London Corners – The Phoenix Garden
Where is this woodland glade where you may read a book in peace and calm away from the bustle of the city? Like so many other little parks in London it is hidden in plain sight, but this one really is in the heart of the West End. It’s not the only one, but the others tend to be manicured and statue-filled, from Soho Square (always rather tired-looking and often, unfortunately, rented out for corporate purposes) to the rather posher and more manicured St James’s Square (below).
This one is a true community square, though, facing social housing properties and run by locals, who host an annual agricultural show. It’s at the back of the Phoenix Theatre just off Charing Cross Road, and a narrow passageway from it will take you to the Church of St Giles.
The first recorded church on the site was a chapel of the parish of Holborn attached to a monastery and leper hospital founded by the wife of Henry I in 1101 – the one you see now is from 1732.
The Garden was set up on a carpark in the 1980s, which had been established on a WWII bombsite (the site was bombed in 1940). The Phoenix Garden has survived various challenges, including a major industrial fly-tipping scandal. It is the only one of the original seven Covent Garden community gardens to survive to this day. It continues to be run by a committee of volunteers comprising local residents and workers, to be enjoyed by all.