Tucked down a tiny alley moments from the hustle and bustle of the King’s Road lies a little-known green oasis. Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden and has been on the same site since 1673, when it was founded by apothecaries to grow ingredients, develop new remedies and train apprentices to identify plants and study their properties.
Step through the secret garden gate, pay your entry fee and check the blackboard to find out the time of the next guided tour. I’m not usually a guided tour kind of girl, but I’d definitely recommend you give one a go here. Each of the volunteer guides has their own special interests and will impart their apparently fathomless knowledge as they lead you through the 5,000 plants. Did you know that sunflowers are used to soak up radiation after nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima?
The garden is surrounded by a beautiful old wall and so it’s always a degree or two warmer than the city beyond, meaning tender plants from all over the world can be grown, including the world’s most northerly outdoor grapefruit tree. If you’re unlucky with the weather (we were caught in the most tremendous thunder storm) you can thankfully take shelter in the warm wooden greenhouses or head to the bustling café for lunch or cake – the latter comes personally recommended!
Chelsea Physic Garden is open between 29th March – 31st October 2013, however opening days and times are quite random so check the website before you set out!