The humanitarian history behind London’s parks

Nature

London is constantly changing and new pockets of green space frequently turn into some of the city's most beautiful parks. Often overlooked by tourists, they present a rare insight into the capital’s political and socio-history.

Postman’s Park at St Paul’s

A ceramic tile in Postman's Park, commemorating Amelia Kennedy

A ceramic tile in Postman's Park, commemorating Amelia Kennedy

It is rather fitting that Postman's Park is so easy to overlook given that London's unsung heroes are commemorated there. Hidden behind St. Paul’s cathedral and towered over by the forbidding St. Bart’s Hospital, this small leafy park is home to the Watts’ Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice.

The memorial takes the form of a wall of ceramic tiles, each devoted to an overlooked hero. Here you will find the story of Alice Ayres, a young woman who saved three children from a burning house and lost her own life in the process, and Alfred Smith who was killed in a WW2 air-raid while saving civilian lives.

Enjoy some early-morning solitude in the garden by staying at the nearby Melia White House Hotel.

Roof Garden at The Southbank

Spend a few hours wandering around Tate Modern, then visit the Southbank Rooftop Garden

Spend a few hours wandering around Tate Modern, then visit the Southbank Rooftop Garden

Setting aside its stunning location – perched on top of the Southbank, overlooking The Thames, The Gherkin and The London Eye – one of the most striking things about the Southbank Rooftop Garden is how quickly the wildflower garden has become an established part of London’s skyline.

Created in collaboration with the Eden Project in 2011, today the garden is maintained by the Ground EcoTherapy group; a collection of volunteers recovering from addiction, mental health issues and, in some cases, homelessness. Stop by to admire the creative way they have carved a green space out of the concrete surroundings.

Then, after you’ve watched the sunset over the Thames, head back to the citizenM London Bankside and use their free iMacs to share your photos with everyone at home.

House Of St Barnabas in Soho

Enjoy a cocktail at the St Barnaba garden in Soho

Enjoy a cocktail at the St Barnaba garden in Soho

The garden at the House of St Barnabas in Soho provides visitors with a sunny escape from the bustling London streets, and in the evening strings of fairy-lights make it feel like a set out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Despite the magical nature of this small, green haven, the garden itself has a very practical purpose. The house was originally built to support families in danger of becoming homeless and today it is still owned by a charity that uses the profits from the house and garden to support survivors of domestic violence.

Stay at the Staunton Hotel B&B and make your way to the House of St Barnabas via two of London’s best known gardens: Bedford Square Gardens and Soho Square Gardens.

Coram’s Fields at The Brunswick

A green space dedicated to the children of London

A green space dedicated to the children of London

In the 1700s many babies born in London were at risk of abandonment due to rising poverty, which led to Thomas Coram establishing the Foundling Hospital in 1739.

The grounds around the hospital were dedicated to London’s children so that they could ‘play in peace’ and today adults wishing to enter the fields must be accompanied by a child, although children are allowed to go in on their own.

Today the hospital has been turned into a museum, commemorating the work of the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children, and visitors hoping to soak up even more of London’s history can check into The Penn Club, only 5-minutes walk from the British Museum.

St. Mary’s Secret Garden in Hackney

St. Mary's, an ecotherapy scheme in the centre of Hackney

St. Mary's, an ecotherapy scheme in the centre of Hackney

The small, community-run St. Mary’s Secret Garden in Hackney is an ecotherapy scheme, designed to help isolated people reintegrate into their community and unemployed people gain skills, while feeling like they are making a positive contribution to the area.

With these aims in mind, many of the plants in the garden are either medicinal or designed to bolster London’s bees, and there is an outreach programme to provide garden services for Hackney residents with reduced mobility.

Live like a local for the weekend and check into this charming garden flat, only 1-minute walk from Hoxton Square.

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