Thursday, 21 June 2012

Open Garden Squares Weekend 2012

Every year, London's secret (and not so secret) gardens throw open their gates to the public over the course of a weekend.  I've been meaning to go for the past couple of years, but always do that thing where one lives in London but entirely fails to do any of the amazing things routinely offered up by the city.

Anyway, my mum happened to ask when the Open Squares Weekend was this year and I actually got organised, looked it up and booked tickets, hurrah!

Given the somewhat biblical weather we've been having recently, I was expecting it to be rather a washout, but the clouds kept their little raindrops mainly contained for the weekend.

The London Parks and Gardens Trust helpfully sent me a book of all the gardens with our tickets,  so I sat down and made a plan of where to go on each day.  I figured we'd start on Saturday with Kings Cross, as there was a couple of interesting looking gardens around there.  We wandered from the station to Camley Street Natural Park, which was listed as being open on Saturday from 10:00am to 5:00pm, however when we turned up at around 11:45am the gates were firmly shut.  There were chains and a padlock and everything.  This was a bit disappointing, as it looked really nice when peering through the impeneterable gates. 

It wasn't an entirely wasted journey though, as I also wanted to see the Alara Permaculture Forest Garden.  It was a bit of a trek from the station, but well worth seeing.  Had a chat with the guy who runs it - you'd never know it was there, as it's built around commercial buildings on an industrial estate, but he was growing salads, artichokes, goosberry bushes, pear trees and all sorts of other amazingness, including beehives.  If you're a regular reader, you'll know how much I love bees!

I didn't take any pictures of the Alara garden, as I'm still rather a shy photographer and don't feel entirely comfortable brandishing my camera at people. I need to work on this.  People generally don't mind...

We then pottered back to Kings Cross and got on the tube to Portland Square and the Royal College of Physicians Gardens.  On an entirely unrelated note, I never realised how close Regents Park was to Tottenham Court Road.  Anyway, Royal College of Physicians gardens were lovely.  I want to work there and have my lunch in the gardens every day.  In fact I googled jobs there that very evening!  They are not currently looking for secretaries though.  Sadface.

I was playing with the Canon 500D close up filter that I'd got for super-cheap from Ebay, so I've got no sweeping shots of the gardens, just some close ups of the all the interesting medicinal plants they grow in the gardens.

Then, it was a potter down Tottenham Court Road, stopping briefly at DFS for Mum's opinion on the giant and ill-advised swivel chair I was coveting, continuing to Russell Square Gardens.  We had a slight detour via Bedford Square, as I have no sense of direction, but I discovered the awesomeness of the flashing blue Googlemaps dot on my newly acquired iPhone and we eventually arrived.  Russell Square was pretty and we had a bit of a sit down and looked at some super-cute dogs running about the place, but we soon pottered on to the last desination on my Saturday list, which was the Phoenix Garden.

I can't believe I never knew this place existed!  It's right round the corner from my work and is a beautiful and amazing place.  It's the antithesis of the perfectly planted and organised garden squares we'd just come from - the plants have been chosen to support as wide a range of wildlife as possible - and it was twittering with birds and buzzing with bees.  Have I mentioned how much I like bees..?  Apparently it's also home to the West End's only frogs, although we sadly didn't see any.  The Phoenix Garden is a registered charity and, having spent several lunch hours there since discovering it, I will certainly be becoming a member and donating to this amazing project (you can also do so here:

I took a couple of pictures there, playing with the 500D close up filter and my new and also bargainous second hand Canon 15-85 lens.

Here is a giant dragonfly:

And a shot of the garden - you'd never know it was right in the middle of London right?

And that was it for Saturday - some of the gardens were only open Sunday, and very specific hours.

Sunday we started at Inner Temple and Middle Temple Gardens just off the embankment.  There was some reliance on the blue dot again to work out where we were going... 

The gardens are gorgeous - it's where all the fancy barristers have their garden parties.

I got to play with my Canon 500D close up filter a bit more - it's designed for zoom lenses really, but I wanted to try it at the 15mm end of my 15-85mm.  I kind of like the way you get to have a foreground focus, but you still get the wider angle background. 

Inner Temple Gardens:

More playing with the 500D filter - this time with a ladybug.

A flower:

And some bees, which really don't like to keep still and have their picture taken.  Unhelpful little flying furballs!

After stalking bees around Temple gardens, we pottered across the bridge to the Southbank and this amazing wildflower, fruit and herb garden on top of Queen Elizabeth Hall.  It's another one that you'd never know was there as you walked along the river below it.

After this, we thought we'd have a nose about where the posh folk live, and got the tube to Hyde Park Corner and wandered to Belgrave Square gardens.  They're owned by the people that live in the gorgeous houses in the square and aren't usually open to us plebs.

They are gorgeous gardens, and enormous!

If you're posh, you get statues in your gardens and everything!  I'm not even allowed to put a plant outside my door and they get statues.  I'd quite like to be posh.  I'm sure I was supposed to be rich (I have very expensive tastes) and something just went awry along the way.   

There were lots of little gates and hidden spaces.  I bet the people who live in Belgrave Square (or their nannies/dog walkers anyway)get loads of peace and quiet in the gardens.

I liked this bit a lot:

The mini hedges and shapely shrubs are lovely.

The sundial was pretty cool as well. Apparently, this little bit of the gardens were created for the Millennium and donated by the 6th Duke of Westminster.  That's proper posh that is.

We figured we'd stick with bothering the posh folk and walked along the road to Eaton Square.  This was one of my favourite gardens - really nicely designed with water features and everything.

There's another sundial inside this bowl thingy:

Sadly, this being England in June, there was no actual sun.  Boooo.  It was a lovely garden though - I liked it more than Belgrave Square. 

Another sundial, which matched the one in Belgrave Square.

And there concludes our tour of London's Open Squares Weekend, as it was starting to rain and most of them were closing by this time.

There were so many more gardens, but you've only got two days, so you need a plan and an area or two to stick to.  Also, some of them were open at really stupid times, like from 8am - 10am on Sunday only, which kind of makes me think they don't really want you poking round their gardens at all!  The Chelsea Physic Garden was one of those - I'd have really liked to see that, but hadn't realised it was only open for such a short time. 

Anyway, I had a lovely time just pottering around with my mum - makes me realise that I really should try and drag myself away from my workbench and explore London a bit more.

For now though, it's back to the shiny things.  Some pictures of a custom mini-bee bracelet coming your way soon...


Purdey Singleton said...

Gorgeous photos. Bedford Square is my back garden! We have keys and everything, if you fancy another visit when it's sunny let me know xxx

Ailsa (Topaz Magpie Jewellery) said...

Beautiful pictures - the close-ups are great. I had no idea such weekend happened; what a lovely chance to enjoy all those gardens.

Lauren Grace said...

OMG lucky you! We'll definitely have to come and have a look if we ever get any sun! x