Kensington Gardens review (Mar 2016)
This is an old review Read my most recent review here
I always think of Hyde Park as stretching all the way from Park Lane to Kensington Palace, but it actually stops at the Serpentine. Anything west of that is called Kensington Gardens. But it's obviously the same place so I think it's a bit daft, but hey... I'm not in charge (I should be).
Apart from the lake, the Albert Memorial and Kensington Palace, it's actually quite a flat and featureless place. There must be ten thousand trees at least, but they never look like a wood. They've spread them out like single strands of hair on a bald head. They need to clump them up a bit and turn them into a forest. How difficult is to move a tree? How many people will it take to pull one up and carry it to the lake? If we try it one stick at a time then it won't take very long. I'll carry a branch, that young couple can carry a leaf. Those squirrels can carry the acorns -- we'll have it done in no time.
The lake is a magnet for pushchairs, ducks and dogs. If people have a pet then they'll walk it, and if they don't then they'll feed the ducks instead. Or they'll bring their boyfriends.
Halfway around the western edge you'll find a statue of Peter Pan. JM Barrie only lived over the road, and one night he had the bright idea of sneaking up a statue. He did it while the park was shut, so all the kids would think it magically appeared overnight. You'll find another spot for the kids in the northeastern corner: the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. Princess Di loved kids, so it full of swings and slides and sandpits. But not many people know that she was an even bigger fan of pirates -- hence the big pirate ship in the middle of it. I'd love to be able to show you a photo of it, but there's no way I'm standing there taking photographs of little kids playing in a children's playground, because I'll probably get arrested. Keep an eye out for the famous Elfin Oak as well -- it's covered in carved and coloured fairies, ladybirds and butterflies.
The rest of the lake is lined with benches of death. That's what I like to call the benches with memorials on them -- the benches of death. They're like a row of tombstones by the water. But they all seem to be devoted to dogs, because they all have inscriptions like "To Harvey, a great companion -- 1986 to 1999". That can't be for a child, can it? And it's too young to be an adult. So it must be for someone's mutt. Another ones says: "Topsy, Scarlett and Chloe", and that just has to be a dog, because you can't call a kid Topsy -- that would be cruel.
To the west of the lake is the Round Pond. This is one of the coldest places on earth. This pond is colder than the North Pole -- no joke. All of the wind in the world seems to funnel into this circle and scream across the top. I can see people holding onto their hats, and other ones holding onto their hair. Some are even holding onto their heads, lest they get ripped off the top of their necks. People are walking around like sailing ships, with their coats pressed back like a struggling sail in a storm.
There are two highlights in the park. One of them is Kensington Palace (obviously), and the other one is the Albert Memorial opposite the Royal Albert Hall. This is easily the finest monument in London, and when you first clap eyes on it you'll think that he must have been our greatest-ever king. But he was just the Queen's other half, that's all. Just a bloke with a moustache. Even Queen Victoria didn't get a monument as good as this one. But sons don't build monuments for their mothers, like their mothers build ones for their husbands.
You'll find the palace along the western edge of the park. This is where William III and Mary used to live after the Glorious Revolution, but you probably need to know your British history to have heard of them. Queen Victoria used to live in it as well, while she was still a princess. (If you've never heard of her then you really should have paid more attention at school!) But these days most people associate it with Princess Diana, who carried on living here after Prince Charles dumped her for Camilla. You might remember the golden gates being festooned with flowers after her death. Nowadays it's home to Prince William and Kate (I refuse to call her Catherine -- that's not her name!). A couple of other minor Royals are allowed to live here as well, but nobody knows who they are.
You have to pay to see inside the palace itself, but you can have a nose around the gardens for free if you like, and there's a posh Orangery if you'd like something to eat.
I’ve been here before…
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