On Wednesday lunchtime I hopped on my bicycle and sped off along High Street Kensington on a mini-trip to a Japanese garden in Holland Park. My aim was to milk as much out of my hour off as possible.
The 22-hectare park originally belonged to Sir Walter Cope who was Chancellor of the Exchequer for King James I. It surrounded his house – naturally called Cope Castle – which was built in 1605. It was home to many powerful London families over the years until it 1940 when it was blown up during the Blizt. The country council then bought the grounds.
The adventure started when I veered of High Street Kensington into the park. After not long the path became so rugged and littered with well-baked leaves that I walked my bike for fear of getting a puncture.
I was heading to one of the more ordered corners of the park – the Japanese Kyoto garden. This pocket garden is nature’s version of Chelsea – prim, spacious and civilised. There was a female peacock doing some lunchtime ablutions by the water as three male suitors looked on admiringly. The spot has all the classic traits of Japanese gardens, including tiered waterfalls, colourful koi carp and stone lanterns. I admired the amazing yellow colour of this tree (pictured). I don’t know what it is (do let me know if you do).
There are many secret and historic gardens in central London. One of my favourites is Postman’s Park, near St Paul’s tube. The park was where all the postal workers came to relax during breaks from working at the former General Post Office which opened in 1880.
There is a moving memorial to self-sacrifice and heroic acts. One plaque mentions how a brave eight-year-old called Henry Bristow saved his baby sister during a fire in Walhamstow in 1890 but died himself. The mini memorials were originally newspaper cuttings collected by Victorian painter GF Watts (1817 to 1904). There are around 60 memorials in total and they continue to add to them.
The park is quite tropical and is also home to a large banana tree called musa basjoo (or ‘hardy banana’, native to Japan) and Tasmanian tree ferns (or ‘man fern’, native to easter Australia). London really does have an eclectic botany collection. If you manage the visit one of London’s pocket gardens during your send me an email showing the shrubbery you spotted or or tag me on Twitter @phoeb0 / #rewildinglondon.