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Hampstead Heath Pergola
Photograph: I Wei Huang/

Four extremely secret bits of London parks

Spots to go when you really, really want to get away from it all

Chris Waywell
Written by
Chris Waywell

Sick of lazing about in the same old bit of your local park? Spice things up with a trip to one of these super special (and little known) spaces. 

1. The Flower Garden, Greenwich Park

With its swooping landscape, river views and architectural marvels, Greenwich Park is one of London’s most dramatic open spaces. The Flower Garden, though, has an atmosphere all of its own. Its ground-brushing trees are interspersed with geometrically planted circular beds blazing with alien colour, triffid-like plants waving above them. At dusk in winter, you half-expect to stumble over a body there. A truly ‘other’ place.

2. Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park

For his 2013 work ‘The Enclave’, artist Richard Mosse shot the Congolese jungle using infra-red military film stock, which turned it a vibrant pink. He could have just gone to Richmond Park. Isabella Plantation is a colourful antithesis to the wide-open spaces, herds of deer and vague air of entitlement of the rest of the place. Its azaleas and rhododendrons are magnificently strange.

3. Kyoto Garden, Holland Park

Splashing waterfalls, mossy rocks, koi carp: Holland Park’s Japanese-style garden is quite an extraordinary place. It’s not just that it transports you from chichi west London to Asia, it’s a living testament to the way plants and water can create incredibly powerful environments. Take a moment (or an hour or two) from everyday life.

4. The Hill Garden and Pergola, Hampstead Heath

Like the skeletal wreck of an opulent liner, the Hill Garden and Pergola (above) offer a glimpse of a lost era of super-wealth. Once the grounds of Hill House (now apartments for senescent billionaire types), the garden was laid out by soap magnate William Lever in the Edwardian era, then fell into neglect, along with its pergola. Both were later restored. They’re beautiful, especially on a summer evening, with an F Scott Fitzgerald sadness to them.

Hidden green spaces and gardens in London

London's top parks

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