Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Art of Living - A Guide to London Parks - Part 1 of 2

If you're a city parent here in London or are about to become a city parent in the big smoke there are a few things for sure that you will get to know pretty quickly. Firstly, just how many attractions are free in London; from amazing museums such as the Natural History Museum to free events scattered across the city. Though London is bustling with fantastic theatre, cafes, restaurants and shops, as a parent you will come to be familiar with places where you are free to run wild with your children, places where you can kick off your shoes, roll out a picnic rug, fly a kite, dip your toes into cool water and just breath.

Jenni Sparks

Summer in the City offers so much and here with a guide to London parks and open spaces you can get some outdoor living and feel as though you've had a mini holiday and then hop on the no9 bus, sitting at the top for some great views on the way home.

With so many open spaces to write about we've had to divide this into 2 parts. Here is part one of our guide to London Life in The Parks.

I'm a little bias when it comes to Battersea Park as this is the park where I have spent most of my parenting days. My love of the park first began when I picniced there with my boyfriend, steeling kisses in the summer sunshine and dreaming of our future together. He later became my husband and now we spend endless days playing with our children in the park where we fell in love. Our children took their first steps here, learned to climb trees and had birthday party picnics with puppeteers. It has become our garden, that open space where we ride bikes, scoot, roller skate and run free.

Triphunter has the park listed as no3 in its 'top ten places in the world to take a nap', but don't let that fool you. Yes it's a quiet park with perfect shady places for picnics  but there's also an adventure playground a zoo and fountains where children run up against the edge to get drenched in the heat of the day.
Its the park where Cbeebies filmed their summer song too:

Battersea park has a lot to offer and is the only park that runs alongside the Thames. At sunrise a gong is sounded at the peace pagoda, which no doubt wakes a few of the animals in the nearby Children's zoo. There is a beautiful quiet and almost secret spot tucked away hidden behind the trees known as the Old English Garden, its well worth discovering it for yourself and taking in the scents of the beautiful flowers and plants or to lie back on a bench and recover from an intrepid journey across the boating lake.
There are two cafes - though I cannot boast that either does particularly great food but good enough for a bite if you've not brought some with you. It is always worth checking whats on at the Pumphouse Art Gallery and of course the children will be happy to discover not one but two playgrounds, with the adventure playground having a bouncy castle as well as rope slides and those-nerve-wracking-for-parents-thrilling-for-kids frames, slides and pulleys!

The park is steeped in history and has some of London's most famous landmarks such as Albert Bridge, Battersea Power Station and Battersea Dogs Home. Countless films and tv series are constantly filmed here in this little piece of green heaven that covers 200 acres. 

So whether you want to picnic, visit the zoo, hire a bike, take a boat ride across the lake, visit the gallery, discover a new playground, discover statues by Henry Moore, Eric Kennington or the brown dog statue by Nicola Hicks, if you want to try to get the island in the lake, spot herons, climb craggy rocks or just quite simply soak up the summer sun. I highly recommend this gem.

Where: On the south bank of the river Thames opposite Chelsea.

Green park is the smallest of the Royal Parks but is a welcome haven in central London. Covering 47 acres of central London space it is bordered by Piccadilly, Constitution Hill and Queens walk as well as it's neighbouring St James's Park and of course most famously Buckingham Palace.
Formerly known as Upper St James's, by the mid 18th century the name was changed to that of Green park. True or not it is believed that the parks name may have come to be from a tale in which King Charles II picked flowers to give to another woman, his wife then ordered every flower to be pulled up and no more flowers were to be planted. Though the park has no flower beds it does have some of Britain's rarest native timber trees: the black poplar. 
Children will be delighted to know that this is a place that has not only seen duels and fireworks but also the place where Pongo and Purdy first meet in the 1996 film 101 dalmatians. They might be pretty intrigued to know that the Tyburn (a stream) runs underneath it too!

So, if the Queen forgets you were coming round for afternoon tea then the royal soil of Green Park is a great alternative spot to sit and eat your sandwiches instead. Surprisingly quiet for its central location its a place to remember to stop and pause, hire a deck chair and watch the working world go by. So if you're nearby, perhaps having seen the change of the guard or having visited The Flemming Collection pause for a while in Green Park and enjoy the peace and quiet in the centre of the city.

Where: South end of The Mall bordering Constitution Hill and Piccadilly. Green Park sits between Hyde park and St James Park. 

With breathtaking views and rambling hills this feels like a wild place tamed for our enjoyment. From the top of the hill it is quite easy to feel as though you were standing on the edge of the world. Looking across and into the city with its increasingly changing landscape it is a welcome view; leaving the busy bustling city behind for some wide open space.
Greenwich park has lots to offer, you can climb the hill to reach the Observatory or just to roll back down again! On the lower level of the park there is children's playground and on a warm day children will love to walk through the little man-made stream. Visit the national maritime museum, the weekend market and Cutty Sark. If its a windy day you're sure to see lots of kites flying with such wide open spaces it really is the best place to send kites soaring up to the clouds.
Greenwich is the place where time begins but its also a place where time slows down for a leisurely picnic in the warm summer air. You can picnic in the kings 'back garden' with one foot in each hemisphere, now what sounds more lovely than that on a summers day.

It is easy to see why Greenwich Park has become part of the World Heritage Site. Its a great place to spend a day, learn about what lies above us in the sky at the obervatory, spend some pocket money at the market and lie back and watch the clouds roll by.

I would recommend travelling there by boat to make it an even more memorable day. There are lots of places along the Thames where you can hop on board and sail your way down.You can take a riverboat to Greenwich Pier from Westminster, Embankment or Tower Piers.

Where: Sitting on the south east side of the Thames opposite the isle of dogs.

The weekend is almost here, lets get ready for some picnics in the parks

Next week we'll bring continue to bring you the best of London parks as well as some of London's secret gardens.

This is part of 'The Art of Living' collection. We also have other stories and features including our 'Monday Makery', 'I Spy' and our weekly 'Wednesday Woo'. Check out our Summer Fun too with 100 ideas for fun games and play this summer. If you want to see our latest loves take a look here.

Want to take a look behind the scenes of Sisters Guild? Our A-Z is here where we share a sentimental journey through family life.

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