Keep it to yourself, but London is full of peaceful green places offering a bit of respite from the city. Sara O’Reilly guides you to five secret gardens…
London might seem like a concrete jungle sometimes, but it’s still unexpected to see a slice of tropical rainforest in the City. You’ll find one housed in the Barbican’s huge glasshouse (open to the public on Sundays and bank holiday Mondays only). Designed in 1980 to disguise the Barbican Theatre’s flytower, the lofty conservatory is home to thousands of exotic plants, as well as huge koi carp swimming in clear pools: very zen. Silk St, EC2Y 8DS.
Camley Street Natural Park
With all those wide-open public spaces and all that statement architecture, King’s Cross has really transformed of late. That’s brilliant, but sometimes the relentless buzz of progress can get a bit much. Find some peace and quiet close to the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras in this twoacre garden on the banks of the Regent’s Canal. London Wildlife Trust volunteers help maintain the pond, meadow and woodland, preserving it as a haven away from all the hectic commuters. 12 Camley St, N1C 4PW.
This ancient woodland was once part of the Forest of Middlesex, which is mentioned in the ‘Domesday Book’. These days it’s run by the Corporation of London, which originally tried to impose order on unruly nature by turning it into an urban park, with paths and ornamental trees. A welcome change of municipal heart means respect for the wood’s essential woodiness has now prevailed. Around 70 different species of birds show their approval of this state of affairs by frequenting the hornbeam and oaks. Muswell Hill Rd, N10 3JN.
In the middle of Richmond Park is this enclosed ornamental garden established during the 1950s. Planted with ferns, exotic trees and shrubs, it’s lovingly tended but doesn’t feel overly manicured. No matter how many people are there, somehow you never seem to see anyone else. In late June especially you can fill your nostrils with the scent of the last of the blooming rhododendrons and deciduous azaleas. Feel the flower power. Richmond Park, TW10 5HS.
Japanese Roof Garden
You’re sitting at your desk, fuming. Graham in accounts hasn’t processed your expenses claim, again. Oh, Graham! Time to head to the Japanese Roof Garden at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Built in 2001, this serene space is dedicated to forgiveness (there’s a Kanji character engraved on the garden’s granite water basin that says as much). A period of repose among the artfully placed rocks and pebbles and combed sand will set you right, and make you feel more charitable towards Graham. Brunei Gallery, SOAS, Thornhaugh St, WC1H 0XG.
Looking for somewhere closer to you? See our full list of 24 hidden parks and secret gardens in London.
Prefer a bit of beer with your garden? Take a look at these 17 beer gardens, recommended by you.