I read a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories as a kid, and since I had never been to London, I ended up imagining a lot of the geography of the city totally wrong. It took some work for me to figure out that Scotland Yard was not actually a yard, Piccadilly Circus was not actually a circus, and Pall Mall was not actually a mall (or at least not in the ways that I understood these words).
In other cases, however, I simply got the scale of things wrong. For example, I pictured Regent’s Park and Hyde Park as being the kind of parks I played in when I was a kid (i.e. with a field to run around in, a playground, maybe a fountain). In fact, they are massive Royal Parks, two of the eight in London that are still owned by the monarchy. And they are big: at one time, the royal family would have gone hunting in them. Deer can still be found roaming wild in Bushy Park. (Actually, this month the rutting deer are proving to be a threat to joggers.)
To give you a sense of scale, Central Park in NYC is 341 hectares, while the eight Royal Parks of London combine to cover 1,935 hectares. And that’s just the Royal Parks — if you count the 3,000 or more other parks in the city, you get a staggering amount of green space in a city this size, over 5,000 hectares at least.
At the north end of Regent’s Park there’s a rise known as Primrose Hill which offers a fantastic view of the city.
John and Beverley Martyn — a couple very much at the centre of the Folk Baroque I’ve been exploring recently — wrote a song celebrating the pleasures of watching a sunset perched up on Primrose Hill. I wasn’t too fond of this song until Fatboy Slim did an unbelievable remix of it a few years ago called “North West Three“; you should check this out too.
And here’s the John and Beverley Martyn version, which I’ve warmed up to quite a bit.
I should apologize for the fact that the video starts off by promising “Hot Young Girls” for no apparent reason. (WTF?) And I feel that I should maybe apologize for the saxophone as well, since it’s cringeworthy. Not quite “Careless Whisper” terrible, but terrible all the same.