London’s a terrific city in so many ways; not least when it comes to finding a glorious, green park in which to unwind for an hour or two. However, there is a drawback to every one of these public spaces – they’re very *public*. That is, none of them are necessarily very quiet, tranquil or suited to a romantic moment. So, if you’re in town and loved-up with your loved one, where to head for a stolen moment…?
Chelsea Physic Garden
(66 Hospital Road SW3 4HS)
Don’t let its lofty-sounding scientific origins (and, to this day, scientific-related use) give you the wrong impression and put you off; this botanical garden – the second oldest in the entire country; not surprising, in fact, as it dates all the way back to 1673 – it’s a true haven of elegant, slightly off-kilter natural beauty. Indeed, it’s actually something of a fave hang-out of Chelsea ’slebs (making it, yes, the perfect place for a few moment’s repose when visiting the capital and staying at the likes of the San Domenico House hotel London); featuring, as it does, in excess of 500 separate plant and herb types, many of them either rare or endangered. Top tip: the place’s Tangerine Dream café’s a must for tea and cake when you’re done in the garden itself.
St John’s Lodge
(Regent’s Park NW1 4NR)
Let’s face it, although Regent’s Park really is something else when it comes to entertaining the kids on a day when the weather’s playing ball (not least because it’s such a great location for, yes, ball games, biking, paddling in pedalos and so on), it’s hopelessly busy during school summer holidays, at weekends and, well, the times and days of the year when visiting London is so popular and fashionable. So, what’s the solution if you want something a little more relaxing? Leave the environs of Regent’s Park? No; far from it – instead, seek out the garden attached to St John’s Lodge. All right, fair dos, you can’t actually go in there (it’s owned by the Sultan of Brunei, so unsurprisingly private property!), but you and yours can at least take a moment to gaze on the beautiful little spot for a brief moment or two and see how the other half relaxes!
(21 Stacey Street WC2H 8EG)
A truly central park in Central London, the wondrously hidden-away Phoenix Garden (to be found tucked behind the junction where Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue meet right in the very middle of things) is quite extraordinary in that it’s quite so secluded once you happen upon it and step inside. And perhaps even more extraordinary is the fact that it was once upon a time a Second World War bombsite, before being converted into a mid-20th -Century car park (yes, really). Now, sure; given that colourful if downbeat history, it may not exactly be as pretty on the eye as the better known and nearby Soho Square or Golden Square but less well known than either of them, as it is, it’s more likely to guarantee you some peace and quiet and maybe much needed ‘me time’ amidst all the hurly-burly bustle of the West End around you.
(Holland Park, Ilchester Place W8 6LU)
Unlike the previous recommendation, if a true oasis of beauty and tranquillity is what you’re after, then it really has to be Holland Park’s Japanese-themed Kyoto Gardens. One of the best kept secrets of this unequivocally elegant district of West London, it’s utterly ideal if you and your special someone are in town enjoying one of those romantic hotel deals London, given it features everything from exquisite ponds brimming with carp to a waterfall and hundreds and hundreds of Japanese-style trees. So special is it, in fact, you may just never want to leave…