Fenton House & Gardens. Hampstead. Fenton is a beautiful 17th-century house that is now run by the National Trust and is full inside of Georgian furniture and fittings, with a focus on musical instruments of the period. The gardens are exquisite and exemplify formal and potager gardening alike. “Full of colour and interest all year round, the garden is a haven in the middle of Hampstead. The walled garden is laid out over three levels featuring formal walks, lawns, herbaceous borders, exotic planting, a sunken rose garden, kitchen garden and a 300-year-old orchard.” (National Trust)
The Garden Museum. Lambeth. This is a really lovely, albeit quite tiny museum located just on the side of the Thames in Lambeth, London (just down the river from Lambeth Palace (home to the head of the Church of England). I whole-heartedly recommend a visit to the Garden Museum, which is tucked into the side of a church building. The museum, as is fitting of its name, has a lovely garden of its own as well as an enclosed terraced courtyard.
Hampstead Heath. North London. Enjoy walking into the countryside in hundreds of acres of wild untamed woods and natural meadows. This is specifically not a garden and is left as a managed ‘heath’ area. In times of old the lands were held commonly and animals were left to pasture – it is now run as a charity by the City of London. There are open air ponds for natural swimming, as well as a Lido, running track and wilder paths to explore. A truly magical place, not to be missed. Give yourself a full day and pack a picnic!
Hampstead Heath’s mosaic of habitats provides a resource for wildlife just six kilometres from the centre of London. It is of national as well as regional importance. The City of London aims to maintain and extend the Heath’s status as one of London’s best places for wildlife. Hampstead Heath features a number of priority species identified in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. City of London, Hampstead Heath
Holland Park. Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. Holland Park is a lovely open space, which also has the beautiful Kyoto Garden, which is a Japanese garden donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991. The park is full of wildlife and when I visited we saw peacocks.
Kenwood Gardens. Hampstead. There are lovely formal ericaceous gardens best seen in early spring when the rhododendron, azalea and camellia are in blossom. There is also 112 acres of woods and parkland. “Designed by Humphry Repton, Kenwood’s gardens were created with meandering paths to show off the estate and create a series of pleasurable surprises while strolling through the landscape. Many of the same views can still be enjoyed today. Take a journey through a year of seasonal garden highlights at Kenwood.” (English Heritage). The grounds also include Kenwood – a standing deciduous woodland that is largely wild and natural, with resident owls and other wildlife. ** While you’re visiting Kenwood Gardens, make sure you leave enough time to take a quick tour through Kenwood House, which is a free public access stately home packed full of beautiful artistic masterpieces including works by Rembrandt, Turner, Vermeer, Constable, Gainsborough and others. The house is decorated and fitted out with bespoke Chippendale furniture and other period pieces. Lovely! But if you’ve run out of time it’s still worth walking by; the old service area of brewhouse have been refitted as cafe and outdoor dining areas.
Kew Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) Richmond. This is a whole-day event, with arboretum, wide expanses to walk outdoors, along with glasshouses and specialist indoor plant collections. There are over 50,000 living plants to be discovered at this UNESCO World Heritage site. My top tip for getting there is to take a one-way river boat from Westminster Pier – it’s a perfect way to start your voyage of discovery and wonder at Kew Gardens. On the way home jump on a train. Within Kew you can also visit Queen Charlotte’s ‘cottage’, which was used by the royal family in the late 18th century and includes a model kitchen garden of it’s day. (It’s perhaps useful here to think of this as the English equivalent of Marie Antoinette playing at being a shepherdess). Queen Charlotte’s cottage gardens are lovely and well worth wandering through.
Richmond Park. Richmond. Like Kew, a visit to Richmond Park is a whole-day-event. Although they are close to one another, visiting Kew and Richmond Park in one day is not recommended. Richmond park is an iconic, history-rich and former royal hunting grounds. It is now a fabulous open space (as opposed to ‘gardens’) in London where you can see wild deer grazing in the grounds and watch the well-to-do out riding their horses along the horse tracks. A nice way to get there in the summer is by river boat cruise. “Richmond Park has protected status as an important habitat for wildlife and is a National Nature Reserve, London’s largest Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European Special Area of Conservation. Richmond Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks and covers an area of 2500 acres.” (Royal Parks)