The nation will be returning to the 40’s this May to celebrate VE Day – Victory in Europe Day: Friday 8th being a day of remembrance, Saturday 9th – one of celebration – and Sunday 10th, a day for thanksgiving.
At the heart of the festivities will be St James’s Park, London’s oldest park and for me, it’s most delightful. For this most special of celebrations, I thought a few relatively unknown facts about this beautiful oasis of calm in the heart of the capital might be of interest.
- St James’s Park is surrounded by three palaces – Westminster (now known as the Houses of Parliament), St James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace.
- The park welcomes over 5.5 million visitors every year and is one of the most visited in Europe.
- The park was once a marshy water meadow and took its name from a leper hospital founded in the thirteenth century.
- King Henry VIII acquired the site and subsequent monarchs added to its allure. It was Charles II who made the most dramatic changes however and who opened the park to the public.
- John Nash redesigned the park in the romantic style and the canal built by Charles II was transformed into a natural-looking lake. In 1837, the Ornithological Society of London presented some birds to the park and erected a cottage for a bird keeper.
- The lake is home to a wide range of bird life (including 15 different species of waterfowl) and has nesting sites on Duck Island and West Island.
- The pelicans were introduced to St James’s Park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian Ambassador. They are fed fresh fish between 2.30 – 3.00 pm every day and presently four Eastern (or Great) White Pelicans are resident in the park.
- Outside Buckingham Palace is the Queen Victoria Memorial which is topped by the glittering figure of Victory. The nearby ornamental gates were given by the dominions – Australia Gate, South Africa Gate and Canada Gate.
- The Memorial Gardens are laid out in a semi-circular design around the central memorial.
- The replanting of the beds in summer requires approximately 22,500 plants including geraniums, spider plants, salvias and weeping figs.
- In winter, the beds are filled with about 50,000 yellow wallflowers and red tulips.
- The Royal Parks hosts the start and the finish of the Virgin Money London Marathon – at Greenwich Park and of course, St James’s Park.
Alternatively, of course, just chill in the peace of the park in one of the striped green deckchairs. Very popular with Londoners and it’s what I always do when I visit if its sunny – great for watching the world pass by.
Contributor and photographer: Sue Lowry
Follow A3Traveller on Twitter: @A3Traveller and Sue Lowry on Google +, YouTube, Linkedin, Flickr and Pinterest. I also operate another blog for my company, Magellan PR – http://www.magellanstraits.com. They can be followed on Twitter: @MagellanPR, on Google+, on YouTube, on Pinterest and on Facebook.