Hidden Garden Gems : The Capital’s Greatest Little Patches of Green


Everyone likes being led up the garden path now and then; it’s irresistible. Especially when the lovely gardens in question are those that follow. Indeed, should you find yourself momentarily flagging during a hectic visit to the UK capital then you may find any of them (if you’re in their vicinity) just the source of tranquillity you require to quickly recharge your batteries…

Japanese Roof Garden

(Thornhaugh Street WC1H 0XG)

First up; something a little oriental. London can be enormously busy; does it ever stop? And it seems – well, outside your hotel, no doubt – there simply isn’t a place to take a breather and seek a little solitude and reflection. Step forward the Japanese Roof Garden atop the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in Bloomsbury. Laid out just over 15 years ago, it’s all about serenity and enabling forgiveness in everyday life. With its carefully placed rocks, pebbles, fountains and more, this is where to come to for some perspective, all right. Look out especially for the Kanji character that’s engraved on a granite water basin – it’s the garden’s specific dedication to forgiveness.

Phoenix Garden

(21 Stacey Street WC2H 8DG)

Should you be seeing the sights or enjoying some retail therapy in the West End, then this is the perfect little place for a leafy lunchtime break.

To be found behind Charing Cross Road and so right in the very heart of Central London, it’s an oasis of calm amidst all the hustle-bustle that surrounds it, not least because it’s undergone a thoughtful conservation programme that’s resulted in it brimming not just with flora, but fauna too – local little busybodies include the likes of sparrows and frogs. And check out St. Giles in the Fields’ very nearby churchyard to supply sustenance for your lunch – it’s full of food and coffee stalls each week.

Skip Garden

(1 Tapper Walk N1C 4AQ)

For those who get a kick out of seeing urban sustainability in action, this is the site for you. Combining the spirit of the old-fashioned allotment with waste materials from the comprehensive building work that’s taken place in the King’s Cross area in recent years (the latter finding a second life here as planters), it’s a delightful source for the likes of pumpkins, beans, chillies and tomatoes – all of them growing in an appealingly off-kilter manner out of skips and polytunnels.

Yet the best thing about this spot? Its on-site café, which not only uses all the food grown here but regularly puts on seasonal feasts and supper clubs, just the ticket for an evening out while you’re making use of London hotels packages at accommodation like the Montcalm Marble Arch.

Red Cross Garden

(50 Redcross Way SE1 1HA)

Finally, conceived by Octavia Hill, the social reformer who went on to found the UK’s National Trust conservation body, this fine garden dates all the way back to the Victorian age, which is a moot point because, well over a century on after it was originally laid out, much effort has gone into preserving its appearance to how it would have looked way back when. Indeed, with its (now fully restored) charmingly elegant bandstand, cottage, pond and formal borders, it was created as a place in which impoverished children from the local Southwark tenements could play. Happily, the view from the garden for today’s free-wheeling ankle-biters isn’t the likes of factories and workhouses, but instead the sky-piercing aspiration and ambition of the remarkable Shard building. How times move on.