Friday, 21 September 2012

The Mile High Garden

It's 10am and a break in the weather had me calling for Hercules the chauffeur to fire up the silver lady, so we could take a trip to one of London's best kept secrets. A place in the heart of the city where a wise old Oak tree filters the twinkling rays of morning sun through it's 120ft high canopy, casting dancing shadows on luxurious lawns, reflecting a mosaic of light upon the quiet stream that passes under a scarlet bridge. A place where a chap can order a Bellini whilst gazing out over the vast metropolis without so much as a car horn to break the silence.

Welcome to The Roof Gardens, one hundred feet above High Street Kensington in Central London. A grade II listed site and Europe's largest rooftop garden area of one and a half acres crowning the building which was until 1975 home of the legendary BIBA store. The Roof Gardens have been under the ownership of Richard Branson since 1981. 

Masquerading as a tranquil urban oasis by day, you can almost feel the rock and roll mayhem and adventure these gardens have played host to over four decades of partying after the sun goes down. Not quite the Kensington Garden Peter Pan would have frequented. It's been quite a few years since I was last here at an after show party and I've never seen the gardens in daylight.
One floor up is the Babylon restaurant with it's fantastic outside deck providing views of London's iconic skyline. The Royal Albert Hall, Shard, Battersea power station and the London Eye all clearly visible.

The gardens are divided into a playful infusion of pure escapist styles including Moorish fantasy, Tudor formality, English woodland and Oriental romantic. The entire garden is growing unbelievably in only eighteen inches of soil including the 75 year old Oak tree that looms over the woodland garden.

The thirty five year old resident Flamingos are a hardy bunch and quite happy to spend the winter here. Bill, Ben, Slosh and Pecks are to be found greedily filtering algae in the ponds unfazed by my eager lens trying to capture their magnificent plumage.

By all means take your mother but get her out before sundown!


  1. the waterfowl that make their home there are neat. the 'cow' made me laugh. :)

  2. I like all the unique artsy garden stuff. Very beautiful spot.

  3. Loved the garden tour!!! Incredible to think it possible with so few inches of soil. The Moorish portion was a favorite and I adore flamingos. The restaurant is lovely.... especially that green sofa!!Thanks for sharing these great pics!! Have a wonderful weekend, Lisa

  4. I would love to visit this roof top garden. Great photos for us to see the interesting garden and area. I liked the round window like sculpture in one of the top photos.

  5. When we come over you're taking us, yes?

    incredible. let me say it again: incredible.

    xo jane

  6. What an incredibly beautiful and amazing spot! Who knew?? I guess I'd be one that would have to leave by sundown though. :) Thanks for the tour. Pamela

  7. Finally, a feature from you about your city! Brilliant!

  8. Wow! This is a unique and special place. I love it!

    I hope you have a fabulous weekend! Elizabeth

  9. Lovely atmosphere here! Next time we're in London we'll have to visit!
    Beautiful reflections too!

  10. What an unusual and lovely spot to have a drink and get away in the city. How interesting it used to be Biba. I'd love to check this place out when I get back to London. I love how they have flamingos and ducks up there too! Very cool.
    Have a good weekend!


  11. Amazing! I lived in Kensington for five years back in the 80s. I had heard of the roof gardens but never visited. I was always too busy getting sloshed at ground level :-). Thanks for the magnificent tour.

  12. Beautiful shots. Happy sky watching.


  13. Wow and double wow - what a fantastic place - thanks for bringing it to us - it's sort of other-worldly - will definitely be putting this on my 'bucket list'.

  14. A very good serie of photos, - I do like it!

  15. My goodness what a LOVELY PLACE! I was in EZE FRANCE years ago and climbed up to a magical summit garden with of course, a view of the magnificent Mediterranean but HERE, what a treat to see London amongst unlikely creatures! Flamingos?? I would have never thought!

    Oh how I long to see your city. One day I will make it back to Europe and England is on my list!

    Thank you so much for coming to visit! I enjoy seeing you!! Anita

  16. Dearest Paul,

    I am completely blown away by this! THANK YOU so much for sharing this secret haven with us. I have already been to the First Great Western website to look at tickets to London just to shake my feathers a little with Posh and Becks, I mean Slosh and Pecks! How is it possible I never have heard of this amazing piece of paradise? Can I play my "foreign card" here, not to feel totally ignorant, maybe...? ;-) Quite astonishing to imagine all of this (including an oak tree!!!) growing in such shallow soil - it sort of does my head in a bit to work it out in my head! Hm, can't play the 'foreign card' here, I guess, just, ahem, admit horticultural ignorance... Fabulous photos, again!

    I have been running through life in the past few weeks, but even though I have not left a trace on your blog path, I have tip-toed here several times, giggling like a teenager at my misreading in your last post, which unfortunately will make the blue loveliness you showed us - now and forever - known in my head as the Blue Willow Genitals. I am sorry, so very sorry, it was not my intention to be rude. Just an honest mis-read. Honest! 'Foreign card'??

    And the Bond villain!! Love him (her?)! Needless to say, my slightly over-eager creative mind immediately gave him an East European accent (sorry Eastern Europe!), as he addresses Mr Bond with the callous and calculating voice of a classic 007 "baddie"... You have really caught some stunning wildlife on camera in that post, and it must have been so wonderful to get that close to animals not usually accessible at that distance.

    Paul, your comments on my blog are such lovely treats and they always put a massive smile on my face - thank you for that!


  17. Did not know of this splendid place, and I'm such good friends with Sir Richard. Great post, Paul...sending a big hug from our 1st Fall weekend in Texas...Marsha

  18. I am amazed. You really meant it when you said there was a 120 foot tree on the roof! My goodness, am so glad you shared this. Astonishing..and great photos as usual.

  19. If I travel London, I definitely want to visit a place like this!! Having lunch, enjoying the views of London, how nice! The restaurant is graceful, chic and fabulous! Thanks a lot for sharing this.
    keiko from Nara, Japan

  20. Thanks for sharing this wonderful special place! I would never expect so many green and animals up there. And I would love to visit this place and have a cup of coffe there!

  21. Paul,
    Sshh, it's supposed to be a secret!!
    Fantastic shots as always.
    Have a lovely week,

  22. Gorgeous captures!

    Visiting from a little late from camera critters.
    Our Furr Babies
    Have a blessed Sunday.

  23. Hey Paul - So glad you shared this awesome gem! I've never heard of it. 18 inches of soil? That's incredible. They must fertilize a bit here and there. And the constant precipitation in London must help. I'm very interested in seeing this garden in person.

  24. Is there a mile high garden club?

  25. Gosh - I remember going to parties at this place in the late 90's - I'd almost forgotten about it! It brings back lots of youthful (ah-hem!) memories - lol!
    Paula xxx

  26. You captured a memory of the place.... that is if I could remember!!!

  27. Tudo muito lindo ...amei a janela redonda! bjsss

  28. Paul, this is absolutely fantastic! I had no idea. Another one for the must see list.

  29. I am curious about what happens after sunset. I bet things get really interesting! What an intriguing and beautiful spot you have discovered.

  30. Oh Paul- a mile high garden-- how magnificent!! Your photos are just beautiful- such a peaceful place to visit. You never fail to take us to the most interesting places!! Yet another reason why I love your blog!