on April 20, 2011
It was about a 20 minute walk from our apartment to Kensington Gardens, so we went there twice. The first time we had a lovely stroll around the park in the evening, then we went again on a sunny Sunday morning to let our young son play and let off steam in the wonderful Princess Diana Memorial Playground.We entered the gardens through Queens Gate. Almost the first thing you see is the Albert Memorial - a very impressive statue. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband, Prince Albert, who died of typhoid in 1861 aged just 42. It was opened in 1872 by Queen Victoria, but the statue of Albert was "seated" in 1875. It took over 10 years to complete and cost £120,000 - the equivalent of about £10 million in 2010 - the cost was met by public subscription.Just across from the Albert Memorial is the Royal Albert Hall. It is a very unusual and striking building. It was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871 and is best known form holding the annual summer Proms concerts since 1941.There is lots of open green space in the park. At times you can hardly believe you are in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. Some paths are very popular with cyclists, and they do tend to travel very fast. Apparently pedestrians have the right of way in Kensington Gardens, but at times, we found this hard to believe.There are however, plenty of quiet areas which are secluded and have no-one around - except for birds and squirrels. Parts of the park are full of grey squirrels, practically tame and very cheeky. They were prepared to come right up close to us, begging for food, much to the delight of our son.Eventually you come to the Serpentine. This is a lake which takes its name from its snake-like shape. It was created in 1730 and stretches between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Cross Serpentine Bridge, look east and you will see the Lido and swimming area.The Serpentine Gallery is also in this area. It was established in 1970 and is housed in a 1930's tea pavilion. Here, they have displays of contemporary art.The Italian Gardens is an ornamental water garden with fountains. It was created in 1860 and was the idea of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband. We loved the statue of Peter Pan and the story behind it. It was designed by George Frampton and erected secretly in the dead of night. This was the idea of JM Barrie - the author of Peter Pan. He then placed an announcement in the Times newspaper alerting children of the new addition to the park.The next thing to see is Round Pool. Apparently this was home to a family of turtles a long time ago when turtle soup was a delicacy in Britain. The pool has been used since Victorian times to sail model boats and is home to swans, sticklebacks, roach and eels.Eventually you will come to Kensington Palace. This was the birthplace of Queen Victoria and was the home of Princess Diana. There are beautiful gardens to the back of the palace where you can wander - there is no charge.The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground is great fun for children. It is open every day until 6.30 - we went there on a sunny Sunday morning. Before you go in, have a look at the Elfin Oak by the entrance. It is a knarled, partially hollow tree stump, carved with figures of fairies, elves and woodland animals - the craftsmanship is wonderful.The playground was extremely busy when we went, but our son loved racing around and exploring. It is free of charge, extremely clean and well maintained, with staff walking around making sure all is well. They regulate the numbers, so when it gets too busy, you may have to queue outside and wait for some people to leave.The playground was inspired by the stories of Peter Pan and is a magical place with a huge wooden pirate ship at its centrepiece. There is plenty of seating and a cafe, so you can relax, while the children embark on an exciting adventure. There is only one way in/out, so they are safe to explore on their own. There are lots of golden sandy areas, places to climb and a wonderful little Red Indian section with wigwams and totem poles. It is a fantastic place to bring children.
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