Situated on a roughly triangular piece of land between Horse Guards Parade, Buckingham Palace, The Mall and Birdcage Walk, St. James’s Park is the oldest of London’s eight Royal Parks.
With so much pomp and pageantry associated with this area you could be forgiven for thinking that it was named after King James I or II, but it was actually named after St. James the Less leper hospital that was founded here in the 13th century.
There is a connection with James I though, because after Henry VIII had acquired this marshy piece of land in 1532 for yet another Royal hunting ground, he set about improving the drainage and water supply. Charles II took it a stage further and changed it into a parkland with lawns and avenues of trees which the general public could also use.
The park as we see it today was designed by John Nash between 1814 and 1827. He introduced the lake which attracts an amazing amount of bird life including some 15 different species of waterfowl. There’s also a large number of several different types of geese, and even a colony of pelicans which were introduced in 1664 when they were given as a gift by the Russian Ambassador. You can see them being fed daily between 2.30 and 3pm next to Duck Island Cottage.
The location of St. James’s Park is bound to attract plenty of visitors, but the park itself has much to offer as well. If you get tired of looking at the bird life you can take in the views of Whitehall from the Blue Bridge, feed the squirrels, or just relax on the lawn or park bench. London has many fine parks, but this is one of my favourites.