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National Open Gardens Day at The Roof Gardens of Kensington


The success of the National Gardening Week, which was launched by the RHS four years ago has led to the first ever National Open Gardens Day on 17 April 2015.  To celebrate the incredible array of  gardens in this country,  the RHS have asked gardens that normally charge for entry or that are closed to the public on that day to take part.  The RHS is kick-starting the campaign and its gardens and many RHS’s Partner Gardens will be joining too and throwing their doors open for free as will some of the  National Gardens Scheme gardens.


Entrance to the Gardens on Derry Street

London has many wonderful and impressive gardens, however The Roof Gardens of Kensington is one of the most unusual and unexpected horticultural delights of the city.

The gardens were the idea of Trevor Bowen, the  vice-president of Barkers, the department store  that owned the site . The gardens were laid out between 1936 and 1938 by Ralph Hancock, a landscape architect at the cost of 25,000 and were opened to the public in 1938. A shilling was charged for entry which raised £120,000 for charity over  30 year period.

When you arrive at the Roof Gardens, you are transported into almost surreal world high above Kensington High Street. However this is not a fantasy terrace with views all over London, this is a real walled garden with over 60 trees, some planted over 70 years ago.


Remarkably considering the size, it is not one garden but three. You step out into The English Woodland Garden with a lawn and a couple of bridges and plenty of colour with thousands of plants fighting for your attention. But its is the ducks asleep on the lawn and the strutting flamingos walking around the garden that you tend to focus on before you follow the winding path to the Tudor Garden.


The Tudor walkway and the three courtyards are planted with plants that would recognisable in Tudor England. This is a peaceful and relaxing place to sit and admire the pots of Lime that guard the archways.


It was in this peaceful oasis that I came across Head Gardener of the Roof Gardens, David Lewis. I was interested how the minimal depth of soil 18 inches could sustain so many trees and plants. David’s answer was it necessary to make sure you planted the right sort of plants for the environment, he also suggested that it was exciting to maintain the traditions of the garden but also try to keep it up to date with some of the latest horticultural developments. David is restricted in some aspects due to the trees being made subject of preservation orders in 1976 and the gardens being acknowledged as a place of ‘ Specific Historical Interest’ and given a Grade II listing by English Heritage.


Head Gardner – David Lewis

If the visitor is surprised by the gardens up to this point, the sight of the Spanish Garden will really excite the senses. Based on the Alhambra in Granada, the Spanish Garden offers a distinct Moorish flavour with a white campanile with bell complementing the view of the spire of  the local church.


The previous two gardens seem muted compared with the colour schemes in this Mediterranean  haven, bright and colourful English plants  are mixed with Mediterranean trees  to provide a wonderful sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the London streets below.


Although the Roof Gardens of Kensington is a RHS Partner and part of the National Open Gardens Day, the good news is that the Roof Gardens of Kensington are open to the public at other times. If there is not a private event in the gardens, visitors can take a walk around the gardens free of charge.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

To find out more about the Gardens and find out about  openings , visit the Roof Gardens  of Kensington website here

To find out more about the  National Gardening Week and the National Open Gardens Day, visit the RHS 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 , 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



Book Review – London: Architecture, Building and Social Change by Paul L. Knox (Merrell Publishers)


London: Architecture, Building and Social Change by Paul L. Knox (Merrell Publishers)

London’s diversity is truly remarkable, not just in its population but also its urban landscape with buildings of different centuries and architectural styles often occupying the same district. It is this unique distinctiveness of London that provides the focus of this book, London: Architecture, Building and Social Change. However to fully understand London’s development, the author contends  you must consider its economic, social and architectural history.

Fundamental to any understanding of London’s development is its rather unique history, as the author points out  ‘London did not grow from a single commercial, ecclesiastical or administrative centre’ but rather ‘ has grown piecemeal from an archipelago of villages and town centres to become a conglomerate metropolis of interdependent districts with twin cores.” Over time every district within this metropolis developed its own distinctive cityscape and instantly recognisable landmarks.

To illustrate this point, the twin cores of London, the City of London and Westminster developed over time to take on particular functions, The City of London was a commercial centre from Roman times whereas it was not until the 11th Century that Westminster became the centre of royal justice and administration.

The author considers in London’s development, a series of events had a major effects on the course of that development. First of all was Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s, which took land away from the church which was transferred into private hands, therefore establishing the Great Estates. The Great Fire of 1666 swept away much of medieval London and bought about considerable building works. The coming of the Railways in the 1830s and 1840s bought a disruptive technology which tore up some London suburbs and bought access to large areas of the suburbs. Just as disruptive was the Blitz and bombings of the 1940s which decimated certain areas that often took decades to recover from.

If major events changed the face of London, so did individuals and the author suggest that a particular cast of characters were mainly responsible for widespread change. Amongst this cast were landowners, developers, architects, engineers, reformers, philanthropists and mayors.

To illustrate this interplay between events, people and architectural styles in real life, the author selects twenty-seven districts to discover their own distinctive character and pedigree. In the context of London’s general development, the book then considers the district’s specific developments that highlights the continuities and change within the specific areas.

A number of the districts show little change especially those built by the great landowners of London, areas such as Belgravia, Mayfair, Chelsea, Kensington and Knightsbridge were built for the elites and due to their status managed to avoid much of the destructiveness of the railways and industrialisation. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Camden and  Paddington whose initial rural status was decimated by the canals and railways.

If money and influence were mainly situated in the West London, there is little doubt that for much of the nineteen century, the negative effects of industrialisation such as  poverty, crime, disease and unemployment were concentrated in East London. The sections on Whitechapel, Hoxton, Shoreditch and Bethnal Green pay testament to the role that reformers and philanthropists played in these areas to create a safer and healthier environment.

In many ways the south bank of the Thames has been the poorer relation to the north and the sections on Borough, Southwark, Bankside and Lambeth illustrate that they were for centuries populated by industry and working class residential areas. However, the South Bank and Bankside’s more recent riverfront transformation as a location of entertainments is actually a return to the area’s function in medieval times onwards.

It is perhaps the areas between the extremes of wealth and poverty that show the greatest diversity, districts like Bloomsbury, Notting Hill, Bayswater and Clerkenwell have veered between various degrees of respectability and often attracted the artists, writers and academics who have documented the changing times. The same could said of Soho and Covent Garden, which became locations of respectable and not so respectable entertainments.

This is a remarkably readable and interesting book for anyone interested in the changing urban landscape of one of the world’s most enigmatic cities. It manages to be authoritative without being overly academic, the profile of the development of 27 distinctive districts, illustrated with over 500 original photographs provides a number of insights into the past, present and possible future developments of London. One of the major insights is related to the ongoing gentrification of London areas and the creation of London as a Global city.

This book is an essential reference book for anyone interested in London, written by a leading expert on urbanization. It offers a comprehensive overview of many of the major buildings and landmarks of the city  and provides the context to understand their importance in London’s general development.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended 

If you would like more information or buy a copy of the book , visit the Merrell 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 , 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

Review : The Energy Show at the Science Museum – 22 July to 3 August 2014

SM Live 2013: The Energy Show

The Energy Show at the Science Museum

Location – Exhibition Rd, London SW7 2DD

Regular visitors to the Science  Museum know that although there are  many wonderful exhibits to entertain children, it is the mini shows they put on to show scientific principles that are usually the main crowd pleasers.

Well the creation of The Energy Show is taking the process one step further by building an entire theatre show about the quest for Energy.

The show  is set in a Frankenstein type workshop full of strange gadgets and chemicals. Into this scientific wonderland enter two young science students who have to face an examination into their knowledge of energy.

The two students could not be more different, Annabella is fond of lists likes everything neat and tidy, Phil is a Star Wars obsessed wild child who likes nothing better than to blow things up.

Both have failed their exams before so need to work together to fulfil their tasks, they also have the help of laboratory assistant Bernard  and  the animated I – nstein.

What happens next is a madcap adventure of scientific experiments which include  Methane bubbles being set alight to make fireballs, hydrogen balloons explode and rockets are fired into the audience.


In the last-ditch race against time , experiments get bigger and the bangs get louder but have our heroines done enough to pass ?

Often a problem with shows that try to combine education and entertainment is  they fail to get the balance right between the two.

The Energy Show comes up with wonderful solution to the problem by using the amazing animation of I-nstein to go through the scientific principles with accompanying animations whilst the actors get the experiments ready.

This leads to a seamless humorous show that rattles along at a pace that means they keep children entertained whilst allowing many of the adults to enjoy the many references to science fiction films.

The show is recommended for children seven and over,  younger children may enjoy the show but the loud bangs (and they are very loud) may frighten  them.  This and the storyline indicates that seven and above is about the right age to bring children to the show.

At the beginning I said that the Science Museum mini-shows were crowd pleasers, with the Energy Show that have surpassed themselves and created  a multi media extravaganza that starts off with a bang and gets better and better.

With ticket prices very reasonable for this type of entertainment ,  this is a show not to be missed.


Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended


Adult: £13.50
Child: £9.50

Family tickets

1 adult, 2 children: £27.00
2 adults, 1 child: £31.00
2 adults, 2 children: £39.00

Tuesday 22 July – Sunday 3 August 2014
12.00–13.15 and 14.00–15.15
(No Monday performances)

Tickets for the Science Museum shows available here


New Volcanoes and Earthquakes Gallery at the Natural History Museum


New Volcanoes and Earthquakes Gallery at the Natural History Museum

Opens 31 January 2014

Location –  Cromwell Rd, London SW7 5BD

Awe-inspiring, intense and dangerous – volcanoes and earthquakes are the most powerful phenomena in nature. Their breathtaking impact has caused worldwide fascination and devastation, making them Hollywood film spectaculars as well as the cause of the biggest global tragedies. This revealing gallery takes you on a journey through the causes of the world’s most famous natural disasters and explores how science is attempting to minimise their impact around the world. Through the Natural History Museum’s own scientific research, immersive experiences, real-life case studies and up to date information from around the world, Volcanoes and Earthquakes provides a fresh and intriguing account of the almighty force of our natural world.

Along the way, you’ll study human stories to experience what it’s like to be a survivor of one of the world’s most dangerous earthquakes, such as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and most recently, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. You’ll also delve deep into the scientific foundations of a volcano as you look inside Mount Vesuvius, Italy, which famously destroyed the roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and Mount Tambora in Indonesia, which caused of one of the most powerful eruptions in history.

Highlights include

·        original objects from world-famous events, including a calendar with a waterline and broken clock from   2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan

·         real-life survivor case studies

·         interactives and videos showing activity from around the world, including a live earthquake data feed

·         an earthquake simulator

·         a CGI film on what scientists are doing to understand tectonics

·         discoveries from recent scientific field trips

·         how to prepare for an earthquake, allowing visitors to decide what they’d put in their emergency ‘go’ bag

Entry is free

(There is a charge for some temporary exhibitions)

Opening times
Open every day 10.00-17.50
Last admission 17.30

Last Friday of the month open until 22.30 for Lates.

The Museum is open every day, including Sundays and bank holidays, but closed 24-26 December.