Dreamy spots to get dreamy...
Hanami is a centuries old Japanese tradition of having picnic parties under the cherry blossom - sakura - in the spring. The phenomenon can be described as a national obsession; the Japanese Meteorological Agency track the ‘cherry blossom front’ - sakura zensen - as it makes its way through the islands and the public follow its approach with mounting excitement through nightly forecasts after the news. The clouds of blossom blooming, en masse, have become symbolic of the transience of beauty and of life.
In the absence of our own flower forecast, we have compiled a list of the top five most beautiful places to contemplate life and beauty among the blooms this spring (and where to have a drink afterwards) - enjoy!
1. Greenwich Park
We all know that Greenwich Park boasts some of the breathtaking views in the Capital - as voted by our lovely readers in last year’s poll. This spring why not take an amble through the park’s glorious and aptly nicknamed “cherry blossom avenue”? You’ll find it leading majestically toward the Ranger’s House and Wernher Collection. With its profusion of pink, it’s the perfect spot to make like the Japanese on a bright spring day and tuck into a picnic on one of the benches that line its sides. Pop back a little later in the year to see the House’s renowned rose gardens come into bloom.
If you don’t fancy bringing your own then never fear - Davy’s Wine Vaults in Greenwich is just a little walk away. Serving up elegant modern British cuisine, the Vaults’ decor keep you suspended in a 19th Century fantasy brought on by the heady scent of roses.
2. Morden Hall Park
Speaking of roses, head over to Morden Hall Park this March and get hands on in their historic rose garden. On the 3rd and 10th of the month, the park is offering you the chance to help out with their pruning in preparation for the season’s fabulous blooms. The garden is nearly a hundred years old and is being slowly restored to is 1920s glory, using organic principles.
Other sights to see in the marvellous National Trust property are the meandering River Wandle and the old snuff mills, one of which has been renovated to its original condition and is great for a day out with kids.
After a long wander down the leafy avenues and through the hay meadows, stick with the rustic theme and head for a hearty and traditional Romanian meal at the nearby Time in RO.
3. Battersea Park
For a jaunt with more of a metropolitan feel, look no further than Battersea Park. Nestled in the urban foothills of its iconic power station, the engulfing sprays of blossom that appear in spring promise to provide a moment of peace for even the busiest Londoners. The blush boulevards make the perfect spot to sit with a flask of tea and a book, but if you fancy something a little more lively we’ve got you covered.
The Southsider is a cocktail bar boasting homemade infusions, cosy booths and - importantly - a happy hour that lasts from 5 till 9. Alternatively, for a twist on pub-grub and live music in an eclectic setting, head over to The Magic Garden.
4. Brockwell Park
South London's old faithful, with views of the city that never fail to amaze, Brockwell Park is another lovely spot for some blossom hunting come spring. Steal a moment to yourself in the walled garden, previously the kitchen gardens for Brockwell Hall, it is now a stunning oasis of wildflowers and tall shrubs.
When you’ve had your fill of the community greenhouses and raised beds, head over to First Aid Box in Herne Hill, which deals in shrubbery of a different kind. Specialising in ‘cure-all’ libations, these guys create an innovative array of cocktails, the flavour-bases of which are their in-house ‘shrubs’: vinegar suspended fruit syrups along the lines of rhubarb, violet and cucumber sherbert. A horticulturalist’s heaven.
5. Vauxhall Lavender Gardens
Last but definitely not least, come late springtime head for the purple haze of Vauxhall Lavender gardens. Sequestered in Vauxhall park, the garden was planted in 2003 to mark the centenary of Vauxhall Motors and has been embraced by the area’s close-knit community. In fact, at the end of the summer there is a neighbourhood harvest of the lavender, yielding litres of essential oil, redolent of sunny days spent among the bluish blooms.
Keep it fragrant afterward with a plate of saffron chicken or roasted aubergine from Doost, a tasty traditional Persian spot nearby.