Yesterday’s weather in London was so glorious that walking was the order of the day with the. minimum of time to be spent indoors.
A fresh wind did, however, challenge one sometimes but it kept the sky beautifully clear.
London parks are, of course, world famous, most of all, for their presence next to busy urban and shopping centres. It’s possible to walk for miles through lovely greenery in London and mayor Boris has even laid on cycle routes on some of these. Using a hired Boris bike one can spin around paying just 2 pounds for a 30 minute ride from one docking place to another.
Towards the end of my walk yesterday I found myself at one of the metropolis’ busiest traffic intersections withints one of its largest roundabouts. No problem, peace was just a few minutes away in a lovely rose garden just beyond Decimus Burton’s elegant regency screen to the park. One of the old keeper’s huts at the end of the screen provided a pleasant caffe area.
Even the anti-hunt lobby must thank king Henry VIII for making this vast area into his favourite hunting ground for that is the origin of so many of London’s royal parks, including Greenwich.
The only sign of hunting today, however, were the commuters and tourists seeking out the many varieties of roses in a beautiful garden only opened in 1994. Pergolas and rond points add to the charm of this exquisite spot and there are two very Italian statues enlivening the truly spectacular varieties of this queen of flowers.
Of course, there are are other more grandiose displays of roses in London – Queen Mary’s gardens in the Regent’s park come to mind – but I truly loved the intimacy of this, yet another discovery for me in a city I thought I knew so well as one born and bred in it.
The garden was just one sight visited in yesterday’s blue, bracing day. Across the park screen was the house known as no.1 London and still home to the descendants of the iron duke, famous for his.boots and for defeating Lucca’s most famous princess, Elisa Baciocchi’s brother at a place named after a London railway terminal (or was it the other way round?).
No problem for I discovered other connections too. In the duke’s house a table was being laid out for eighty friends of the present duke to commemorate the 200th anniversary of that famous battle with the most elegant tableware one could imagine.
And on one wall was Josephine de Beauharnais herself, the only woman portrait among a sea of men. As the keeper pointed out amusingly the duke had made sure ‘not tonight’ was nicely surrounded by her admirers.
But, I should add, Josephine had even greater loves – her roses. Around her palace of Malmaison, Jo created the world’s first rose garden with over 200 varieties by 1814. And that takes me nicely back to the rose garden the present duke can see from the back of his town house. A rosy day indeed!