Following on from the Southwark Walk I posted about yesterday, the second walk I took over the weekend, on Saturday 15th April, was around Hyde Park. As before, photos from all the walks are on my Instagram, some of which are shared below as well, and there are video clips on my Youtube channel, which are also linked to during this post.
I knew London had lots of parks and garden spaces, but it’s only when looking into them online, to figure out where I might want to go on my wanderings, that I was reminded just how many royal parks, green spaces and lesser known outdoor areas there are (and those links still don’t cover all the possibilities). To have such a variety of beautiful, peaceful, natural areas in and around this big city, where you can relax, stroll and admire the scenery to your heart’s content, is one of the great things about living here.
So I knew I wanted to take in at least one or two of them over the weekend, with the nicer weather coming along. And Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens seemed a natural first choice.
I have walked around Kensington Gardens once already this year, as I went with a Thinking Bob group back in January on a “walk and talk”. And that was a wonderful day out, but I didn’t get the chance to take many photos, and as it mainly involved chatting to the new friends that I was socialising with, it wasn’t really possible to fully take in everything around me. So I knew I had to go back and explore the place in more detail on my own, when the weather was better.
I also wanted to try out another audio tour app on my phone, and that was another reason for picking this particular park. The app was called Cities Talking. It asks you to register an account or sign in when you open it, but I used the Skip button to ignore that part. Maybe you need it for their paid tours, I don’t know, but the tour I used was one of their free ones, called Power and Palaces. It takes you round Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (pretty much around the entire perimeter of that space), then takes you through Green Park to finish at Buckingham Palace. So it looked like a great tour to try out.
I was very impressed as well – it’s much better produced than the Trail Tales app I wrote about in my last post. The map here was much easier to follow, as it provides a very clear trail for the route you need to take, and of course you can pinch and zoom in on the map as much as you need to. The text in the app’s interface doesn’t obey any accessibility font settings on the phone, which is a pity, but it’s still accessible using tools like zoom, speech, etc. As with the Trail Tales app, you also get the transcript of the audio for each stop on the tour here, so that’s one good thing about of the apps.
Not only does the Cities Talking app look nice, but the audio quality is also first rate. It’s good quality, professionally edited without any mistakes, has lots of really interesting facts and stories, and introduced to various landmarks, statues and other important areas that I might never have found, or at least would never have fully understood, without a guide like this.
It also continues playing even when you lock the phone, so you don’t have to keep the screen on all the time. It will also play automatically as you reach each stop, as long as you’ve got your location services turned on. If it does get confused and play the wrong part, however, it’s easy enough to zoom in on the map and click the right bit if you need to. If you can see it, granted. If you can’t see, I appreciate it’d be much harder.
And to cap it all off, the tour is narrated by none other than the wonderful Christopher Biggins. If you’re outside the UK and don’t know who he is, don’t worry, but most UK readers will be aware of him for one reason or another. And the app makers have made a wonderful choice here. He really helps to make the tour engaging and interesting with his delivery, it’s a joy to listen to. I don’t know if he does all the London tours you can get for this app, but I certainly hope he does based on this.
I didn’t do the whole tour though. It takes you around the perimeter of the park, and I also wanted to have a wander through the middle of this massive space at my leisure. So every so often I would pause the app, break from the path, and just have a stroll by myself, taking in the scenery around me. Then after a while I would find another path to take me back to the next part of the tour, using the map in the app to re-align myself.
So in the end I did just over half the tour, which took me from Marble Arch, along the side of the park, through Kensington Gardens and round to Kensington Palace, and then around the opposite site of the park to finish by the Albert Memorial and the Royal Albert Hall. I had been in the park for about three and half hours by then, and my phone’s battery was starting to get quite low (thanks not just to the app, but also the photos and videos I’d been taking), so it felt like as good a time as any to make my way home.
I took lots of photos during my walk, which are on my Instagram page. And I took lots of video footage too, which is split into 3 parts on my Youtube channel:
- Hyde Park Walk – Part 1 – A compilation of clips starting around Marble Arch and then moving on to some of the views in Hyde Park.
- Hyde Park Walk – Part 2 – This video a single, continuous 20-minute shot walking through the park. I saw a long path and thought I would film at least some of it, but then just decided to keep the camera rolling. I hadn’t been aiming for The Serpentine lake, but I was very happy that the path led there, as I had wanted to find it anyway. The focus occasionally goes a little bit, and there was no way I could have noticed that on the day, but it corrects itself after a few moments.
Hyde Park Walk – Part 3 – A compilation of clips from Kensington Gardens, including the Italian Gardens and Kensington Palace, and finishing at the Albert Memorial.
[Update: I finally did the second half of the tour on Sunday 21st May, which takes you through into Green Park and finishing by Buckingham Palace. And it continued to be very interesting and enjoyable, and I found a number of things that I hadn’t known about before, partly because of the app and partly me just stumbling across them when I explored by myself. So I’m very glad I finished it, it’s well worth doing the whole thing. Video link to come soon.]
All of those videos are embedded below as well. It really is a lovely area to explore. I could happily walk around that park, or just sit somewhere within it and relax, for hours on end, it’s such a beautiful place. And I hope to explore lots of the other parks and open spaces in London as time goes on too. Indeed, I managed to go to another one as my third and final walkabout of the Easter weekend, but that’s for another post to come soon. 🙂