20 London Parks and Gardens

BKLPAG Part 4: Beddington Park

Carew Manor

I don’t think I could have chosen a finer week to become unemployed.  The weather has been great as we change from Winter to Spring this week. And to celebrate (?) my freedom from work (hopefully just very very temporary) I treated myself to a bicycle tour of an unexplored part of London. I checked out the London Parks & Garden Trust website for some inspiration. They have created several bicycle and walking routes throughout London, which make their way through notable parks. Perfect for me. So the one I chose went through the London Borough of Sutton, which is a just a couple miles to the Southwest of where I live.

The route took me through many of the towns, which are stops after mine on the train. It was nice to finally have a picture to a name.  I took off Tuesday morning, the 1stday of Spring heading south. The route, said it

Church and yews in the churchyard

was about 8.5 miles, which didn’t feel like much since I’ve been doing a lot more than that on my commute to work. The first park that I visited, which is the park I’ll be highlighting, was Beddington Park.  Beddington Park used to be a deer park as part of the Carew Estate.  The London Parks and Garden Trust website said the Carews arrived in the area in the 14th century. Deer parks used to be fashionable back in the day for those aristocrats who couldn’t be bothered to travel far from home to partake in some hunting.  Good for them and a long term win for me and the others enjoying the park these days.  Part of the park included a church built in the 19th century, I do believe. Though judging by the amount of very mature yews in the church yard, there’s been a church there for much longer than that. Yews (Taxus baccata) are often found in church yards. You can read more about their significance here.

Gnarly old limes. I'm guessing about 130-150 years old? Probably planted not long after the church was built.

After checking out the old manor house, which is now a school, and the church I headed up North along the cycle path. It lead to a pretty phenomenal avenue of old lime (Tilia europea) trees. They had obviously been pollarded in a  previous life but have not been touched in a long time. I’m not sure what the maintenance plan is for these guys, but I didn’t really see many downed branches as I expected. It also could be that they just did maintenance in the park.  Who knows. Either way there’s some sweet limes with gnarly growth and severe dieback in the top. I will have to go back in the summer and see how the trees end up flushing out leaves.

After admiring the limes for a bit, I continued north to the rest of my bike adventure. The bike path went a long ways along the River Wandle. I had never seen much of River Wandle before, but it’s pretty nice. It goes north from here and dumps into the Thames somewhere in the Putney area of London.  Beddington Park: worth a visit! My next installment will be about the final park I visited on my bike ride.  It’s great to get out and explore new parts of the city and find hidden gems of awesome in the parks and gardens of this city.

A closer shot of one of the limes. That's some engineering on the tree's part to hold that large branch out like that for such a long time. Good job tree.

A yew shading the resting place of some people.

River Wandle


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BKLPAG Part 3: Waterlow Park

Mr. Waterlow, the generous guy who made this piece of land a park.

Located just off Highgate hill and one of a few greenspaces in the area, Waterlow Park is one not to be missed for a wander. The park is in Highgate in northern London just next to Highgate Cemetery and Hampstead Heath. The park has been fairly recently restored by the local council. I walked into it, knowing little of it’s history, but was pleasantly surprised. It is a grand, late Victorian park, a gift from Mr. Waterlow to London County Council.  The park contains a few houses which pre-date the creation of the park.

For me, I visited on a cold, dreary Leap Year February 29th. But the crocuses, snowdrops were in full force and a couple of cherry trees were beginning to flout their early season blooms. It reminded me that the grumblings of Spring come early here in the Southeast of England. It’s one of the things I love most about living here in London. fter spending so many of the past 12 years of my life living in the desert, where the Spring is a weekend sometime in the Middle of May.  Here it’s 3 months of watching all the shades of the rainbow re-appear in shrubs, vines and trees after a Winter slumber in fantastic fashion.

I didn’t have much time to explore the park as I was working, but what I did see made me sure I’d be back again

Yey, Spring is on it's way!

to spend the time to see the whole property. I was most impressed with the water features, which are fed by natural springs.  There’s a bit of a bowl area going down to one of the ponds in the park.  From the top of the bowl, you can get a glimpse of the central area of London over the top of the trees.

As far as trees are concerned, there’s a fantastic mix of trees, including some really nice Scots Pines (Pinus sylvestris) on the Northern wall of the park.  Of course I didn’t get any good pictures of them as it was an after thought to take pictures for this series of posts. You’ll just have to go there yourself to see them. My favorite tree on the property was a big Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica) which looked like it had some serious damage to it about 3 feet up from the bottom. I have no idea what the history of the tree is, but it looked good and had overcome the stress to become a prominent figure in the space.  Good job, Beech.

Lauderdale House and garden

I took a quick stroll by the Lauderdale House which houses a small cafe. Out in front of the house is a lovely little formal garden. And my favorite bit was the sun dial in the garden, which was at the same elevation as the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the city.  It’s quirky little monuments and installations like this, which make certain parks worth multiple visits or dragging other people to experience.

Dog train

On my way out I spotted a guy walking a load of dogs.  Literally a load.  And all of the same breed.  I think they were bichon frise? Any ways, it made for a memorable moment to see them all walking in a line on their way to a nice afternoon in the park.  Lucky dogs to get walked in such a park.

So if you do happen to make your way to Hampstead Heath or Highgate Cemetery, make sure to make a small trip through Waterlow Park. You’ll be glad you did.  I”ll leave you with a couple more pics of the park.  Enjoy and welcome Spring!

Mr Beech

A view of the City

St Pauls Sun Dial.

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BKLPAG Part 2: Regent Square Garden

Welcome to the square


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

Note lovely housing estate in background.

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.


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BKLPAG Part 1: Tooting Bec Common

On my way to work one morning

It’s nearly the middle of February and Colleen’s new years resolution No. 6 has not been been tested much. I am supposed to be visiting 20 new London parks or gardens and taking lovely pictures and sharing my thoughts on them, but I haven’t yet. But that’s all changing tonight as I bring you part 1 of my 20 part series: Better Know London’s Parks and Gardens (a small rip off of Stephen Colbert’s Better know a district) or BKLPAG for short. That’s easy to remember abbrev. Any ways, The first park up: Tooting Bec Common.

I first must admit that I’ve gone through this park many times. It part of my commute route into work since November. So it’s hardly new. But I never take pictures.  That is until a couple weeks ago when I fancied a bit of walk. The common contains a small woodland area which is dominated

Cycle path, lined by Aesculus hippocastanum. Better known as Horse Chestnut

by oaks. I’d randomly discovered it in the fall when I was walking home from Balham one night and the leaves were still on the trees. It felt really special and I was happy to discover such a place not too far from where I live.  Even in the middle of winter, it’s a wonderful place to walk through.

The park is a couple hundred acres and contains a bunch of football pitches, an athletics track and a pool. Recently they’ve installed a new adventure playground which is like a giant rope playground thing, which I’d be pretty excited about if I were a kid in the area.

As you’ll start to see, trees will most likely prominently feature in these posts for good reason: trees are

The adaptable and ever so strong, Quercus robur (English Oak)

neat. And with all the excellent oaks in Tooting Common, it’s worth a visit. The great thing about oaks are the cavities they can develop and have for literally hundreds of years and not severely hamper their ability to grow. One of the oaks along Bedford Hill has one of the largest cavities I’ve ever seen on an oak. I’m pretty sure I could have taken up residence inside of it and been quite comfortable.

While I was there snapping photos I spotted some birds in a tree which didn’t seem like they quite fit in. I know that there’s a population of bird species here in London, which are most likely birds who have escaped or been let loose by their owners. Now they’ve successfully bred and taken to the sky of London. They aren’t the only species to take over here in England either. In the UK the red squirrel used to be the dominant squirrel species. That was until some aristocrat went across the pond and discovered North American gray squirrels which they brought back here for novelty. Well these squirrels are much more aggressive and destructive than their red counterparts. They ended up competing the reds out of most of England. Now the red ones are only found in isolated forests of Britain which is sad.

Even though I don’t think the gray squirrels should be here, I made a friend at the common the day I

New squirrel friend

went photo shooting. Poking out of a cavity in an oak above my head was a squirrel just staring at me. For a second I thought it was fake, but after about 25 seconds he disappeared back into the tree. Some of you may know that I have a soft spot for squirrels.

So I’ll leave you with a few more pictures from around the Common. If you live in SW16, I hope you go for a wander through there. I look forward to seeing the leaves getting back on the trees soon in another month or two.

BKLPAG Part 2 will feature something a little less sprawling, but no less impressive. So look forward to that in the coming days.

Love birds

Avenue of trees

I bet this old tree provides a habitat to a surprising number of creatures.

Tooting Bec Common is part of the Capital Ring Walk











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