London's Open Squares Weekend, Sunday Roast and a haunted Pub
London is a uniquely green city with an extraordinary quilt of open spaces- the great Royal Parks, great inner city parks, outer London woodlands, private gardens large and small, formal leafy and flower bedecked squares, sports fields, cemeteries, tiny corners of grass, trees and flowers.
On June 8 and 9, over 200 community gardens and private squares in London will welcome visitors from around the world on their annual Open Weekend. Gardens on display range from historical private squares, to contemporary roof gardens and converted Thames barges.
One £10 ticket bought online or at the gate gives you access. This is a wonderful opportunity to see Central London's historic gardens and squares that are normally closed to the public. They are at their colorful summer best at this time of year. Many have interesting historic and modern statuary and a number are offering live entertainment, music and refreshments for the occasion.
In Belgravia, the superb Cadogan Place Gardens and Eaton Square are worth a visit, after lunching perhaps at one of the many delightful pubs close by.
Try the Star Tavern near Cadogan Place Gardens in Belgrave Mews West. Back in the 1950s, it was the favored watering hole for some of London's most infamous thieves and knaves who liked to rub shoulders with the rich and famous when they were not 'holidaying at Her Majesty's expense' in the less salubrious surroundings of Wormwood Scrubs prison. It has since shaken off its underworld connections and tarted itself up to become an award winning pub of eminent respectability charm and grace - and does a hearty beef topside Sunday Roast.
Eaton Square visitors should lunch first at the nearby Thomas Cubitt gastro pub at 44 Elizabeth Street. It does a magnificent choice of Sunday Roasts; Castle of Mey sirloin, Leg of West Devon lamb, or Portmahomack pork loin served with traditional trimmings and seasonal vegetables.
Belgrave Square is one of London's largest squares. Laid out and planted by Thomas Cubitt, who built most of Belgravia, it has now been restored to its original Victorian layout and planting and has an interesting collection of statuary by modern artists.
Just off the square is the famously haunted Grenadier pub. This picturesque little tavern in Wilton Row, (a gated mews), was built in 1720 as the Officer's Mess for the First Royal Regiment of the Foot Guards. A guards officer is said to have been killed here by his fellows and has been haunted ever since. The Mess was decommissioned as an Officer's Mess at the turn of the 19th century, and has been licensed as a tavern since 1818. The ghost stayed on and little has changed over the succeeding years. Crammed with military memorabilia, it is a popular Sunday morning meeting place for Belgravia locals who spill out into the mews on a sunny day. There is a good selection of pub grub.
Complete the day perhaps with Sunday Afternoon Tea in the plush drawing room of the 5 Star Cadogan Hotel, opposite the entrance to Cadogan Place Gardens in Sloane Street. Now owned by the Earl of Cadogan, the 126 year old hotel was once the home of the beautiful Lilly Langtry, King Edward VII's amour in the 1890s when he was Prince of Wales.
Book tickets for the Open Squares Weekend and make your Sunday lunch and Afternoon Tea reservations online.