DEREK ROBERTSON, JULY 2017
Sometimes the hustle and bustle of London can be a little overbearing. Luckily, when stress levels get too high, the capital has plenty of relaxing nooks and crannies, some more hidden than others, to which one can escape for a few moments of peace and tranquility. Some have an interesting story, some are simply a beautifully executed haven of greenery, but all are the perfect place to take a deep breath and gather your thoughts before heading back out to the throng of life.
This beautiful, shaded little square around the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral houses a touching, bittersweet Victorian memorial. So called because it was once popular with workers from the nearby Old General Post Office, it also houses George Frederic Watt’s “Memorial To Heroic Self-Sacrifice”, 50 ceramic plaques commemorating ordinary people who lost their lives trying to save others. Some of the tales are truly heart-breaking, and there’s a free app in which you can learn about the individuals memorialised here.
Proving that not all development has to be driven by pure profit, the recent redevelopment of the Kings Cross site in north London includes the Skip Garden, an urban garden that has sustainability as its core mission. Using waste products such as doors, wooden pallets and, yes, skips as planters and construction material, they’ve created a small yet vibrant community of artists and gardeners. All the food grown is used in the Skip Garden Kitchen café, and there’s even classes for budding horticulturists who want to get the best out of their herb patches and window boxes.
Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park
Few things are taken as seriously by the Japanese as their love of nature and dedication to beautiful, perfectly apportioned gardens. All this and more is on display in Kyoto Gardens, a sun dappled corner of Holland Park. Donated by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in 1991, it features tiered waterfalls, koi carp, Japanese Maple trees, and peacocks freely roaming around. A stroll around its pretty paths and a few moments listening to the gentle splash of water is sure to restore a feeling of zen in even the weariest.
St. Dunstan’s Garden
This idyllic little gem exists in the bombed out carcass of a medieval church near Cannon Street, in East London. What’s left of the building is now a Grade II* listed monument, having been turned into a garden in 1967. The ruin is now home to an impressive range of plants and trees that climb up and around the church’s walls, giving the feeling one has stumbled into a clearing in a long lost city. The space is also available for hire, should you wish to host a celebration here; at all other times of the year, office workers munching their lunch mix with the curious and intrepid at marveling at this sanctum from city life.
There are many reasons to visit The Barbican, but one of the most overlooked is the Conservatory. The second biggest of its kind in London – the biggest is located at Kew Gardens – its home to over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, as well as numerous types of tropical fish swimming in its ponds. Being indoors means it can be enjoyed all year round or when the unpredictable British weather strikes, and there are hour-long tours conducted by resident gardeners for those with a burning to desire to know more. If even that feels like too much work, you can also enjoy afternoon tea (Sunday’s only) in the Conservatory, marvelling at the wonder of nature while sipping on a brew.