Tucked off busy Gray’s Inn Road, just to the south of King’s Cross/St Pancras Stations in the heart of London is the small square Regent Square Garden. It was named after Prince Regent who eventually became King George IV. The square is not on the way to anything in particular, so unless you’ve done a proper wander around the Congestion zone, you’ve probably missed it. There’s not much in the way of garden. Just some grass struggling to be truly lush and green and a few shrubs dotted along the perimeter. But you have to forgive the lack of understory due to the presence of some massive, towering London Plane trees (Platanus x hispanica) . The square contains 12 planes, which judging by it’s history and this size of the trees, must be about 175 years old. The square was created in the 1820s and was originally surrounded by two churches, one of which was severely damaged in WWII by a V2 bomb. Both apparently were demolished to make way for the brilliant architectural masterpieces of 1960s architects and planners (note sarcasm).
My co-workers were telling me these weren’t the tallest trees in the borough, but I thought differently (the tallest ones apparently are in Russell Square, which is only 10 minutes walk away). The ones in Regent Square Garden are well above 8 stories (maybe 90 ft) tall as I can see them peaking over the top of the buildings from my 7th story office window. With 12 of them in such a small space, makes their height even that much more impressive when walking under them. It’ s hard to photograph them well due to their size. When I walked through, it was a quite noon time break with a few people lounging around, or walking through. I find there’s a level of comfort and safety which most people
feel when their under the canopies of such fantastic trees. It’s a enveloping sense of nature. Even in the dead of winter, when only a few scraggly leaves remain on the branches high above, the Planes are an overwhelming presence, but also calming.
I couldn’t see any sign the trees had been pollarded, but the trees had been lifted quite a bit. With all of them competing for the limited resources in the square, there’s not enough room or light to develop a full canopy, but no matter. They are still gorgeous trees.
So if you’re ever around St. Pancras and need a break away from the madness of Euston Road, wander down here. I know once the leaves are back on the trees, I’ll be back to take some more pictures and enjoy the splendor that is the London Plane.