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Greenwich Park

Home > London > Fun Things To Do | Nature | Outdoor | Parks | Walks
by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published December 28th 2014
London's Oldest Royal Park
Greenwich Park

greenwich park, royal park

Out of all the eight royal parks in London, none is older than Greenwich Park. There have been settlements on the land for thousands of years, with excavations discovering stone tools.

greenwich park, royal park

The reason it was such a popular settling ground is due to its strategic position for it has an extremely steep incline that will let you see for miles.

greenwich park, royal park

Everyone has a favourite royal park; for city workers it's St. James's, for nature lovers, it's Richmond; animal lovers will go to the zoo at Regent's Park, and those who like swimming can take a did in Hyde's lido. For those who are interested in history, however, Greenwich Park is for you, as there are so many fascinating things to learn and discover in history and science.

History

greenwich park, royal park

A mound of grass may not look all that interesting, but once you know it is the remains of a Roman settlement, it becomes a whole other story.

Known as Queen Elizabeth's Bower, the first archeological dig of the site took place in 1902. They discovered segments of floor mosaics, wall fragments, pottery, coins, and a statue inscription dedicated to Diana.

They theory was that it used to be a temple, but no one was entirely sure until a second excavation in 1978 revealed a raised platform, often used in temples. The theory was further cemented when in 1999, Channel 4's Time Team carried out further investigation, which proved the building had been dedicated to Jupiter.

greenwich park, royal park

The land was taken over by royalty in 1427 the Duke of Gloucester. He built Greenwich Castle and Duke Humphrey's Tower, which today have become The Queen's House and Royal Observatory.

greenwich park, royal park

Many of the royal parks can boast to having been owned by Henry VIII, but only Greenwich Park can lay claim to his birthplace. Henry's daughters, Queen Mary and Elizabeth I were also born here, while on a more sombre note, it was where his son, Edward VI, died.

greenwich park, royal park

In the seventeenth century, James I removed the fencing around the park and replaced it with a twelve-foot wall, most of which can still be seen today.

Although owned by the Tudors, no hint of that remains, as all the Tudor buildings were knocked down by Charles II, who commissioned the creation of the Royal Observatory.

James II was the last monarch to own Greenwich Park, after which his daughter donated the land as a hospital for sailors.

Science & Education

greenwich park, royal park, national maritime museum

Greenwich Park boasts three fascinating educational attractions thanks to the monarchs who once resided there. In 1873, the Royal Naval Hospital became the Royal Naval College, which in turn became the National Maritime Museum in 1933. It is a place filled with inspirational stories and artefacts, and a place to discover great explorers, fierce battles, naval heroes, and more.

greenwich park, royal park, queen's house

Next door is The Queen's House, an art gallery which houses a world-class collection by some of the greatest master painters, alongside contemporary artists.

greenwich park, royal park

If you can survive the climb, at the top of the hill you will find the Royal Observatory Greenwich where you can learn about our amazing galaxy through interactive screens, awe-inspiring images, and intriguing objects.

Activities

There are lots of things to see and do in the park itself, whether you are just out for a stroll, taking the kids, or wanting get a bit of exercise.

greenwich park, royal park

One feature in the park that took my interest is Queen Elizabeth's Oak. The giant oak tree dates back to the twelfth century, and has connections to Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth I. Petty criminal offenders were also sometimes chained to it. Although the tree died in the nineteenth century, it remained standing until 1991. One year Later Elizabeth II planted a new oak tree next to it.

greenwich park, royal park

If you feel like having something to eat, the Pavilion Café is close to the Royal Observatory. An attractive building with an equally attractive courtyard, the cafe serves traditional breakfasts and a lunch menu that includes stone-baked pizzas, soup, sandwiches, and hot meals. For a special treat, you can also have afternoon tea.

greenwich park, royal park

There are a number of monuments to look out for, such as the Millennium Sundial designed by Chris Daniel. It is a nod to the Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory, which gives us Greenwich Meantime.

greenwich park, royal park

It sits opposite the children's boating lake, which in the summer is filled with water and paddle boats.

greenwich park, royal park

Next to this is a playground with a mix of traditional swings and climbing frames, as well as a variety of other things to get the kids exerting energy.

greenwich park, royal park

Just outside the observatory there is a statue of General James Wolfe. Built in 1930, the Grade II statue was a gift from the Canadians as a commemoration to Wolfe's victory against the French at Quebec.

greenwich park, royal park

With a hundred and eighty-three acres of land, I only managed to cover half the park, but cross the road and you'll get to explore the second half, which holds a nature conservation full of deer, bats, and birds. There is a rose garden, orchard, herb garden, tennis courts, and cricket field too.
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Why? Lots to see and do
When: 6am - 6pm
Phone: 0300 061 2000
Where: Greenwich
Cost: Free
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