hanging gardens of barbican

A few weeks ago my partner arranged a ‘mystery’ weekend activity for us. Because I’m very good at guessing, I wasn’t given a single clue as to where we were going. To my delight, our destination was the Barbican Centre in the City of London. (For those who don’t know, the Centre is located within the Barbican Estate, a huge multipurpose complex of high-rise residential, civic, theatre and community buildings, built in London’s celebrated but divisive Brutalist architectural style.) We’ve been to the Barbican several times before at different times of the year, and personally I can’t get enough of the place. But the purpose of this adventure, and a complete surprise to me, was to visit the conservatory. Initially designed as an afterthought to ‘disguise’ the theatre’s fly tower, it’s a fantastic sub-tropical oasis (and arid desert!) in the sky.


Shakespeare Tower


Koi pool


Giant bamboo


Strelitzia reginae… otherwise known as ’emu flower’ in my native country


Love this! like a psychedelic shamrock!


Succulent close-up


Cacti garden


Bridge over the stream


The fly tower






View out of the conservatory onto the rooftop terrace… about 6 levels up here


Restaurants and bars to the left, apartments on pedestals on the right. The theatre is behind the restaurants, and the conservatory up the top and well out of sight



Definitely coming back here in the summer for a vino (or two!)

As you can see from the photos, we almost had the garden to ourselves. A quick google search shows that the conservatory isn’t really a secret, but it was such a joy to discover a unique garden space in the heart of the city open for all to appreciate while at the same time not over-run and therefore spoilt. And you can even get married in the gardens if you wish!! I hope you enjoyed these photos of the Barbican Conservatory as much as I did.



london’s little secret

Just a few days of clear blue skies, and the Winter funk I’ve been wallowing in has completely evaporated. Spring is officially on the way, and London is tingling with excitement for the summer ahead. And with an honoured guest in town, the only way to celebrate was to explore one of London’s best kept secrets, The Roof Gardens. High above the hustle and bustle of up-market Kensington High Street, it’s an exotic garden sanctuary, complete with 4 resident flamingos. Primarily used to host private functions, the complex (which also includes a restaurant) is almost entirely unknown to tourists, despite free entry to the gardens.

The English Woodland
The English Woodland
A meadow
A meadow
a stand of potted mini narcissus
A stand of potted mini-narcissus
A view over the city
A view over the city
Flamingos! I wonder how they keep their colour? Algae anyone?!!
Flamingos! I wonder how they keep their colour? Algae anyone?!!


Spanish Garden, based on the Alhambra

Spanish Garden, based on the Alhambra
The Spanish Garden
The Spanish Garden
The Alhambran 'harem'
Inside the Alhambran ‘harem’
Looking out into the garden
Looking out into the garden

I’m fairly neutral when it comes to Sir Richard Branson, the gentleman who owns the gardens, but it seems a refreshing altruistic gesture of him to keep them open to the residents of this fair city. So next time you’re in Kensington and get the urge to escape, go relax for a few minutes with the flamingos. Just don’t tell anyone about the gardens so they stay our ‘little secret’.