Greater London’s eight Royal Parks offer about 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of historic parkland in central and suburban London, all open to the public year round. The five inner London Royal Parks are the largest green spaces in central London, while the three suburban sites provide a significant breathing space for residents of west and south-east London.
The eight sites are:
- The Green Park — 19 hectares (47 acres)
- Hyde Park — 142 hectares (350 acres)
- Kensington Gardens — 111 hectares (275 acres)
- The Regent’s Park (with Primrose Hill) — 166 hectares (410 acres)
- St James’s Park — 23 hectares (58 acres)
- Bushy Park (with the Longford River) — 445 hectares (1,099 acres) in west London
- Greenwich Park — 74 hectares (183 acres) in south-east London
- Richmond Park — 955 hectares (2,360 acres) in west London
All the parks are managed by the Royal Parks Agency (an executive agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport), which also tends several other London spaces, including Brompton Cemetery (16.5 hectares), Victoria Tower Gardens and Grosvenor Square Gardens (along with the gardens of 10, 11 and 12 Downing Street, which are not, of course, open to the public).
The oldest royal park, Greenwich Park, was enclosed as a deer park in 1433. Much of the other Royal Park land is former church and monastery land taken into royal ownership by Henry VIII for recreational use by the monarch and his guests. Later monarchs allowed the masses to enjoy the parks, but access still depends on the grace and favour of the Crown since, apart from the odd public right of way, we peasants still have no legal right to use the parks.
The main habitat in all the Royal Parks is grassland, either rough or manicured and usually dotted with trees. Apart from the Green Park, all the sites also include substantial expanses of open water. Some of the inner London parks feature formal gardens and all the suburban parks include significant areas of woodland.
The inner London parks provide an urban oasis attracting a wide range of birds. Some park lakes have wildfowl collections, which may include free-flying birds and can be a magnet for rare wild birds, such as the juvenile White-winged Black Tern that spent some time in Hyde Park in September and October 2010. Regular feeding of wildfowl and gulls by the public may also attract unusual visitors.
Red Fox and Grey Squirrel are present in all the Royal Parks. The suburban parks also attract other mammals, including several species of bat. Red Deer and Fallow Deer roam Bushy Park and Richmond Park.
Yeah. Lots of creepy-crawlies too.
All the Royal Parks are easy to reach by public transport. Parking is difficult near the central London parks and public transport is recommended. Parking is available within, or close to, all the suburban parks.
The parks are open to pedestrians day and night throughout the year. There is generally good access for disabled visitors. Further access information is available from the Royal Parks website.
Public toilets and refreshment facilities are available in most of the parks.