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The long history of London's major parks as royal preserves gradually admitting the public has left the capital with a legacy of open spaces free from developer pressure and sprinkled with monuments. This walk takes you through four of these great parks to examine this ancient landscape of wood, water, turf and flowers, and to dwell on some of its treasures.

St James’s Park, virtually the front garden of Buckingham Palace, was made into something more than a place of public resort by Charles II although its present appearance owes most to the softening of its lines by John Nash in 1826.

Regent’s Park began as confiscated monastic land. The Prince Regent turned it into the centrepiece of his prototype garden city, to which the public was first admitted in 1835. William and Markham Nesfield laid out the elaborate Avenue Gardens in the 1870s and the former botanic garden in the central circle was converted into the opulent rose garden in 1930.

Hyde Park was detached from Westminster Abbey by Henry VIII, and was first opened to the public by Charles I. It became the venue of a series of spectacular events in the 19th century: the Trafalgar re-enactment on the Serpentine in 1814, the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the building of the Albert Memorial in 1872. The royal enclave of Kensington Gardens was carved out of the western end from 1689.

Steven Desmond is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture and specialist in the conservation of historic gardens.

Start and finish

10.00am Westminster Underground Station, 4.30pm Kensington Gardens (High Street Kensington station).


£190. This includes lunch, morning and refreshments, one underground journey, one taxi journey.

More information about Culture Days gift vouchers.


The distance covered is c. 6 miles and you are on your feet for most of the day while looking and listening. Please don’t attempt it unless you are able to walk at about 3 mph for at least an hour at a time. 

Are you fit enough to join the tour?

Group size

Maximum 15 participants.


We will return the full amount if you notify us 22 or more days before the event. We will retain 50% if cancellation is made within three weeks and 100% if within three days. Please put your cancellation in writing to We advise taking out insurance in case of cancellation and recommend that overseas clients are also covered for possible medical and repatriation costs.

Map: London Days.