Longing for an escape to a corner of idyllic green space in the city? Avoid the crowds and make like you’re in the countryside by heading into the hidden wild. Get to know London’s parks, gardens and secret green spaces that make up 47% of the city with our trusty guide. Now get out there, nature’s calling.
10 secret green spaces to escape to in London
Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park
This 180-year old luscious 40-acre garden set within a Victorian woodland plantation is home to 100 different varieties of azaleas. You spot them lining ponds and streams amongst 125 different varieties of hardy hybrid rhododendrons. A botanical haven, this garden is a real slice of tranquility and feels far away from the nearby spot Fenton went deer-chasing in 2011. Before you go, see what’s in bloom in the monthly plant diary.
Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park, TW10 5HS. Nearest Station: Norbiton
St. John’s Lodge Gardens, Regent’s Park
You might not think of one of the world’s most famous parks as location for a ‘secret’ garden, but the entrance is pretty darn discreet. Located on the Inner Circle of Regent’s Park (at about ‘2 o’clock’ a canny Yelp user reveals), once you’ve found it, soak up the quiet of this quintessential English garden. Designed as a space ‘fit for meditation’ by Robert Weir Shultz in 1889, enjoy a stroll amongst its scalloped hedges and greenery-shrouded seating areas.
St. John’s Lodge Gardens, Regent’s Park, NW1 4NR. Nearest Tube: Regent’s Park
Geffrye Museum Herb Garden, Kingsland Road, E8
Head behind the museum and you’ll find the lesser-known spot of its herb garden. Pass beyond three tombstones at the entrance and to reach its walled garden, revealed only by an open black wooden door. Home to over 170 different herbs organised into time periods, you could easily forget you’re just off the Kingsland Road – that is, until the Overground rumbles by.
Geffrye Museum, 136 Kingsland Road, E2 8EA. Nearest Station: Hoxton
Vauxhall Park Lavender Field, Vauxhall
This little haven of Victorian parkland is the perfect place to relax, aided by a big breath of lavender-filled air. The bounteous garden was planted in 2003 to mark the Centenary of the Vauxhall Motor Company. Not just a lovely spot, last year The Friends of Vauxhall Park distilled 79 kilos of the pretty purple stuff in Surrey to make lavender oil. Locals could pick up a bottle of its oil from the local deli in time for Christmas. It’s one of the green spaces that come with welcome quirks such as a rose pergola, model village, orchard and human sundial.
Lavender Garden, Vauxhall Park, 12 Lawn Lane, SW8 1UA. Nearest Tube: Vauxhall
WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes
What do you mean you haven’t been down to this urban oasis yet? Take a prom along the Thames at Hammersmith (it’s just 10 minutes by bus from the tube) and take in the lakes, gardens and wild birds. Spanning 100 acres of land formerly occupied by several small reservoirs which now feature a wide range habitats, skip amongst wildflower meadows and say hello to foraging otters and water voles chomping on reeds.
WWT London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, SW13 9WT. Nearest Station: Barnes
Conservatory Archives, Hackney Road, Cambridge Heath
One passing peek through the tall and elegant windows of this sprawling indoor garden will leave you wanting to dive right into its dashing cacophony of wild vegetation. It’s a tropical refuge in the heart of Hackney where pretty much no corner of its bare plaster walls are left unaccompanied by a climbing vine or weird and wonderful plant. Didn’t think you could be seduced by a 4 feet tall cacti? Think again.
Conservatory Archives, 493-495 Hackney Road, E2 9ED. Nearest Station: Cambridge Heath
Wanderings, all over town
Take a lesson in everyday urban exploration with Saira Niazi, whose charming blog Living London charts a discovery of the city’s hidden gems and green spaces wrapped up in storytelling and history-delving. Niazi’s ‘Wanderings’ offer a chance to venture into a lesser known corners of town and take in stories of people and places with a mini history lesson to boot. This weekend see’s a ‘Secret Wandle Wondering’ through Deen City farm and Merton Priory Chapter House, normally closed to the public.
Wanderings, various dates and London locations
Petersham Nurseries, Richmond Park & Covent Garden
There’s nothing like a killer combo of considered homewares and lush greenery to calm the nerves. Get all the inspiration you need from the verdant flora of the nursery or dine at the excellent restaurant (hailing Skye Gyngell of Spring as its head chef at the time of winning its Michelin-star) in a glasshouse, brimming with bougainvillea and jasmine. So it’s not quite a secret, but if Richmond is a touch too far, head to the recently opened Covent Garden store for your greenery and glassware hit.
Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 7AB. Nearest Tube: Richmond
31 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JD. Nearest Tube: Covent Garden
Walthamstow Marshes, Walthamstow, E17
The 90 acre site of one of the last remaining areas of semi-natural wetland in town and offers many a natural treasure. You’re as likely to see buzzards and kestrels above as you are two of Britain’s rarest plants (creeping marshwort and brookweed, don’t you know) below in this protected Site of Special Scientific Interest. Traditionally, the site would’ve been managed as Lammas Land, that is, common land used for growing crops and grazing cattle. Nowadays the introduced cattle do a fine job.
Walthamstow Marshes, Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, E10 7QL. Nearest Station: Lea Bridge
Boma Garden Centre, Kentish Town, NW5
Nestled in a quiet street just off bustling Kentish Town Road, this garden centre truly is an urban surprise. For the green-fingered there’s a superb selection of plants and flowers and a sunny spot that makes for a happy afternoon’s browsing. For those happier to sup a coffee, devour a cake and admire the plants from afar, head to the zen-like spot of the Arbour Cafe. Incidentally, Kentish Town’s food scene has been quietly exploding over the last few years. Spend the day in the area (Hampstead Heath is a short stroll away) and enjoy one of the best pub meals you can get in the capital at The Bull & Last or discover the just-about-still-secret gem Anima e Cuore for some pasta that’ll knock your socks off.
Boma Garden Centre, 51 – 53 Islip Street, Kentish Town, London, NW5 2DL. Nearest Station: Kentish Town