My mother and I headed up Oxford Street for a bit of shopping, stopping everywhere that caught our fancy, weaving our way through the throngs of Londoners and tourists that had taken to the streets on the sunny Saturday morning. Our final destination was Camden Market four hours later, where we would meet up with Damian for lunch and a nosey through the innumerable market stalls that together with the lock give the area its name. Four hours will be lots of time we told ourselves, it’s only about two and a half miles, and even with some shopping along the way we were sure we would make it on time.
One thing you learn quickly in London is to expect the unexpected.
London is a heaving metropolis, and has been for centuries. It is full of concrete and rubbish, honking cars and careering buses. Central London is a place that you visit for museums and galleries, restaurants and clubs, not broad green parks filled with blooms that gently scent the summer air. It certainly wasn’t where I expected to find rose gardens like none I have ever seen before.
The Grandeur of the Regent’s Park
Our route from Oxford Street to Camden took us through the Regent’s Park, a park I have subsequently learned is 410 acres in size and boasts a boating lake, bandstand, London Zoo, Primrose Hill, and an open air theatre, as well as sports pitches and open park land. This isn’t a postage stamp of a ‘park’ with a path and a few trees, littered with broken bottles and McDonald’s wrappers. Regent’s Park is a pleasure ground built for a king, specifically George IV, and this grandeur remains today.
I expected that we would pop through the park, because walking through a park is always nicer than down a bustling London street, and have more than enough time to explore Camden before meeting Damian at 2. What I didn’t anticipate was both the size and the beauty of the place. Both of which had us in awe and eventually rushing to meet our lunch date.
The Roses of Queen Mary’s Gardens
Roses, roses everywhere! I have never seen anything like it. There are over 12,000 roses planted within Queen Mary’s Garden, making it London’s largest collection of roses. The best time to visit is apparently in the first two weeks of June, which is just when we happened upon the spectacle. On that Saturday morning it seemed as if every single flower was in full bloom, perfuming the air with that most enchanting of scents and making the park a wonderland of sight and scent.
Hours later we emerged from the opposite side of the park, delighted with the timely detour. There are few things quite as delightful as discovering the unexpected in a new city, and the grandeur of Regent’s Park was certainly that. A blip on a route from point A to point B became one of the highlights of our trip to London and a sensory experience that I won’t soon forget.
Camden Market will just have to wait for another day.