Hidden Gardens

Last week I decided to do something a little different. I’ve recently joined “Mrs Coots’ Quirky Outings”, a meetup group dedicated to doing things that are, well, a little different.

On Wednesday I turned up at Moorgate Station ready for my first outing: the Hidden Garden city tour. I love the City for all of its strange juxtapositions. The City is a place where history, mystery, high finance, and religion all seem to ooze out of its pores. Echoes of Roman and Medieval London exist next to concrete and glass office towers, and although the City is only a square mile there is a high potential for getting lost in its twisty-turny maze of streets, alleyways, highwalks, and pedestrian subways. Some of its mysteries will always remain closed to me, so I jump at any offer to learn more.

We started the tour with a not-so-hidden garden but one that was new to me – Finsbury Circus, which has a bowling green in the middle. Our guide explained how the bowling green is very hard to play on as it is slightly undulating due to the Tube line running under it.

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We had a brief stop at the Draper’s Hall garden which sadly we did not have access to. It looked rather run down and uncared for with bits of construction debris around the place. This was all the more sad given that the garden contained mulberry trees laden with ripe mulberries that were left to fall on the purple-stained ground. I’d love to go back there with a ladder! The Hall belongs to the Worshipful Company of Drapers, which comes third in precedence among the Great Twelve City Livery Companies. We learned an interesting fact – the Merchant Taylors and the Skinners could never decide who should come sixth and seventh in the order of precedence, so every year they alternate. This is where we get the phrase “at sixes and sevens”.

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I’ve seen a lot of debt clocks before so assumed this was another, but it is actually a death clock, counting how many deaths there have been in the world this year (about two per second).

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A beautiful old church right next to the Gherkin.

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Gherkin cake, anyone?

The highlight of the tour was seeing St Dunstan’s, a church that was burnt down in the Great Fire, rebuilt, rebuilt again in the 18th century, and then destroyed in the Blitz by an incendiary bomb. Instead of rebuilding it for the third time it has been turned into a public garden. The garden is quite stunning and seems to exist in a microclimate of its own where a banana palm and fig tree thrive.

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It was lovely to take time out in the middle of a very busy week (I have a few projects afoot, of which more later) and discover some peace and tranquillity in the middle of the busiest part of London. I can thoroughly recommend the walk, especially given the modest £5 fee goes to charity.

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