Where grass is greener: A quiet spot near Notting Hill

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The Notting Hill Carnival is not to everyone's taste. For locals who prefer a quieter holiday weekend, escaping to the woods of Holland Park (right) is the obvious answer. But because it is one of London's smallest parks, this walk includes some of the fascinating surrounding streets.

Leaving the greenest part for the end, walk back from the car park into Abbotsbury Road and go south, then turn left into Melbury Road.

Between here and Kensington High Street are large Victorian and Edwardian houses, whose blue plaques reveal that many were the homes and studios of the pre-Raphaelite group of artists. Look at 8 Melbury Road with its gigantic studio windows and No 29 (also confusingly numbered nine), with its red brick turret and spire.

A leading pre-Raphaelite was Lord Leighton, whose exotically decorated former home and studio in Holland Park Road, featuring the multi-coloured Arab Hall, is a museum (Mon-Sat, 11am-5.30pm). It is closed this weekend, but to visit at other times turn right off Melbury Road.

Continue to Kensington High Street and turn left, passing the Commonwealth Institute and, alongside it, the

stately iron gates to the park, put up in 1848 when Holland House was a private home.

Turn left off the High Street into Phillimore Gardens, then right past the Sticky Fingers cafe into Stafford Terrace, a near-pristine Victorian street. No 18, the former home of the Edwardian cartoonist Linley Sambourne, is open Wednesdays and Sunday afternoons.

Turn left into leafy Argyll Road, whose terraced houses are larger and more ornate. Turn right when the street ends, then straight across the five-way junction into Holland Road, which becomes more charming and interesting as you walk east, culminating in the gaudy hanging-groaning baskets outside the Elephant and Castle pub.

Turn left up Gordon Place and left again at Pitt Street to reach Hornton Street and yet another variation on the theme of the Victorian terrace - this time jazzy red brick and stucco horizontal stripes on the tall, narrow buildings. Turn left down Tor Gardens and right on Campden Hill Road, where the houses are adorned with bizarre pierced porches.

Just before the road descends steeply to Notting Hill Gate, turn left into Aubrey Walk, leading to the 17th-century Aubrey House, whose Dutch gable and thick canopy of ivy are just visible above the closed gate.

Follow the road round to the right down to Holland Park Avenue, where you turn left and immediately left again up Holland Walk, a pedestrian path.

You have to walk about a quarter of a mile, to the back of Holland Park School, before you find a gate in the iron railing that lets you into the park on your right. Turn into it, walk ahead for a few yards, then turn right on a path edged with wooden palings.

When you reach a gate that announces 'staff only' turn left, then fork left after the signs to the cafeteria and ice house. You approach the back of the statue of the third Lord Holland, staring straight ahead: follow his gaze down Azalea Walk (come back next spring for the azaleas) to the lawn alongside Holland House.

It was built in 1608 for Walter Cope, James I's Chancellor, whose daughter married the first Earl of Holland. The essayist Joseph Addison lived here briefly - having married a Dutch heiress - and in the 19th century it was at the heart of fashionable London society: Dickens, Scott, Disraeli, Byron and other luminaries attended soirees here.

The house was bombed in 1940 and only the east wing could be restored: a modern youth hostel has been built alongside. When you get to the house turn left and walk round to the main hostel entrance to enjoy the best view of the surviving Jacobean wing.

Passing the entrance to the summer theatre, whose season has just ended, you reach the cafeteria, the old stable block and the 18th-century circular ice house, now a small art gallery. Behind these are the fine formal gardens. Turn right through the iris garden to reach the Dutch garden, well planted with summer bedding

Heading north, you reach steps up to the Kyoto Garden, a restful and immaculately maintained haven opened in 1991 by the Prince of Wales and the Crown Prince of Japan. You are not allowed on the grass here, so keep to the signposted path that takes you on a circular route, crossing a pool in front of a fine waterfall.

Leave the garden by the entrance you entered and turn right down a wooded path. Cross the first east/west avenue and turn left in front of the wildlife reserve and its murky duck pond. This is Chestnut Avenue.

At the bottom of it turn left along a metalled path, passing two children's playgrounds - one with picnic tables - before you get back to the car park.

Fact file

Length: Three miles

Time: Less than two hours

Parking: Pay and display inside park off Abbotsbury Road, but limited space. Two-hour meters in Oakwood Road.

Public transport: Holland Park (Central Line); High Street Kensington (District and Circle); buses along Kensington High Street and Holland Park Avenue.

(Photograph omitted)

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