10 of the best parks and commons in Westminster
Fresh air, freedom to run and not a single ‘Do not walk on the grass’ sign. Believe it or not, the densely populated London borough of Westminster still offers plenty of opportunity to get out and about amongst nature.
Westminster can proudly claim to be home to not one, not two, but FOUR Royal Parks, the largest of which is Regent’s Park at 410 acres. One of Henry VIII’s hunting parks, it was adapted in the early nineteenth century to include an ornamental park. It really has something for everyone – several great playgrounds, a kids’ boating lake, summer entertainment and The Hub sports centre. The rose gardens contain over 30,000 roses and the park is home to one of the largest heronies in any European city. It’s also a habitat for hedgehogs, although sadly you are unlikely to see one during the daytime.
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A gentle park of mature trees and grassland,Green Parki s the smallest Royal Park in the borough, at a miserly 47 acres! It was created by King Charles II as adeer parkin 1668, and traditionally there are no flowers, as King Charles’s wife forbade the planting of them after he gave one to a pretty milkmaid. Instead, you can enjoy the glorious avenues of lime and London plane trees and give the kids free rein to run wild and use their imaginations.
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Another of Henry VIII’s hunting parks, Hyde Park covers 350 acres and can claim to be the lungs ofLondon, with its estimated collection of at least 4000 trees. It’s a child’s heaven, with opportunities for outdoor swimming, boating, horse-riding, bowls and tennis. Older children might enjoy the two-mile self-guided walk that starts at Hyde Park Corner and takes around one hour. Don’t forget to stop by the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, where you can cool your feet in the clear water.
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St James’s Park
The central feature of this 58-acre park is the lake, where ducks, geese, swans and even pelicans can be seen. You can watch them being fed every afternoon at around 2.30pm. You won’t be surprised to learn that St James’s was yet another of Henry VIII’s deer parks (how many does any one monarch need, I hear you ask!). It was remodelled in the seventeenth century as a formal park for King Charles II and reshaped again by John Nash in the 1820s. The formal beds outsideBuckinghamPalaceare traditionally planted with scarlet geraniums to match the guardsmen’s tunics.
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Paddington Street Recreation Ground - Randolph Avenue, London, W9 1PD
This is a large area of parkland with lots of facilities. There’s an outdoor sports ground with two all-weather synthetic pitches, a six-lane all-weather athletics track, 15 tennis courts, a bowling green, 4 cricket nets, 2 outdoor basketball courts, 2 five-aside floodlit courts, a fitness gym, and the main grass field for cricket and softball/rounders. There are also playgrounds for children under 14, a band-stand, rest gardens, a picnic area, a trimtrail with fitness stations and a cafe.
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Phoenix Garden - 21 Stacey Street, London, WC2H 8DG
A community garden in the heart of theWest End, run by and for local people, this green space has been specifically designed as a play area for small children and a quiet refuge for adults. There’s a pond, so you need to keep a close eye on little ones, but the whole place is a wildlife haven that will delight them. The pond and woodland area are home to frogs, toads, newts, fish, blackbirds, tits, wagtails and squirrels, and for the insect-lovers, there are worms, woodlice, bees, ants and beetles. The garden is open every day of the year from 8.30am to dusk, and also hosts a wide range of community events.
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Westbourne Green P.O.S- Harrow Road / Bourne Terrace / Senior Street Paddington, W2
This open space was once the site compound for the building of the A40 Westway and the Marylebone Flyover. There’s an exercise trail around the central grass area, and a wildflower meadow, in addition to the two playgrounds. The toddlers’ playground has equipment for ages 3-7, and the Juniors playground is aimed at 7-13 year olds. Bear in mind that there are no toilets here!
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Mount Street Gardens - South Audley Street Mayfair W1
These beautiful gardens are a oasis of calm only ten minutes walk from Bond Street in central London. They are blessed with a unique microclimate that means that the temperature is said to be several degrees above the surrounding area, enabling several rare trees, such as anAustralian Mimosa, a Canary Islands Date Palm and three Dawn Redwoods to flourish. The Council, together with local residents, makes sure that the garden is maintained to the highest standard.
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Rembrandt Gardens - Warwick Avenue Paddington, London W2 1XB
Located alongside the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal, this garden is well used by local residents and their children. It has recently undergone complete restoration and there are modern toilets, which every parent will be grateful for! There are formal planted areas as well as lawns, and although it’s not huge, there’s plenty of room to let off a bit of steam.
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Victoria Embankment Gardens - Villiers St,Victoria Embankment, London WC2N 6NG
These are a series of gardens on the north side of the Thames, between Blackfriars Bridgeand Westminster Bridge. The bandstand has free concerts at lunchtime during the summer, and there are a host of statues to the great and the good. The flowerbeds are beautiful, especially in the spring when the tulips come out.
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