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 June 21st 2013
What do You Call a Crane With a Wooden Leg?
St. James's Park is the oldest of London's royal parks, and probably my favourite. Up until now, the last time I visited was as a child. My mum used to work in the building straight opposite; during the summer holidays she took me to the workplace's child care play scheme, which took us on regular outings to the park. There is a big adventure playground there with sandpits, climbing frames, swings, slides, rocks to play on.
Pelicans in the park.
Now, as an adult, I am more interested in the scenery than the playground, and when I visited for my first time in many years, I was pleased to see everything just as I remembered it. And when I say 'remember', I am mainly talking about the pelicans, which still remain perched in their favourite place amongst the rocks of Duck Island.
Everybody go 'aww' at the goslings.
The pelicans were introduced to the park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian Ambassador. This started a tradition of collecting exotic waterfowl, and the park now is home to a wide variety of birds at including mallards, geese, coots, shellduck, and wigeon. In the seventeenth century, Kings Charles II even used to feed a crane with a wooden leg. I wonder which one it stood on.
About three hundred and fifty years ago, a canal was built in St. James's Park for King Charles II so that he could go swimming. He also ordered playing courts for a French game called 'pele mele', which was a bit like a cross between golf and basket ball, in which you have to hit a ball into a raised hoop. You will probably recognise the English translation, Pall Mall, which is the current location of The Mall. The Mall is the Queen's ceremonial route from Buckingham Palace, and also the finishing point of the London Marathon.
Every Wednesday at about twelve o'clock, the band parade down the street. If you didn't manage to see the Trooping of the Colour, then you can catch a taster here. My dad, who is a fishing fiend, was so preoccupied at watching the roach in the river that he almost missed the show.
Picnic in the park.
St. James's park is so beautiful during the summer months, and is an excellent spot for a family picnic. You can lie on the grass or sit on the free deck chairs provided. Either pack your own lunch, or buy from one of the many stalls. One tip if you are getting ice cream: on one side of the river, they sell it at £2.10, but on the other side you can get it for £2.
One of the prettiest features in the park is a Swiss chalet that was built in 1841. It was once the home of the park's bird keeper, and is surrounded by a thriving green allotment.
My favourite thing about St. James's Park is the wildlife. Although it no longer has exotic creatures like camels and crocodiles like it did in the reign of King Charles II, I take just as much pleasure as watching a squirrel nibbling a nut.
The best way to get to St. James's Park is through Buckingham Palace, where you can see the changing of the guard, the Queen Victoria Memorial, and Princess Diana's Memorial walk.