Regent's Park London
My first serious garden reporting day in London! Where to go? How to choose? Easy - get a London A-Z map, find a page with a large green shape and a tube station symbol, and go! Regent's Park, my first real English park - here I come!
I enter by the Chester Road gates on a windy, rainy English May day. A cursory peep at the map - I am here! - then off, appropriately, to find Queen Mary's Garden, then possibly visit London Zoo, if I get too wet.
Regent's Park Water Feature
Regent's Park is a park for the people. On the morning of my visit, however, they are noticeably absent, apart from one hooded runner in the distance and a professional dog walker, struggling with multiple leads. Warned by the caring Son of Moosey about the perils of lone loitering in London, I stride out briskly, regularly taking three-hundred-and-sixty degree scans of the sweeping lawns and stretching pathways, looking for anyone suspicious.
Ducks in the Park
There is hardly a human soul in sight. I see lots of birds, though - ducks, swans, pigeons, and ridiculously thin grey herons, all hunkered down in the cold rain. I snap my wet weather parka shut, and wipe my spectacles, in order to appreciate these grand, misty vistas.
Regent's Park Hoe
Then there is a sudden flash of movement in the bushes. Aargh! A man! I think I have stumbled upon a Regent's Park gardener!
Where I come from there are certain standards set in the public parks and botanical gardens. Gardeners wear proper forest-ranger greens, and wheelbarrows are well stocked with at least a dozen well-worn garden tools. Accompanying buckets are rustic and definitely recycled.
The Regent's Park gardeners wear flouro-yellow traffic vests (why?) and their equipment is disappointing - one bright yellow plastic rubbish bag (tsk tsk - not exactly an environmental look) and one solitary hoe. Perhaps there is serious job demarcation at work here, and I have stumbled across a mere weeder...
But back to the gardens themselves! I know I am visiting between the spring and summer seasons. I see Wisteria almost flowering, while the tulip beds are finished. The perennials and the roses are almost ready for their summer burst.
Ceanothus shrubs and Potato Vines (Solenium) are filling the shrubberies with beautiful blue flowers, and the euphorbias are waving at me in the wind. The hostas are still fresh leafed, edging the soggy green lawns. I pass a pair of lonely green striped deckchairs, flapping rhythmically in the gusty rain. I am very much 'alone and palely loitering'...
Helen Knight Hostas
Then I discover the ultimate distraction - Regent's Canal! I follow the signs to the towpath, and treat myself to a tourist's ride on a canal narrowboat. I read that Regent's Canal was cut deliberately deeply through the park, so that the private mansion owners were spared any sight of the rude canal workers.
On Regent's Canal
My boat, appropriately called Gardenia, 'took-took-tooks' slowly towards Little Venice, and I have fun peeping into the flash private houses. I am quickly learning that London gardeners are potty about red New Zealand cordylines.
We disembark at Camden Lock. My first green and pleasant London experience ends with an extremely brisk walk past the studs'n'leather and tattoo shops in Camden Town, where I zoom purposefully down into the tube.