5 UNEXPECTED THINGS TO DO IN LONDON’S PARKS
While attractions like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are often the things that visitors associate with London, it’s the city’s parks that offer some of the most interesting activities. Far from just being places to take a stroll, these green spaces have plenty of surprises to entertain the whole family.
HORSE RIDING IN HYDE PARK
Royal Garden Hotel overlooks Hyde Park, which has its own stables and five miles of bridleways. This makes it the perfect place to learn to ride a horse or go exploring the surroundings on a gentle pony, if you and your children have ridden before.
Open seven days a week and catering to riders of all abilities, Hyde Park Stables is located near Lancaster Gate. People have been riding horses in the park for more than 300 years and you can join in this tradition in beautiful surroundings.
OPEN AIR THEATRE AT REGENT’S PARK
The West End has plenty of theatres, but there is nothing quite like seeing a play in the great outdoors. Regent’s Park is home to its very own permanent open-air theatre, which puts on a programme of events every year.
It has been hosting everything from Shakespeare to children’s plays since 1932 and with a capacity for 1,200 people the atmosphere is always fun. Get to the auditorium through Queen Mary’s Garden and pack clothes to deal with all weather conditions.
SEE THE PELICANS BEING FED AT ST JAMES’S PARK
In 1664, an ambassador visiting London from Russia brought some pelicans as a gift and they took up residence in St James’s Park. Ever since then, there have always been pelicans in the park and more than 40 specimens have made it home in the intervening years.
Current residents – Louis, Vaclav and Gargi – are fed between 14:30 and 15:00 each day, so time your visit to coincide with their lunch of fresh fish. This is served from near Duck Island Cottage by the park’s lake.
MEET PETER PAN IN KENSINGTON GARDENS
Kensington Gardens is inextricably linked to Peter Pan, as the boy who never grew up’s creator JM Barrie lived close by and was inspired by the site. In the tale The Little White Bird, Peter Pan lands a bird-nest boat at a spot to the west of the Long Water and a statue can now be found there to commemorate the character.
It was commissioned by Barrie himself, who had it installed in 1912, and has been delighting fans ever since. For an extra special experience with the children, use your smartphone to activate the Talking Stories programme and receive a personal message from Peter Pan.
ROYAL GUN SALUTES IN GREEN PARK
Pomp and ceremony is one of the reasons that tourists travel to London and it’s not confined to the palaces of the capital. On special royal occasions, gun salutes are performed from locations across the city and Green Park is among them.
A basic salute is made up of 21 rounds, but an extra 20 are added for state visits, the opening of parliament and the Queen’s official birthday. To see the cannons, complete with the uniformed men that operate them, head to Green Park at midday on the date of these occasions.
Photo credit: vm via iStock