With our hotel in London across the road from Hyde Park, we spent a lot of time exploring during our stay. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are two of London’s Royal Parks, and are often thought to be one large park since they technically join in the middle.
They are, however, separate parks, and have been since 1728, when Queen Caroline made a division between the two. The parks are separated by the Serpentine and and Long Water lakes.
Together, the parks encompass 625 acres, which makes the combined parks a bit smaller than Central Park with 840 acres.
Hyde Park covers 350 acres and is home to famous landmarks such as the Serpentine Lake, Speakers’ Corner and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. We spent a lot of time at the Memorial Fountain as our trip was in summer and the fountain was a fantastic place to cool down on a hot day.
the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain was opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 6th July 2004. The fountain was built using 545 pieces of Cornish granite – each shaped by computer-controlled machinery. When walking over the smooth stones of the fountain, it’s obvious that they have been carved by a machine rather than by hand, as they are absolutely perfectly cut in a way that no human hand could achieve. The pieces, once cut by machine, were assembled by hand to complete the fountain.
The water bubbles, swirls and cascades in a circular shape up, from a high point to a calm pool at the bottom. The design is supposed to reflect Diana’s life.
On any given warm day, Londoners flock to the fountain. Businessmen roll up their pants and paddle their feet, while children strip to bathing suits and run through the water.
While there are no facilities at the memorial, bathrooms are available at the nearby Lido Cafe, as well as swans who love to be fed bits of bread.
Kensington Gardens were once the private gardens of Kensington Palace. They are now one of the Royal Parks of London, lying immediately to the west of Hyde Park. Within the park lie many famous landmarks including Kensington Palace, the Italian Gardens, Albert Memorial, Peter Pan Statue, the Serpentine Galleries and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground and are all located within its 265 acres.
A beautiful, peaceful place we discovered was the Italian Gardens, an 150-year-old ornamental water garden located on the north side of Kensington Gardens. The gardens are believed to have been a gift from Prince Albert to his beloved Queen Victoria.
I found the gardens to be a much-needed oasis of calm after a long busy day in London. The exquisite flowers and water feature felt like a piece of old Europe.
Cheese loved the popular Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, a wonderland for children that opened to the public in 2000 next to the late princess’ Kensington Palace home. The centerpiece of the playground is a huge wooden pirate ship, with swings, sand pits, wooden cubby houses and more amazing play structures surrounding it.
Outside the playground is a beautiful old-fashioned carousel, another drawcard for kids in the park.
If you love British literature you might remember that the famous writer J.M. Barrie lived close to Kensington Gardens (there is a placard on the building he used to live in if you look hard enough for it!). Barrie published his first Peter Pan story in 1902, using Kensington Gardens for inspiration, so it’s only fit that the park is home to a statue he commissioned of the boy who never grew up. It was erected in 1912 on the exact spot Barrie imagined Peter Pan to land in his writing. In his Peter Pan tale, The Little White Bird, Peter flies out of his nursery and lands beside the Long Water – the spot where the statue now stands and delights visitors from all over the world.
For more information on Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens visit http://www.royalparks.org.uk.
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!