It was with something of a sense of awe and excitement that I entered the Buckingham Palace estate through the mews and stables and then as the trees and bushes opened up, the expanse of the lawn appeared and beyond that, Buckingham Palace itself.
It may surprise people from overseas but few have ever claimed that Buckingham Palace to be the most beautiful building, it was really never planned to be the high profile building it is today and the most prominent facade is possibly the least the impressive albeit it, looking more regal since the balcony was added. Otherwise it could be just a standard if large townhouse, its rather plain frontage almost fitting as a tradesman entrance. As such the private rear frontage to the rear wing of the Palace is always said to be the finest looking though it has to be said is far from the finest royal palace building even in London.
Even though there was a long queue of people to get in at each allotted time slot due to many brining in picnics through security, the garden felt almost empty and very spacious the entire time.
Only a relatively small proportion of the gardens are open to the public, maybe 30-40% and this may be partly that they are so big, it would be very difficult to safeguard visitors and plants in the more remote areas of the gardens especially as some areas have quite natural and rough terrain. The garden like the Royal Parks nearby play a very important role for wildlife in London.
One of the stars of the garden is the 156 metre long (about 420 feet) herbaceous border which has if I remember anywhere near correctly has around 240 different species of plants.
As is the case when in one of the large Royal Parks, you barely realise you’re right in the centre of London at all. Occasionally you can hear the odd police siren in the distance but that’s about it. Also you can barely see any other buildings above the many trees of the garden with the exception of a 50 year old monstrosity of a hotel tower block in Park Lane.
In one corner of the garden, photography is forbidden as it is right underneath the Queens personal apartments in the palace but one can freely wander around there. Towards the edge of the lawn in that area are 5 tall and slender trees, perhaps Poplars. I spoke with one of the very friendly members of staff and asked if they were perhaps planted in memory of King George V. She liked my romantic musings much more than the reality and indeed my second guess, the trees were planted to obscure the view of the distant hotel from the windows that the Queen looks out from!
I had a good talk to two or three staff there and it was fascinating, I was particularly interested in how much care and effort modern day planting and maintenance is focussed on the environment and caring for rare species of insects and the like.
A footpath winds round through a wooded section of the garden past two Plane trees, Victoria and Albert that were planted by the people the trees are named after and we see a summerhouse with an artistic corgi inside.
Some parts of the gardens notably the Rose Garden, summer house and meadow in the south-west corner are off limits accept to those on a special tour but there was more than enough for us to see.
I must admit I felt rather naughty walking over the lawns of Buckingham Palace. Even the grasses are of a Victorian variety than aren’t ordinarily available any more. Lawns in Britain can be almost sacrosanct; even in the 1980’s if anyone strayed more than a few centimetres or inches of the footpath at my school then you’d be in detention and big trouble and you don’t have to go far to see discreet signs in many places to keep off the lawn. So walking across the lawn of the Queen was a little surreal to say the least.
It was a lovely atmosphere though and lots of people were sat out with blankets and some with very fine wicker baskets with silver cutlery and fine bone china cups and saucers though many more were roughing it somewhat. Everyone was so polite and well-behaved and quiet, it reminds me a little of how life used to be when everyone was respectful of each other and their surroundings though it must be said that from what I could tell, only a certain type of visitor was present. If there was any riff-raff around then it was likely myself!
My friend and I decided to have tea on the terrace of Buckingham Palace (again I was treated) which afforded excellent views out over the garden and we were sat within touching distance of the place itself. A window was open 3 storeys above us, if The Queen had nothing else to do but listen to our conversation then she’d be hearing what a marvellous time we were having. It’s very possible that when life is hopefully back to normal again next year, the experience that we were having simply won’t happen again so given I had no idea I was even coming to the Palace an hour or two earlier, it was definitely a nice surprise.
As much as the Palace is gargantuan and the gardens are like heaven on earth, much of our enjoyment was down to the fact of where we were. Actually sat having tea likely where The Queen and Prince Philip had plenty of teas themselves. Perhaps King George VI sat here whilst preparing for the ‘Kings Speech’ in WW2. Did Queen Victoria herself sit here with Prince Albert as the children played out on the lawn? Perhaps none of these things ever happened but be that as it may, it didn’t hinder our enjoyment one bit.
We went to the shop near the mews and stables which was well stocked in all manner of things. I could have bought a lot but sadly being Excluded, my opportunity to contribute to the economy was practically non-existent so I got myself a fridge magnet, a small gardens book and a majestic blue Buckingham Palace bag which one day I will give to a tourist on a Royal London Walking Tour.
We could have stayed in the gardens all day and to be fair to us, we did stay in for nearly 5.5 hours. Every view of the garden was just sumptuous and the only reason not to dwell in a perfect spot was because a few seconds away was the promise of a totally different perfect spot.
The walk from the furthest reach of the lawn to the exit is itself 7 or 8 minutes long even for quick walkers and it takes you past the lake from a different point of view and along the foot of some high, rough and tree covered high ground before appearing back in the 21st century not too far away from Hyde Park Corner.
If you enjoyed this post then you might like my book The Secret Gardens of the City of London which is based on my #1 rated tour Sacred Secret Sanctuary Gardens Walk.
I hope you enjoyed my posts on just a few of the highlights of Buckingham Palace gardens. The gardens are open to the public until early September 2021 but are largely sold out. It’s always worth checking the website however as my friend had been trying to get a ticket for months and two just randomly appeared whilst we were chatting.