An old friend and former expat recently loaned me her collection of City Walks: London which has quickly become my new best friend on quiet Saturday afternoons. The collection of hand-sized cards recommends routes across central London and beyond, each with historical and cultural information alongside neatly presented directions.
I should, at this stage, anticipate bored readers. When did my ostensibly general guide morph into an anecdotal review of London’s parks? On reflection, it occurs to me that long and solitary American drives (with music blaring and an ice-cold soda by my side) have been replaced by meandering walks (and the occasional jog) through the city’s finest parks. Coffee in hand, London parks beckon on blustery fall days, bleak January afternoons, and warm, extended summer nights.
There’s nothing more appealing than devoting the entire afternoon to exploring an area, but when you only have a few hours for an outing, consider grabbing a City Walks’ card to steer you in the right direction…
My first adventure, and my favorite thus far, began and ended with card 47 (Battersea Park) during my Mom’s recent visit. Because I live in neighboring South Kensington, we decided to work backwards and commence our tour of the Park with a stroll through Chelsea. Handcrafted flower boxes and classic door knockers lined our walk from South Ken to the southernmost part of Chelsea. After a relaxed and satisfying stopover at the Cheyne Walk Brasserie, we departed towards Battersea via the Albert Bridge.
*The Cheyne Walk Brasserie serves upmarket French fare near the Chelsea Embankment. The decor reminds me of the Firmdale Hotels: bright, classic and contemporary.
*If you haven’t seen it before, check out the Albert Bridge at night, when it’s illuminated by some 4,000 bulbs.
We entered Battersea’s rich canopy on the park’s west end and made our way towards the Peace Pagoda, a curious misfit among the park’s characteristic features (a bandstand, boating lake, tennis courts, etc.). We beheld the structure, erected in 1985 by Japanese Buddhists, and continued along Carriage Drive North until we reached the Children’s Zoo.
For many of you, the zoo may only be worth a cursory glance, but if you’re in the mood for something different, or can’t spare a few hours to take a separate trip to the London Zoo, consider stopping in. We did, and our hour-long interaction with spider monkeys, peacocks, meerkats and other small animals was quite fun (especially since the kids were all in school!).
Having indulged our lighter side, we exited the zoo and walked lazily along Carriage Drive. In addition to stunning views of the Pagoda, the Thames and the city in the distance, varied flora continuously caught my eye. Hardly the photographer, I continued to snap away at chestnut, cypress and redwood trees.
*Battersea Park offers a guide on the park’s 4000+ trees which can be collected from the park office and found online.
After drifting by the tennis courts and various sporting areas, we ventured south towards the idyllic boating lake, where visitors can hire boats during the summer months. Exceedingly relaxed and a bit tired, we headed home, postponing boating for next time…
*For more information on Battersea Park, visit http://www.batterseapark.org/index.html.