RUSSELL SQUARE GARDENS OFFERS CALM AND SERENITY
Located near the British Museum, the Russell Square Gardens are named after the Russell Family, Earls of Bedford since 1550. The square was laid out in 1800 by Humphry Repton and re-developed in 2002 when the central fountain was added.
Russell Square Gardens, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 5BE
READ AVANI UDGAONKAR'S STORY
Coming across Russell Square Gardens was a bit of a surprise. We had been wandering Bloomsbury for a while, making our way towards Kings Cross to see Platform 9¾, when we turned a corner and stumbled across this green space, somewhat larger than most London square gardens we had seen so far. There was no harm, we thought, in exploring the garden a bit on our way, even if the sun had already set. We found the nearest entrance and were surprised by how broad the paths were, how oddly expansive the lawns. It was the dead of winter, so few of the trees still had their leaves and the grassy areas were devoid of flowers, but it was still green enough to make us smile. We made our way to the main circle of the garden, bordered by benches, only one of which was occupied by a small family. The centre of this circle looked as if it is meant to be a fountain, and a large one at that, but on this winter evening, it was dry and silent, a few lights reflecting across the bare surface from the twinkling Christmas tree to the side.
The space is oddly charming. Our weary feet found the nearest bench, and we decided to rest here a few moments before moving on. My friend settled back into the bench and pulled out a sketchpad in an attempt to capture the garden’s winding layout. It was freezing, but she sat on a bench, pen and book at the ready, nothing daunted. There wasn’t much light, just the soft glow of streetlamps edging this circle of the garden, but she squinted into the outer darkness, sketching out paths and trees half-hidden in the gloom, fascinated by the twisted and snaking paths that have carved their way through the greenery. The arch over one of them was little more than metal and wire but come spring will likely be covered in beautiful blossoms.
I looked around. I could see it now, this garden in the spring – flowers blooming around the edges of the paths, the trees coming back to life, sunlight streaming through their leaves to create dancing patterns along the ground, the fountain gushing forth in full force with children laughing as they weave in and around the jets. Families will sit on the benches; students will lie on the grass, chatting or working. The café in the corner will be busy, full of laughter and cups of coffee. But even that winter evening the garden held its own charm. Everything seemed muted here, the silence a barrier between this little green space and the rest of the world. It was peaceful despite the chill, and we found ourselves spending more time here than we had thought, her drawing on the bench, me reading. After all the hustle and bustle of our time running around the city, these minutes of calm, of serenity, were particularly precious.
It was with reluctance when we finally left, but the garden was closing and we had to be on our way. As irascible guard hurried us along, and we emerged back on the street, blinking under the sudden brightness of the streetlight and momentarily confused by the sounds of the city that wandered down the street to meet us. The guard locked up behind us and, after giving us an odd look, left. But we stayed there for a few minutes more, staring into the now dark garden, unwilling to return to the real world with its busy streets and crowds of people just yet.