17 Small Green Spaces to Enjoy in London
London’s Royal Parks are the vitally important lungs of the capital, but living in the world’s first National Park City, Londoners are lucky to have access to plenty of smaller green oases. Here are a few to discover:
- ISABELLA PLANTATION, RICHMOND. Nestled within the grounds of Richmond Park, this 40-acre Victorian woodland plantation is especially spectacular when its impressive collection of azaleas is in bloom along the streams and ponds in late spring, but with camellias, rhododendrons and a multitude of other shrubs and plants the gardens have something to stimulate the senses all year long.
- BARBICAN CONSERVATORY, THE CITY. A taste of the tropics–green, lush and wild–is juxtaposed with one of London’s most famous examples of brutalist architecture. This is the second biggest conservatory in the city, a botanical jungle of banana plants and palm trees, hints of skyline peeking through the windows.
- BARNSBURY WOOD NATURE RESERVE, ISLINGTON. This tranquil swatch of woodland hiding behind a row of Georgian homes is the capital’s smallest nature reserve (0.35 hectares). It’s open only two hours per week (currently Tuesdays 2-4pm) so check before visiting.
- ST LUKE’S GARDENS, CHELSEA. Escape the King’s Road shopping stretch for a relaxing picnic near well-tended rose gardens in this leafy church-side square. Benches allow for soaking up the sun (or people watching) and there’s an adjacent playground too.
- THE HILL GARDEN AND PERGOLA, HAMPSTEAD. Made of weathered Roman columns from the opulent Edwardian era, the overgrown pergola is the key feature here. Walk up a spiral staircase, admire Inverforth House through wrought iron windows and catch views of Hampstead Heath below.
- ST-DUNSTAN-IN-THE-EAST CHURCH GARDEN, CITY. History sits in the shadow of contemporary architecture with St-Dunstan-in-the-East now a quiet, magical park set in WW2 bombed out ruins of a chapel designed by Christopher Wren. Tangled with climbing vines and the happy addition of palm trees, it resembles a fairy tale scene.
- MEANWHILE GARDENS, WESTBOURNE PARK. Built on derelict wasteland along the Grand Union Canal in the 70s, Meanwhile Gardens is a community space. There’s a quiet Moroccan garden with beautiful tiles, 300 trees, canal views, one of London’s oldest skate parks and the Playhut for children.
- DALSTON EASTERN CURVE GARDEN, DALSTON. In one of the city’s densest areas, this neighbourhood community garden has a wooden pavilion, café and pizza oven, a greenhouse with a wood-burning stove and plants chosen specifically for their ability to attract wildlife.
- CHELSEA PHYSIC GARDEN, CHELSEA. This one isn’t free, but it’s London’s oldest botanic garden. Founded in 1673 so apothecaries could study medicinal plants, it’s now a world-renowned centre of botany and plant exchange with 5,000 different living plants in the collection.
- SEXBY GARDEN, PECKHAM RYE. With long benches in each corner, a pergola crawling with wisteria and roses, the mesmerising song of a fountain and lavender-scented air, Sexby Garden has been called a place for dreamers and poets.
- THE PHOENIX GARDEN, COVENT GARDEN. The site of a 12th century leper hospital turned WWII bomb site turned car park is now host to a pocket of serenity in central London. Find quiet corners, buzzing bees, pear trees, field poppies, clumps of dripping wisteria and a pond home for local frogs.
- RED CROSS GARDEN, SOUTHWARK. Replacing a derelict paper factory and hop warehouse, the Red Cross Garden was London’s first “pocket park” for local residents. Under the gaze of the towering Shard, colourful flowerbeds surround a pond with a bridge and fountain.
- FULHAM PALACE WALLED GARDEN, FULHAM. Encircled by high brick walls, the historic garden behind Fulham Palace is home to bee hives, lovingly tended fruit trees including an apple orchard, twisted vines of wisteria, a kitchen garden and flower beds with plants that reflect the palace’s horticultural history.
- ELTHAM PALACE GARDENS, GREENWICH. 19 acres surround the Art Deco style Eltham Palace. Cross a bridge built in 1390, explore rock gardens with pools and cascades that run into a moat and stop to smell the roses in the sunken garden.
- WILDLIFE GARDEN, NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, SOUTH KENSINGTON. From velvet shank fungi to foxes to crawling centipedes to chattering goldfinches, the wildlife garden on the grounds of the Natural History Museum is home to more than 3,300 species of British flora and fauna.
- YORK HOUSE GARDENS, TWICKENHAM. These 17th century gardens feature a larger-than-life sea nymph statuary “The Oceanides” surrounding a fountain, a pristine sunken lawn and peaceful Japanese Garden. (Nearby Eel Pie Island is also worth a visit.)
- CAMLEY STREET NATURAL PARK, KING’S CROSS. Once a coal drop site for local railways, Camley Street’s woodland, grassland and marshy wetland habitats form the layout of a now family-friendly urban nature reserve where wildlife thrives.