Kensington Gardens--and attack of the "wild" parakeets!

Today, My Lovely Life Abroad visits Kensington Gardens, a park full of surprises!

Although many consider Kensington Gardens to be a part of Hyde Park, it is actually one of London's eight Royal Parks, and comprises 255 acres roughly separated from Hyde Park by the Serpentine and Long Water. 


With so many things to see and do inside Kensington Gardens, today I'm lucky enough to be with my friend Amy, who lives nearby, and so we are getting her  "secret insider" tour!


We start out at Lancaster Gate Underground Station, and enter the park near the Victoria Gate Lodge,  a prior gatekeeper's home, which is a little known cover for a  pet cemetery hidden behind the home.


The pet cemetery isn't generally open to the public (if you are truly interested, contact royalparks.org.uk and pay £50), but if you peek through the hedges, you can catch a glimpse of some of the 300 tombstones within. In 1881, the gatekeeper, known as Mr. Winbridge, began burying pets who frequented the park. The first pet buried was "Poor Cherry, died April 28, 1881," and her owners were friends of the gatekeeper.

Inside Hyde Park's secret pet cemetary
photo credit: Helen PG-Soteriou
It is somewhat of an insider's secret that there are some 60 cottages and gatekeepers homes within the Royal Parks. Many of them can be leased (if interested, contact Savills estate agents). 

Who knew you could live inside the park without marrying a Royal???

Another of the gatekeeper cottages for lease, just inside Kensington Garden
Now that we are inside Kensington Gardens, we've got the perfect place to begin the day! With a cup of coffee and breakfast at the Italian Gardens Cafe! They have the BEST Acai Bowls!

BE SURE TO BUY AN APPLE AT THE CAFE,  SO THAT YOU CAN FEED THE PARAKEETS!    (and cut it in 4ths with a knife there before you leave)



Italian Gardens Cafe Acai Bowl! yummmm!

The Italian Gardens are right in front of us, so why not take a closer look?


The Italian Gardens were commissioned by avid gardener Prince Albert in the 1860's, and given as a present to Queen Victoria.  On one of the walls of the Pump house at the North of the gardens, you can find their initials.  Another secret: The pillar on the top of the pump house is actually a disguised chimney (as the pump house once contained a steam engine to operate the fountains)

Next we wander down the right side of the water, where there are usually people feeding the pigeons and gulls.


As we progress around a slight bend in the path,  we come across a lovely statue of a boy blowing a horn. It's the Peter Pan Statue, secretly, surreptitiously and WITHOUT PERMISSION erected overnight on April 30, 1912, by JM Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. Barrie lived at 100 Bayswater Road, and placed the statue in the spot where Peter Pan landed his bird nest boat. Barrie wanted the statue to appear to the children of London to have arrived overnight as if brought by fairies. The Times newspaper noted, "There is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine this morning...they will find a May-day gift by Mr J.M. Barrie."


From here, the path gets a little brushy and overgrown, perfect for housing our next surprise--the Parakeets of Kensington Gardens!  

To find them, walk past the Peter Pan statue, and turn a sharp right just past a sign describing the wildlife of the park (note that the sign doesn't mention the parakeets in their list of wildlife!). The birds fly, flutter, perch and patrol the trees near the fence on your right.


People ask, "How will be able to identify the parakeets?" Honestly, this is not difficult. These Ring Neck Parakeets are lime green and quite squawky!




So how do you feed them? Just hold out your apple slice, and within seconds, you will have birds landing on your arms, head and apple! Be careful to hold onto the apple tightly, or they will fly off with it--lesson learned!  (My friend Amy has access to birdseed, which they also love)


I do kind of feel a bit sad for all the pigeons. They hang around waiting for dribs and drabs, but all the attention is on the crazy parakeets. Sorry, pigeons!

I could spend all day here with the parakeets, but we must move on to the other sights here in Kensington Gardens.  If you go back to the path along the water and continue, you can stop at the Serpentine Gallery (art and architecture), the Serpentine Sakler Gallery (modern art), the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain (right along the water) and the Serpentine Lido (swimming, sunbathing and cafe).

But we are going to cross the park from the parakeets to the Round Pond (I wonder where the name came from?) where here, you will no doubt see a few of the Queen's swans (she owns most of the swans in England)


And straight ahead of you is Kensington Palace, with the Statue of Queen Victoria holding court.


I highly recommend buying a ticket and going into the Palace to view the King's State apartments, and whatever is showing at the temporary gallery. You won't be able to see Prince William and Kate's apartments, but until March 10th, 2019, there is an exhibition of the costumes from "The Favourite" movie. Also inside, there is a cafe, that serves wonderful pastries and tea. Please don't miss the Palace's beautiful gardens, pictured below. 



Now we leave the palace and turn left on Broad Walk (also aptly named). On our left is the back side of Kensington Palace Gardens, London's most expensive street. With the average home price on this street hitting £34.6 million ( $45 million dollars), it is home to the Russian, French, Israeli, Slovakian, Norwegian and Nepalese embassies, as well as (obviously) the uber-rich. 


Looking carefully, under a tree on the right side, you will see another secret of today's visit, two stones with a remarkable past. In the words of JM Barrie in Peter Pan,  "I think that the most touching sight in the gardens is the two tombstones of Water Stephen Matthews and Phoebe Phelps... here Peter found the two babes, who had fallen unnoticed from their perambulators." 

The letters W. St M and 13A P.P are clearly inscribed on the two stones. But the stones are actually examples of boundary markers which can be found across London. Barry, using Kensington gardens again as inspiration for his stories, has made the mundane far more interesting. 


Continuing on Broad Walk, we come to our last secret spot of the day. Here is the Princess Diana Playground, and within a fenced structure to the left is the Elfin Oak, a sculpture made from the hollow trunk of a tree, containing fairies, animals and elves. The tree famously appeared on the inside cover of Pink Floyd's 1969 album, "Ummagumma!"






Well, on that historical note, we complete our tour of Kensington Gardens! 
(and best of all, it's all free, with exception to Kensington palace)


Hope you enjoyed discovering some of the park's hidden secrets!





Comments

  1. Wow!!! What fun and so beautiful and magical!!!! Thank you Jean for sharing all your adventures!!!!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! So glad you enjoyed this one! It’s definitely one of my favorites!

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