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Britain is home to some splendid public parks. The vast majority of these public parks began life as private parks that had been commissioned by royalty. The passage of time has seen them become popular places for the public to visit because of their history, and the fact that they are areas of outstanding natural beauty.

The Royal Parks of London are all grouped within a distance of seven miles either side of the Thames River. The first of these parks to be enclosed was Greenwich Park, in 1433. Deer have always roamed in the park and it was originally used for hunting. The same can be said of Hyde Park, which came into being in 1536. It swiftly became a place for public events and spectacles though, many of which focused on the Serpentine Lake and the famous Rotten Raw riding track. A separate area of Hyde Park became known as Kensington Gardens, in 1689. Designed by Charles Bridgeman, it has seen several modifications, most notably the addition if the Italian Gardens during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Henry VIII acquired St. James Park and the Green Park at the same time as Hyde Park. John Nash had a big say in their layout in 1827, and the Parks have been the background for many events of British ceremony, because it is very close to the Mall. Nash was also involved in the design of Regent’s park, which now holds London zoo.

Brompton cemetery is classed as one of the Royal Parks, and it is here that over 205,000 burials have been recorded. Due to a lack of space, fewer mourners use the cemetery, which tends to attract students and researchers, drawn by the quality of its history.

Sutton Park is one of several public parks outside London. It is situated to the West of Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham. It covers over 2400 acres, and what used to be an ancient forest is now a combination of woodland, lakes, wetland and heath land. It was given to the townspeople by Henry VIII in the 16th Century, having formerly belonged to the Earl of Warwick. Poor people were allowed to keep their cattle in the park for a small fee, and were also allowed to gather fuel from the woods. Legend has it that the king himself was walking through the park, when charged at by a wild boar. Before the boar could reach him though it was felled by a single arrow. The archer turned out to be a young girl, and the king presented her with a Tudor Rose.

Belfast Botanic gardens has a reputation as one of the most beautiful public parks around. It became popular in the late 1700’s when people returned from their journeys all over the world with a variety of exotic plants. Flower shows were held in the gardens to help finance its running, but soon all manner of events were taking place there. In 1895 it was sold to the Belfast Corporation due to finance problems, and it was at this time that the public began to be let in for free. The gardens hold two outstanding features. First is the Palm house, a cast iron glass house consisting of curved lines. It was designed by Charles Lanyon and finished in 1852. It is used to house plants. The second feature is the Tropical ravine, constructed in 1889. It was designed as a sunken ravine with a railed balcony for people to look down and view the plants. Both these features were restored in the late 1970’s.

If you ever get the chance, try and visit one or more of these public parks. After all, you don’t have to pay anything to access them, and they boast fantastic scenery and a colourful history.