High above the bustling streets of West London is a beautiful and peaceful walled garden. To those who know it, it is a very special place to relax and escape. The only way to reach it is by elevator – up to the sixth floor. Here on the rooftop – next to a church steeple – are Kensington Roof Gardens.
The gardens offer one and a half acres of tranquillity; complete with established trees and a flowing stream! They are divided into three areas; the Spanish Garden, the Tudor Garden and the Woodland Garden. Best of all, they are open to the public to visit, free of charge. (However they are often hired for private events so it is advisable to check they are open when you plan a visit…)
The gardens were established in 1938 by Welsh landscape gardener Ralph Hancock. During his career; Hancock created many beautiful gardens, including the roof garden of the Rockerfeller Center in New York and the garden at Twyn-yr-Hydd House in Margam, Wales. In 2009, Kensington Roof Gardens were finally restored to their original ‘Hancock glory’ by Head Gardener David Lewis and his talented team.
In just 1.5 meters of soil, they have established trees, shrubs and wonderful floral borders. There are 140 meters of hedging and beautiful examples of topiary. Some of the original trees remain, protected by preservation orders.
The Spanish Garden is based on the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Colourful and fragrant, the pink buildings, fountains and palm trees brighten even the cloudiest of London days. The area has a distinct Moorish flavour with archways and colonnades, coloured glass lanterns and bolted doors.
A walk through the Tudor Garden is like stepping back in time. Between the evergreen shrubs are statues and carvings. Climbing roses and wisteria grip on to the pillars and herringbone brickwork walls.
Peelings and vegetable scraps from the restaurant kitchen go into the wormery to produce liquid feed for the salads and herb garden; and there is a wall filled with little pots of summer strawberry plants – every inch of the garden is put to good use. There is even a resident bee hive…
The English Woodland Garden is at its best early in the year, ablaze with thousands of Spring flowers. Adjacent to the lawn is a flowing stream, home to fish and wildfowl.
But the most surprising aspect of this high-rise garden is the resident flamingo family – who wander about quite happily – dipping in the water or dozing next to patio tables. Seeing them strut across the perfect lawn may evoke memories of the ‘flamingo croquet’ in Lewis Carroll’s classic work Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland…
An afternoon tea, high above London – in the company of flamingos… What a lovely way to spend an afternoon?!