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Book Review : Great Gardens of London by Victoria Summerley, Hugo Rittson Thomas, Marianne Majerus ( Frances Lincoln Ltd )

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London’s parks and gardens are much-loved by Londoners and visitors who are often seeking some sanctuary from the frantic pace of modern life. Whilst London’s parks are well-known, this book  ‘Great Gardens of London‘ by Victoria Summerley with photography by Hugo Rittson Thomas and Marianne Majerus illustrates that many of London’s great gardens are relatively unknown. The book’s author, Victoria Summerley is a national newspaper journalist who specialises in writing about gardens and gardening. In 2010, she was the winner of the prestigious Garden Media Guild Journalist of the Year award, and she also writes an award-winning blog. She is ably assisted in the book by two well-known and prestigious photographers, Hugo Rittson Thomas and Marianne Majerus.

The author makes the point that “London is a surprisingly green city – roughly 45 per cent of Greater London is green space. ” Most of the green space is parks, commons and heaths, but there is a large number of gardens of all different styles and sizes. From this large number of gardens, the author has selected 30 gardens which she categorises into five sections. The gardens are divided into chapters covering Pomp and Circumstance, Wild in the City, Gardeners’ Worlds, High-Rise Retreats and Private Paradises.

In a book that features gardens that are private and others that are open to visitors, the first section is opened by one of the most famous addresses in London. The garden at 10 Downing Street has never been considered a great garden in design, which is surprising considering that William Kent, one of the great 18th century designers was responsible for the transformation of No 10 into a residence. In many ways the garden has been ignored compared to the major events that have taken place in the building, however in the last 30 years the garden has been used to make some major announcements. One of the most dramatic events that directly affected the garden was in 1991 when a IRA mortar bomb landed in the garden which created a crater that is now covered by a Woodland Garden. Winfield House, the US ambassador’s residence in London, Eltham Palace, Strawberry Hill, Hampton Court, Clarence House and the Inner Temple all illustrate the way that gardens often not only reflect their times but more importantly the personal tastes of their owners.

Away from the high and mighty, the second chapter explores the Wild in the City which shows that even in the most unlikely places, London gardeners create their little piece of paradise. One of the most original gardens in London is the Downing Roads Floating Gardens in Bermondsey which consists of seven barges planted with trees, shrubs and perennials. Also included in this section is the new planting schemes at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Horticulture for medicinal purposes and therapy has a long history and the chapter entitled Gardeners’ Worlds lists some of London’s most important health related gardens. The Chelsea Physic Garden in Chelsea and the Royal College of Physicians in Marylebone are perhaps the most famous gardens in this section, however the more recent Thrive project in Battersea Park which provides horticultural training and therapy to gardeners with physical disabilities or mental health issues provides evidence of the importance of gardens for a healthy mind and body.

One of the most dramatic recent changes in London has been the high-rise buildings that now dominate the skyline, the chapter entitled High-Rise Retreats provide evidence that roof gardens are becoming more and more popular. Although most of these gardens are contemporary, one of the most remarkable is over 70 years old. The Kensington Roof Gardens in Kensington were created in the 1930s due to the fashion of the time for roof gardens on top of department stores. The department stores may have closed but the Kensington Roof Gardens has survived offering three different styles of garden.

The final chapter explores Private Paradises which are often within the more select areas of the city and designed for some of London’s most wealthy citizens. One of the main examples of this type of garden is the Cadogan Place Gardens in Knightsbridge, the gardens have been owned by the Cadogan family for over 300 years. In many ways this has protected the gardens from development but they remain only accessible to the wealthy residents who live around the garden. The final part of the book has a map and details of which of the featured gardens can be visited and when, there is also some suggestions for more gardens to visit.

Great Gardens of London is wonderfully attractive and well written book, full of stunning photographs of some of the greatest gardens of the capital. The author suggests the book is aimed at residents and visitors alike, at lovers of both gardens and design, and those curious about London’s history. It will definitely appeal to anyone with a fascination for gardens and illustrates the importance that  London’s gardens and parks have playing in providing havens of peace and quiet in an increasingly frenetic modern world.

Visiting London  Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or buy a book, visit the publisher’s website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Book Review : The Capital Ring by Colin Saunders (Aurum Press)

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Guide Books  for walks in Central London are numerous, however The Capital Ring by Colin Saunders offers an interesting alternative by offering a series of walks that are close enough to London for easy access to transport but far enough out to offer something a little different from the usual guides.

The development of the Capital Ring and the larger London Loop was the product of a number of organisations including the London Walking forum, Walk London and Transport for London.

Part of a wider initiative to promote Walking  as a pastime , these orbital walks were first suggested in 1990 and through the cooperation of the local authorities , the walking organisations and Transport for London they came to fruition in 2005.

Some of the history of the route is told in the book’s introduction , here is also some information  on accessibility , safety, transport , signs and waymarks.

The next section The Capital Ring  forms the main part of the book in which the Ring is divided into 15 separate but consecutive walks . The walks range in distance  from 3.5 to 7.7 miles with the average being around 5 miles.

The  Ring itself has a walking route of 78 miles (125 km) and generally lies between 4 and 10 miles from Charing Cross, so offers easy access from Central London.

It is this distance from London that offers a wide range of  attractions which include the Thames Barrier, Eltham Palace and Wimbledon Common. One of the great attractions of the walk is that it transverses many green and waterside environments, it also passes through  nature reserves, parks , woods and even farmland.

Each walk in the book follows the same format , the reader is first given basic information about distance, public transport, terrain, refreshments and toilets.

History of the area is discussed and interesting sights to look out for are marked on the accompanying map and illustrated  by  photographs.

The walk is then described in detail with a few local diversions that you may want to take to see places of interests.

The range of destinations  include Woolwich, Falconwood, Grove Park, Crystal Palace , Streatham, Wimbledon Park, Richmond, Osterley Lock, Greenford, South Kenton, Hendon Park, Highgate, Stoke Newington, Hackney Wick and Beckton District Park.

 The final section in the book is Useful Information which offers useful tips on transport, starting points and useful addresses.

The Capital Ring is quite an unusual London guide book in as much that the destinations are not necessarily ones that would be the first port of call for walkers or visitors to London.

But that is the great strength of the guide, it does not replicate the hundreds of London Walking books but offers something different and perhaps more importantly offers a series of smaller walks within a wider walk that circles inner London.

This attractive and well designed  book also illustrates that there are a large number of attractions and locations that are often neglected. With a large number of attractive photographs and interesting historical snippets, the book seeks to promote the benefits of discovering or rediscovering these areas.

Visiting London Guide Rating  – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or would like to buy the book, visit the publisher website here

 London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January, we attract thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.

We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here