Separated from Kensington Gardens in 1728 by Queen Caroline, the wife of George II, Hyde Park is nonetheless the largest of the London parks and famous for its Speakers’ Corner; a place where folk can literally get on their soap box and air their views albeit on the site of a former gallows!
The boundary for the two parks is identified by the Serpentine Bridge, which crosses the Serpentine Lake, so called for its snakelike shape and which includes the Long Water, with recreational activities such as boating, with rowing boats for hire, and in summer a solar powered passenger ferry. Tennis, cycling, open water swimming and horse riding also feature.
On a historical note, one of the more macabre occurrences at Hyde Park was the discovery of the drowned body of the pregnant wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, she had left a suicide note.
One of the eight Royal Parks of London with a notable grand entrance known as Queen Elizabeth Gate, Hyde Park was a 2012 Olympics venue for triathlon and marathon swimming events, and among a number of park landmarks is the Diana, Prince of Wales Memorial Fountain.
The park is immensely busy in fine weather and as well as walking and cycling, is popular for picnicking – a far cry from its original purpose to satisfy the Royal passion for hunting deer and wild boar in the 16th century.
There are art galleries either end of the SerpentineBridge. The Serpentine Gallery, originally a 1930s tea pavilion, has exhibitions by many leading contemporary artists. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery building was The Magazine, a gunpowder store built in 1805, and has a stunningly curvaceous restaurant of that name headed by chef Oliver “Ollysan” Lange.
Hyde Park is open from 5.00am until midnight all year round with a range of cafes and restaurants. Limited car parking facilities are available. Pay and Display is sited on West Carriage Drive and at either end of Serpentine Bridge.