So here are our secret gardens of London
The Hill Garden and Pergola
Located in Hampstead, the Hill Garden and Pergola is undoubtedly one of London’s hidden treasures and an excellent example of faded Edwardian grandeur to boot. There is rich history to be found here as well, dating back to the early 1900s when Lord Leverhulme, a wealthy philanthropist, purchased a town house on The Heath which was known as ‘The Hill’; he went on to purchase the surrounding land and on it built his Pergola. The space is absolutely glorious in summer months with the sloping lawn, reflection pool and the elevated Pergola. There is still something rather atmospheric about the Pergola during winter too, when the vines continue to wind around the structure but look rather barren and gothic.
Camley Street Natural Park
Travelling by public transport it would take you around half an hour to reach the Camley Street Natural Park from the Park Grand Paddington Court Hotel London but the short journey would definitely be worth it. Operated by the London Wildlife Trust it is located next to London’s King Cross Station and is a unique urban oasis for wildlife and plant life. This nature reserve has been created on former wasteland but is now very different from the coal dump it once was; woodland, grassland and wetland habitats can be found here making the ideal home for an array of creatures including butterflies, birds, amphibians, and a whole host of plant life. It is open almost daily to the general public and there are plenty of activities which take place throughout the year designed to help families get closer to the natural world around them. There is also a visitor centre and a café for those who want to enjoy some refreshments whilst exploring.
Coutts Skyline Garden
Just over five years ago, the roof terrace at Coutts headquarters was transformed; from another cement filled space to something much more impressive. Over the last few years it has since been transformed into a vegetable garden and is now home to more than 15,000 plants with fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowering plants now covering the 400-metre space. The garden is split into different areas such as the Vine Lane, which predominantly focuses on Mediterranean herbs such as lavender and sage, and Pinot Meunier grapevines, the Fruit Garden and the Cottage Garden which is home to five different varieties of apple. Although not usually open to the public, 2016 saw Coutts open the doors to the garden for the first time as part of the Open Garden Squares Weekend which is organised by the London Parks & Gardens Trust. If you have a desire to see the Coutts Skyline Garden for yourself then it is worth keeping an eye on whether they will be joining again in 2017.
St Dunstan in the East
Located in the heart of the city, in the shadow of the Tower of London, you can find the wonderful garden of St Dunstan in the East. This has to be one of the most atmospheric spaces in all of London with trailing vines and creepers covering the walls of the original Parish church which remain standing. This was originally the site of a Church of England parish church constructed during the 1100s; the building suffered significant fire damage during the Great Fire of London and even more damage during the Blitz of World War Two. It was eventually left to fall into ruin and disrepair and the decision was made by the council to transform the space into a public garden instead during the 1970s. There is a paved, circular seating area in the centre of the garden for visitors to use which allows you to really take in the peaceful and yet slightly gothic atmosphere of this wonderful secret space. It’s the perfect option if you have taken advantage of one of the many London hotels deals and booked somewhere centrally located.
Red Cross Garden
The Red Cross Garden in Southwark was originally created as a safe space for children from the nearby tenements to play and although it was left to become overgrown and many parts were covered in tarmac, in 2005 the Victorian garden was restored to its original design. The Garden was created by Octavia Hill, a social reformer and it was known as her flagship project. She recognised the need for improved housing for the poorer classes, the importance of fresh air and contact with nature and the benefit of meaningful occupation for workers. For more than half a century after it was created, the Garden provided occupational therapy, community gardening projects and access to the natural world for the occupants of Southwark. You can now find a pond, cottage, bandstand, and formally planted borders. These days it is hard to imagine the surrounding area as being home to the workhouses, factories and slums which made life for the poorer classes in London very hard.