An urban area the size of London with approximately 7.5 million residents and nearly that many again in the surrounding areas isn’t normally considered a place you will find a lot of open spaces. As the most populated city in the European Union, you might think they would use all of their available space to house people.
London’s Royal Parks, however, are 5,000 acres of historic parkland providing unparalleled opportunities for enjoyment. While London has many parks and open spaces, The Royal Parks are in prime locations, and are the largest on average.
There are five Royal Parks in Central London alone and eight altogether. Royal Parks are land once owned by the monarchy of England. These lands were once used for their enjoyment, mainly as hunting land, but as London became more populated, the lands were given over as freely accessible public parks. About 5,500 acres in total of Royal Parks are available in London.
Hyde Park is the most well known Royal Park, and one of the largest in Central London. It covers about 350 acres, and is divided by Serpentine Lake which is a haven for Ducks, Geese, and Swans at its North end. The Lake has a central bridge which marks the division between Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens, another of the eight Royal Parks, slightly smaller than Hyde Park at 275 acres in area. Many people think Kensington Gardens are a part of Hyde Park, but that is not the case. This land was originally the private gardens of Kensington Palace.
Serpentine Lake is named for its snake like curves and has a swimming area known as Landsbury’s Lido which will be host to the swimming portion of the triathlon for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The swimming area is only open in the summer, however over the past few decades a New Years Day tradition has been for a group of deranged individuals to break away any ice and submerge themselves in the freezing water. No one knows why.
The lake has rowboats for hire, and also hosted the World Rowing Sprints over a 500 meter course in 2002. No motorized traffic is permitted around the lake, and that area is widely used by inline skaters, and there are grounds for other sports, formal and informal, around the shores of the lake.
Hyde Park puts on outdoor concerts with some big name bands in years past, such as The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. A 1976 “Queen” concert holds the attendance record with a crowd numbering 150,000 officially, although it estimates the real total was more like 180,000 to 200,000 in attendance.
Other Royal Parks in London include Bushy Park in the borough of Richmond upon Thames. At 1,100 acres it is the second largest Royal Park. A little farther from the centre of the city, but wildlife like Red Deer make it seem like further out in the countryside. Bushy Park is home to the National Physical Laboratory, The Royal Paddocks, and Bushy House. The D-Day Landings were planned here at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force was housed here in World War II, and Field Hockey was invented here in the late 1800’s.