I have been to London a lot. I have lived in London. I love London. However, it took me a long time to realize the beauty and the greatness of one of the most famous sites in the city: Hyde Park. I know, weird isn’t it? It’s one of the most famous sites in the whole of Europe. Mention Speakers Corner and anyone who read English at school remembers it as something your teacher talked about. Either, you were the kid who knew exactly how it looked and where it was because you’d been during holidays. Or, you were like me, the kid who’d never been to London and therefore never seen Speakers Corner. You might have felt as left out as I did. Or not. Either way I’m sure you have some sort of connection with Hyde Park.
The Rose Garden, a fairly contemporary addition from 1994, is one of my favourite spots in Hyde Park. If you haven’t been yet, go! I know, the Serpentine and all that touristy stuff is much more interesting if you have only a couple of days in London. I would still recommend an hour or so in the Rose Garden. Not that you need as much time as that. A quarter of an hour, if that, is enough to see it all. But since it’s one of the more cleverly designed areas (the design was made by Colvin & Moggridge Landscape Architects) with hidden away benches in nooks and a lovely private feeling to certain areas, it is a great place to just sit with a coffee and a newspaper, hidden away like you rarely can be in central London. It’s just heaven. If you’re lucky to be there in late June you will see most of the roses in full bloom and the scent can be so overwhelming that you might have to sit a bit farther away. The Rose Garden is situated in the south eastern corner, just five minutes from the bus and Tube stop Hyde Park Corner or a ten minute walk from the busy shopping streets in Knightsbridge. So as you can see, there’s no reason to miss it when you’re in London.
Something else I realized when I was in Hyde Park a couple of weeks ago was how beautifully the evening sun falls in the summer. It almost looks like a countryside meadow with it’s unmowed wildness and beauty. Dandelion fight with cow parsley and buttercup for space.
For me it has always been a park to go to in a lunch break or in the afternoon on my way to a hotel. Never have I needed to go through it in early evening. After having done so the other day though, I have now decided that never have I seen it so beautiful. Hyde Park really is a place of urban beauty that has got so much more to offer than the touristy attractions we read about in guide books. Because of that I have intentionally left out all the things Hyde Park is famous for. I could write thousands of words on it. Like having hosted The Great Exhibition in 1851, showing off Joseph Paxtons’ Crystal Palace. Like Princess Diana’s Memorial which, to me, is a monstrosity of oval stone and water that should have been placed somewhere else. Like the touching memorial to the 7/7 London bomb victims which in its design reminds me a bit too much of the Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas in Berlin to be fully original. Like Speakers Corner.
After some reading the other day I also realized that one of the original designs of the park was drawn up by Charles Bridgeman, the landscape architect who did the design for the early formal garden at Kedleston Hall. The park that was torn up to make way for Adam and his new design in the 1760s. Who knows, maybe Mr. Bridgeman is worthy of his own blog entry one day. If his name keeps showing up I guess it’s a sign of sorts. And after all, the Serpentine in Hyde Park was his idea.
So with Charles Bridgemans’ legacy in mind and a love to beautiful rose gardens I plead to you: forget the tourist attractions of Knightsbridge, instead dive in to the urban paradise that is Hyde Park. Especially its Rose Garden is worth a visit. You won’t regret it.