Friday, November 6, 2015

The Green Lungs of London - Part 1

One of the (many) things I love about London are the abundance of parks.  You may be surprised to learn that 38% of London is green space then add up all the private gardens to bring it to 62%. (yes there are people that actually figure this out...and you thought YOUR job was boring...)   Take that New York! (at 14% of green space)  Okay not as much as Singapore (47% and much loved by me as well..in fact I call it the Asian London) or Sydney (46%).  So indulge me and let me gush on about my favourite parks in the city I love so much.

Instead of saving the best for last I am going to share the best first...St James Park.  I think this is a particular favourite of a lot of tourists including me.  Within a few minutes walk of Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament the park heaves with tourists at times but there always seems to be enough room for everybody.  I fell in love with this beautiful park the first time I visited in 1975 and it is one of the first things I visit on every trip to London...that, Trafalgar Square and Big Ben are part of my "now I know I'm in London" tour that I always do my first day there.  If I could add up the hours I've quietly sat on a bench just people watching - well it would be a staggering amount I am sure. 

St James Park is 57 acres and was named for the area in which it resides - which was named after a leper hospital called St James the Less. In 1532 Henry the VIII purchased the land from Eton College and during King James' reign it was turned into a kind of private zoo which included everything from elephants to crocodiles.  Charles the II, inspired by the parks of France had it redesigned in a more formal style and entertained his mistresses there included Nell Gwynn.  It had many incarnations to what it looks like now.  So here we go...




View of Horseguards Palace in the background - they have a changing of the Guard daily.  St James Park is known for its waterfowl and feeding the birds is a popular touristy thing to do...they expect it!

All sorts of birds from the bossy Canada Geese to Coots and everything in between.


Feeding the pigeons is also a popular pastime.  Pigeons have been banned from Trafalgar Square (I used to love going there in the "old days" to feed them) so now have migrated to St James Park.  Hey, they're not stupid!  Eating a snack on the benches in St James Park is an experience as you always have at least half a dozen sets of beady eyes watching your every move.

 Here are the iconic pelicans of St James Park.  These creatures always cause a stir when they leave the water and lope onto the path.  I haven't felt the same about them since I saw one swallow a live pigeon...in fact the friend I was with at the time mentioned it the last time we saw it each other.  "Remember when we saw the pelican eat the pigeon in St James Park" and we both grimaced!

 And yes of course we must get a selfie with one...



This area is right by Buckingham Palace yet most people never wander this far back and being as it is down from the street it is very quiet.


The flags above are on The Mall which leads to Buckingham Palace...these were up for the Trooping of the Colour ceremony which was to take place the following weekend.

 Babies in the middle of the path waiting for Mama.



St James Park in March....I missed the full glory of the daffodils as I was in Turkey in late March but I was overwhelmed by this display...
 

Mama and baby in the Spring daffodils

 The guards heading down The Mall for the changing of the guard at the Palace.  Run, run so you can photograph them - you hear the music before you see them.

View of Buckingham Palace from "The Bridge" - Good Luck getting across this bridge without getting in the way of posed photos and selfies...everyone wants a photos of these views.  Buckingham Palace one side....

And Horseguards Palace, the London Eye and  Downing Street area on the other...


Lots of these little characters running around.


Relaxing on a warm day.

Ok as you can see I am a little obsessed with St James Park bur really... who can blame me?

Next we're off to Hyde Park.  Hyde Park (350 acres) was created in 1536 by King Henry VIII for hunting purposes.  It has been the site for mass demonstrations by Suffragettes, the Reform League, and Stop the War coalition to name a few.  It is of course famous for Speakers Corner where people can expound on any topic.  The highlight of Hyde Park for me is the beautiful Lido that flows through it with graceful swans always looking for a hand out.

The Lido on a chilly March day.  On nice days you can take paddle boats out which is something I haven't done...yet. 
 These swans and pigeons are onto a good thing...what would they do without tourists?

I've been known to have a cuppa at this cafe on a decent day...when I can get a table.

Hyde Park is also known for the Princess Diana memorial fountain.




It's hard to get a picture of the whole thing but it is quite impressive. 

Hyde Park is so huge that just from reading its website I realize I have missed some attractions....it is an easy park to get lost in I must say....oh well next time.

One thing I saw this time I hadn't seen before was the statue of Isis...a beautiful bird depicting the Egyptian Goddess.  Sadly this name is now associated with the terrorist organization.





Hyde Park is full of these path ways .



Kensington Gardens (270 acres) is the next park...this was once the western section of Hyde Park but was separated  from the park in 1728 at the request of Queen Caroline. 


Path leading to the Albert Memorial and behind it the Royal Albert Hall.

Kensington Palace - a nice warm day and a place to relax...and love's young dream...get a damn room! :)

 When I visited in 1997 this gate was piled with tributes to Princess Diana....

 Statue of Queen Victoria

  The Round Pond in front of Kensington Gardens - created in 1730.

Feeding the wildlife here is a popular pastime.

 

The Physical Energy statue - commemorating Cecil Rhodes the founder of Rhodesia. (now Zimbabwe)

And of course there is the famous Peter Pan statue...installed in 1912.  J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan lived close to Kensington Gardens which was an inspiration to him in the creation of the story of the boy who never grew up. The statue is on the exact spot by the Long Water that Peter lands after flying out of his nursery.





The detail on this statue is enchanting.

 Next up...the Italian Gardens...not at their peak in February but alas...I never got back...this is an 150 year old water garden said to have been created as a gift from Prince Albert to his beloved Queen Victoria. 


Three parks down and three to go...or maybe more who knows.  Hope you enjoyed visiting the green lungs of London with me.  

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