Many of London's most iconic views can be found along the south bank of the River Thames. Sandwiched between Tower Bridge and the Palace of Westminster is a narrow strip of riverside land dotted with museums, galleries, restaurants and seasonal events -- and let's not forget the London Eye -- to keep visitors and locals entertained throughout the year. However once the obligatory pictures with Big Ben are taken, most of us don't often venture westward past the Westminster Bridge, where lies the historic Lambeth Palace.
Sitting opposite the House of Parliament next to a busy round-about, this Grade I listed building has been the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for almost 800 years, and houses one of the oldest and largest cultivated gardens in the capital.
The garden occupies over 10 of the 13 acres of the Palace ground. It's generally not open to the public except for pre-booked tours or special events, but at the request of the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the Lambeth Palace Garden is opening its doors for all to visit from 12-3pm on the first Wednesday of the month between March to October.
The path to the garden is a stunning prelude to the beauty in store. Entering through the red brick Morton's Tower gatehouse, we stroll to the main courtyard where a famous fig tree stands -- planted in 1556 by the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Pole. (Then came Henry VIII and the reformation and separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church... etc.)
Around the corner of the main palace building is where you'll find a small gate leading to the garden.
The palace garden is loosely divided into three sections: the terrace, the main lawn, and the orchard. Benches and roses line the terrace, allowing visitors to admire the honey-color stone building it's facing. The main lawn is a parkland style space filled with mature trees and colorful plants (including a black walnut planted by Queen Mary), with a solitary rotunda sitting on a mount covered in spring bulbs of narcissus.
The orchard contains apples, plum, cobnut and quince, and behind it is the plant nursery area and a greenhouse that supplies the vegetables consumed by palace staff.
The entire area is maintained by three full-time gardeners along with part-time volunteers, using organic principles wherever possible.
Lambeth Palace has a special place in United Kingdom's history, as it brings to life the relationship between Church and State in Britain. Its garden holds fascinating stories of its own, waiting for us to explore.
*For more photos of the garden, please check out my Lambeth Palace Garden Gallery.