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The Royal Parks of London
An urban area the size of London, with around 7.5 million inhabitants and nearly as many in the surrounding boroughs, isn’t usually thought of as a place where you’ll find a lot of open space. As the most populous city in the European Union, you might think that they use all their available space to house people. However, London’s Royal Gardens are 5,000 acres of historic gardens that offer unique opportunities to enjoy. While London has many parks and open spaces, the Royal Parks are in the best locations and are on average the largest.
There are five royal parks and eight parks in total in central London alone. Royal Gardens are lands that once belonged to the British monarchy. These lands were once used for their own enjoyment, mainly as hunting grounds, but as London’s population grew, these lands became available as free public parks. There are about 5,500 acres of royal gardens in London.
Hyde Park is the most famous royal park and one of the largest in central London. It covers approximately 350 acres and is bisected by Serpentine Lake, at the northern end of which is a haven for ducks, geese, and skunks. The lake has a central bridge that divides it between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, another of the eight Royal Gardens, slightly smaller than Hyde Park at 275 acres. Many people think that Kensington Gardens are part of Hyde Park, but they are not. The grounds were originally the private gardens of Kensington Palace.
Serpentine Lake is named for its curves and has a swimming area known as Lido Landsbury, which will host the swimming portion of the triathlon for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The rink is only open during the summer, but for the past few decades it’s been a New Year’s Day tradition for a group of misfits to break any ice and plunge themselves into the freezing water. No one knows why. The lake has rowing boats for hire and also hosted the 2002 World Rowing 500m competition. No motorized traffic is allowed around the lake, and the area is heavily used by in-line skaters, and there are areas for other, more formal sports. and informally, around the lake shore.
Hyde Park has hosted outdoor concerts with several famous bands over the years, such as The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. A 1976 Queen concert holds the record for attendance, with an official attendance of 150,000, although estimates range from 180,000 to 200,000.
Other royal gardens in London include Bushy Park in the Richmond upon Thames district. At 1100 acres it is the second largest royal park. A bit far from the city center but wildlife like Red Deer make it seem further out in the countryside. Bushy Park is home to the National Physical Laboratory, The Royal Paddocks and Bushy House. The D-Day landings were held here at the Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II, and hockey was invented here in the late 1800s.
Green Park, or Green Park, depending on who you ask, is centrally located near Hyde Park and has no water features. It was originally used as a marshy burial ground for lepers from St James’s Hospital until the 16th century. Today it forms a green square when it merges with Hyde Park and runs from Whitehall to Notting Hill. It is mainly forested grassland and supports wildlife and birds that are not normally found in this urban environment. The park is an escape from the city with activities such as sunbathing and picnicking when the weather permits. Walking and jogging paths are also popular in Green Park.
Greenwich Park is one of the largest continuous green areas in south-west London. One of only 830 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, Greenwich Park is another royal park that was formerly used as a hunting lodge. The World Heritage Site is listed by the authorities of 21 countries as a place of natural or cultural importance that should be protected. The Royal Observatory is located here and the hills offer stunning views of the River Thames, the Isle of Dogs and the City of London. Deer were introduced for hunting by Henry VIII and a small herd still exists today.
Regent’s Park is partly in Westminster and partly in the borough of Camden. The park consists of 487 hectares of open spaces. The Regents Canal and another lake provide a home for waterfowl, including the heron. Other amenities in the park include the London Zoo, the Open Air Theater and the Botanic Society. The park offers a wide range of sports facilities including rowing, tennis, cricket, softball, rounders, soccer, hockey, ultimate frisbee and rugby. The proximity of this Royal Park to five other Royal Parks in central London makes it appear as one continuous park.
Richmond Park is not included and is the largest royal park in London at 2,360 acres. Its wildlife includes red deer, fallow deer, rabbits, and moose. Richmond Park is protected with SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) status. The park has been the setting for at least two movies. The movie “Annie a Thousand Days” was filmed here in 1969. Parts of the movie “Billy Elliot” were also filmed in Richmond Park.
St. James’s Park is only about 58 acres and is the oldest Royal Park in London. The park is located in the city of Westminster. Since the reign of James I in 1603, the park has been an open zoo. Camels, elephants, crocodiles and exotic birds were kept in the park. However, none of these species thrived and wild Elephants and Crocodiles are rare to see in the park today. It’s probably better not to exist, but you should check if readers are paying attention every now and then!
The Royal Gardens are some of the best open spaces in the UK and for many people they are an oasis in the urban desert.
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