Friday, 23 May 2008

London's Hidden Oases

One of the features of London often admired by visitors to our shores, yet so easily taken for granted by those who live here, is its Garden Squares. Whereas many Continental cities have squares which are paved and often populated with pavement cafes (and perfectly nice in their own way), the hundreds of Garden Squares add much needed patches of green to our capital city.

In fact, London is incredibly green: a browse using a satellite map of the city shows just how many green spaces there are. And whilst many of the squares are not open to the public, they are open to their residents, and provide a wonderful green space for recreation to those living in otherwise cramped flats.

But for one week-end a year, many are open to the wider public during the London Open Garden Squares Weekend, which takes place this year from 10am until 5pm on Saturday 7th June and Sunday 8th June. Buying a £7.50 ticket in any one of the venues enables visitors to sample any one of the other 175 squares and gardens participating all over London. And it’s family-friendly – children under 12 get in free.

Reflecting the English tradition, many of the gardens are very traditional: lawns, surrounded herbaceous borders, tall clipped hedges and shaded by mature trees. On the other hand, others are more modern and some even avant garde in their design. Many of the Squares also lay on events to entertain their visitors: my local square, Nevern Square, in Earl’s Court, will have the Hemingford Saxophone Quartet on hand on the afternoon of June 8th to do just that.

So, why not pop along to your nearest square for some green refreshment – or perhaps even organise a tour? Who knows, the British weather may even co-operate and lay on some sunshine!

Full details can be found on the Open Garden Squares Weekend website – helpfully available in six languages. Tickets can also bought in advance via the website for just £6.

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