Spring getaways: lesser-known London in bloom
More than one-third of London is dedicated to green areas that, with the arrival of the summer’s heat, turn into enormous outdoor lounges. The most popular are in parks such as Primrose Hill and Hyde Park, although things change if we are looking for nature in places further from the city centre. Their great natural and cultural wealth make these three places perfect for a quasi-bucolic getaway.
1 Kew Gardens: the world’s largest Victorian greenhouse re-opens
Besides housing the largest variety of plants on the planet, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew receives a large part of its annual visitors in May, when the bulbs and the green shoots of the trees have emerged, bringing colour to the complex’s more than 121 hectares. What’s more, its Temperate House has been reopened this month after five years of works. Reaching 19m high and 191m long, it is the largest Victorian greenhouse on the planet and home to a large number of recovered plant species.
At Kew Gardens, you can also see The Hive, a 17-metre-high multi-sensory structure dedicated to bees that shows how important they are to the survival of humanity.
2 A stroll through the largest urban wetlands in Europe
Reopened last October under the name Walthamstow Wetlands, these ten reservoirs with their eight islands and 20km of footpaths and cycle tracks make it the largest located in an urban setting in Europe. Open daily from 9.30am to 5pm (entry is free of charge), it is the ideal place for birdwatching due to the enormous variety of aquatic birds living in its more than 200 hectares of green areas. Species include gadwalls, tufted ducks and northern shovelers.
To explore the calm prevailing in the wetlands, there’s nothing like a dawn stroll down Coppermill Lane, adjacent to the compound, when authorised fishermen try their luck with the first bait of the day next to their tents.
3 Hampton Court: among mazes and garden
Just 45 minutes by train from the centre of London, Hampton Court Palace – built in the 15th century and inhabited by King Henry VIII – is one of the greatest examples of Tudor architecture in the United Kingdom. Although the royal chambers, chapels and kitchens are worthy of an in-depth tour, the gardens are the ideal place for a spring outing. The more than 300-year-old yew maze (included in the entrance price) is one of the most enjoyable points of a tour that should also include The Great Vine, the world’s longest grape vine, planted in 1758, and – if you visit from 3-8 July – its iconic Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which features spectacular flower arrangements and creations.
From 5-20 June, the palace’s Tudor Courtyard will be the site of a festival of outdoor concerts starring artists such as Lionel Richie and Paloma Faith.