross Garden in Southwark boats a compelling story of its creation in the Victorian era,” Garden Register Blog says. “Incepted as an open air lounge for the children of the tenements to play in, the Red Cross Garden has been restored to the original layout of this delightful Victorian garden.”
5. St Dunstan-in-the-East Gardens, The City
Almost completely destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, the churchyard of St Dunstan-in-the-East now offers one of the few secluded green spaces in the otherwise concrete and glass surrounding of the City – what Time Out calls “the City’s most sequestered spot.”
The remaining walls of the medieval church are now hung with ivy and flowering creepers, and you can see through the skeletal arches to the sky behind. Because it is so tucked away, St Dunstan’s is one of the few places you can really escape the noise and bustle of the city centre – and its dual historical legacy also helps add to the atmosphere that makes it one of the Seven Wonders of London.
“There is something literary about this place,” Insideology write. “There is a distinctly Victorian Gothic feel, especially in the winter. But somehow these gardens aren’t eerie; they’re enormously peaceful but you are left with the feeling that the walls hold a closet full of secrets.”