Rebecca Smith - Garden design & consultancy

An Ode to Battersea Park, part I


Cherry Trees

Those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter will know of my all-consuming love for Battersea Park in London. Rescued by a joint effort from both the Wandsworth Borough Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund with over £10 million in 2003 it is a far cry from the park I remember from the early 1990’s when I used to take my young children to the Zoo and playground. I am now happily becoming reacquainted with the Park; it is minutes from our new London flat and the excuse of having two rather large dogs means I can spend my mornings wandering with them, coffee in hand, when not in the office.


curved pink railings

There are many corners and facets of Battersea Park and it has been a great pleasure to try to get to know all these differing parts of the Park. It covers 200 acres of land between Albert Bridge Road and Queenstown Road and the Thames forms its northern-most barrier. Gardens range from the sub-tropical garden, to the English Garden (sponsored by perfumer Jo Malone), to the new Winter Garden; there is something to see in all corners and most points in between.

 Bench and Tulips, May

The dogs and I usually head first to the restored Festival of Britain Gardens, which were originally designed by Russell Page and James Gardener in 1951. These are in the north/western end of the Park, closest to Albert Bridge. Open vistas and a good cup of coffee beckon me to clear my head, and, because they are retrievers, the dogs love the attention from the many people that we see. We do not get that our solitary walks in Hampshire.

 Pink railings

The Festival of Britain was originally organised by the government to give Britons a feeling of hope and recovery in the aftermath of the Second World War as well as to start the development of the South Bank of the Thames. In Russell Page’s own words, ‘the idea of the Festival Gardens was to create an open air resort on the lines of the Tivoli in Copenhagen… This was no new idea for London. In the eighteenth century there were several such gardens. Ranelagh, Vauxhall and Cremorne were the most famous but by the middle of the nineteenth century Cremorne, the last of them to survive, became so raffish that is had to be closed.’ (The Education of a Gardener, p. 317)

Festival Fountains

The planting currently by the Festival Garden is block bedding, not a far cry from what Page himself had planted in 1951. The pleached trees which add structure on either side of the canal sit in beds of annuals, dahlias, or bulbs, depending on the season, which provide colour and interest to the scheme. The Rose Garden is currently planting in blocks of pink and red floribunda roses, again to Page’s plan, but the topiary has grown and matured and, sadly in the case of one plant, died, but the framework remains in place.

 Bedding plants, Festival Gardens, May 13

 We moved out of London in 1998, several years before the restoration project began on this lovely garden. In 2003, the restoration project started, after being made possible by a grant of £6.9 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a further £3.4 from Wandsworth Borough Council. The Festival Flower Garden was reopened in 2004 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.


 For details on how to become a Friend of Battersea Park or for more on the history of the garden and its beginnings, please go to their website

You can follow on twitter @batterseapark.


Pleached Trees

 Dogs and Festival Fountains





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