Hyde Park, Regents Park, Greenwich Park… most of us have enjoyed these beautiful areas of greenery nestled amongst the hustle and bustle of London life, but there’s probably much more in the way of natural beauty in the city than you realise. In fact, London is known as the world’s biggest ‘urban forest ’ thanks to its 8 million trees located within the eight Royal Parks, along with the city’s numerous gardens, commons, cemeteries, farms, woods, and even just those popping up along Oxford Street.
1. Paddington Street Gardens
Located just a short walk from the breathtaking cobbles of Oldbury Place, Paddington Street Gardens (pictured) is one of the area’s best recreational grounds. Although you may not be able to tell at first, this was once one of the biggest burial sites in London, and for those interested in local history there’s still a list of names and dates available at Westminster City archives. Today, it’s a very beautiful, very family-friendly place to visit, with well maintained garden areas and a children’s playground that’s ideal in the summer.
2. Tabard Gardens
A short distance from the new bars, restaurants, and luxury housing developments in London’s SE1 is Tabard Gardens; one of just a select few green spaces in Central London that has been awarded the Green Flag Award. The award is given to parks and other open spaces that can prove they offer a clean, safe, welcoming space that retains the heritage of the area, and dedicates a lot of effort to ongoing conservation. There’s even a great outdoor gym that can help keep you fit, healthy, and active.
3. Red Lion Square Gardens
One of the most fascinating green spaces in London, Red Lion Square Gardens has a rich (and gruesome) history. With sightings of a ghostly Oliver Cromwell over the years – he's believed to be buried in the square – and a rather bloody battle over urbanisation, it’s quite impressive to see how the gardens have transformed from a place of negativity and violence into something so serene. Be sure to have a quick look at the houses in the square, too; some still have the original 17th century architecture.
4. Mint Street Park
Once a workhouse, and then a children’s hospital, this site in Bankside is now home to Mint Street Park, which has fast become one of the go-to places for families with young children, thanks to the addition of the Mint Street Adventure Playground. It’s the biggest park in Bankside, providing a haven where Londoners and visitors can simply sit back and relax. There’s a real community feel to this park, and many of the renovations that have been undertaken in recent years have been down to the hard work of community fundraisers.
We all have days when the city seems so congested and claustrophobic. All we need to do is remember one very important fact: nearly half of London is made up of green spaces ! At those times when we need a bit of relaxation, and a bit of peace, away from the scuttles and scrambles of city life, all we have to do is follow the trees. Whether you’re up in Marylebone, or down in Southwark, there’s always somewhere to go for a short time out. London really is a beautiful city. Enjoy it!