Many people visit the truly magisterial – and enormous – Hyde Park for its capacity to offer acre after acre for relaxing, picnicking, rollerblading and playing ball games right in the very heart of the capital. However, others – in their infinite wisdom – insist on visiting the park primarily for its outstanding natural beauty; specifically then, its supreme examples of flora and fauna located slap-bang in the centre of one of the world’s busiest, most urgent urban concentrations. And, no question, these people are on to something, all right…
Wildfowl and other wildlife
Of all the examples of fauna you might discover on a visit to the park, the largest grouping and by far the most diverse is the birds. From robins to tits, geese to swans and dunnocks to exotic and wonderfully colourful parakeets, the avian population of Hyde Park is a joy to behold and spot.
In fact, of all the natural habitats in London, Hyde Park may be said to be unique given its size and, thus, capacity to truly support and encourage its large variety of different animal species. To that end, in recent years the park has gone out of its way to embrace and put into practice positive developments to support all its species; one example of which has been the generation of a meadow area, which also gives a good idea of how the park would have looked in centuries past. It’s also the perfect place for kids to run about in on a lazy, long summer’s day watching and trying to catch the butterflies that feed on its native wildflowers.
Meanwhile, the park’s trees, beds of shrubs and all its herbaceous plantings are perfect for spotting the likes of tits, robins and dunnocks – and you don’t have to be eagle-eyed to catch sight of pigeons and especially squirrels; there’s even a good chance the latter, although the park officially regards them as ‘pests’, will eat from your hand should you have any nuts on you!
And don’t forget the unnoticed ‘minibeasts’ that are enormously important to the site’s overall ecosystem – foraging insects, bees and beetles are present in vast numbers. Indeed, without these insects to feed on, the park wouldn’t be home to the marvellous bats you can spot from Dell Bridge and near Serpentine Bridge around sunset. And if you’re after real exoticism then, in addition to the aforementioned parakeets, you might be lucky enough to see a black swan, a buzzard or even Egyptian geese; all of them have spotted in recent times!
The Rose Garden
A relatively recent addition to the park, although it’s been around for more than 20 years now, the Rose Garden’s intention is to effectively ‘trumpet’ the arrival of visitors to the park, being located near the ‘official’ entrance at Hyde Park Corner in the park’s south-eastern corner, while the yew hedge in its central circular area’s deliberately shaped as the mouth of a trumpet and seasonal flower beds that look like notes protrude from it.
Popular throughout the year, both for local visitors seeking a contemplative place of solitude to get away from the hustle-bustle of Central London and the myriad tourists spellbound by the brilliant, beautiful colours and delightful scents of the flowers in the summer months, the garden has proved a great success. If you want to catch its roses at their best, for instance, then definitely schedule your visit for early summer (the garden’s so easy to get to should you take the Tube – just get off at Hyde Park Corner – especially if you’re staying at a nearby hotel in West End London, such as the Piccadilly London).
In addition to all the flowers, you’ll also find a grand pergola and two fountains – the first, the ‘Boy and Dolphin’ was sculpted way back in 1862; the second of ‘Diana the Huntress’ dates from 1899 and was donated to the park in 1906.
The Hudson Memorial Bird Sanctuary
Given that, as we’ve established, Hyde Park’s home to all things avian, it maybe comes as no surprise that this bird sanctuary – installed, as it was, in 1924 – was intended as a commemoration to the 19th Century writer and naturalist, William Hudson, a man who was critical in the establishment of the UK’s much revered Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Moreover, he was a chap who took it upon himself to speak up for the importance of wild spaces in parks to enable the flourishing of different animal species – not least birds.
Nowadays, the sanctuary proves a lovely little haven for – fittingly – smaller, twittering birds including tits, wrens, goldcrests, robins and blackbirds. It’s ideal for small children then and features appealing carvings and engravings; one of which represents Rima, a child goddess of nature from Hudson’s own 1904 novel Green Mansions. What’s not to love?