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Green Park

July 27th, 2007

london green park_2

Green Park owns a bit of that formal park pretentiousness whose attitude has been leveled today by informal uses, particularly in the last 50 years or so. Kings and queens used to stroll through the park—just one of the “Royal” parks now central to London’s public green spaces (even though the sovereign officially owns them all). Today you’re more likely to see mums & das pushing a pram along the gravel walks, children in heated play around a mulberry bush, weary tourists walking amid the deck chairs poised for maximum sun exposure, and the stately dressed seniors on their daily perambulations.

london green park_3You’ll find Green Park much quieter than its Royal Park neighbors. Mature Dutch elms tower above the soft grass as the lawn spreads out from the wall separating the busy sidewalk along Piccadilly Street. Vast lawns open toward the park’s center, beside paved pathways whose benches should easily interrupt this short-cut route to Buckingham Palace. You can watch birds at play and squirrels forage about, or just rest. The Green Park is a good spot to rest your eyes, or better yet, let them roam through the long vistas of trees and meadows. Commonly sighted birds in the park are the Starling, Blackbird, and the tit Sparrow. And in winter groups of the migratory Redwings and Fieldare forage on the lawns.

The grass is plush in the center of Green Park, where the sun and fewer walkers have let it grow thick. In some places they are flat and open, others with knolls and dips near trees and bushes to find privacy and solace. The meadows are great chill-out and picnic spots, places to be away from crowds, to consult your map of London, plan dinner and a night out at one of London’s theaters (Globe, Old Vic, Regent’s Park, National Theater), or get ready for shopping along King’s Row in Chelsea.

Green Park covers 47 acres and links St James’s Park with Hyde Park. Its origins date to 1554, when, as a meadow, it was used for hunting. No buildings sit on the park site today, but over the centuries it contained lodges, an ice house, a library, and several “temples.” One, the Hugh Temple of Peace, erected in 1749 to mark the end of the War of Austrian Succession, exploded during a fireworks display. Green Park opened to the public in 1826.

Londoners use Green Park for strolling and as a cut-through park—but it’s also a sunbathing beacon. For a few pence (collected every quarter hour by a wandering tax collector) you can sit in a deck chair set beneath the trees or under the sun. For the urban traveler Green Park is a great rest stop or meet-up point with friends or your traveling group. The park is a few blocks from many 4-star hotels, just down the street from Piccadilly Circus, and across the meadow to Buckingham Palace. I see luncheon picnickers there all the time, suit & tie business types in casual conversation walking the perimeter paths, groups of children from nearby schools with their minders, and setters & wanderers of all types simply taking in the beauty around them, just arm’s reach from central London.

london green park_4Family Activities in Green Park
As an historic site, no sports are allowed in Green Park because of potential damage to the grasslands. Surprisingly, perhaps, no children’s park has been built, either, though you’ll find one just a short walk to the south in St James’s Park. Nonetheless, Green Park is a recreation park: a good place for a picnic on warm, sunny days, a great walk under the umbrella on rainy afternoons, and no one will yell at your kids for having fun with a game of tag around the gnarled trunks of the old elm trees.

(read more about Green Park’s highlights here

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