on April 10, 2002
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens run into one another, are side by side without a boundary, but are different both in history and in content. Between them, they occupy a large area (637 acres) of west central London, and are a delightful place to spend time during pleasant weather.
Hyde Park is mostly an open green area – gently rolling, well-kept and pleasant grass and tree space. It’s great for picnics, impromptu football or Frisbee games, or just lying on the grass and watching people wander round and play. It was originally one of Henry VIII’s hunting parks, before becoming a public park. Lord Byron said that "here the fashionable fair can form a slight acquaintance with the open air." The wonderful early Victorian gates at the southeast corner of the Park, at the end of very fashionable Park Lane, lead you into the park. If you walk along the inside of the park, parallel to Park Lane (where there are some seriously swanky houses and a lot of Rolls Royces) you reach the opposite corner of Hyde Park – Marble Arch. This Arch, now marooned at one end of Oxford Street in the middle of a large roundabout, was once the very impressive entry gate to Buckingham Palace, but was moved from there as Queen Victoria thought it obstructed her way in and out of the Palace.
The side of Hyde Park nearest Marble Arch is Speakers’ Corner. From here, anyone may mount a soapbox and harangue the crowds on a topic of his choice. It’s great fun to go at a weekend and hear the current pre-occupations – there’s always a Marxist / Socialist worker type preaching imminent revolution by the Proletariat, an end-of-the-world-we-are-all-in-sin type, and a selection of others, sometimes on current political issues, sometimes on very odd things hard to understand. Anyone who speaks there has to be quite tough, the heckling can be fierce!
Kensington Gardens is much more of a garden than a park – lots of flower beds, the long winding pond called the Serpentine – a mile long, fed by an underground river, the Westbourne. There’s also the Round Pond (which isn’t quite round) and children feed ducks and sail model boats on both of these stretches of water.
Kensington Gardens was also associated with Diana, Princess of Wales, who lived nearby in Kensington Palace. A memorial to her is constructed in the park, much bickering over it has ensued.
To get to the parks, there are several tube stations – for the south-east corner of Hyde Park, take the 3rd exit from Hyde Park corner tube station. For the Speakers’ Corner end, Marble Arch tube. Kensington High Street is the best option for the west part of Kensington Gardens.
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