London has eight royal parks and I’m lucky enough to work near one of the finest of these, Hyde Park. This green swathe of trees, meadows, flowerbeds and sports pitches is a calming and fascinating place to wander in, amidst an otherwise frenetic and heavily built-up city.
I visit the park whenever I can, dodging the early morning and evening commuter traffic on the underground or buses, or walking around its central lake, the Serpentine, at lunchtime. And with 350 acres to explore, each visit is different from the last.
Hyde Park changes from day to day, and from one season to the next. I’ve watched Royal Gun Salutes, Lido swimmers and soapbox speakers, attended rock concerts, admired its statues and memorials, and often simply watched the world go by from under a shady tree, or from a park bench or grassy patch.
Like the city that surrounds it, the park has a long and interesting history. Acquired by Henry VIII from the monks of Westminster Abbey, it was used as a private hunting ground for a century before being opened up to the general public by James I in 1637.
Almost 400 years later it’s a great place to see Londoners and tourists enjoying time out. People walk, jog, cycle, ride horses and play football and tennis in the park. Others enjoy picnics, take pedaloes out on the lake or feed the ducks.
There’s wildlife here, too. Geese, swans, herons and moorhens are frequent sightings. There are also inquisitive squirrels and insects buzzing around the vibrant flowerbeds.
The next few months promise to be especially exciting, with lots of live music and the Olympics being broadcast on big screens, and I’ll be photographing as much of the action as I can. Over the next year I’m aiming to upload a photo every day during the working week, taken that day – whatever the weather, come rain or shine.