To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at damselwithadulcimer.wordpress.com and my theatre reviews at www.playstosee.com
Published July 30th 2012
Escape from the City Crowds in the City
Many visitors are surprised by how many parks can be found in central London. Apart from Hyde, Regents and Green Parks and Kensington Gardens, there is a wealth of smaller areas of green where you can sit quietly, relax and watch the world go by. Here are a few suggestions for visitors and native Londoners.
London is historically based on the City of London, The Square Mile. Although the original pattern of medieval streets is still apparent, the ravages of the Great Fire of 1666 and the Blitz of World War II have meant that many buildings have been destroyed and new developments have sprung up alongside older structures. However it is still possible to find peace and quiet close to the crowds. For example, don't join the hordes sitting on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral. Within a couple of minutes you could find yourself sitting in the tranquillity of The Churchyard of St John Zachary. It belongs to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, but was refurbished by the Worshipful Companies of Gardeners, Blacksmiths, Lightmongers and Constructors in 1994/5.
Churchyard of St John Zachary
If your preferences are a little more macabre, close by is the graveyard of the church of St Anne and St Agnes. The church itself was restored by Sir Christopher Wren after the 1666 fire.
St Anne and St Agnes
Remaining in the City, close to Newgate Street, the Gardens of Christchurch Greyfriars occupy the burial grounds of the former nave of Christchurch Greyfriars. The existing Rose Garden matches the floor of the original Wren church, and the box hedged beds have replaced the original pews.
Before or after a visit to London's Guildhall, just pop around the corner to St Mary Aldermanbury. The 1181 church on this site was replaced by yet another Wren church. After the Blitz the ruins were re-erected in Fulton Missouri. The pretty gardens comprise a herb parterre, a swamp cypress and a memorial to Shakespeare and Hemming and Condell, the two actors who gathered the writer's plays in the First Folio. Just outside the garden wall you can also view the plaque commemorating the Aldermanbury Conduit that provided free water from 1471 until the 18th century.
St Mary Aldermanbury
Outside of the City area are numerous green spaces. Of course there are the many Bloomsbury squares, of which Russell Square is probably the most famous. But have you visited Red Lion Square, just a short stroll from High Holborn? There is also a café here where you can have a sandwich or a hot or cold drink.
Red Lion Square
Close to Holborn, but in the other direction, is Lincoln's Inns Fields, enclosed by London's largest square and laid out by Inigo Jones in the seventeenth century.
Lincoln's Inns Fields
The Embankment Gardens run along the north bank of the Thames between Westminster and Blackfriars bridges. Even if you don't want to sit on a bench, you could just stroll through as a picturesque option to walking along the street. You can also see how many statues you can spot whilst you are there. Here is one of Robert Burns (Scotland's national poet) for starters.
Crossing to the south of the river even Southwark has some surprises up its sleeve. Redcross Gardens was created by Octavia Hill as 'an open air sitting room for the tired inhabitants of Southwark' in 1887. Sit on a bench and admire the six cottages.
Finally, there is a garden in a most unlikely place. Last year the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall by the Southbank was redesigned to incorporate a garden. The initiative was between the Southbank Centre and the Eden Project and the gardeners and creators were drawn from formerly homeless people. The emphasis is on growing food and wildflowers, and nothing is regarded as a weed. All forms of growing life have their uses. Whilst you are up there take an opportunity to admire the views across and down the river.
Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden
I'm sure there are loads more spaces where you can go for peace and quiet and yet be not too far from the madding crowds of London. Put your feet up, relax, chat to a friend or enjoy a picnic Where is your favourite place?
I really enjoyed this article. All these gardens are new to me! I usually go to Southwark Cathedral courtyard for some quiet in the city, but looks like there are more places to enjoy. Thanks for sharing.