“Come in number 6” we heard from the banks of The Serpentine. Our hour of discovery was up. We pedalled fast and steered our bright blue floating fibreglass boat to disembark.
Pedalo-ing is one way to experience Hyde Park and it comes with an escort of wildlife. We dodged a flotilla of swans, ducked from the descending flight path of seagulls and listened to the calling sounds of Egyptian and Canadian geese populating the water’s surface. While up above, proud and perched, we spot a heron, surveying, planning. It’s a fun way of enjoying the park and exercising at the same time and it attracts all nationalities and ages bringing smiles and laughter from couples and families.
And it’s an opportunity to people watch from afar. There’s a flurry of activity on dry land, ranging in speeds. Fashioning bright lycra are the marathon trainers, capitalising the pathways, sprinters are ahead of the speed walkers and then come the strollers, many with their dogs, far more interested in taking in the sights, sounds and activities around them than clocking up their speeds and steps. On the outer parameter, are the cyclists. Whether rented, electric, racer or purely pedal, this mode of leisure sport is growing in popularity, so much so, there are new, dedicated lanes. Shading under trees are small groups ensconced in communication on their phones, others reaching into supermarket bags for picnic items. In the distance a cloud of dust settles to reveal young children on ponies, their weekly lesson on track, quieter than the skate boarders whooshing along and the rollers skaters practising their balance.
Hyde Park enjoys a central London location. One side looking over Knightsbridge, in shadow at night by the 12,000 lights bulbs of Harrods store’s façade. Across the parkland is the boundary with Kensington Gardens and all that’s royal with the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Speakers Corner heralding the freedom of speech in one quarter while Hyde Park Corner directs the traffic to Park Lane, Piccadilly, Buckingham Palace or to the tranquillity of St James’ Park.
The park is almost 350 acres and an oasis for wildlife and a site for natural conservation. Trees, shrub beds and herbaceous plantings provide a terrain for blue tits, blackbirds and robins. The Serpentine lake attracts a large number of waterfowls, especially in the winter such as the great crested grebe. Visit at dusk, and you may see the pipistrelle bats.
The Rose Garden is close-by and a welcome retreat from the busy roads of the capital. It was designed by Colvin and Moggridge landscape architects and opened in 1994. The circular area enclosed by a yew hedge represents the mouth of a trumpet and the flower beds are the flaring music. A pergola and two fountains are featured, one a Pre-Raphaelite marble sculpture of the boy and dolphin and the other an early 20th century statue of Diana the Huntress. With benches aplenty, take time to enjoy the scented roses and this peaceful setting hidden from view.
Serenely steering through the calm waters of the Serpentine is a great introduction to what this park has to offer, the importance of nature in a city and a welcome escape to these challenging times. So, whether it’s on foot, two wheels or pedalling on a pedalo, there’s much to see and do in Hyde Park.
Hyde Park is one of London’s eight royal parks. https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park