Spring has arrived! London is in bloom and looking fabulous! This is one of the times of the year when the parks of London are at their best and in the centre of the capital, a stone’s throw from some of the best known sights, are such beautiful parks. Buckingham Palace overlooks the St James’s and Green Park and Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament border St James’s Park at Parliament Square.
There are about 2 million daffodils blooming each year in Green Park and St James’s Park in gorgeous drifts of gold, yellow and cream, looking like a carpet of yellow. There are other spring flowers to enjoy such as snowdrops and crocuses.
St James’s Park and Green Park are 2 of the 8 Royal Parks in London managed by the charity Royal Parks Ltd. They used to be the former hunting grounds of the monarchy. Both these parks have quite different characteristics.
In the 18th century Green Park was notorious for its duels, and as a favourite spot for highwaymen as well as a refuge for thieves and bandits. It is a different story now of course. Perhaps the best tale about Green Park is how it got its name. It is said that Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles 11 had all the flowers in the park removed when she saw the King picking flowers for a nearby milkmaid. Ever since there are no formal flowerbeds but there is a little lane on the side of the park called Milkmaids’ Passage!
St James’s Park is the oldest Royal Park in London and was originally set out as a deer park by Henry V111 in 1532. The name comes from the leper hospital dedicated to St James the Less which stood on the nearby site of St James’s Palace. Charles11 in the17th century had this park landscaped in the formal French style and the lake was developed from the watery land already there. He introduced the waterfowl and was gifted the pelicans by a Russian ambassador on a visit to London in 1664. Today the pelicans in the park are direct descendants of those gifted all those years ago. Subsequent designs have enhanced the park with fountains, a beautiful blue iron suspension bridge and wonderful formal planting. Today the park is at the heart of ceremonial London and hosts spectacular events like Trooping the Colour and Changing of the Guard.
The daffodils will soon disappear but we can look forward to the blossoms and tulips of late Spring and the wildflower gardens by the lake in St James’s Park in early Summer.