When you think of London in the summer you automatically think of the hot, sweaty tube, of the ridiculously expensive frappuccinos on offer and, naturally, of the oodles of foreign tourists clogging up Soho, Oxford Street and the Southbank. But, the London parks always offer a joyful place to escape.
You can beat the rush and the relentless city heat. Summer in London wouldn’t be complete without the odd afternoon spent in a park; a picnic blanket spread, finger food and cider at the ready.
London has a surprising amount of green space; both centrally and moving out into the suburbs. So grab your blanket, stock your picnic basket and venture out…
1. Regents Park
Regents Park was formed as part of the vast chase, or hunting ground, appropriated by Henry VIII and remained so until 1646, when John Nash developed the park as it is known today for his friend, the Prince Regent.
A beautiful outside space, featuring a lake, a canal and surrounded by palatial terraces, the park was intended to house a summer palace for the prince, however, this was never built. The space became the home of the Zoological Society and the Royal Botanic Society, but it wasn’t until 1835 that members of the public were allowed into the park; and certain sections only at that, for two days of the week!
Nowadays, the park provides a buffer against the main road of Marylebone becoming a peaceful, floral retreat in the heart of the city. Of an evening, during the summer months, there is a great vibe as workers from Fitzrovia and Camden descend onto the lawns to partake in games of cricket, wander around the stunningly beautiful Queen Marys Garden, which houses more than 12,000 roses, or see a play performed at the open air theatre.
2. Hyde Park
One of the largest parks in London, Hyde Park has it all; a lake, a palace and its very own ‘Speakers Corner’. Home to the Great Exhibition of 1851, the park has a longstanding affiliation with Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. Queen Victoria, prior to her crowning, lived in Kensington Palace, which is housed within the reaches of the park, and close by stands one of the most ornate monuments, in memorial of her beloved Albert.
The park is a traditional location for mass demonstrations, with the Chartists, the Reform League, the Suffragettes and the Stop The War Coalition all having held mass protests in the park.
The park is large, and covers 625 acres of land in the heart of London. Playing host to a multitude of concerts, festivals and the annual Winter Wonderland event, the parks is internationally known for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, located just south of the Serpentine Lake.
3. Queens Park
Set in 12 hectares of land, Queens Park is managed by the City of London and has been open to the public since 1887. North of the city, in the up and coming area of its namesake, Queens Park, the green space is looked after the City of London authority.
A registered charity no less, Queens Park is being kept true to its Victorian roots. Offering a welcome burst of green to one of the most densely populated areas of London, the park includes six all-weather tennis courts, a pitch and putt course, an ornamental garden, a children’s playground with paddling pool, a small zoo and a cafe.
4. Wandsworth Park
OK, so it may not be the most centrally located park, but Wandsworth Park is 100% worth a mention. A ten minute walk away from Wandsworth Town station, this park is situated right on the Thames and boasts a wonderful view of the Hurlingham Club across the river. The park is also home to the Putney Sculpture Trail; a series of sculptures by Alan Thornhill.
The park is Grade II listed. Purchased by London Country Council in 1898, the land was previously used as allotment gardens. Underneath Lt Col John James Sexby, the first Parks Superintendent for London County Council, Wandsworth Park is dominated by a 3.5 hectare playing field, surrounded by an oval path (perfect for running!). The space featured ornamental designs, an avenue of trees along the river, and is largely unchanged from its construction.
5. Hampton Court Palace Gardens
Even further out of town, a 30 minute train ride from Waterloo to be exact, and you can find yourself in the wonderfully regal gardens of Hampton Court Palace.
A truly royal day out, Hampton Court Palace was originally built for Cardinal Wolsey in 1514, before passing on to King Henry VIII once Wolsey has fell out of favour. The palace itself is strange. Half of the original Tudor structure remains, including Henry VIII’s beloved tennis courts, whilst the other half is built in the baroque style following King William III’s desire to create a palace to rival Versailles towards the end of the 17th Century.
The gardens surrounding the palace are exquisite, and offer a most stunning backdrop for a picnic or a lounge in the sun. From lawns to Tudor inspired gardens, to a famous maze, there are certainly oodles of open space for you to enjoy!