Start & finish : The Sun Pavilion
Time : The very short walk can be completed in under 10 minutes, but allow half an hour more to really enjoy these gardens
The Woodland Garden
Follow the stream to the fishpond, which has an almond tree on the far side and a peach and apple tree to the right. During the 2008 Head Gardner David Lewis, who has a team of three part-time staff, replanted the gardens extensively, putting in more blossom trees to enhance the year-round interest. The idea of much of the planting has been to mark moments in the gardens’ history, and blossom trees were popular when these extraordinary gardens were created in the 1930s.
The stone bridge is an original from 1936 and if you cross it, you can pass through a gate to a viewing platform, with views across central and south London. There is, however, a more interesting viewing post later on. Continue along the path to the lawn, where there is a remarkable sight. Here you could be forgiven for thinking that you were following a woodland stream deep in the countryside. The effect is magical. There are splendid, mature trees here – English oaks, a North American red oak in the centre, limes – as well as borders busy with British woodland hedgerow natives: Bluebells in spring, yellow flag iris, bright red lobelia, amongst others. Odd pieces of pottery and stone adorn the riverbank, while in the water or on the streams edge a variety of ducks potter about, among them wood duck, mandarin, white-cheeked pintail, ringed teal and pochard. In among them are mallards that have flown in and decided to stay – and who could blame them? This must be the most exclusive pond in the whole of London.
The largest trees are 70 years old and date back to when the gardens were first laid out. It is remarkable that all this life manages to grow in soil just 16 inches (40cm) deep.
At the end of the woodland Garden there is a pretty, Japanese-style wooden bridge with a 70-year-old Japanese acer growing next to it. Cross the bridge and pass under two mature lime trees to find a somewhat hidden viewing platform. As you leave the viewing platform there is a black mulberry on your left in the bay. Now it is time to meet the gardens’ most famous residents.
It is easy to forget that you are high up in the centre of London, until you catch a glimpse of the roof tops and horizon through the wall’s circular windows.
This is just a taster of what there is on the Kensington Roof Gardens walk. To see the rest, and belive me you will want to… including the Flamingo Pond, the Tudor Garden and the Spanish Garden you really have to go and see it for yourself!