Best of British: Parks

Anna Walker

There isn't a more British way to spend a summer afternoon than enjoying the sun in our many parks…

Holyrood Edinburgh

The dramatic landscape of Holyrood Park, with steep pathways and volcanic cliff faces, offers unparalleled views over the city of Edinburgh. A royal park since the 12th century, the beautiful Holyrood Palace, situated on the outskirts of the estate, remains one of the Queen’s primary residences.

Take a moment to relax beside one of the many mini lochs, enjoy a ramble along the yellow-flowered hillocks, set off for the iconic Arthur’s Seat or explore the wind-whipped hillside ruins of the 15th century St Andrew’s Chapel.

Says ranger Martin Gray, “Visitors can explore the beautiful natural heritage and incredible history which can be traced as far back as 5000 BC. Home to the spectacular hills and crags that shape Edinburgh’s iconic skyline, visitors can climb the ancient volcano, Arthur’s Seat, for 360-degree views of Edinburgh and the Lothians, while our rangers offer the chance to learn about the special place they protect with guided walks, group tours and other events.”

 

Stanley Park, Blackpool

This seriously stylish park won the prestigious Fields in Trust “Best Park” award in 2017, and deservedly so. With an Art Deco café, Italian marble fountain, pretty bandstand and picturesque boating lake, it’s an elegant space to enjoy a summer’s afternoon.

Visitors can spend the day rowing on the lake and exploring the woodland and formal gardens. There’s also a 5000-seat cricket ground, 18-hole golf course and model village within the park, making it well worth a repeat visit.

Says Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths, “Stanley Park topped our public vote ahead of three other parks. Designed by celebrated landscape architect Thomas Mawson in the 1920s, the park was described as ‘fabulous’ and ‘the centre point of Blackpool’ in its public nomination. Whilst it’s a popular space for summer visitors, the volunteer Friends of Stanley Park group assist the council to keep the park’s standards high throughout the year.”

 

Catton Park, Norfolk

Perched prettily on the outskirts of Norwich, Catton Park offers visitors 70 uninterrupted acres of green space, from wild flower scattered meadows to enchanting woodland.

Developed over the years by the residents of the private estate of Catton Hall, the park was commandeered by the military during the Second World War and ploughed up for food production. 

Thanks to lottery funding, the park was opened to the public in 2007.

Catton Park hosts a range of events over the year, from fun runs to car boot sales and outdoor theatre, so a casual dog walk can easily turn into an exciting day out.

Says Old Catton council clerk Sarah Vincent, "A real sense of community radiates from the park bringing people together, whether walking pets, exercising, reading under a tree or simply enjoying the landscape."

 

Wirral Country Park, Cheshire

Following the track of the former Birkenhead Railway Route, the creation of this scenic park required extensive work, removing over 30 miles of railway track and accompanying sleepers.

Opened to the public in 1973, the old 1950s station platform for Thurstaston has been preserved as part of the park so that visitors can still enjoy the heritage of the old railway.

Flora and fauna abound here, and visitors share the space with foxes, badgers and over ten species of butterfly. The River Dee’s estuary also attracts a wide variety of birds, including adorable short-eared owls, so be sure to pack your binoculars.

Head to the park’s boulder clay cliffs—which stretch to 60ft high—for an unbeatable view over the entire park before resting your legs at the café or one of the many picnic areas.

 

Victoria Park, London

The oldest public park in London, Victoria Park (affectionately known as the People’s Park) was opened in the 1800s after the cholera outbreak saw 30,000 local residents campaign for a clean space where they could enjoy fresh air away from the smog of the city.

At 86 hectares, the park is huge, stretching all the way from the River Thames at Limehouse, along the Regents Canal, through to Mile End.

The Chinese pagoda is one of the many highlights of a visit to Vicky Park. Erected in 1847, the structure was originally kept seperate from the rest of the park, leading local children to speculate that it was actually home to a Chinese family, who would sneak out at night in order to feed the ducks.

Victoria Park has won the Green Flag People’s Choice Award for most popular public green space three times, the only UK park to achieve the prestigious trifecta.

 

Platt Fields, Manchester

Centred around a beautiful lake where enthusiastic fishermen catch carp and tench, Platt Fields has been enjoyed by the public for over 100 years. Originally intended as an antidote to the sprawling industrialisation of Manchester, Platt Fields were envisioned as the “green lungs of the city”, providing Mancunians with an escape from the pollution and smog of the workhouses.

Thanks to a significant rejuvenation in the 1980s, the park has once again become a place of escape and relaxation. There’s a huge variety of gardens nestled in the grounds, including a themed plot containing only blooms mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. There’s also an educational garden, environmental area, Jubilee gardens and a community orchard garden known for its roses.

Sports fans can enjoy bowling greens, basketball courts, football pitches, roller hockey, tennis courts, cycle paths and a skate park as well as a BMX track.

 

Bute Park, Cardiff

Described as the “green heart of the city”, Cardiff’s Bute Park is an urban oasis. Indeed, surrounded by towering trees, award-winning horticulture, a calming river and thriving wildlife, it’s easy to forget you’re in the city at all.

Formerly the grounds of the statuesque Cardiff Castle, Bute Park attracts over a million visits every year and is so sprawling that it could easily house 75 football pitches, making it one of the largest parks in Wales.

Famous for its trees, the park boasts over 3,000 different species and the greatest number of “champion trees” (recognised as the tallest or broadest examples of their species) in the UK. Eagle-eyed visitors can spot woodpeckers, herons and even otters gambolling in the river.

Throughout the summer months Bute Park plays host to Cardiff’s Open-Air Theatre Festival and an interactive Jurrassic Kingdom dinosaur event—perfect for entertaining the little ones during the long summer holidays.