London’s best secret gardens
London’s major parks are just a part of the story when it comes to London’s green spaces. Tucked away in hidden corners of the city are pocket-sized secret gardens which provide a blissful retreat from the non-stop buzz of city life. These are just a few of our favourites.
Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola
Hampstead has more than its fair share of secret gardens. The Hill Garden and Pergola in Hampstead, created for the soap baron Lord Leverhulme at the turn of the 20th century, tops the list. Hard to believe today, but the garden was made from soil dug up during the extension of the Northern Line to Hampstead! Today the atmosphere is of exquisite faded grandeur but the garden was once used as a setting for extravagant Edwardian garden parties.
The Pergola Walk is at its best in late Spring when its paths and romantic pillars are draped with wisteria and flowering plants, but the garden is atmospheric at any time of the year. Check the City of London website for full details and opening times.
Inverforth Close, North End Way, Hampstead Heath, London NW3 7EX.
Golders Hill Park
Golders Hill Park has been a firm favourite with north London families for decades. The kids will love its animal enclosures, playgrounds, all-weather table tennis tables and fabulous café. The park also has a planted walled garden and butterfly house.
Don’t miss the relatively undiscovered water garden and Stumpery. This magical mini woodland area features sculptural tree stumps, ferns and mosses that provide a natural habitat for birds, hedgehogs and squirrels.
Check the City of London website for full details and opening times.
This handsome 17th-century house is tucked away in one of the prettiest parts of Hampstead, overlooking a charming 1.5 acre classically British walled garden. There are three principal planting areas. The first area comprises a formal lawn, surrounded by clipped yew and box hedging, and with herbaceous borders that spill over with clouds of lavender, peonies and geraniums. The second area is a sunken rose garden which provides the perfect place to sit and breathe in the scent of the garden. Beyond this, there is a 300- year-old apple orchard and vegetable garden, with a bee colony that produces honey that is available to buy.
Get the best view of the garden from the house where there is also a great collection of porcelain and a superb display of early keyboard instruments that are all still in working order. More information from the National Trust website.
Fenton House, Hampstead
St John’s Lodge, Regent’s Park
Regent’s Park is one of London’s great green spaces, complete with ornamental flower beds, a rose garden, boating lake and restaurants. It even has an open-air theatre. Avoid the crowds and head north on the Inner Circle to the hidden entrance to St John’s Lodge Garden, close to Chester Gate and Queen Mary’s rose garden.
While the Lodge itself is a private residence, the tranquil gardens are open to the public. Walk through the arched pergola tunnel into a series of green-lawned ‘rooms’ separated by sculpture and stonework. In the Springtime, white wisteria wafts in the breeze and flower beds bloom with dazzling displays of lupins, allium, tulips and hostas. More information from St. John’s Lodge.
St John’s Lodge Garden, The Regent’s Park, London NW1 4NR.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Established in 1673, London’s oldest botanical garden contains around 5,000 edible, medicinal and historic plants. The Thames-side walled garden was chosen for its microclimate and to allow the Apothecaries to moor their barge and collect plants locally. Glasshouses contain collections of tropical, sub-tropical and Mediterranean species, with sections on oncology, dermatology, cardiology and psychiatry. Other highlights include the snowdrop season at the end of January. For more information, visit the Chelsea Physic Garden’s website.
Kensington Roof Gardens
Pop up to the iconic 1.5 acre Kensington Roof Gardens to wander amongst flamingos and a stream stocked with fish. The 1938 garden design was based on Spain’s Alhambra but here, Mediterranean trees sit amongst English plants and flowers.
Installed in the 1930’s in what was Derry and Toms department store, the gardens are free for daytime public visits. Please check opening days before visiting as they are sometimes used as an event venue and closed to the public. Further information from the Roof Gardens. 99 Kensington High Street, W8 5SA.
Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park
Another park within a park, the Isabella Plantation features 40 acres of lawns, streams and ponds within Richmond Park. Enjoy the brilliant display of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias in late Spring. Early in the year, there are daffodils and bluebells, then summer irises and lilies, and Japanese acers in the autumn.
Richmond Park is the largest of the capital’s eight Royal Parks, home to herds of Red and Fallow deer. For more information, visit the Royal Parks website.
Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park, London KT2 7NA.
Kyoto Garden, Holland Park
Get a flavour of the east at this park within a park. Holland Park’s Kyoto Garden, donated by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991, is one of London’s most impressive Japanese gardens. Stroll past tiered calm-inducing waterfalls, gigantic koi carp and peacocks. Visit in autumn when the flame-coloured Japanese acers are at their most vibrant. Get more information on Holland Park and the Kyoto Gardens here.