A pretty perambulation

LONDON’S KENSINGTON GARDENS is bounded to the north by Bayswater Road and to the south by Kensington Gore (overlooked by the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial), which becomes Kensington Road.  Within the park and running almost parallel with its southern boundary is the South Flower Walk (also known as The Flower Walk). The Northern Flower Walk, which runs near and parallel to Bayswater Road was once used by royalty. According to a document published on the Royal Parks website, this was:

“… a delicious and appealing place to stroll for the monarch on the way to … the site of the Bayswater ‘Breakfasting House’…”

The breakfasting house no longer exists. I am not sure whether the South Flower Walk can boast of such an illustrious past. However, when it is in full bloom, it outdoes its northern counterpart in colourfulness and variety of its flora.

Although the whole of Kensington Gardens makes for a pleasant place to stroll, a walk along the South Flower Walk provides and exceedingly pretty perambulation.

Queen Elizabeth and the Elizabeth Line

THE VICTORIA LINE began carrying passengers in late 1968 when I was 16 years old. I remember when this happened and how exciting it was. Recently a new railway line opened in London: the Elizabeth Line. Originally named ‘Crossrail’, it began carrying passengers several years after it was supposed to have been completed. It is supposed to convey people from east of London to well west of the city. However, what exists now (July 2022) is not exactly what I expected. In order to travel from, say, Shenfield, at the eastern end of the line to, say, Maidenhead, west of London, you need to change trains at Paddington. Currently one section of the new line runs east from Paddington, and the other runs west from that station. Unlike Queen Elizabeth’s long continuous reign, the line named to honour her has a discontinuity at Paddington.

A visitor from abroad wanted to experience the new line today, a Sunday. He was looking forward to seeing the new station platforms on the line that heads east from Paddington. Sadly the section that fruns east from Paddington does not operate on Sundays at the moment. So, we had to head west. The Elizabeth Line trains are new, but the train follows tracks that were laid down as far back as the 19th century. Apart from being over efficiently air-conditioned, the new trains are comfortable and run remarkably smoothly.

We travelled (on a train bound for Heathrow Terminal 5) to Hayes and Harlington station, and from there headed to Barra Hall Park in the old part of Hayes. There, we enjoyed a picnic before walking to the mediaeval parish church, St Mary the Virgin. We had visited it once before, but were completely unprepared for what we saw this time. The hedges lining the path leading to the south door of the church were decorated with bunches of cut flowers. A cardboard cut-out of Queen Elizabeth II greeted us at the door. The lovely church was filled with attractively arranged bouquets of flowers. Quite by chance, we had arrived whilst the church’s 57th annual Festival of Flowers was being celebrated. We were fortunate because we arrived on the 3rd of July, the last day of the festival. The festival’s theme was “A Tribute to Queen Elizabeth”. How appropriate to have travelled to it on the Elizabeth Line.

Amongst the agapanthus

We visited Funchal in Madeira in early June 2022. Although we were recommended to visit some of the numerous botanical gardens in and around the city, it was hardly necessary. I do not think that I have ever visited a place filled with such a profusion of flowers as is the case for Funchal. The whole city seems to be one great garden.

During our visit, we were in time to see a vast number of blue flowered agapanthus plants. Although they are commonly known as ‘lily of the Nile’ or ‘African lily, they are not of the lily family. They are members of the Asparagales order of plants, a part of the Asparagus genus. Had I not seen so many of these flowers in Funchal, I might never have bothered to find out anything about them. As the saying goes, travel broadens the mind.

A lady from Lichtenstein

FUNCHAL IN MADEIRA is famed for its glorious gardens, which can be visited by members of the public. Actually, the whole city is filled with so many flowering plants and trees that it is almost like a huge garden. Nevertheless, we decided to see one of the gardens  for which the city is known. We chose the Palheiro Gardens, which are located about 500 metres above sea level.

To reach the gardens, we took local bus number 37 from the Pingo, a square near the  Mercatos Lavradores. While waiting for the bus to depart, we began chatting with another passenger, a lady who spoke English with a Germanic accent, who last visited the Palheiro 18 years ago. It turned out that she is from Lichtenstein. As far as I can recall, she is the first person from that tiny country next to Switzerland with whom I have ever spoken.

The bus trip up to the Palheiro is spectacular. The road winds ever upwards along the edges of deep ravines. As the road ascends, there are many dramatic views of Funchal and its bay.

The gardens are well-tended and are laid out in a seemingly informal way, in the English garden style. The gardens flourish on slopes overlooking the city far below and a golf course nearby. I do not know enough about trees and flowers, but suffice it to say that the place provides a colourful feast for the eyes.

The Palheiro gardens are laid out in the former estate of the wealthy Count of Carvalhal. The place was purchased in 1885 by the Blandys, a family of British entrepreneurs, bankers, makers of Madeira wine, and merchants who have been important in the development of Madeira’s economy. Part of the gardens retain features laid out by the Count in the 18th century, but much of the rest of the grounds have been developed since then.

Being at about 500 metres,  the garden is noticeably cooler than in the centre of Funchal.  In fact, during our visit, we were close to the clouds and occasionally felt the moisture contained within them. I am pleased that we visited the Palheiro, but feel that given the profusion of lovely plants all around Funchal, I wonder whether visiting gardens like this one is a ‘must do’ activity unless you have a special interest in gardens and gardening.

The journey between Funchal and Palheiro and my first meeting with a person from Lichtenstein enhanced my trip to the gardens.

A fantastic floral feast

IT IS THAT TIME of year again, maybe a little earlier than usual because of the changing meteorological conditions, which are of great concern these days. Located in the southwest part of Richmond Park is one of London’s floral miracles: The Isabella Plantation (see: https://adam-yamey-writes.com/2021/05/21/a-floral-fireworks-display/, for a shorth history). It is at its colourful best at the end of April and in early May. During this period, the camellia, azalea, and rhododendron bushes explode into flower alongside many other flowering plants.

During our visit in the last week of April 2022, we were fortunate to have arrived at the right time to see vast carpets of bluebells in full bloom. Fantastic as this is to see, they pale into relative insignificance in comparison with the flowering bushes, which have been skilfully planted so as to provide the viewer with three-dimensional multi-coloured natural works of art. On our recent walk around the Plantation, the morning sun was shining brightly, enhancing the vividness of the flowers’ colours. Filtering through the trees, the sunlight created splashes of light on the flowers, producing an interestingly dappled effect. One visitor, with whom we spoke said that the best time of day to see the flowers is in the afternoon. She might be right, but I would strongly recommend seeing them at about 1030 am, which is when we were there.

There are three ponds in the Plantation. The largest is Peg’s Pond, in which we were fortunate to see a duck with her flock of tiny ducklings swimming around her. Next largest and at a higher altitude is Thomsons Pond, which is surrounded by a few flowering bushes. The most magnificent pond is the smallest of the three. It is the Still Pond. It is almost completely surrounded by azalea and rhododendron bushes. When they are in flower, their incredibly exuberant blooms are reflected in the mirror-like water of the Still Pond. This amazing effect must be seen to be believed (if you are unable to visit at the right time of the year, look at my video: https://youtu.be/WLipU0kdoLM).

We parked in the (currently free) Broomfield car park, which is a short, pleasant walk away from the Plantation. On our way, we were lucky enough to spot several stags and deer resting in the shade of a tree not far from the footpath. Seeing these and the resplendent display of colour in the Plantation provided a pleasant distraction from the many disturbing things that are happening  places all over this planet.

Remembered with yellow flowers

THE NORTH FLOWER Walk in Kensington Gardens runs east from the Italian Gardens. It is both close to, and parallel to, Bayswater Road. About 280 yards west of the Italian Gardens, there is a small, low rectangular memorial stone in a flower bed next to the North Flower Walk. In springtime, a large bush behind it bursts into yellow flowers. It is a forsythia plant.

The North Flower Walk used to be a part of what was once the ‘berceau’ or ‘walk of shade’. According to a document published on the Royal Parks website, this was:

“… a delicious and appealing place to stroll for the monarch on the way to … the site of the Bayswater ‘Breakfasting House’…”

Today, the Walk is filled with walkers, their children, their dogs, joggers, and the occasional cyclists.

The memorial stone celebrates the botanist and horticulturalist William Forsyth (1737-1804). A founding member of The Royal Horticultural Society (founded 1804), he was also the Curator of The Chelsea Physic Garden (from 1771) and Superintendent of various royal gardens including those of Kensington Palace (from 1784). The plant genus Forsythia, a member of the olive family (Oleaceae), was named in his honour.