The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 1 Introduction

Parks as the bright spots in London's landscape

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An Englishman must be almost without soul who can stand for the first time unmoved within the precincts of Westminster Abbey or look without satisfaction at the faultless proportions of St. Paul's. The sense of possession, the pride of inheritance, are the uppermost feelings in his mind. But he who loves not only London itself with a patriotic veneration, but also his fellow-men, will not rest with the inspection of the beautiful. He will journey eastward into the heart of the mighty city, and see its seething millions at work, its dismal poverty, its relentless hardness. The responsibility of heirship comes over him, the sadness, the pathos, the evil of it all depresses him, the hopelessness of the contrast overpowers him; but apart from all ideas of social reform, from legislative action or philanthropic theories, there is one thin line of colour running through the gloomy picture. The parks and gardens of London form bright spots in the landscape. They are beyond the pale of controversy; they appeal to all sections of the community, to the workers as well as to the idlers, to the rich as well as to the poor, to the thoughtful as well as to the careless. From the utilitarian point of view they are essential. They bring new supplies of oxygen, and allow the freer circulation of health-giving fresh air. They are not less useful as places of exercise and recreation. They waft a breath of nature where it is most needed, and the part they play in brightening the lives of countless thousands cannot be over-estimated. [Amherst's references to 'dismal poverty' and 'relentless hardness' relate to the Victorian 'City of Endless Night', which has disappeared. TT]