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Kensington Gardens #LdnGreenGround Challenge

Originally part of Hyde Park and houses the birthplace of Queen Victoria.

It was in 1536 that Henry VIII put Hyde Park into place as his private, enclosed hunting ground. It is site to horse and sweet chestnut trees which were planted as food for the deer. These species can be found here in abundance today.

It opened to the public in 1637 and in 1689, King William and Queen Mary began the process of separating the park. when they purchased Nottingham House and renamed it Kensington Palace. Mary began the creation of formal gardens in the Dutch style based on her heritage.

The park we know today

It was then in 1728 that Queen Caroline expanded the park by 300 acres and began to turn it into , began to transform Kensington Gardens into the park we know today. She took another 300 acres from Hyde Park with the division between the two being The Long Water.

I started the day at the Palace Gate entrance of the park. A 10 minute walk from Gloucester Road tube. At this entrance, there is a small cafe which sells drinks and snacks and a lovely spacious seating area. The weather had started off pretty bright and I was hopeful, however, it did cloud over as time went on, which is alway a shame, but it is November after all!

We walked from the entrance to the palace and looked at the landscaped formal gardens. Whilst it looks relatively bland in autumn, it is lovely to know that there is a wild flower meadow in the summer and looking at the different plants and trees in that area, including the sunken garden.

Then, a very short walk over to the Round Pond revealed, as one would expect, a number of water birds. There were a number of beautiful Greylag geese which always look stunning with their orange feet and beak contrasting against the lush green grass. Amongst the very many black headed gulls (which aren't so black headed, but rather a small black spot on it's head in the winter due to their winter plumage), there was a Common Gull which can be found in vast numbers on the coast but is in fact not terribly common inland.

The beauty of winter trees

One of the things which strikes every visitor to the park is the abundance and beauty of the hundreds of trees. Autumn is a wonderful time when death looking absolutely glorious. The range of species means that the colours are so rich and varied as the leaves will die at different times. However, even the same species of tree could change at a different rate due to factors such as location and age.

When the leaves have all gone and winter is upon us, what can be lovely to see are the buds. Whilst I am still very much learning to identify trees from their leaves, it is also possible to do this via their bud shape and formation. Therefore, winter can actually be a fun time to try to identify trees via their buds and look at them in a very different way.

The Long Water is lovely area for a vast range of water birds and a beautiful space to spend some time walking along, looking at the wonderful animals and trees and taking in the wonder of life. There were a number of blackheads gulls, but amongst them were several comorants. One very handsome fellow was close to us and with a pair of binoculars, how wonderful yellow cheeks and emerald green eyes.

The tranquility of observing animals

We spent a while watching them as there is a real peacefulness in how they rest and dry themselves. It is so lovely when you realise that you can gain so much from just gently observing another living creature, noting the birds feathers, colours and behaviour. Whilst I shouldn't anthropomorphise, it's also a nice thing to try to think about how they are feeling, whether they are content, if they are enjoying the weather and what they think of the other animals around them.

This is why they are often seen perched with their wings outstretched, drying themselves as whilst they have a preen gland, it is a lot more rudimentary, meaning they are waterproof, but perhaps not as much as other birds as there is a tradeoff between being able to dive deeper and preventing air bubbles getting trapped under their feathers.

Naturally, as all parks around London, there was an abundance of squirrels. In life, we can get all too accustomed to things that we see frequently. Therefore, it can be lovely to practice seeing things with 'new eyes' and realising that there are many things that we don't really notice.

Therefore, we spent more time looking at them, seeing the lovely colours of their fur, with the contrasting orange, grey, white and black really giving them a wonderful camouflaged against the trees and leaves. also watching their cheeky behaviour which is unlikely to be so bold outside of the busy metropolis. And there is no doubting that however your view of them, they really are cute!!

The wonderful kingdom of fungi

Something which is abundant at this time of year is the huge range of fungi. I have to say that I do love seeing them, they are completely baffling to me. It wasn't all that long ago where fungi were declassified as plants and put into their own kingdom which is more similar to animals than they are to plants.

I love the fact that the largest living organism is a the Amarillia fungus in Oregon that covers 2,385 acres has been estimated to be 2,400 years old and weight 660 tonnes. With so many different species of fungi, not all of them are good to trees, however, there are a huge range which work symbiotically with trees.

It is lovely at this time of year to look out for fungi as we are so used to not seeing them, that it's great to train our eyes to seeing that a pile on the ground might not simply be a pile of dead leaves.

All in all, another wonderful experience in a truly historical London Park.

Location: Kensington Gardens, west of Hyde Park. Transport: Lancaster Gate & Queensway (Central Line), Bayswater (District Line), High Street Kensington (Circle and District Lines) numerous buses. Office Site. Company: small group What I Saw: a large variety of trees. Grey squirrel, long tailed tits, crows, magpies, common gulls, black headed gulls, cormorants, mallards, tufted ducks, greylag geese, jays, starling. Cleanliness: On the whole really clean, bins all around the park. Others in the location: Lots of people of all ages and families, generally walking.

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