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Kensington Gardens

Kensington Gardens (76)

Originally, this gardened area of 111 hectares was part of Hyde Park, but William III, who suffered from asthma, thought that it was land suitable for his health and he bought it. In 1689 he entrusted Christopher Wren to transform Nottingham House, the mansion that stood there, into a palace. That is how the current Kensington Palace came about. Then Queen Mary II began to create a Dutch-style garden.

On reaching the throne in 1702, Queen Anne extended the garden area, gaining land from Hyde Park and entrusting the landscape designers Henry Wise and George Loudon with the creation of a spectacular English garden. She also has built the Orangery, a Baroque building of red brick. 

The key figure for converting the gardens into the park they make up today was Queen Caroline, George II’s wife, who in 1728 took away 120 hectares from Hyde Park and hired Charles Bridgeman to redesign the space. Bridgeman has a pond dug out, The Pond, facing Kensington Palace, from which radiated out a series of avenues that gave different perspectives of the building.

They were also contracted to create, thanks to a reservoir, an artificial lake called Long Water. One of the most curious aspects of the series of reforms was the idea of separating Kensington Gardens from Hyde Park with a ditch, when the normal thing would have been with a wall.

The public, on the condition that they were well dressed, could go into the park, and it was indeed all the rage in the early decades of the 19th century. However, it fell into oblivion when Queen Victoria decided to leave Kensington Palace and move the Court to Buckingham Palace.

Today, when the weather is fine it is a very popular spot for a picnic and for some sunbathing. People go jogging along the paths, while cyclists must pedal on specific authorised areas. If you want, you can visit the Albert Memorial.

Another big attraction of the park is a bronze statue representing Peter Pan, the character created by the Scot J.M. Barrie, part of whose adventures take place in these gardens. For the children who, like Peter Pan, do not want to grow up, in 2000 a play area was opened here in memory of Princess Diana. The Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground is a veritable children’s paradise in which, in a natural setting, there are attractions such as the reproduction of a pirate slip or Indian tepees. Every year 70,000 children visit it. 

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