Hidden Gardens in London and Where to Find Them

Written From… A restaurant along the street below the Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Canary Wharf, England

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England’s capital is home to wonderful green spaces – Royal gardens, small garden squares and gardens ceremoniously donated to London, like The Kyoto Garden. I have always been a fan of outdoor spaces, especially hidden gardens. The more metropolitan areas are constructed and expanded, the more important it is for us to have little sanctuaries away from the hustle and bustle. Somewhere to get back in touch with nature, to sit for a while and lose track of time.

Luckily, London is home to quite a few hidden gardens. Some of these green spaces offer an insight into London’s history, others show modern London’s appreciation for such spaces, and the want to learn about integrating them and providing the city’s inhabitants with areas in which to relax in the midst of the, sometimes overwhelming, buzz. Whilst you are out exploring, take a break in some of the gardens you see below.

The Nomadic Community Gardens, Shoreditch

Graffiti mural in the Shoreditch Nomadic Garden
Graffiti mural in the Shoreditch Nomadic Garden – Photo by Shane Hirschman – Flickr

Closest Station: Shoreditch High Street Overground Station
Tucked away amidst the buzz of Brick Lane, this vibrant communal gem was created by “transforming disused spaces into urban gardens where people can grow their own produce, create art, share skills, and discover what it means to build their own community from the bottom up.”

The Roof Gardens, Kensington

Chinese garden in the Kensington Roof Garden
Kensington Roof Garden – Photo by Karen Roe – Flickr

Closest Station: High street Kensington Underground Station
Privately owned by Virgin; three small, beautiful and diverse gardens, each sculpted to replicate a cultural/epochal complexion, overlook the London landscape. A serene retreat from the hustle and bustle below.

Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Canary Wharf

The dome roof of the Crossrail Place Roof Garden
The dome roof of the Crossrail Place Roof Garden – Photo by Barry Caruth – Flickr [feature image]

Closest station: Canary Wharf Underground Station
The Crossrail Place Roof Garden is not just another roof garden. A lot of thought and careful planning, and planting, has gone into creating a peaceful bubble that tells a story of this area’s past. Canary Wharf was used as a trading hub around 200 years ago, ships would come in and out from all over the world.

Today the Crossrail Place Roof Gardens remembers this trading culture by housing native plants from the countries who traded and whose ships once dock here. You can find Bamboo plants on the east, and ferns from the Americas on the west among an incredible variety of carefully selected plants. The information boards placed throughout the garden provides us with more detailed information about these wonderful plants.

St Dunstan in the East Garden, St Dunstan’s Hill

Overgrowth at St Dunstans in the East
Overgrowth at St Dunstans in the East – Photo by Peter Trimming – Flickr

Closest station: Monument Underground Station
St Dunstan in the East is a place with fascinating stories. Formed on the ruins of a church built in the 12th century, the grounds has survived The Great Fire of London and the Blitz of 1941 – sustaining severe damage in the process. After WWII, it was decided that the church would not be rebuilt. In 1970 this old derelict church was instead open to the public as a garden.

Barbican Conservatory, The Barbican

Roof of the Barbican Conservatory
Barbican Conservatory – Photo by Olena Shmahalo – Flickr

Closest station: Barbican Underground Station
The Barbican Conservatory is a tropical oasis encased in the city. It’s home to over 2000 tropical plants and species of exotic fish. The garden hosts events and tours so that you can learn about the plants and how they are maintained.

Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park

Trees and colourful flowers in the Isabella Plantation
Isabella Plantation – Photo by Tomasz Dunn – Flickr

Closest station: Putney, Southwestern Railway
Most people who have explored London have probably heard of Richmond Park – the park renowned for deer-spotting – but few are probably aware of the hidden Isabella Plantation located within Richmond Park.

This hidden area was documented as far back as the 17th century and was known as The Sleyt. By 1701 it had been recorded on maps as Isabella Slade and was first given this name due the nature and colour of its soil – not a lot grew here. But in 1831 a man by the name of Lord Sidmouth fenced a section of the area, renaming it the Isabella Plantation, and planted various exotic plants and trees. Today you can visit the garden, sit by the stream, and admire all of the excotic trees and flowers alongside the native greenery.

SOAS Japanese Roof Garden

Pavilion and stone structures in the SOAS Japanese Roof Garden
SOAS Japanese Roof Garden – Photo by Tom Doel – Flickr

Closest station: Russell Square Underground Station
A Japanese inspired roof garden was built on top of SOAS University of London in 2001. The garden, engraved with the japanese character Kanji – meaning forgiveness, to which this garden is dedicated – was designed to give students,and the general public a place to relax and meditate.

Marococo Gardens at Rococo Chocolates, Belgravia

Closest station: Knightsbridge
Behind Rococo Chocolates a Moroccan style garden was integrated into a once neglected city space. You can find lavender, mint and jasmine, used within the Rococo Chocolates repertoire, along with species of birds that have settled in the garden spaces. Whilst visiting the garden you can sip on a hot drink.


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