Every year some of London's most exclusive private gardens open their gates to the general public during the aptly (if not particularly catchily) named Open Garden Squares Weekend. So if you're keen to find out whether David Cameron's grass is greener than yours, or feel like hanging out in the place that inspired EastEnders' Albert Square, grab your A-Z and get garden spotting
If you’ve ever wandered off the beaten track in our nation’s great capital, you’re more than likely to have stumbled across one of its many green and pleasant squares.
‘How lovely,’ you will have thought to yourself as you peered through the railings. ‘Perhaps I’ll go and have a little stroll around inside, or rest my weary legs while sitting on one of its attractive Victorian benches.’ And then you’ll have reached the gate and found it heavily padlocked against oiks like you.
But despair not, for the weekend of 8-9 June 2013 is Open Garden Squares Weekend, when even commoners are allowed to roam the paths of London’s most exclusive private squares.
Over 200 gardens will open this year, including community allotments, prison gardens, rooftop gardens, burial grounds and wildlife reserves. As an added bonus, some squares will also be putting on open-air concerts, exhibitions, craft displays and wine tastings.
Top of the visit list is the garden of No. 10 Downing Street. All the tickets have been snapped up, but if you missed out, there are plenty of other secret gardens waiting to be explored.
Some of the highlights in West London include Earl’s Court Square, Collingham Gardens and Hereford Square, which are usually only open to the rich and famous who live in the surrounding luxury townhouses. While you’re in the area, you should probably make a pit stop at the famous Kensington Roof Gardens – don’t forget to check out the flamingos.
Out east you can pay a visit to Fassett Square, just off Graham Road in Hackney. Not only is it one of the best Victorian squares in the area, but it’s also famously the inspiration behind EastEnders‘ Albert Square, so keep your eyes peeled for Dot Cotton and co.
Up north you can embark on a spot of urban cave exploration in the Nursemaids’ Tunnel that connects Park Square and Park Crescent next to Regent’s Park. Built in the 1820s, the tunnel runs underneath the busy Euston Road and above one of the oldest stretches of the London Underground.
Vauxhall’s bohemian Bonnington Square is one of the best green spaces South London has to offer and probably boasts more plants per inch than any other garden in the capital.
And in the City, Charles Dickens fans will get a kick out of visiting Fountain Court in Middle Temple. It’s described as ‘dull, grimy and dark’ in Martin Chuzzlewit, but it must have had a bit of a makeover since Dickens’ day because it’s rather lovely now.
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If none of these tickle your fancy, there are plenty more squares to choose from all over London. The full list is up on the Open Garden Squares Weekend website. Tickets for the whole weekend cost £10 if you buy them before 8 June and children under 12 go free.