A Garden Of One’s Own
It’s the only large Central London park I’ve never been inside, and it’s just two miles from our home. To be sure, there are other spots missing off the Fowler Patented Scrutinizing Map of London but this is the largest unknown territory.
Buckingham Palace Garden, 39 lush acres lying behind high spiked walls, magically screens out the street pollution and noise to provide an oasis of calm in the centre of the city. There was clearly no chance of ever getting invited to one of HRH’s garden parties, so Pete the husband applied for tickets, which were gone mere seconds after becoming available.
The Garden spans 16 hectares and provides a habitat for 30 species of breeding bird, including some rare natives and over 325 species of wildflower. They’re bringing back nature that existed here two hundred years ago.
The back of Buckingham Palace is a little less attractive than the front, but much more welcoming. At dusk the amber stone glows. There’s a broad terrace for entertaining – the Queen hosts parties for people from all walks of life, apparently not mine. The lawns are elegantly striped and the peaceful lake has islands, fed from the Serpentine overflow in Hyde Park or the Tyburn, depending on which of the guides you talk to.
One of them told me that only a single scene in ‘The Crown’ was ever filmed there, and that almost everything in the series is subtly wrong. The garden is venerable and outrageously picturesque. There’s even a perfect view of the Angel of Peace on her chariot on the Wellington Arch, raised as a smack in the eye for Napoleon.
There’s a mulberry tree planted at the time of James I and 45 different types of mulberry tree in the grounds, which are also home to the enormous Waterloo Vase, standing alone on a pedestal in a clearing. It was chosen by Napoleon and hewn from a single 15 foot block of marble. It nearly fell through the floor of the National Gallery and ended up here in the woods.
The garden was inspired by the works of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, designed to be ‘long-grass’ and free flowing instead of rigid and formal and dull, like French gardens. Each turn in the path reveals a new vista. You can easily imagine the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret playing in the summerhouse and holding picnics on the lawn. The Queen is said to love the vista because she can see it from her rooms.
I thought we would stay for maybe two hours. There were six of us and you’re allowed to picnic and go pretty much where you want. We spent the entire day there, lolling about with hampers and martinis. A genuinely surprising and chilled day out.