Open Spaces

London grew in a fairly unplanned way until the 1930s, when legislation created a green belt - protected open space - restricting future building around London. Here, on the edges of London, the urban landscapes are mixed with golf clubs and riding stables, commons, scrubland and farms.
At Rainham and Erith there are extensive estuarine marshes that provide important staging posts for migratory birds. There are also substantial stretches of woodland in some of the outer London boroughs, such as Oxleas and Joydens woods in Bexley. Woods such as Epping Forest or Burnham Beeches are owned by the Corporation of London.
Greenery, however, is not confined to the fringes of the city. There are numerous parks in the centre of London and marshes in Hackney and Walthamstow. And there are city farms at places like Mudchute on the Isle of Dogs and Surrey Docks. Overall, green areas account for about a third of London, and include a thousand parks and squares covering 174 sq km.
The most famous green areas are the royal parks: Greenwich. Richmond, Bushey and, in the centre of London, Hyde Park, Regent's Part, Kensington Gardens and St James's Park.
Royal parks were originally areas preserved for hunting, and retain their own police force and regulations. Richmond Park still has large herds of fallow and red deer (the other royal parks that have deer are Greenwich and Bushey). The deer are no longer hunted. However, haunches of venison by royal warrant are still made available to certain officers of the Crown. There are extensive playing fields, a feature shared with several other of the royal parks. The lake in St James's Park has over 30 different species of birdlife, including a pair of pelicans. Regent's Park is home to London Zoo, an open air theatre and a celebrated rose garden. The historic Royal Observatory and the international meridian line are both in Greenwich Park, while in Hyde Park crowds gather on Sunday mornings at Speakers' Corner to listen to soapbox orators.
There are a number of other notable parks and gardens; large open spaces such as Brent Lodge Park, with its riverside walks and lock flight. The greatest of these is the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, extending over 300 hectares and containing plants from all over the world in its gardens, rockeries and glass houses. Other splendid, if smaller, botanic gardens are at Avery Hill, the ancient Physic Garden at Chelsea, Syon House Gardens in Brentford and the Japanese garden at St Katherine's Dock.
Some parks surround great houses, most notably Kenwood in Hampstead or Hampton Court Palace. In the summer a number of these gardens have open air theatres.In others, such as Danson Park in Bexleyheath, concerts culminating in grandiose firework displays are held beside the lake.
Even in the centre of London, besides the royal parks there are numerous green areas. Victoria Park in the East End, with its boating lakes and ornamental gardens, is linked to other gardens and parks in the area by the reconstructed tow-path alongside the Grand Union Canal.

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