London is often called a green city, because although it’s very densely populated and built up, it’s also got some truly lovely large parks and gardens. One of the smaller gardens is in Chelsea, and contains the second oldest botanical garden in the UK. Chelsea Physick Garden was established in 1673, and remains to this day.
Hidden behind stone walls, and on the banks of the famous Thames river, the gardens were established as a place to teach students of medicine about plants and their uses. Originally, village wise people would have known about many of these cures, but with the advent of burning of these people as witches, medicine became the province of Monks. Once this knowledge again became secularised, the occupation of the Apothecary became one of respectability again.
In places like Chelsea Physick Garden, students could come to study plants and their uses. As much as this might sound magical and mysterious (and in some ways, that’s a wonderful thing) plants are still the basis of medicines that we use everyday, from codeine to heart and cancer medicines.
The gardens themselves are both fascinating and beautiful. Nestled behind the high walls, they feel like a world away from the bustle of London and modern life. The gardens are organised into different zones, some in rows of neat beds, others are greenhouses, or ponds and gentle walkways. Each plant is marked with it’s name label, neatly, and a guided audio tour takes you through the gardens history and importance, which you can do at your own pace. There are also little points of interest with plaques and further information.
Whether or not you have an interest in the science or medical aspects, with it’s beautiful ponds and the well tended flowers, it’s a lovely part of London to visit, and feels so unchanged through the centuries. A lovely peaceful spot to visit. And with the gardens being pollenised but it’s own bee colony, you can also buy honey created on the premises that has it’s own unique flavour.