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The Green House: explore London’s parks and gardens on foot

Art & Culture 16/06/2022

Parks and gardens are the green lungs of every city. From spaces the size of small farms, to pocket handkerchief yards, they are teeming with biodiversity and life. They pull in the carbon dioxide we create, retain the water that tumbles from the skies and give us back vibrantly-headed blooms and the mesmerising twitter of birdsong.
London is one of the greenest capital cities on earth and wildlife is abundant. When the weather is beautiful and sunny they become hubs for locals playing, picnicking or just soaking up the heat of the sun. In the gusts of a November squall dog-walking acquaintances nod at each other against the driving rain. They are one of the building blocks of our communities, and rarely fail to give everyone pleasure.

Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park
20-minute stroll from The Other House
Kensington Gardens, W8 4PX

A short walk from The Other House is perhaps London’s best known park, the double act of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens whose acres of space are home to the old school elegance of Kensington Palace and the new school cool of the Serpentine Galleries. Constantly buzzing with life, whether it’s the serenely trotting horses steaming in the early morning sunlight, and the goose-pimpled swimmers braving the translucently cold waters of the Serpentine, to the perpetual motion of cyclists and runners commuting or keeping fit (or both) and the teams playing any manner of sports. But there’s always space for solitude and contemplation in the quiet of the Rose Garden or just gently meandering through the trees away from the metalled tracks. There are playgrounds for children, cafes for watching the world go by and fabulous views of the city – there is something for everyone.

The Natural History Museum’s gardens
A 10-minute stroll from The Other House
Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD

Tucked away around the side of South Kensington’s most vaunted building, the Victorian terracotta splendour of the Natural History Museum was designed by local luminary Alfred Waterhouse. Few people, however, make use of the museum’s leafy grounds, comprising two lawns connected by winding pathways and a thriving Wildlife Garden that’s home to 3,300 species of flora and fauna, including grey squirrels, handsome foxes and toads leaping across the pond. Here, children can also take part in free guided tours to learn about minibeasts and test their knowledge in a game of leaf bingo. The museum is also planning to renovate the grounds to create al fresco galleries – watch this space.

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s John Madejski Garden
A 15-minute stroll from The Other House
Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD

Across Exhibition Road from the Natural History Museum is one of the world’s great arts institutions, the Victoria and Albert Museum. And it has a garden courtyard to match. In 2005, the British landscape architect Kim Wilkie was commissioned to redesign its courtyard into a space “based on the traditional simplicity of a garden courtyard with the drama and flexibility of a stage set.” The John Madejski Garden was born, named after the businessman who funded the project. The decorative oval paddle pool and small jet fountains create a striking reflection of the surrounding buildings, while a manicured lawn and large green planters contain seasonal lemon trees and holly trees, imparting a seasonal backdrop to the series of temporary displays hosted here each summer. Tie in your visit with a tour of the Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature exhibit, celebrating the life and work of one of the best-loved children’s authors and illustrators of the 20th century and another of our local luminaries who grew up in South Kensington and spent much of her childhood in the V&A.

Holland Park’s Kyoto Garden
20-minute stroll from The Other House
Holland Park Avenue, W11 4UA

Holland Park’s fifty acres of green space is beloved by west Londoners, with tennis courts, a children’s wildlife club and cricket pitch, and events for all ages throughout the year, including a wonderful outdoor opera season. The serenely peaceful Kyoto Garden, a gift from the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in 1991, is inhabited by cobalt blue and emerald green peacocks roaming through the ruby-hued Japanese maples, and auspicious koi carp who glide silently through the lake.

London’s other green spaces

The London Gardens Trust (LGT) has taken the initiative to protect the capital’s green spaces, private gardens and Victorian communal squares. For one weekend every June, it unlocks more than 100 private gardens to the public. Download a curated guide from its website and explore some beautiful private gardens in South Kensington and discover Islamic motifs in The Ismaili Centre’s roof garden and the tranquillity of private Ennismore Gardens and Eaton Square. Graphic designer, Helen Ilus, has also created a London Greenground Map to inspire exploration of the capital’s green spaces.