Just as important as figuring out where to stay in Chelsea during your stay in the elegant environs of this Central-meets-West London district, is identifying places to go and things to do during your few days of respite here in the UK capital.
Well, one thing you may want to do one lunchtime or afternoon – especially if you have the kids in tow and the weather plays ball – is to venture out into the neighbourhood on your doorstep for a picnic. So, just where’d make a good picnicking spot…?
Kensington Gardens – perfect for Peter Pan and pirate ships
Located just a very short hop on the Tube away from any high-quality accommodation in Kensington London, the Royal Park which shares the salubrious district’s name is rightfully associated with it, to say the least. The ‘Gardens’, bordered at their western end by Kensington Palace (on-and-off home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex), are the epitome of sedate glamour and looks-so-easy-to-achieve elegance. In addition to the imposing Albert Memorial, there’s the contemporary style of the two Serpentine Galleries of modern art and several smaller, oh-so ornate sunken gardens.
However, the big draw of Kensington Gardens – especially as a family-based picnic spot – is the fact it’s ideal for kids. What with its charming ‘Round Pond’ (a favourite for feeding ducks and various other wildfowl) and squirrels scampering all over the place, there’s the rather magical, hidden-away-in-a-corner, bronze statue of Peter Pan and, inspired by all things J M Barrie, the pirate ship- and tepees-themed play area that’s the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground.
Hyde Park – glorious for its grand expanse of green
It’s a mistake to assume that Hyde Park is simply a continuation of Kensington Gardens (or, rather, the latter is a continuation of the larger former); technically, they’re separate parks but, to all intents and purposes, if you’re strolling around Kensington Gardens and feel it’s not quite right for your picnic, then just head east a little way and you may find Hyde Park more your cup of tea.
A particularly prime spot to settle down for an al fresco lunch is beside the peaceful and charming Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain; in addition to, well, all manner of other people-free areas around the large and winding Serpentine Lake, which is often full of waterfowl and punters pedalling away on their hired-by-the-hour pedalos. All that said, weighing in at 350 acres, Hyde Park’s so big that you’ll doubtless find a suitable grassy knoll – perhaps under a shady tree – should it be sunny and warm. If you’re lucky, you may even spy a boldly bright and chirpy parakeet; they’re usually to be found around the Serpentine’s east bank.
Holland Park – handy for hanging out with the Notting Hill Set
Effectively located between Kensington and the equally famous district that’s Notting Hill, Holland Park is the name of a neighbourhood but the moniker originates from an actual park. And, don’t doubt it, the latter may just be one of the capital’s very best kept secrets. Roughly 54 acres in area, the park features a semi-woodland area as its northern section and a southern section that’s usually called on for sports activities, yet the central section – which surrounds the ruins of the Jacobian mansion that’s Holland House – is ideal for picnicking, with all its gloriously coloured, formally laid-out gardens.
And, here too, you’ll chance upon local peacocks, squirrels, a children’s playground, a giant chess set, a restaurant next to an orangery and, best of all, two Japanese-style gardens. The biggest and most impressive of which is the serene and supreme Kyoto Garden, which first opened in 1991 – it’s resplendent with golden koi fish, waterfalls and marvellously manicured trees. Truly, just what more could you ask of a picnic venue?