The snow has gone now, but in London last Monday we visited Holland Park in Kensington for the first time, drawn by word of the Kyoto Japanese garden there. The Park is well-hidden; unlike Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens just up the road, it’s tucked away behind the elegant Kensington street facades, and reached by a narrow lane.
The park is spread across 54 acres of what used to be the grounds of Cope Castle, a large Jacobean mansion hidden in the woods. It was built by Sir Walter Cope in the early 17th century, who became Chancellor of the Exchequer under King James 1. It was later renamed Holland House after being inherited by the Earl of Holland’s wife.
Holland House was badly damaged during World War II, but one wing was saved and is used as a youth hostel. A section of the front terrace remains – the lawns in front covered in snow last week.
Holland Park is, surprisingly in such a suburban setting, pretty extensive and it took us a little while to find the Kyoto garden which is in a secluded spot among trees behind the stables, rose garden and playground.
Holland Park Kyoto garden was designed and built by an eminent Japanese garden designer and his team to celebrate the Japan Festival in London in 1992. It was a co-operative project between the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in Japan.
The garden is a tranquil place and looked particularly beautiful with the trees and rocks covered in snow. Boulders and pebbles edge the shore of the pool in which gleaming koi carp swam languidly. There are Japanese maples, several stone lanterns, and a gently-falling waterfall. On a crisp, bright morning of blue sky and sun, the glittering snow and calm reflections in the still water of the koi pond offered a few moments for peaceful contemplation before returning to the hurly-burly of the London streets.
The gardens look quite different in summer sunshine, in this photo from the Londonist website. Autumn must also be a good time to visit, when the leaves of the Japanese acers are turning red and orange.
But this was the scene in the snow last week: