London is a surprisingly green city, home to eight Royal Parks and myriad gardens squares and open spaces. To celebrate National Picnic Week (21-30 June) and the release of a strictly limited-edition Globe-Trotter picnic hamper, we round up the best secret gardens in the capital for some alfresco dining inspiration
This summer, Globe-Trotter has pushed creative boundaries with a new limited-edition picnic case, available exclusively through our bespoke service at Albemarle Street. Designed and built in the Globe-Trotter UK factory, the hamper is made from red vulcanised fibreboard with black leather corners. Inside you’ll find a luxury Gainsborough silk lining and compartments for a bottle of champagne, two glasses, and a removable tray for snacks and sweet treats.
Feeling inspired? Here are some of our favourite places to take time out in the capital this summer.
SOAS Japanese Roof GardenIf the hustle and bustle of summer in London and the waking nightmare that is the Central Line have got you feeling burned out, reclaim your ‘zen’ at this hidden Japanese-inspired rock garden on the roof of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS. Opened in 2001, the garden is dedicated to ‘forgiveness’ and follows the principles of traditional Japanese garden design using minimalist planting features, raked gravel and a raised meditation area.
Globe-Trotter’s insider tip: The garden is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday 10.30am-5pm. Occasionally the stage is used as a performance space so it may be worth phoning ahead to see if there’s anything special going on.
Who would have thought that London’s Brutalist icon The Barbican is home to the second biggest tropical conservatory in the city? More than 2,000 species of exotic plants and trees and even koi carp and terrapins can be found in this mini rainforest, which is open for the public to stroll around every Sunday until the end of July. And if you don’t fancy packing some sandwiches and a flask of tea, why not make a day of it with afternoon tea in the Conservatory, available for a limited time at £35 per person.
Globe-Trotter’s insider tip: Budding horticulturalists can learn more about the history and plants of the Conservatory with a special guided tours, taking place every Sunday until December. Just remember to book your spot in advance.
Eltham Palace Gardens
A former medieval palace snapped up by eccentric millionaires and turned into a lavish Art Deco home? Such a place could only exist in London. Eltham Palace was the childhood home of Henry VIII but remained in a state of disrepair until Stephen and Virginia Courtauld decided it would make the perfect country retreat in 1933. The couple spared no expense in transforming the palace into a state-of-the-art Hollywood Chateau-style home, including installing a heated bedroom for their pet ringtailed lemur Mah-Jongg. The award-winning 19-acre gardens are equally magnificent and landscaped in the Arts & Crafts style, with a rockery, sunken rose garden and even one of London’s oldest wooden bridges crossing the original moat.
Globe-Trotter’s insider tip: Children will love the outdoor play area, which is inspired by Stephen and Virginia’s many travels. There are also nearby benches with umbrellas so you can enjoy a picnic even if the weather takes a turn.
When wealthy philanthropist Lord Leverhulme decided his Hampstead townhouse needed a terrace to accommodate his extravagant summer parties, he set about building one. The extension was completed in 1906 and was a true architectural marvel but was sadly neglected following Leverhulme’s death in 1925 and the Second World War. Still, like St Dunstan, the Pergola’s original features and untameable natural beauty has made it a true hidden gem. Wild, rural and romantic… just like the famous neighbouring Heath.
Globe-Trotter’s insider tip: Hampstead Pergola is a licensed wedding venue managed by the City of London Corporation. So if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-track place to celebrate with unbeatable grandeur and scenery, look no further.