When you think of London’s parks you might think of the more famous ones such as Hyde Park or Regent’s Park or Richmond Park, but there are many other green spaces in the capital to discover. Over the years on my blog I’ve explored the well-known Royal Parks, but also some of the other parks that you need to go slightly outside central London to find. So from Battersea Park and Brockwell Park to Holland Park and Hampton Court Park, here are six of London’s parks to enjoy.
The first park I’m going to explore is Battersea Park, which I discovered back in 2017 on my walk from Clapham Common to The Albert Bridge. For me Battersea Park is one of my go-to places to walk to and I regularly enjoy going through it on my favourite walk from Clapham to Kew. It has a certain charm and elegance about it, none of the glitz and glamour of central London parks that attract tourists. When you walk around the park it’s quite spacious and you haven’t got that crowded feeling you get with parks like Hyde Park.
Even though it’s only a shortish walk from Victoria, you do feel like it’s still miles away from the hustle and bustle of London, but in fact it’s much closer than you think. The park’s view of Battersea Power Station adds something special to the visit, as does the beautiful ponds and acres of glorious green space. It’s always a joy walking in it and a definitely the ideal destination in South London.
The park’s existence dates back to 1843 when property developer Thomas Cubitt and the local vicar, the Honourable Reverend Robert Eden, reported to Queen Victoria’s Commission on improving the Metropolis. In 1846 an Act of Parliament was passed which gave to the authorisation of a formation of a park on part of Battersea Common and Battersea Fields.
A year before in 1845 architect James Pennethorne produced a preliminary layout of the park, but it wasn’t until 1854 when the main developments of the park took place. The park was formally opened to the public by Queen Victoria in 1858.
The park was used during the First World War with allotments being laid out in it, an anti-aircraft station set up on the croquet field and a clothing depot installed on one of the cricket fields. The park was also used during the Second World War for an allotment, a piggery, an experimental radio station and the running track becoming an anti-aircraft gun site. Today, the 200 acre (80 hectares) park is managed by Wandsworth Council.
Near the northern side of the park sits the Festival Gardens that were designed by Russell Page. In 1951 they were transformed into the ‘Pleasure Gardens’ as part of the Festival of Britain which celebrated the British industry, arts and science to promote the feeling of recovery after the World War. The event was intended to be a one-off year exhibition, but the fun fair remained there as a permanent attraction until it closed in 1974.
At the end of Festival Gardens you find the distinctive and rather amazing structure of the Peace Pagoda.
The construction of the Peace Pagoda actually relates to the unlikely town of Milton Keynes in the UK. Back in 1978, the Reverend Gyoro Nagase arrived in England from Japan to assist with the construction of the first Peace Pagoda in the UK in Milton Keynes. Now you might think, it’s very random for a famous Japanese religious monument to be in Milton Keynes, but there is logic behind it! Back in the seventies when the new town of Milton Keynes was being developed, one of the planning advisers had visited Sri Lanka where he saw a Peace Pagoda. It was proposed to the Milton Keynes Development Corporation who loved the idea, and it remains there today.
In 1984, Reverend Gyoro Nagase moved to London to assist with 50 volunteers and Buddhist monks and nuns of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order to construct the Peace Pagoda in the park, and its amazing structure was completed in 1985.
Right at the end of the park you’ll find the impressive Albert Bridge! If you’d like to know more about it, take a look at one of my previous Wlogger Guides where I looked at the Bridges of London.
My walk around South London in 2019 began at The Oval Cricket Ground and concluded in the next park on my list, Brockwell Park.
Located south of Brixton in Herne Hill and Tulse Hill, Brockwell Park is 126 acres (50.8 hectares) of picturesque parkland. The Grade II listed Brockwell Hall was built between 1811 and 1813 and was owned by glass merchant John Blades. In March 1891, the land and house were acquired by the London County Council and it was opened to the public in June of that year. It was that man again, Lieutenant Colonel J.J. Sexby who designed the conversion of the estate into a public park.
The London County Council acquired a further 43 acres (17 hectares) of the land north of the original park and in the 1920s 13 cricket pitches were present, which attracted crowds of up to 1,500 spectators. As like many of the parks in London during both the First World War and Second World War, Brockwell Park had its role to play. In the First World War it was used for grazing large flocks of sheep, while in the Second World War sites of the Park were used for wartime food production in the form of ‘Pig Clubs’.
It’s safe to say whatever your needs, Brockwell Park will be able to cater for them! It has all kinds of facilities and features, including a football pitch, tennis courts, a BMX track, basketball court, cricket nets, a paddling pool, a café in the old Brockwell Hall, duck ponds and stunning views.
There aren’t too many parks I’ve visited on my walks where every corner of it provides a new surprise or something to see. You could spend all day enjoying the vast range of activities within the park, or just strolling around it, whether that’s the pond or the walled gardens. Some of the views do resemble that of a countryside, but you then get a lovely reminder you’re near the centre of London with the stunning view of the capital.
Brockwell Park has its own wonderful walled garden. This pretty area includes a wide variety of flowers, trees and plants, as well as some cute features like a pond and many benches and huts. As you need to go through gates to access the garden, it’s nicely cut off from the main park, so you’re in a kind of secret garden with many little treasures in a relaxing setting.
A really cool little feature outside the park were these sweet cottages!
I was just heading to the exit of Brockwell Park before I noticed this amazing miniature railway track! The 7 1/4” gauge miniature railway operates on Sundays between March and October and was built by Roland Baker in the Spring of 2003. The railway runs for 220 metres (240 yards) between Herne Hill Gates and the Brockwell Lido, with all ages able to ride on it. The current railway is very similar to a former railway that ran in the Park between 1951 and 1961. This is one of many reasons I love walking around London, as you discover such hidden gems just like this that you’d never normally see!
One of East London’s most wonderful places to explore is Victoria Park, which I discovered on my walk back in 2017 from Mile End Park to London Fields. When I did this walk it was the first time I visited Victoria Park and you are blown away by firstly how big it is, but also just how varied it is. With lakes, a pagoda, playing fields and flower beds, you’re in for a treat when you visit it.
Opened in 1845, Victoria Park is located in the East of London bordering Bethnal Green, South Hackney, and Cambridge Heath. The park has 212 acres (86.18 hectares) of open space with a riverside cafe and many marvellous lakes.
Back in 1839, the Annual Report of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages noted that the East End of London had a higher mortality rate than the rest of the city due to overcrowding, insanitary conditions, and polluted air. One way to reduce the amount of deaths and extend people’s lives was to create a park. Over 30,000 residents signed a petition, and in 1841 London’s first public park to be built specifically for people had begun! Hence, Victoria Park is also known as the ‘People’s Park’.
The Government bought land that had formally been used for market gardens, grazing, and gravel digging. The man behind the design for Victoria Park was James Pennethorne who was an architect to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests.
A boating lake with three islands was also created with The Chinese Pagoda sitting within one of these. The Pagoda was originally the entrance at Hyde Park Corner to the Chinese Exhibition between 1842 and 1843, however, this summerhouse later moved to its current position in Victoria Park.
One of the distinct monuments within the park is that of the Burdett-Coutts Memorial Drinking-Fountain, which was designed by H.A. Darbishire and has been in the park since 1862.
The fountain – made from pink marble, granite, and stone – has a distinctive cupola, ornamental slate roof, four clock-faces, Gothic arches, and inscriptions.
It was gift by wealthy philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts to the people who visited Victoria Park and gave residents clean drinking water too.
In 1872 the park was extended on land that was originally going to be used for residential developments. A well-loved and valuable institution to the people in London, especially those in the East, the park has Grade II listed status. In 2011 the park had major restorations and improvements done to it with £12m being spent by Tower Hamlets Council, and I think it’s well worth it!
Outside the park you can join the picturesque Regent’s Canal!
One of London’s parks which oozes class, sophistication and affluence is located in the borough of Kensington & Chelsea – and that’s Holland Park – which I explored back in 2017. Like with the parks in South and East London, this West London gem combines rustic woodlands, charming gardens and architecture with playing fields. The park opened to public in 1952 and is 54 acres (22 hectares) of splendour.
The park used to be part of Holland House, a Jacobean mansion which was built between 1605 and 1608 for Sir Walter Cope. It was named after its second owner, the Earl of Holland, and during the 19th Century it became a hub for political and literacy activity. Over the years the building was altered, but in 1940 it was gutted by a fire as a result of a bomb during the Second World War. The houses last private owner was the 6th Earl of Ilchester, until in 1952 it was bought by the London County Council.
Within the park sits a statue of English politician Lord Holland which was erected in 1926, and was the work of Victorian painter-sculptor, G.F. Watts, with help from J.E. Boeham.
A statue donated by ‘The Friends of Holland Park’ in 1986 also sits within the gardens.
One of my favourite features within the park is this stunning water fountain – and you can’t beat the sound of trickling water!
Holland Park is also home to the distinctive and pretty Kyoto Garden which you can read more about in my blog post about my 15 Favourite Hidden Gems in London.
Crystal Palace Park
The next park I’m going to look back at is another of South London’s splendid open spaces, Crystal Palace Park, which I discovered back in 2019 on my walk to Dulwich. This tranquil hub of beauty offers its visitors a place to get lost in and also learn about the unique history of the Crystal Palace, it’s association with sport and the quirky dinosaurs that are within it.
Located in South-East London, Crystal Palace Park is a Victorian pleasure ground used for cultural and sporting events.
The park was built by Sir Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace Company between 1852 and 1854. It was created as the magnificent setting for the relocated and enlarged Crystal Palace structure, which had been designed for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.
The area was designed to impress, educate, entertain and inspire, eventually becoming an international attraction with its educational themes for the park covering discovery and invention. The Crystal Palace was a large glass and iron structure that was situated on the Sydenham Ridge and provided stunning views across London with the palace viewable from many location across the city. One of the main aims of the park and palaces creation was to display Victorian grandeur and innovation, and was financed when people paid to visit it.
After the park was officially opened on the 10th June 1854 by Queen Victoria, a number of displays, events and sporting activities were introduced as a way to increase visitor numbers. To coincide with the 1911 Festival of the Empire, the park was transformed with a railway being installed and buildings to represent the Empire which would remain there up until the 1940s.
However, on the 30th November 1936 The Crystal Palace was destroyed in a fire, after musicians waiting to play a concert noticed smoke coming from the floorboards, which reportedly began in the women’s cloakroom and spread to the central transept. The fire quickly spread through the dry wooden boards and the nature of The Crystal Palace – a huge open space with no fire breaks – meant that within a short time the fire was wildly out of control. The flames rose to 800 feet in the air with London sending 61 pumps and 381 firefighters to help tackle the fire. The cause of the fire was never discovered, but theories have included old and faulty wiring as well as a discarded cigarette falling between the floorboards.
It would’ve been amazing to have seen The Crystal Palace in all its stunning glory, as it looked simply magnificent. You can imagine had it been around today, it would’ve attracted the same number of tourists that landmarks such as The London Eye, The Shard, Buckingham Palace and more do. Something our Instagram feeds would be full of!
After the fire the park began a period of decline. There were plans talked about to recreate the palace, although these never materialised. During the Second World War the park became a place for military vehicle dismantling and later a site for bomb damage rubble.
When you enter Crystal Palace Park, one of the first sights you see is its renowned and spectacular National Sports Centre. Opened in 1964, the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre was designed by the LCC Architects Department under Sir Leslie Martin between 1953-1954 and is a Grade II listed building. Over the years the stadium has hosted football, cricket, rugby, basketball, American Football, and even Motor Racing. The main sport to be hosted there today is athletics with a capacity of 15,500, and 24,000 with temporary seating.
The site of the athletics stadium is on the same land as a football ground which hosted the FA Cup Final from 1895 to 1914. The owners of the ground wanted their own football club to play at their own venue, so this led to the formation of Crystal Palace F.C. The South Londoners were forced to leave the stadium in 1915 by the military, and as a result played at the ground they play at today, Selhurst Park. The largest attendance for a domestic match there was between Aston Villa and Sunderland in the 1913 FA Cup Final, when 121,919 spectators went there.
A short walk down a hill from the National Sports Centre, you come to the picturesque lake area with beautiful trees and plants.
One of the most iconic features of the park are the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs which are a collection of over 30 statues created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807-1894) around 1854. The array of statues also includes the first ever attempt anywhere in the world to model dinosaurs as full-scale, three-dimensional active creatures.
The set also includes models of other prehistoric creatures, including plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs discovered by Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, and a South American Megatherium brought back to Britain by Charles Darwin on his voyage on HMS Beagle.
Known as the Dinosaur Court, the models represent 15 genera of extinct animals, not all dinosaurs. They are from a wide range of geological ages, and include dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and plesiosaurs mainly from the Mesozoic era, and some mammals from the more recent Cenozoic era.
The dinosaurs have been listed on the Historic Heritage List of England as Grade 1 monuments which is one of the highest and most important ratings. Many of the dinosaurs you see when you visit the National History Museum, the Oxford Museum of Natural History and other history museums in the UK are based on these specimens.
This was the first time I’d ever been to Crystal Palace Park and thus seen the dinosaurs, and they are incredible statues, and so critical to both the park’s identity as well as what they demonstrate for the world of natural history and science. One thing I’ve also thought is that it was very random having these in a London park, but knowing the story behind them makes sense!
Surrounded by the dinosaurs and as you weave your way around the park, there are some really lovely trees and woods, as well as a lake. Like with many of the parks I’ve explored across London, this one is full of hidden gems and tranquility.
Outside the lake area you stroll through all the prettiness of the park which illustrates what a vast area of marvellous sights it is.
A distinctive part of the park you always see no matter where you stand and which can be seen from many vantage points in the capital is The Crystal Palace Transmitter tower which is a broadcasting and telecommunications station that serves Greater London and the Home Counties. Built in 1956, it’s the 5th tallest structure in London standing at 219 metres (719 ft). In terms of coverage it’s the most important transmitting station in the country, with nearly 12 million people receiving output from it.
Hampton Court Park
I’d say I’ve saved the best till last as for me out of all the parks in London that I’ve explored, Hampton Court Park was my favourite! I discovered this breathtaking place back in 2019 on my walk from Ham House to Hampton Court Bridge.
Managed by the Historic Royal Palaces, Hampton Court Park or sometimes referred to as Home Park, is a walled deer park of around 280 hectares (750 acres) and has been open to the public since 1894. It was documented that Cardinal Thomas Wolsey enclosed 809 hectares (2,000 acres) to form the park as well as Bushy Park in order to reconstruct it into an exceptionally grand house on the former manor house of Hampton. It would form what became before his death Hampton Court Palace, taken over by Henry VIII. The King was an avid hunter and had the park used for breeding rabbits and/or hares, pheasants and partridges.
The park is famous for hosting the annual Hampton Court Flower Show within 25 acres (10 hectares) of the park’s grounds. Organised by the Royal Horticultural Society, the flower show began in 1990.
Walking through Hampton Court Park is rather pleasant and does remind me of my walk around Richmond Park. It’s acres and acres of tranquility where you literally can’t hear anything apart from the birds singing, there’s an eerily silence throughout my walk. The trees all lined up is quite satisfying and the park looks untouched, as if no one has really ever walked through it. If you love your trees, this is the park for you, as it’s full of them. With every turn you come across another vast area of parkland. No park is complete without a pond area and Hampton Court Park offers a splendid one, which provides the perfect photo opportunity with delightful reflections.
Like with Richmond Park’s deers, Hampton Court Park has loads! They’re really majestic creatures and you can get up and close to them, you feel like a wildlife presenter!
One of the most spectacular sights in the park is The Long Water, which flows gently in the park from the back of Hampton Court Palace. This beautiful canal was commissioned by Charles II in preparation for the arrival of his bride, Catherine of Braganza.
I have to say seeing The Long Water was breathtaking and it’s definitely in my top five sights that I’ve seen on my walks. It’s one of many reasons I love doing my walking blog, as I get to enjoy amazing views like this. Had I not been walking around London along the Thames, I might not have been able to see it. The trees delightfully lined up and reflecting in the water only adds to the magnificent splendour of it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a look back at some of the best parks that I’ve written about and taken photos of in the past four years of running this blog. Which park was your favourite? Or do you have another green space you love? Please do let me know in the comments section!
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