Men show their appreciation and affection for their wives in different ways ... sometimes. It might involve a bouquet of flowers, a surprise dinner out or maybe just abstaining from going to the pub for one evening. For Prince Albert however, he came up with something all together a bit more extravagant, when in the 1860's he created an ornamental water garden in Kensington Gardens as a landscaped love letter to his wife, Queen Victoria.
The garden is still there just by Lancaster Gate, having recently undergone a £486,000 restoration programme and overlooks the tranquil Long water, the river which flows through the Royal Park in to the Serpentine. It is quite a lavish affair complete with four basins, fountains, sculptures and urns, many of which have had their ornate carvings re-worked and restored in recent years. As you wander around you might notice five motifs which recur throughout; the swan's breast, woman's head, ram's head, dolphin and oval.
Prince Albert didn't dive in at the deep end, but as a man with 'green fingers' had already created an Italian style garden at Osborne House, the Royal retreat on the Isle of Wight, where he had taken charge of the garden. The pump house to the north originally had a steam engine for operating the fountains and a stoker was apparently employed to work each Saturday night, through the night, pumping water in to the pond, so that on Sunday, the fountains could work with no engine running, as if by magic.
Unfortunately, when I took these photos, it was a rather grey day, but Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are a wonderful place to go for a stroll, and apart from the distant hum of traffic, you can almost forget you're in London. For film buffs, the Italian Gardens featured in both 'Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason' and another film called 'Wimbledon' (starring Kirstin Dunst and Paul Bettany). Also, you'll notice that all the parks in London have oodles of benches, should you wish to rest your weary legs, but just next to the Italian Gardens is what must surely be one of the most extravagant park benches I've ever seen. It looks like this.
The Italian Gardens are a Grade II Listed English Heritage site, and the care and dedication taken to restore them to their former glory has ensured that many people will be able to enjoy them for many years to come.
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Bowl Of Chalk
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