A Magical Visit to Kensington Gardens

Tripoto
26th Jun 2014
Photo of A Magical Visit to Kensington Gardens 1/7 by Abigail Rogers
The Peter Pan statue
Photo of A Magical Visit to Kensington Gardens 2/7 by Abigail Rogers
The Italian Gardens
Photo of A Magical Visit to Kensington Gardens 3/7 by Abigail Rogers
Kensington Gardens
Photo of A Magical Visit to Kensington Gardens 4/7 by Abigail Rogers
Aerial view of Hyde Park
Photo of A Magical Visit to Kensington Gardens 5/7 by Abigail Rogers
Diana Memorial Fountain
Photo of A Magical Visit to Kensington Gardens 6/7 by Abigail Rogers
The Peter Pan statue
Photo of A Magical Visit to Kensington Gardens 7/7 by Abigail Rogers
Diana Memorial Fountain

I recently fell in love with Peter Pan. Of course I watched the Disney flick as a kid, but last year "the boy who wouldn't grow up" became something of an obsession for me. I read J.M. Barrie's classic novel, then watched three or four film/theatrical versions of the story. I read articles about the deep and conflicted character of Hook, and searched for hidden meanings in the enchanting tale.

In my obsessive perusings I discovered that Peter first appeared in Barrie's little-known adult novel, The Little White Bird. His mythology began, not in Neverland, but in a place called Kensington Gardens. Barrie transformed this familiar London location into a fairy realm. Kensington Gardens has loomed large in my imagination ever since, and when I went to London on a recent trip with my family I urged them to stop by.

Now you should know that Kensington Gardens are huge. Running seamlessly into Hyde Park they combine in a total 625 acres. Beyond the gardens we found a broad park covered in ancient trees. A smooth river twists through banks covered in wildflowers, frequented by ducks and swans and strange other fowl I couldn't name. Picturesque bridges span the space between weeping willows, and miniature gardens splash the pathways with color and delicious smells. People are everywhere, laughing and playing fetch with their dogs, and walking hand in hand with love in their eyes.

Thus ended our magical visit to one of the greatest royal parks.

Kensington Gardens has loomed large in my imagination ever since, and when I went to London on a recent trip with my family I urged them to stop by.Now you should know that Kensington Gardens are huge. Running seamlessly into Hyde Park they combine in a total 625 acres. There is so much to see, and we barely scratched the surface. We arrived in the late afternoon of a gorgeous May day. Wandering down a wide asphalt path, we came close to a hub of activity where joggers and families out for a stroll swirled around a collection of fountains and water flowers.

Photo of Kensington Palace Gardens, London, United Kingdom by Abigail Rogers
Photo of Kensington Palace Gardens, London, United Kingdom by Abigail Rogers

We saw the Italian Gardens, a soothing water feature full of life and beauty. Supposedly it was created as a present from Prince Albert to his beloved Queen Victoria. Those two had one of the sweetest romances in the history of British royalty. We'll see Victoria's own tribute to her sweetheart in a minute.

Photo of Italian Gardens, London, United Kingdom by Abigail Rogers

At last we found the spot I'd been hoping to visit the most: the Peter Pan statue. J.M. Barrie himself commissioned it to be made just ten years after first putting his character down in ink. It's a beautiful piece of art in itself, reminiscent of Arthur Rackham's magical work. Fairies and forest animals spiral around a column topped by the boy himself, standing at a jaunty angle and making music on his pipes. Touching the cold bronze, I think a trace of fairy dust came away on my hands.

Photo of Peter Pan Statue, London, United Kingdom by Abigail Rogers

We wandered over the border into Hyde Park, and came across the Diana Memorial Fountain. Unlike the regal Victorian fountains we saw before, it's a simple looping stream. Constructed in 2004, it is a tribute to Princess Di's life: "water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom." I saw a couple of girls frolicking in the ripples and decided that they shouldn't have all the fun! I took off my shoes and waded in. The water was shockingly cold, but so satisfying to splash.

Photo of Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, West Carriage Drive, London, United Kingdom by Abigail Rogers

Back on the Kensington side we visited a very different kind of tribute, the Prince Consort National Memorial. This was finished in 1872 as an elaborate—not to say ostentatious—monument to Queen Victoria's greatly mourned Albert. An inscription wrapping around all sides reads Queen Victoria And Her People • To The Memory Of Albert Prince Consort • As A Tribute Of Their Gratitude • For A Life Devoted to the Public Good. Surrounding the central pavilion are dramatic marble representations of the four great continents: Europe, Asia, Africa and America. Hundreds of figures, including some of the greatest artists of all time as well as idealized persons representing manufacturing, agriculture, etc. all appear to sing Albert's praises. It's a little over the top, but a touching reminder of how much one person can love another.

Be the first one to comment