Open Garden Squares Weekend gives you the keys to garden gates across the city, says Sarah Riches
Ssssh! Take a trip to one of London’s secret gardens and open spaces.
This month you can escape the concrete jungle during Open Garden Squares
Weekend (17-18 Jun). Organised by London Parks & Gardens Trust, the event grants access to private or little-known public spaces that you might not otherwise hear about.
The event launched in 1998 with 40 private squares, and has since expanded to include 230 diverse spaces including allotments, skips, churchyards and rooftops. One of this year’s highlights is a chance to visit
Crossrail Place Roof Garden, which sits above Canary Wharf Crossrail station; the exotic garden is inspired by the area’s rich maritime heritage. Sit and soak in the sights and scents of the garden’s ferns, grasses and flowering shrubs.
The trust’s chairman, Ed Ikin, says: ‘My favourite garden is Sycamore House, a care home in Hammersmith, west London. It’s full of fruit and plants that exploit a microclimate. It reminds me that good gardening can happen in any space with the requisite skills and willpower.’ This year, old favourites including Fulham
Palace and SOAS’s Japanese Roof Garden are taking part, as well as some new venues such as the walled garden at the 17th-century Forty Hall in Barnet; Keats House – where the Romantic poet John Keats once strolled – and Gasholder Park, designed in 1850s’ cast iron gasholders at King’s Cross.
There is a host of activities, too. Sip cocktails made with fruit and herbs from The Brunel Museum’s garden while enjoying a sound and light show in its underground chamber. You can also try your hand at beekeeping and candle-making, or taste honey and honey beer at Bee Urban in Kennington Park.
Ikin adds: ‘ Visitors can make herbal tea bags at Cordwainers Garden in Hackney, take part in a workshop with a botanical illustrator at Highgate Day Centre Garden and do yoga in King George V Memorial Garden in Canons Park.’ Children, meanwhile, can go pond dipping at Haringey Railway Fields, plant flowers at All Saints Church garden in West Dulwich, watch a traditional Punch and Judy show in Eaton Square in Belgravia, and hear a story
and tie a wish to a tree of hope at Camden’s World Peace Garden. Need a pit stop? Then visit the vegetarian café at Freightliners City Farm in Islington, or sample some botanical-inspired gin cocktails and gin and tonic ice cream from the Gin Garden at pretty Cleveland Square, not far from Paddington station. You can also take afternoon tea at the Grade II-listed Grange White Hall Hotel. Once a Georgian townhouse, the hotel is located close to The British Museum in Bloomsbury. No doubt you will have a blooming lovely weekend.
Clockwise from this image: Nomura International PLC’s garden in the City; Eccleston Square; Roof Garden in Canary Wharf Inset: King Henry’s Walk Garden