Saturday, 30 April 2011

The End of Spring at Fenton House

Of course, officially, spring is just a little more than a month old, but for me it is almost over, already fading into early summer. I think that spring begins with the first snowdrops and crocuses, and ends when the bluebells have gone.

At Fenton House, the spring meadow in the orchard has peaked now. There are forget-me-nots and yarrow, the grass is longer, the garden is looking wilder. Bluebells are flowering, too; they will still be here for a few more days.

Fenton House
Fenton House, seen from under the wisteria canopy - 28 April 2011

The Orchard Garden at Fenton House
Fading cherry blossoms in the orchard - 28 April 2011

Bluebells in the Garden at Fenton House
Bluebells in the orchard garden - 28 April 2011

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Secret Garden in Regent's Park

The Garden of St John's Lodge, Regent's Park
Every once in a while it happens that there's a place you've visited many times, thinking you know it well, and then you realise that there's something you've missed all along; that there's more waiting to be discovered.
I'm sure every Londoner has experienced this before. This city just loves surprises like this, doesn't it?

And so London surprised me with the Garden of St John's Lodge in Regent's Park. It's also known as The Secret Garden, rightly so, I guess; I'd been to Regent's Park many times before, and never knew this garden was there until recently, when I read more about the history of the park.

A short history of Regent's Park and St John's Lodge:

When John Nash designed Regent's Park in 1811, he envisioned a residential development with a summer palace for the Prince Regent and several villas for his friends. Much of this scheme was abandoned, the palace was never built and only eight of the 56 planned villas were completed. Two of these original villas remain today–St John's Lodge and The Holme.

St John's Lodge was completed in 1819. It was in private hands until 1916, when it was used as a hospital; later it was used by the London University. It is a private residence again today, belonging to the Sultan of Brunei.

The Garden of St John's Lodge, Regent's Park
About the garden:

The grounds of St John's Lodge had an informal layout until the 3rd Marquess of Bute purchased the lease in 1888. Lord Bute commissioned Robert Weir Schultz to design a new garden 'fit for meditation'.

Weir Schultz landscaped the garden by arranging shaped spaces on the axis of the villa; he created a sunken lawn which extended from the villa's forecourt to a circular garden, with an oval tennis lawn beyond. These gardens were connected by a stone loggia, while a nymphaeum stood at the end of the oval garden.

This is still very much the layout of the garden, which became public in 1928, today; some features, such as the stona loggia and the nymphaeum were lost during a recline between the wars in the last century. A statue of St John the Baptist, the central point of the circular garden, was also lost and was replaced by the statue of Hylas and the Nymph.

As you enter the garden from the entrance off the Inner Circle, there's a pergola walk leading to the large circular garden, which has a pond with the statue of Hylas and the Nymph in the middle; to the left, there's the sunken lawn with St John's Lodge beyond, while to the right, there's an arbor through which you enter the secluded oval garden. The arbor replaces the stone loggia.
At the end of the oval garden, there's a covered seat where the nymphaeum once stood, forming the focal point to the axis of the villa. There's another smaller circular garden, with a circle of lime trees around a stone urn, and a gravel path, linking this smaller garden to another statue, the Shepherdess, off the larger circular garden.

Visiting the garden:

The Garden of St John's Lodge is open daily, during the opening times of Regent's Park.
The garden is located off the Inner Circle, near its junction with Chester Road; the Park Office is nearby.

Links to other websites:

Photos of the Garden of St John's Lodge:

The Garden of St John's Lodge, Regent's Park
Borders in the circular garden - 27 April 2011

The Garden of St John's Lodge, Regent's Park
Dog roses in the circular garden - 27 April 2011

White Wisteria in the Garden of St John's Lodge, Regent's Park
White wisteria, with St John's Lodge in the background - 27 April 2011

The Garden of St John's Lodge, Regent's Park
The stone urn and lime tree circle in the smaller garden - 27 April 2011

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Spring Colours at the Pergola and Golders Hill Park

In the last few weeks, London has burst into bloom. Some very brightly coloured flowers have made their appearance, such as these tulips and azaleas at the Pergola and Hill Garden and Golders Hill Park.

Tulips at the Pergola
Tulips at the entrance to the Pergola - 20 April 2011

Golders Hill Park
Bright colours in the flower garden at Golders Hill Park - 20 April 2011

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Go Down to Kew in Lilac-Time

The Lilac Collection at Kew Gardens
The Lilac Garden at Kew Gardens - 19 April 2011

It's lilac-time! The lilacs are blooming all over London; spring has gotten much sweeter.
If you love their pretty hues of purple and their lovely sweet scent, too, follow this advice:

Go down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac time, in lilac-time;
Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn't far from London!)
And you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer's wonderland;
Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn't far from London!)

So wrote Alfred Noyes in his poem "The Barrel-Organ", praising the spring-blooming trees in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

And it really is summer's wonderland–Kew must be one of the loveliest places there are in London at the moment.

When visiting the Lilac Garden, you may think that little has changed since Edwardian times, when this poem was written. However, while there have been lilacs at Kew for a long time, the Lilac Garden that we enjoy today actually is a fairly recent creation–you can read more about it on Kew Gardens' website.

Lilac at Kew Gardens
Syringa vulgaris 'Tadeusz Kosciuszko'

Lilac at Kew Gardens
Syringa X hyacinthiflora 'Pink Cloud'

Lilac at Kew Gardens
Syringa X hyacinthiflora 'Esther Staley'

Lilac at Kew Gardens
Syringa vulgaris 'Souvenir d'Alice Harding'

Lilac at Kew Gardens
Syringa vulgaris 'Hugo Koster'

There are more pictures of the lilacs at Kew Gardens (as well as some other photos) in my Flickr set Kew Gardens 19/04/2011.

Morning Sun

Early Morning on Hampstead Heath
An early morning on Hampstead Heath - 19 April 2011

View from Richmond Hill
The view from Richmond Hill - 19 April 2011

I've been getting up early to visit places and take photos. The morning sun makes a great light, and I like it when there aren't many people around yet (usually I prefer not to have people in my pictures).
A great thing about starting the day early is, you get a lot of things done! This morning, I was at Hampstead Heath at 7am, at Richmond Hill one hour later, and at Kew Gardens at 9:30am. (That's all the important things, obviously.)

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Pergola in Spring

The Pergola in Spring
Japanese quince blossoms at the Pergola - 10 April 2011

The Pergola in Hampstead Heath is often described as one of London's best kept secrets. Taking a walk there certainly always feels a bit like exploring a secret, hidden place; even more so in the summer months, I find. When the Pergola is covered with flowering climbing plants, there is so much to look at and admire.

It won't be very long now and the wisteria will be in bloom, followed by the roses later on. The clematis is already blooming, and there are also these little red blossoms, pictured above; I think this is Japanese quince.

The tulips shown below were blooming in March. I like them a lot; they're one of the first colourful signs of spring at the Pergola every year (and I think they look quite curious!).

Tulips at the Pergola
Tulips at the Pergola - 23 March 2011

Tulips at the Pergola
Tulips - 23 March 2011

Golders Hill Park

Golders Hill Park
Golders Hill Park is a relatively small, formal park in Golders Green, adjoining West Heath. It's managed by the City of London Corporation as part of Hampstead Heath.

There once was a house with the name Golders Hill on this site; its grounds were converted into a public park in 1898. The house was destroyed during World War II in 1940.

Today, Golders Hill Park features a formal flower garden with a fountain and a pergola, a duck pond, an orchard meadow, and a water garden.
There are also a deer enclosure, a small zoo and a butterfly house, as well as a playground, a putting green, and tennis courts. A cafe stands on the site of the old house.

These features make Golders Hill a much-loved family park. Another big attraction is its large main lawn, which is great for picnics. There is a bandstand, too, where music is played on summer Sunday afternoons.

How to get there:

The park has several entrances. There are gates close to Golders Green station on the Northern Line, and the busses numbers 210 and 268 stop outside the north-eastern entrance, where the cafe is.
You can also reach Golders Hill Park from West Heath, there are more gates off Sandy Road; the Hill Garden and Pergola is nearby, too.

For more details, see this map of Hampstead Heath (PDF).

Golders Hill Park closes at night, and opens again at 7:30am. The opening times can be found on the City of London Corporation's website.

Links to other websites:

Photos of Golders Hill Park:

Golders Hill Park
Boy with fish fountain in the flower garden - 24 June 2010

Golders Hill Park
The orchard meadow in summer - 24 June 2010

There are more pictures in my Flickr set of Golders Hill Park.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

London's Cat Statues

Whittington's Cat
Dick Whittington's Cat

Once upon a time... Dick Whittington, a poor country boy, came to London with his cat, seeking fortune. On Highgate Hill, he lost heart and turned to go home. Then he heard the Bow Bells ring out: 'Turn Again Whittington! Thrice Lord Mayor of London!' And so he followed their call.

Today, there's a memorial to Whittington and his cat at the bottom of Highgate Hill, where he heard the bells. While the real Dick Whittington indeed was Lord Mayor of London in 1397, 1406 and 1419, we don't know if he actually had a cat...

Hodge, 'a very fine cat indeed'

Hodge was Dr Samuel Johnson's (1709 – 1784) cat. His statue is in the courtyard outside Dr Johnson's House at 17 Gough Square, City of London. It shows him sitting atop a copy of his master's famous dictionary, with a couple of empty oyster shells next to him; he's looking towards his master's house.

According to Dr Johnson, Hodge was 'a very fine cat indeed'. This is how he is described in a passage in James Boswell's Life of Johnson–if you want to read more, Hodge has got his own Wikipedia page, too.

Dr Salter's Cat
Dr Salter's Cat

Dr Salter's Cat–actually, his daughter's cat–is sitting on top of the Thames Wall in Bermondsey. The little girl is leaning against the wall, and her father is sitting on a bench nearby, waving at her. These three sculptures are Dr Salter's Daydream, created by Diane Gorvin.

Alfred Salter (1873 – 1945) was a local doctor and philanthropist. His beloved daughter Joyce died young, at the age of nine, of scarlet fever. The Daydream shows the doctor in old age, remembering happier times.

Cat statue in Queen Square, Bloomsbury

Sam is at home in Queen Square, Bloomsbury. Little is known about Sam; his sculpture was unveiled in 1997, in in honour of Patricia Penn (1914 – 1992), a local resident who had been very active in the area.

You can find Sam in the south-western corner of the square.

The Heal's Cat
The Heal's Cat

The Heal's Cat is watching over the grand staircase at Heal's department store on Tottenham Court Road.

This bronze cat sculpture was made by the French sculptor Chassagne. Sir Ambrose Heal, the owner of Heal's at that time, bought it in 1925, planning to sell it in the store; he liked it so much that this never happened.

About this article, and mapping London's cats:

I'm friends with some of London's pub cats. I created this Google map, London Cat Map, about a year ago, and started adding their homes to it. Then I thought, the immortalised predecessors of my furry friends should be on the map, too; I had already visited their statues on my ramblings around London, except for Dr Salter's Cat.

Earlier this week, I went to see that one, too, and took the last pictures that I needed for this post. I'd been planning for a little while to pay these lovely cats tribute by showing some nice portrait photos of them.

I think that although the Heal's Cat isn't the same kind of sculpture as the others, he's settled in well. On the other hand, I've decided not to include the Black Cats of the old Carreras Cigarette Factory (now the Greater London House), or the Catford Cat–they're cool, but they don't tell the same kind of story. And let's not start with those big cats, such as the Trafalgar Square Lions or the Southbank Lion, this would be a bit out of proportion. However, there's also Kaspar and his story... maybe another time.

If you do know any other cats that should be added to the London Cat Map, please feel free to add them. That is those feline friends that are at home in pubs or shops, for example, that we can all visit and say hello to. Or, rather...


Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Orchard Garden at Fenton House in April

The garden at Fenton House has became a favourite haunt of mine. It's lovely at this time of year, probably one of the best places to see spring flowers in London.

It's been a few weeks since my last visit, and the spring meadow in the orchard has changed again. The early spring flowers have come and gone; now there are forget-me-nots, white narcissi, and fritillaries. The fruit trees have started to bloom.

The Orchard Garden at Fenton House in Spring
The orchard at Fenton House in spring - 10 April 2011

Primrose in the Orchard Garden at Fenton House
A yellow primrose growing in a tree - 10 April 2011

Apple Blossom in the Orchard Garden at Fenton House
Apple blossoms - 10 April 2011

The Orchard Garden at Fenton House in Spring
Daffodils and forget-me-nots in the orchard garden - 10 April 2011

There are more photos of the garden at Fenton House in my Flickr set.

A Hampstead Heath Sunrise

Hampstead Heath at Dawn
Pryors Fields, Hampstead Heath, at dawn - 10 April 2011

Sunrise seen from Parliament Hill
The sunrise seen from Parliament Hill - 10 April 2011

I woke up early this morning and walked over to Parliament Hill to watch the sunrise from there. It was a lovely dawn, such beautiful colours!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Spring Flowers on Hampstead Heath

Cowslips on Hampstead Heath
Cowslips on Parliament Hill Fields - 9 April 2011

I took an early morning stroll around Hampstead Heath today, and found these lovely spring flowers on Parliament Hill Fields and in the woodland near the Sports Ground. (You can download a map of Hampstead Heath from the City of London Corporation's website if you need some help locating these spots.)

The Guardian has an article online today about the power of spring flowers, I just recommend reading this and won't say any more, but let my pictures here speak as well!

Bluebells on Hampstead Heath
Bluebells near the Sports Ground - 9 April 2011

Forget-me-nots on Hampstead Heath
Forget-me-nots near the Sports Ground - 9 April 2011

Friday, 8 April 2011

Red House in Spring

Another lovely day today, and Red House was looking great in the spring sunshine this morning.

Red House seen from the Garden
Red House seen from the garden - 8 April 2011

Daffodils at Red House
Daffodils in the garden at Red House - 8 April 2011

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Spring Has Come to Cannizaro Park

I went to Cannizaro Park early today to take pictures in the morning sunlight, and it was very lovely, I hope the photos have captured this.

The season is changing from early spring to the first warm days of spring, and the park is looking greener and lusher now. The last of the daffodils are in bloom, while the first bluebells have already opened. The Sunken Garden is beginning to look rather colourful, too.

Snake's Head Fritillaries in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon
Snake's head fritillaries in the Keir Garden - 7 April 2011

Daffodils in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon
Daffodils in the early morning sun - 7 April 2011

Bluebells and Daffodils in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon
Bluebells and daffodils in the Birch Grove - 7 April 2011

Tulps in the Sunken Garden in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon
Tulips in the Sunken Garden - 7 April 2011

The Sunken Garden in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon
Flowers in the Sunken Garden - 7 April 2011

Daffodils in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon
Daffodils on the Main Lawn - 7 April 2011

Daffodils in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon
Daffodils at the entrance to the Dutch Garden - 7 April 2011

There are many more photos in this Flickr set: Cannizaro Park 07/04/2011

Friday, 1 April 2011

Where to See Bluebells in London

Kew Gardens
Bluebells at Kew Gardens - 27 April 2010

Now it's April, and bluebell season will soon be here. This is probably the most beautiful time of the year in London's parks and gardens, too, when the weather is warming up, and the trees are greening and the flowers are blooming.

You won't need to leave London to see bluebells, they grow in many parks and gardens around the capital. Watch out for them in shady places under trees in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, or Hampstead Heath, or Highgate Wood.

For a magnificent display of bluebells, visit Kew Gardens, where they carpet the woodland floor in the Conservation Area. You will find them in other parts of the gardens, too; the ones pictured above were growing amongst the trees near the Azalea Garden last year.

Ancient bluebell woodlands can be found in Oxleas Woods, south-east London. Oxleas Woods is one of the parks along the Green Chain Walk, which also makes for a great day out on a sunny spring day.

Osterley Park is another place to see the blue flowers--there'll be a guided bluebell walk on Sunday, 1 May 2011; see here for more details--and there's a little bluebell wood in Holland Park, too.

In the middle of London, Gordon Square features a lovely little display of bluebells. There's an information board in the garden which tells you more about the flowers growing there.

On my own list of new places to visit this year is the Bluebell Walk in the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park (I've been to the park, but not yet to the plantation).

Bluebell season normally lasts from about mid-April until mid-May. I already spotted my first bluebells yesterday; it won't be long now!

Links to other websites:

Update 12 April 2011

Here are some new pictures of bluebells I've already spotted this year:

Bluebells in Gordon Square
The first bluebells in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury - 2 April 2011

Bluebells on Hampstead Heath
Native bluebells on Hampstead Heath - 10 April 2011

Bluebells in Holland Park
Bluebells in the arboretum at Holland Park - 12 April 2011

Update 8 April 2017

When I wrote this post, I didn't know yet about Wanstead Park. There is a bluebell wood there, and it is the best in London!