HIDDEN SECRETS OF HYDE PARK
One of the wonderful things about the Royal Garden Hotel, of which there are many, is its proximity to Hyde Park. You can even see the expanse of green space from some of the rooms, but you need to step outside to experience its secrets. Everybody has their own favourite part of the park and yours is just waiting to be discovered.
TRUMPETS WELCOME YOU INTO HYDE PARK
The planting in the park’s rose garden, which is home to more than 100 species of the flower, has been ingeniously designed to resemble a horn, announcing your arrival from Hyde Park Corner. Knowing this adds an extra dimension when you visit, allowing you to pick out the central trumpet and the flaring notes created by seasoning blooms.
Ever since 1872, there has been a corner of Hyde Park dedicated to free speech, with the likes of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell all having expressed their opinions here. Make your way to the north-east edge of the park and take the temperature of modern Britain, as Speakers’ Corner continues to be used as a mouthpiece for the emerging ideas of the nation.
THE REFORMERS’ TREE
Hyde Park has long been a place where the population campaigned for their rights and a sturdy oak, known as the Reformers’ Tree, was the focus of protests in 1866 by a group aiming to obtain the vote for all adult men.
Despite the tree being burnt down during the action, the Suffragettes met near the tree each week to demand their own rights to vote. The group were banned from Hyde Park in 1913, but flouted the rules and held many rallies and speaking events in the park. Today, there is a mosaic on the spot where the Reformers’ Tree once stood.
THE CONTRASTING SIDES OF THE DIANA MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN
It is hard not to spot the looping oval shape of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in the southwest section of the park. Look at the structure more carefully and you may spot a clever design element that acts as a metaphor for the princess’ life.
On one side of the fountain, the water flows gently downhill over a slightly undulating surface, creating peaceful ripples in its path. On the other arc of the oval, the flow of water is interrupted with steps, curves and rills, making it splash and eddy before reaching the tranquil pool at the bottom.
THE PETER PAN CONNECTION
While the famous Peter Pan Statue can be seen in Kensington Gardens, which runs adjacent to Hyde Park, the park itself has a connection to the free-spirited boy who never grew up. JM Barrie, the character’s creator, lived on Bayswater Road, which runs parallel to Hyde Park. It is not surprising then that he spent much time exploring the area on his doorstep.
In 1903, the writer donated a prize for the first person to complete the 91-metre swim in the Serpentine Lake on Christmas Day. It became known as the Peter Pan Cup, as Barrie’s children’s tale was making its debut on the London stage that year. More than 100 years on, swimmers still compete for the prize in the annual race in the Lansbury Lido, the official name for the swimming area of the Serpentine.
A FINAL RESTING PLACE FOR MANY OF MAN’S BEST FRIENDS
Probably the best-kept secret in Hyde Park is its pet cemetery. Unlike much of the park, which was designed and laid out systematically, the final resting place for more than 300 beloved animals evolved over time due to the kindness of one man – Mr Winbridge, who was the gatekeeper at the park’s Victoria Lodge.
When a Maltese terrier called Cherry died of old age in 1881, he suggested that the dog be buried in his garden, seeing as he had enjoyed many walks in Hyde Park during his life. Prince was then the second pet to be interred in the site, as he was the companion of the actress Louisa Fairbrother, the wife of Prince George, Duke of Cambridge.
Visiting the pet cemetery is not so easy, as it is closed to the public, except during special tours. If you do get the chance to walk among the tiny gravestones, look out for “Poor Cherry. Died April 28. 1881” and “Poor Prince”, as well as the epitaph for another faithful friend, which reads “Our dear wee Butcha, 31 Jan 1894”.
ENJOY THE PARK FROM DAWN UNTIL WELL BEYOND DUSK
Hyde Park really is a space for everyone, as its opening hours are from 05:00 until 00:00. What is even more astonishing is that these times do not change at all throughout the year. So, whether you would like to undertake a morning jog before breakfast at the hotel or a romantic evening stroll, the park will be ready and waiting for you.
Photo credit: ZLLRBRT via iStock