London must be one of the greenest cities in the world. There are parks and gardens everywhere, if you know where to look! Sometimes you get a nice surprise when you walk round a corner, and that’s part of the fun of a day in London.
I knew that Holland Park was in the area that I was visiting, but I couldn’t find it. I’d just seen Kensington Gardens, which has railings round it, and entrances every few yards. But where was Holland Park?
Finally I asked a man who laughed and said, everyone has to ask. I was actually standing next to the high brick wall, and the unimposing gateway was a bit further on. It isn’t obvious unless you’re right in front of it.
But as soon as I entered the gateway, I was impressed. It’s an absolutely beautiful park.
Holland Park was a private garden, belonging to Holland House. It dates back to 1607, when Sir Walter Cope, one of the richest men in England, had the mansion built. It was known as Cope’s Castle. The house changed hands several times, and the house and gardens were improved over the years. Finally it was owned by Lord and Lady Holland, who over-spent and had to sell off some of the land.
A bomb hit the house in World War ll, destroying a large part of it. Only the east wing and some of the single storey survived.
English Heritage gave the house Grade 1 listing in 1949, so it’s conserved as a good example of Jacobean architecture.
The London County Council took it over in 1952, restoring the grounds and opening the Park to the public.
I strolled happily along, passing different views. There are areas of lawn with people relaxing on the ground or playing ball games. Then I walked through a natural woodland. It’s an informal nature reserve, but some work goes on, like removing brambles.
Over 60 species of bird have been recorded there, plus butterflies, moths, and foxes.
I was accosted by a cheeky gey squirrel, who was disappointed when I didn’t have any monkey nuts to offer him.
Rare mosses, funghi, and pretty wild flowers grow between the trees.
If you’re feeling active, there’s a football pitch, a cricket pitch, tennis courts with a list of available tennis coaches, netball, golf practice nets, an outside gym, health walks, and outdoor chess.
There’s a toddlers’ playground, and an adventure playground for older children, with a zip wire, tyre swings, an other activities.
Plenty of seats are placed everywhere for if you need a rest or want to watch the world go by.
I went in the café for a coffee. There’s a healthy basic menu and a selection of home-made cakes.
Nobody hassles you. You can sit there for as long as you like, and there were people working on their laptops. Dogs are also allowed in. The park is very dog-friendly.
A theatre, Opera Holland Park, holds performances from June to mid-August. The operas take place on the canopied terrace of Holland House.
Also in the grounds is a Youth Hostel, offering rooms from £17 a night. They also have a very cheap restaurant which is open to the public.
I cover that in my next article.
There’s a Park Reception near one of the entrances. You can also book the sports facilities there.
Will I go there again? Oh yes. I think it will be a regular resting place when I have an appointment in London.
Holland Park has a Pay & Display carpark.
Two tube stations are just a few minutes’ walk; Kensington High Street or Holland Park.
Friends of Holland Park;
Secretary, 020 7602 0304