Pink flamingos in an English garden on a roof in the heart of one of London’s poshest boroughs, who knew. Well certainly not me that is until Saturday afternoon when I visited the Roof Gardens in Kensington. What an amazing place, a real hidden gem in the heart of central London and it’s free to visit.
The Roof Gardens were the dream of Trevor Bowen, the vice president of John Barker & Co. In 1936 he employed landscape architect Ralph Hancock to create his vision. Two years later at a cost of £25,000 the finished gardens were opened to the public. Ralph Hancock brought in over 500 species of plants and shrubs and even imported rock from Pennsylvania for his alpine planting. Seven trees still remain from the original planting and the gardens have now been acknowledged as a place of “Specific Historical Interest” and have been given grade II listed status by English Heritage.
The gardens are accessed from their entrance at 99 Derry Street just off Kensington High Street, once you’ve signed in take the lift straight up to the roof and out into the gardens.
The first garden I encountered was the English Woodland Garden. It’s quite unbelievable to think that you’re in central London when you’re up here it just feels so serene and relaxed. There are thousands of narcissus, crocus, muscari, snowdrops and bluebells planted here all bursting into colour and producing beautiful scents. Some of the trees in this part of the garden are 75 years old including the American Red, the Mulberry tree and the Japanese Maple. The English Woodland Garden is also home to some resident birds, there are Mandarin and Carolina Wood Ducks and four not particularly shy pink flamingos.
Walking under the Tudor Walkway you enter the Tudor Garden made up of three courtyards. The garden uses red brick walls and four Tudor style arches to transport you back to another time. In this area plants have been used that would be recognised in Tudor England. In the 1970’s this area was planted with only black and white flowers by then occupant Barbara Hulanicki founder of the iconic fashion brand Biba.
The last of the three gardens is the Spanish Garden based on the Alhambra in Granada. The Spanish Garden has a distinct Moorish feel to it and is made up of colourful English plants and flowers as well as Mediterranean trees. The pretty coloured buildings and modern layout of the Spanish Garden are all from the original plan of the area from 1938.
The gardens are open daily and as I mentioned earlier are free to visit but be aware that they are hired out for private functions and can sometimes be closed so it’s always best to call ahead to check that they’re open. There’s no limit on how long you can spend up there and if the weathers nice you can just grab a seat and enjoy the atmosphere.
On the 7th floor there’s also the Babylon Restaurant and Terrace serving cocktails, lunch and dinner, I didn’t visit for food or drinks but the views over London and the gardens are quite spectacular.
Have you been to the Roof Gardens? What did you think? If you like my posts why not connect with me through Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest just click on the icons on the left of the main page!