What a difference a couple of weeks makes.
In early April, Hyde Park held a bare, wintery, twiggy outline. Two weeks on and it is quite literally bursting with life and leaf and luminosity.
It struggled to reach double figure temperatures today, but my four layers kept me cosily warm as I embraced my morning walk. Such a contrast to the days of the warm Sydney Harbour coastline and strolling along The Esplanade of Balmoral beach in my shorts.
But the London Eye, serenely rotating above the tree line of the Park, is my new Harbour Bridge; the Serpentine my new Middle Harbour. And whilst it’s a few extra steps to take after breakfast, I’m surprisingly happy with my new ‘backyard’.
Hyde Park and its adjoining neighbour, Kensington Gardens, span an area of 625 acres; equivalent to about three quarters of New York’s Central Park (that one’s next on my list). It is quite literally a wonderful breath of fresh air in the midst of what feels to me a very large city and the wide diversity of its spaces, just one of its appeals.
There are naturalistic plantings that feel as though they have been untouched for decades. And at the other extreme, brightly-coloured bedding displays; something I’d usually turn my nose up at, but which have been designed with such flair and maintained with such care that I can’t help but look on appreciably.
I’m amazed how quickly my views on planting have changed. At this time of year in Australia, I would look at English bloggers’ daffodil photos and think they were sweet, but struggle to really engage with them. Pretty scenes, but scenes I felt I’d seen a million times and ones that weren’t nearly so nice as the ones of mid-summer fullness to come. Too much bare earth still on show and too much brashness in the colours.
But being here experiencing it first hand feels incredibly different. I want to eat that bare earth, it looks so dark and friable, nutritious and edible. I’m excited by the sense of anticipation at just what is going to erupt through that bare earth next.
The ‘brash’ colours don’t look brash, they fit with the bright lime greens of the spring trees and complement the luminous green grass.
And the spirit of tradition and history that is always around you in central London, means that more formal, classic plantings have a much greater sense of place here, than in Australia. I am frequently surprised by the sound of police horses’ hooves along my street and Mercedes drivers in chauffeur hats. Many traditions remain in the capital that have long gone elsewhere and traditional plantings in turn still have their place.
I’m amazed that I can also see the essence of country hedgerows in central London, alongside a vast array of wildlife. And whilst some areas feel deserted, others are buzzing with activity. Most surprising of all is that I enjoy the buzz. I’m not wishing for peace, quiet and solitude in these areas, I’m uplifted by the smiles and the laughter of thousands of people, of every race imaginable, all experiencing the joy of being in nature. There is a levelling, no matter how diverse the range of backgrounds, in the shared pleasure of this beautiful green space.
Even beyond the park, the magic continues, with plantings running either side of Park Lane, which marks its eastern boundary. As if the pleasures are so great they spill over; too bountiful and too magnetic to be contained within its fences.
And despite the park’s neat rectangular shape, bordered by busy roads and mid-rise buildings, its imposing landmarks – the London Eye and Kensington Palace can be seen at either end – and the bright sun in the vast sky above you, it seems my sense of direction is still as terrible as ever.
But for once this weakness is a wonderful blessing, as I quite lose myself amongst the trees; as I do, being met with the feeling of awe in discovering surprise, after surprise, after surprise.
I think…..it’s good to be back.
PS I hope you like my new ‘London’ website. I’ve given it a timely freshen up and rejigged the pages to improve photo size. Please do let me know if you spot anything that hasn’t translated so well; it’s hard to see the wood for the trees sometimes!