The Ten Best: Urban parks

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1 Richmond Park, Surrey

1 Richmond Park, Surrey

Covering 2,500 acres, Richmond Park is home to a huge array of endangered birds, beetles and plants. Since 1625, when Charles I brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague in London, red and fallow deer have roamed through the woodland. It is home to the Isabella Plantation, where azaleas and rhododendrons blaze into flower during late April and May.

2 Wollaton Park, Nottingham

With deer roaming through the grounds, Wollaton Park feels a world - rather than three miles - away from the city centre. The 500 acres of land, with a huge lake, surround Wollaton Hall, designed by Robert Smythson and completed in 1588. The Elizabethan mansion has been converted into a wildlife museum, with a stuffed bear - perfect for scaring children - in the entrance hall.

3 Kelvingrove Park and Botanic Gardens, Glasgow

Glaswegians descend on the park in moments of Scottish sunshine. Designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, who also designed the Crystal Palace in London, this is a classic example of a Victorian Park, with its curves planned to follow the banks of the river Kelvin. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery, which is situated in the park, reopens next year.

4 Saltwell Park, Gateshead

Opened in 1876, and known from its early days as the People's Park, this is one of the finest examples of a Victorian park in Britain. It's home to owls, bats, woodpeckers, swans, ducks and squirrels - and a lake covering two-and-a-half acres. Within the park are 11 listed buildings and monuments, including a Gothic mansion. A massive renovation project is under way and will soon be completed.

5 Hampstead Heath, London

With a fantastic view of London from Parliament Hill, and boasting excellent kite-flying spots, the heath also has 25 ponds, three of which are for bathing. Kenwood House contains an art gallery with works by Turner and Rembrandt, among others. With wild heathland, this is not all strictly "park", but the sense of countryside helps to keep north Londoners sane.

6 Sefton Park, Liverpool

Designed in 1867 by Edouard Andre, the chief gardener for the city of Paris, the park is marked with his signature lines, circles and elipses and a large arc-shaped lake. The magnificent late-Victorian glass Palm House is full of exotic plants. The bandstand is supposed to have been an inspiration for The Beatles' album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

7 Newcastle Town Moor, Newcastle

Protected by the city's charter, this massive heathland covers 959 acres. Cattle graze on what would otherwise be prime real-estate land. It includes the more formal Leazes and Exhibition parks. The land has a history of recreational use; the Newcastle Races were held there in the 19th century, and it still accommodates travelling fairs, including the largest in Europe, the annual Hoppings.

8 Fort Royal Park, Worcester

With its hilltop views towards Worcester Cathedral and Commandery, this is the perfect park for glorious sunsets. A Civil War battle was fought here, and it is home to Fort Royal, the listed monument that gives the park its name. The fort itself is surrounded by a rose garden and extensive flowerbeds, and there's a playground on the site, so it's all pretty child-friendly.

9 Preston Park, Brighton

Brighton's Lesbian and Gay Pride parade in August wends its way to Preston Park for the festival. It's a day when a carnival atmosphere takes over the park - and most of the city. This was Brighton's first urban park - and is its largest - and it boasts an Edwardian walled garden and rose garden, plus a clock tower and rotunda. The rock garden is an especially impressive example of its kind.

10 Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

Built on the site of the old Nor' Loch, the gardens were designed to give New Town residents an unspoilt view of the castle and the Old Town. They contain the Scott Monument, as well as more modest memorials to David Livingstone and others, and the famous floral clock. Somehow, it remains pleasant even in the summer, when it is crawling with tourists.

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