St James’s Park is probably the most beautiful and intimate of the capital’s central parks.
Originally a marsh, the land was drained by Henry VIII in the 15th century to provide a deer park for St James’s Palace.
In the 17th century, Charles II commissioned a French landscape gardener, André Le Nôtre, to convert the deer park into a garden. Charles II also had an aviary built along the southern edge of the park, hence Birdcage Walk, the street where the aviary was located.
Further landscaping by John Nash, the Prince Regent’s favourite,took place in the early-19th century.
Now the most ornamental park in London with good views of Whitehall rooftops, St James’s Park is a popular place to stroll, feed the ducks or watch the pelicans.
Popular in the summer with sunbathing office workers, a band plays throughout the summer. There is a cafe providing refreshments and a playground at the Buckingham Palace end.
The lake is now a wildlfowl sanctuary, with ducks, geese, pelicans and black swans. The bridge over it gives a view of Buckingham Palace, good at night when the palace is floodlit.