Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Festival Gardens and more

A strange thing happened on Monday, something which hasn't happened for a few years now - we had a warm and sunny August Bank Holiday in London! I can vividly remember the same day three years ago when I helped on two guided walks on what must have been the wettest day of the year.

On this glorious Monday my partner asked me where I fancied going to explore. This is a question that he asks me most weekends and usually we are able to think of somewhere one or neither of us has been to in or around London. My answer on Monday was Battersea Park. I've seen it from 'my' side of the Thames and even walked a little way along the bit by the river but I didn't really know that much about it or know how large it is.

What I did know was that it had been the Festival Gardens for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and that some of the site was still there, although restored or changed. I was also aware of the Buddhist Peace Temple.

Battersea Park was almost 20 years in the making and was officially opened in 1858, the same year that Chelsea Bridge opened. At the time of opening it still had six years before it was complete. The park is 220 acres of green space that at times feels a long way from the centre of  London or even the Thames.

We wandered without much prior knowledge but found the information boards scattered around very useful. It was looking at one of these that we realised that there was not only a Barbara Hepworth sculpture in the park but a Henry Moore as well.

There are big open spaces, a fun fair, lakes and ponds, an old English garden as well as adventure play areas, boats and lakeside cafes. There is also Battersea Park Children's Zoo for which there is an entry fee.

The Peace Pagoda has been part of the park since 1985 and is a gift of the Japanese Buddhist movement. It is very close to the river and can be clearly seen from the embankment.

Just off of the North Carriage Drive are the fountains and the Grand Vista, the remains of the Festival of Britain Pleasure Gardens from 1951. We saw the fountains working from a distance but these had stopped by the time that we had got close enough to see them properly. I understand that they are only 'live' about once every hour. The area has a feel of the Festival although looking at pictures afterwards there have been some refurbishments by Wandsworth Council that are not entirely true to the original.This area was designed by John Piper and Osbert Lancaster and on this extremely hot August day the pools were being used by many people to cool off.

I loved Battersea Park and wished we had joined the many other people who were enjoying picnics in the sunny expanses or in the shaded areas, next time perhaps.