Even as I commence to writing, the first brown leaves of autumn are dropping outside my window and they, along with the familiar ashen sky, remind me that summer, glorious as it was this year, is almost at an end.
However, it being Friday, you can steel yourself with the small consolation that the weekend is here and you’re able to bid the sun farewell once more from the comfort and serenity of a local park, pub garden or even, of course, your own garden.
No doubt some of you are already contemplating favourite spots around the neighbourhood or even further afield but for those who have no regular haunt from which to watch the departure of Pimms and tennis, please find below a list of my personal London favourites.
Located in Regent’s Park, one of the largest green spaces in North London, Primrose Hill is best known for its awe-inspiring, panoramic views of the city and subsequently its thronging popularity on fireworks night. However, Primrose’s major attraction is what it lies in proximity of – Regent’s Park is one of the richest and most varied outdoor experiences to be had in the city as it hosts a variety of attractions, from the London Zoo to Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, one of the most accomplished feats of formal gardening within the city limits. I’d also recommend checking ahead of time for performances at Regent’s open air theatre. For the hill, by public transport a tube to Chalk Farm should bring you within walking distance, although Camden Town will afford you a detour through the Zoo first.
If you want to stay close to the river then just a short jaunt from Trafalgar Square lies Somerset House – an arts centre for London that houses some of its most affluent production companies and art installations. The marvel of this location is its outdoor café, surrounded by the building’s grand and beautiful marble architecture and awash with sunlight when any is available. Closely located to the river and it’s many water-borne bars and restaurants and, as previously mentioned, within walking distance of several major attractions such as Nelson’s column, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery (should the weather prove fleeting).
Officially known as King Edward Memorial, you may remember my mentioning this scenic locale several months back when it was under threat of being removed in place of future development of a waste disposal plant. Thankfully the people of the East End responded to that idea with vigour and thus the park remains in all its glory. The fabulous aspect of this space, aside from its gorgeous Georgian architecture, is its location, quite literally backing onto the Thames. Its vista of the capital’s financial epicentre makes for a comparatively calming reminder of how relaxed it is where you are. Wrought iron gates protect this oasis from the bustle and smog of the city that it bridges with the water. Shadwell also houses its own permanent gazebo and tennis courts, not to mention being situated within walking of three of the east ends best pubs: The Prospect of Whitby, The Grapes (A former haunt of Charles Dickens’) and Captain Kidd’s Tavern.
Dalston Roof Park
For a more intimate venue you might consider this wildly popular roof garden staged atop a former factory, now known as The Print House. It’s a short walk from Dalston Kingsland Station and may surprise you with its quaint design. This year, for example, the park has adopted a theme of the English Summer and thus sports deck chairs and apple crates for tables. A permanent installation at the park is the presence of a pop-up disguised as a wooden shack – complete with frozen margaritas! For £3 donation one can join the Dalston Roof Family and receive regular updates on the goings-on there, including their regular rooftop screenings which make the DRP one of the most popular night venues as well.
What list of this sort, with any semblance of self-respect, would not include the grandeur and scope that is Hyde Park, the emerald in the crown of London and probably the most diverse green space you’re liable to find. Many of you, no doubt, will have already frequented it at some point this summer – perhaps to catch some of world class performances at the various open air concerts, or simply to take lunch at the Lido and enjoy the steady march of the Serpentine while you’re there. Including woodland, meadows, monuments and entertainment arenas there is truly something for everyone at Hyde Park. If and when the sun returns, enjoy a paddle in the Diana Memorial Fountain or a cream tea by the river and, if it’s a weekday, order a second cup for those of us who couldn’t join you.
By Josh Ellison