Postman’s Park lies within the Square Mile of the City, smack-bang in the middle of the financial district just round the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral. Something of a badly kept “secret”, this little corner of quietude is well worth a visit for its innate prettiness and hidden location, but the main reason for its popularity is a Victorian memorial to Londoners who died valiantly while trying to save others. A memorial wall features more than 50 plaques detailing the heroics of these tragic heroes, created in 1900 by the painter and philanthropist George Frederic Watts.
Stretching for over 54 acres across the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Holland Park is a vast yet peaceful green space surrounded by some of the most chic shopping streets in London. The park is divided into roughly three sections: a slightly wilder, wooded North side, the sports-based South and the middle section which is predominantly taken up by more formal and manicured gardens. The park is also home to an orangery, giant chess set, youth hostel, and the beautiful, meditative quiet corner that is Kyoto Garden.
Donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991 in commemoration of the friendly relations between the UK and Japan, the Garden is meticulously maintained, in line with the Japanese tradition of curating miniature plants. Here you will find burbling waterfalls, a wooden footbridge and graceful koi carp swimming in their own pond, as well as cherry blossom trees and even free-roaming peacocks. Japanese gardens are designed to be walked around in a clockwise direction, so begin at the main entrance, wander slowly (and quietly) around it and try to absorb as many of the details as possible.
First fashionable for its spa waters in the eighteenth century, Hampstead has long been London’s most gorgeous hilltop hideaway. Mixing picturesque countryside, historical buildings and cosmopolitan shops and restaurants, Hampstead is a breath of fresh air for even the most jaded Londoner, especially for the Heath – a stunning, 791-acre patchwork of woodland, playing fields, swimming ponds and meadows. Nestled in among the rest of the wilderness of the Heath, the Hampstead Heath Hill Garden & Pergola is an arts and crafts garden complemented by a raised, plant-covered pergola that affords breathtaking views over London. A preferred escape for local artists and those looking for a quiet place to unwind, there is an ornamental fish pond, an alcove with a bench for sitting and reflecting, and seasonal flowers including jasmine, sage, honeysuckle, lavender and wisteria.
For more wild flowers and intercity wildlife, head to the Phoenix Garden in the middle of the West End. Between the traffic, the masses of people, the overwhelming amount of shopping, eating and drinking potential, not to mention the cinemas and playhouses spread around the area, sometimes you crave just a moment to sit down, rest your feet and actually appreciate where you are. Covent Garden itself was once formed of seven separate gardens that comprised the official gardens of Westminster Abbey. The Phoenix is the only one remaining, resting in the shadows of the unimposing but charming St. Giles-in-the-Fields church, just behind the Phoenix Theatre. An environmentally sustainable space of quietude and tranquility, the Garden is one of the West End’s best kept secrets and affords a burbling little green retreat for residents, local workers and savvy tourists all year round.
A medieval church that was severely scarred by the Fire of London in 1666, patched up by the famous London architect Sir Christopher Wren before being badly bombed during the Blitz in 1941, the ruins of St. Dunstan in the East have nevertheless been maintained and transformed into a charmingly wild, almost overgrown public garden space. You’ll find this quiet piece of history in the East of London within the City, meaning that during weekday lunchtimes you’ll be sharing the space with local office workers but at weekends will have it almost entirely to yourself.
Once you’ve finished wandering your own secret city gardens you can unwind even more at Amba Hotel Charing Cross, within easy access of all these and more hidden London treasures.