My Ideal Day in the Park

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People in London are always telling me how there is more designated green space in London than any other city. At first this surprised me. It always seemed to me to be a lot of concrete, stone and tightly packed buildings, but then I realised they meant that there are more parks.

And there are a lot. The other weekend, I took in a few and spent almost 3 hours wandering the interconnecting parks of Kensington Park, Hyde Park, Green Park and St. James Park. All my photos are of this lovely day. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful walk. While we were walking, a Canadian friend who was with me commented that English parks seem more like gardens compared to the parks she grew up with. That got me thinking about parks in places where I've lived and how different they are.

Toronto and Victoria
Growing up in Canada, I would say there were two types of parks. One was where they put children's play equipment and sports fields. You went there to 'play'. The other type, are more a bit of 'wilderness', for the lack of a better explanation. Whether its the cliff path in Victoria or High Park in Toronto, they kind of have this 'undeveloped' feel - almost like attempts to preserve wilderness, even in the middle of a city. But they also make it accessible to people by winding a few paths through the park.With many trees and winding paths, you can seemingly walk alone in many of them, even on a busy day.

Now the parks in Chicago are less wilderness and more groomed. But what I really loved was that in the summers, the edges of all the parks would be lined with people parking and cooking. BBQ grills would appear, along with coolers, tents, chairs and tables - all unloaded from the back of vehicles. Families would be there from 9 or 10 in the morning into the early evening. It was as if the parks became giant backyards. So the parks were more social scenes than places to escape.

London parks I've visited definitely have that promenade feel (though I might be projecting historical imaginings on them). They are full of people strolling and 'out for a day in the park'. Really social places, but perhaps a bit more restrained than Chicago. Plenty of picnics, but less, shall we say, 'equipment'. Turning a section of the park into your own personal backyard is probably forbidden. Now I'm pretty sure 'commons' versus city parks have different rules, so it might be possible elsewhere. I would say your typical London park outing would be to walk a bit, sit on a bench, feed some birds, get a cup of tea and done!

What do I like better? I'm not sure because the escape feel is really nice, but it seems to me that in many ways the Chicago and London parks are used by more people. Maybe that's just the layout? I'm not sure.

At the end of the day I'd really like a mix. I'm happy to stroll London's parks but I also would be game for a bit more urban wilderness and if anyone knows of any park BBQ's please let me know!


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