8 In Life in London

The Beauty of Bishops Park, London

Near every new place I live in London, I seek out quiet green space, a little slice of nature, a place to go and sit with a book, take a walk, go for a run, drink tea, write, have picnics or just relax away from the chaos of the city. Wherever that is, it becomes a place I return to again and again.

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There’s always somewhere near home: In Knightsbridge, it was Hyde Park across the street; in Kensal Green, it was a short walk to Kensal Green Cemetery; in Ealing, it was Ealing Common just around the corner; in Earl’s Court, it was Brompton Cemetery, a two-minute stroll to the gates; in Southfields, it was Wimbledon Common, the trees of which we could see from the living room windows; in Chelsea, it was the meticulously maintained St. Luke’s Gardens in whose rose gardens we got engaged (and which is still my favourite).

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Now, in Fulham, it’s Bishop’s Park that runs along the muddy river Thames from Putney Bridge and the attached grounds of Fulham Palace with its pretty walled garden and greenhouses lining the walking path. It has meadows, a moat garden, a lake and even an urban beach on one side of the water.

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On Sundays, there’s a small food market that sets up at the center near a playground selling everything from chicken and halloumi wraps to Colombian arepas to honey sourced from UK bees and fresh fruits and veggies. Here, it’s a park full of life: of running laughing children, of joggers, strollers, scooters, dog walkers, skateboarders and yogis.

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The best parts, though, are the quieter parts, like the rose garden that’s bursting with colour in the summertime and the woodland walk around one side of Fulham Palace where a massive ancient evergreen Oak tree has sat for some 450 years with long, reaching branches.

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The other day I sat in the corner of the walled garden, on “Edmond’s Bench”. In the distance, the church bells chimed 11am and were drowned out by the roar of an airplane flying low overhead. It was a Sunday and the farmer’s market was in full swing, but the walled garden – which was then still in bloom – was (apart from the incessant air traffic to Heathrow and the Battersea heliport) pretty silent.

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All around, I listened to the chirp of birds singing in different pitches, a squirrel rustling around in the tree leaves above my head, the buzz of a fly whizzing past my ear. Tranquility has a sound, some background noise.

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It’s a beautiful place, this garden with its ragged brick wall, weathered over the years, wrapping around the perimeter, weeds sprouting from its crevices at random. A lawn in front of me that could use some mowing sprouted dandelions. Lining a central pathway, there were apple trees with heavy branches weighed down by green fruits of Autumn (now long gone).

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There were flower gardens and vegetable gardens, white-winged butterflies hovering and landing, flitting and flying. There were greenhouses, painted white along one side. Yellow garden hoses were curled up in the grass like long, harmless snakes. Glass bells protected new growth in the soil. On one side, a green cart housed plastic pots with seedlings for sale.

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The silence was interrupted momentarily by families out for Sunday strolls along the trails, distant shouts of children chasing each other through the trees, parents trying to direct their attention to some fascinating gardening fact in a myriad of languages – English, French, Italian. On the other side of the wall, they spread picnic blankets in the grass or enjoyed afternoon tea in the drawing-room.

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And in the two months we’ve lived a short walk from the park, I’ve gone there more than anywhere else in Fulham. I’ve gone running along the river path, bought fresh meat from the butcher in the market, strolled around the lake taking pictures and sat in the rose garden reading my book.

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The photos in this post were taken on several different visits over the last few months and I look forward to taking many more over the next few years.

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Being in the park reminds me reminds of this Dale Carnegie quote: “One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”

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When I’m in the park, I’m enjoying the magical rose garden in real life, and the breeze in the trees and the shouts of rowers from the Putney Rowing Club across the water and the sound of runners’ footsteps pounding the pavement and everything else that’s calming about the great outdoors even in the middle of a chaotic, noisy city.

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Marta G (A Bilingual BAby)
    October 28, 2015 at 9:10 am

    What an amazing place! Great pictures! I’d love to go there next time I visit London. Thanks for the tip! Best regards from Barcelona, Spain,
    Marta

    • Reply
      littleobservationist
      October 29, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Marta! It’s worth a visit if you’re having a lazy afternoon in London. I’m due another trip to Barcelona one of these days. You have a great city as well!

  • Reply
    Alyce
    October 28, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    It sounds beautiful. I wonder if their season grow like ours, meaning I saw a documentary on the Queen’s garden and it stated the roses are best in August. Here, at least in New England they are best in June. I love gardening so I’m curious. Thanks for sharing wonderful moments.

    • Reply
      littleobservationist
      October 29, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      Interesting about the rose season. Jorge and I got engaged in a rose garden here that was in full bloom at the end of June. Maybe different types of roses bloom at different times? I should actually ask Jorge since he works for the royal horticulture society… Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    Nina
    October 29, 2015 at 12:45 am

    What a beautiful place. I love Jenny’s bench. Thank you for a wonderful post.

    • Reply
      littleobservationist
      October 29, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      Thanks for reading, Nina! I loved Jenny’s bench as well and the fact that she took such a journey to enjoy that place.

  • Reply
    Tracey
    November 13, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    I was born and raised in Fulham and it’s still home, cannot tell you how much of my life has been spent here eating ice lollies, watching the boat race, paddling in the pool and pretending to entertain the audience from the open air stage. Tis a glorious. I don’t know if you could access the allotments just outside would be a wonderful photo opportunity.

    • Reply
      littleobservationist
      November 15, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks for sharing your childhood memories, Tracey! It must have been an amazing place to grow us. I’ll see about those allotments!

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