A bit of serenity in Holland Park

I’m a fairly recent migrant to this crazy city. I’d been living in Oxford for a few years, up until last October, and I think I’ve figured out the fairly simple difference that really bugs me between the two.

Oxford could be (well, can be, I suppose) a fairly busy place, what with the billions of students and trillions of tourists, but the great thing about it is that you were never more than a turn round the corner and a wander down an alley from a moment of serenity. A 14th century street, a college quad – there are even two entire meadows within a fairly short amble of the city centre.

London, though, isn’t usually quite as peaceful.

Not round ‘ere, anyway. People do go on about it being a terribly green city, given its metropolitan status, what with all its huge parks and all, but I tend to find that they don’t quite satisfy your craving for that bit of calm. Places like Hyde Park are indeed green, but often they’re not particularly quiet, and if they are, they’re just… well… a boring, y’know?

So it was a lovely surprise to (almost literally) stumble into the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. I’d been jogging around there a few times before, and there are some interesting gardens and buildings and trails, but the Kyoto Garden stands out from the rest.

Or rather, it doesn’t. I’d completely missed it before; there’s no big monument, no huge sign, and it’s difficult to even see what’s there until you’re in. One one side there’s a row of trees that seperates it from the rest of the park, and on the other you’re actually below the garden and have to head up some steps to get in.

It’s so worth it, though. It’s just a lovely little Japanese-style garden in the middle of the city. I’m not a massive horticulturalist, so I can’t tell you about the variety of plants, and I’m not a landscape designer, so I can’t tell you what’s so distinctive about the three-tiered waterfall and the little footbridge over the pond. I wasn’t even there for very long, just taking a quick break to catch my breath – which is actually a passable analogy, now I come to think of it. It felt like slipping out of London for a moment, and stopping to just breathe properly for a moment.

If you’re passing by – maybe shopping on High St Kensington or something – do take the time to drop in. It’s on the northern side of the park, but it’s not exactly an ugly stroll up there. Anyone got their own ideas on where to unwind in London?

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