Secret London gardens: botanical escapes near you
To celebrate London becoming a National Park City, Madeline Knox looks to the secret London gardens where you can unwind among nature
York House and Gardens, Twickenham
York House is an idyllic riverfront garden located along Twickenham riverside. Dating back to the 17th century, there is no shortage of history in this secret London garden, with a glimpse into the past with the ornate naked ladies statues (that have gone onto inspire a local beer), the charming bridges, and the French-style mansion house. Open from dawn to dusk, this blissful haven is perfect for those lingering summer evenings.
Bishops Park, Fulham
Bishops Park is listed as Grade II in English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens and is located on the river in Fulham. Suitable for all ages, the park hosts many facilities including a junior playground, table tennis tables, sculpture garden, Spanish War Memorial garden and the water play area. Surrounded by ancient trees in full summer bloom, Bishops Park provides quiet sheltered areas for a moment of contemplation. There is also a farmer’s market every Sunday from 10am-2pm, a family-friendly event which caters for all.
Morden Hall Park
Based on the River Wandle, the mills around Morden Hall Park and its winding river has made the area prosperous since the 11th century and so the park is teeming with history. When the mills were closed they were mainly used as the estate workshop, but in 1989, an education centre was opened in the western mill. An interactive exhibition on the life of the Modern mill workers in Victorian times is open for history buffs keen to find out more. As well as the park’s expansive history, there are plenty of quiet corners for peaceful contemplation, plus a walk through sun-dappled forestry where ornate statues appear out of the foliage.
South Park Gardens, Wimbledon
The picturesque South Park Gardens is located in Wimbledon, sustained by the Friends of South Park Gardens charity which aims to conserve the natural beauty of this part of secret London. Unbeknown to the hoards of commuters who pass through the local train station, the gardens are situated just five minutes’ walk away, making it the ultimate lunchtime picnic spot. The park also offers a pavilion which can be hired for community events, arts and crafts and is a perfect hidden hub for the community.
The Water Gardens, Kingston
Created by horticulturist James Veitch Jnr in the 1860s, the Water Gardens situated in Kingston is the ultimate escapism and even takes you across continents to Japan, making it one of our favourite secret London gardens. Inspired by the Willow Pattern in Chinese Plates, the vibrant magenta bridges and rare trees could easily deceive you into thinking you were in a foreign country, far from the suburbia of south west London. Take in the views on offer and experience the large variety of wildlife that the garden attracts- from butterflies to birds, this garden is really supporting and creating a safe space for biodiversity to flourish in the area. Open just a couple of times a year, be sure to look up the opening hours before heading along.
Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon
Found just off Wimbledon Common, the park exhibits rare and beautiful plants, shrubs and trees, resulting in its Grade II-listed status. The beauty and maintenance of the formal gardens and landscaped floral displays are overseen by The Friends of Cannizaro Park charity, which aims to ensure that the park remains a gem for its many visitors.
Udney Hall Gardens, Teddington
The only remaining part of Teddington Place grounds, these charming gardens are adjacent to the church of St. Alban and include trees with an open area of grass, with a pleasant path running through it. Udney Hall and gardens were built in 1700 and sadly demolished in 1946, but the gardens have remained. Seek shade and silence under one of the many cypress trees this summer.
Holland Garden, Wimbldeon
This private little park is located to the west of Wimbledon, and is a sheltered and peaceful haven. In 1928 Lady Holland gifted Merton Community this garden in memory of her husband Sir Arthur Holland. Since then, Holland Garden has come to be a local symbol of love and devotion. Centred around the oak tree, the gardens span out and arround the surrounding area, and even the tennis courts are fringed by rose bushes.
Cottenham Park, Raynes Park
This park was named after the 1st Earl of Cottenham and was built on Copse Hill in the mid-18th century. Perfect for a picnic, there are surrounding trees with a large section of grass crossed by a path running through it, plus a park so the kids can run wild.
Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park
This 40-acre of woodland is located in the midst of Richmond Park and is a total escapism from the open space of Richmond Park. Enter through the gates of the Isabella Plantation and you’ll be surrounded by an abundance of flora and fauna, over 130 species of butterfly and moth and over 70 species of bird, plus six species of bat. The gardens are at their finest during springtime, when the azalea burst into life, but the tranquil trickle of the stream and the winding pathways mean its enjoyable throughout the year.