England has many of the world’s oldest and earliest parks including many Royal Deer Parks that date from just after the 11th century Norman Conquest.
England’s parks also include some of the world’s oldest Urban parks in London but also in many of England’s industrial cities: often built during the 19th-century industrial revolution by wealthy philanthropists or through subscription.
The National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens in England has a total of around 1,500 sites but these are some of the best and most famous.
Hyde Park, West Central London
Hyde Park in London, along with the land beside it known as Kensington Gardens, basically part of the same park, it is one of the UK’s largest Urban Parks at 253 hectares.
Hyde Park was originally owned by Henry VIII as a hunting park, bought in 1536, and then opened to the public 101 years later in 1637 by Charles I . William III became resident at Kensington Palace at the West end of the Park in 1689 and since then the area has been strongly associated with the Royal Family, with Buckingham Palace being close by.
Hyde Park Corner is one of the Park’s most famous features with several monuments including Wellington’s arch, once the grand entrance to the city, and several important war memorials.
While Hyde Park Corner is in the South East Speakers’ corner is to the North East close to Marble Arch and is famous for open air speakers coming here to air their views and debate and discuss with the public. The park is also famous for many demonstrations including the Suffragettes and more recently Anti-War protests.
Richmond Park, South-West London
Deep in Richmond Park you wouldn’t know you were in London not least though when you see a herd of deer passing by, although from certain points you can get a great view of St Paul’s and other central London landmarks. Richmond Park is home to Red Deer and Fallow Deer though they are no longer hunted here.
Richmond Park is another of London’s Royal Parks, and in fact its largest; originally a hunting park public access was confirmed following legal action in 1758 and the park is now accessible on foot as well as by car and by bike with extensive cycle lanes.
Seven Sisters Country Park, East Sussex
From Seven Sister’s Country Park you can enjoy some of the English South Coast’s most famous views along the famous white cliffs and along to Beachy head.
The name of the park is perhaps not as famous as the images of the cliffs, which will be forever associated with the Battle of Britain during World War Two when brave pilots of the RAF and German Luftwaffe took each other on over the cliffs.
The Seven Sisters is in fact the name of the 7 peaks along the cliff top which provide a fantastic walk and fantastic views, you can then continue east to Beachy Head: Britain’s highest chalk cliff that then descends down into the Victorian seaside town of Eastbourne.
Studley Royal Park, North Yorkshire
Designated a World Heritage site Studley is a 323-hectare site, mainly developed during the 18th century.
Close to Ripon in Yorkshire Studley Royal Park was originally the site of an Abbey, until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 by Henry VIII. It was only in 1718 though that development begun with a landscaped garden and water garden: the main features of which still remain today. The Georgian water garden is the most famous and popular feature of the park today, still amazing visitors with the interweaving of waterways, falls and fountains into the natural surroundings.
Kew Gardens, South West London
Close to Richmond Park The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, to give them their full name, are not only public gardens but a publically run centre for botanical research. As such Kew gardens has many very interesting and rare plants both inside and outside.
Outside the Orchid Garden and Rose garden are not to be missed but buildings at Kew also include the Water Lily House, Palm House and the Temperate House as well as several large conservatories. Perhaps even more impressive though is the treetop walk, great fun whether you have children with you or not
Britain’s first publically funded Civic Park is Birkenhead Park, at Birkenhead on the Wirral Peninsula close to Liverpool. Birkenhead Park was built in the early 19th century and opened in 1847; Central Park in New York was in fact influenced by Birkenhead after Central Park’s designer Ferdinand Law Olmsteads visited Birkenhead in 1850.
Recently renovated to restore it to its Victorian Splendour the park, though relatively small, has a lot to see including the Boathouse, Grand Entrance and famous Swiss, covered bridge.
Sheffield Park Garden, East Sussex
Another park that was originally a Deer Park, Sheffield Park Garden is located a little way south of London. The garden has been developed overtime but with an Arboretum planted in the late 19th century and then further developments in the early 20th century it is now at its best with its trees and shrubs having just come to maturity giving a beautiful vista over the central pond especially.
Princes Park, Liverpool
In the Toxteth suburb of Liverpool this park was originally a private gardens: redesigned and opened to the public in 1842. It has influenced many of the UK’s and the world’s public parks having been designed by Joseph Paxton: Britain’s foremost Park architect and landscaper in the middle of the 19th century. The main features of Princes Park are the Serpentine Lake, which though once for boating now has a good stock of fish.
Regent’s Park, Central London
In central London and surrounded by grand terraced town houses Regent’s Park was developed on the orders of the Prince Regent, later to become George the IV.
The Park designed with an outer and an inner ring of walkways today offers the opportunity for a pleasant stroll: during which you can take in the lake, with its famous Herons, and other famous sites in the park including the Open Air Theatre and the Mosque. The most famous attraction within the park though you will need to pay to enter as this is London Zoo, located to the north of the Park.
Peel Park, Salford
Paid for by public subscription, prior to Peel Park’s opening there were few green spaces in industrial Salford and adjacent Manchester, at least not that the working classes could freely enjoy. The park was built as a clean, green, open space for the workers in factories and mills to enjoy, especially on a Sunday evening. This and two other nearby parks opened in 1846 and Artist L.S Lowry later made five famous sketches of the parks and those who enjoyed them.
Today the park is still enjoyed by locals as well as visitors from further afield and is famous for it’s carpet flowerbeds and the Flood Obelisk, showing the height the flood here in 1866 reached.
Sutton Park, Birmingham
The UK’s largest urban park, Birmingham’s Sutton Park is a massive 970 hectares and is so extensive it takes in several different habitat types as well as many other facilities.
Local residents visiting the park regularly will struggle to get bored: with areas including ancient woodlands, heath, marshes and wetlands. The park even has its own railway line to get around.
The park has seven lakes in total and several date from long before this was a public park; more recent facilities though include the park’s two golf courses -one private one municipal-, many restaurants and various sports facilities: all enjoyed by the parks two million visitors each year.
Most of Britain’s towns and cities have great parks often home to local events and festivals so check out where you can visit locally before visiting anywhere and bear in mind that some of the best parks are not in the centre of towns and cities but may be a little way out or even in the countryside nearby.