The secret fairytale garden tucked away in North London that even locals don’t know about

It’s rare in London to stumble upon somewhere so secret and secluded that, even on a sunny day, you will be one of just a handful of people there.

But right on the border of Camden, tucked away between Hampstead Heath and West Heath, is a hidden park so breathtakingly beautiful you will feel like you’ve fallen into a fairytale when you visit.

The park is so well hidden – perhaps because it is overshadowed by the vast greenness of Hampstead Heath on any maps – that even many locals don’t know it exists.

READ MORE: The secret scented garden in Greenwich where the plants are edible

Those who do know about it know the park by number of names, including the Pergola Hill Gardens; even ‘the secret garden’ for those who have known about it for longest, and who visited as children.

Follow this sign to the secret garden

A narrow, unsuspecting residential road called Inverforth Close, which leads off the North End Way between Hampstead Heath and West Hampstead, is the only way to get close by car.

You will see a sign reading ‘The Hill Garden’ from which you can follow a winding footpath through woods to reach a glorious set of grand cast iron gates straight out of a fantasy film.

The ornate garden’s official name is The Hill Garden and Pergola, and there is a brilliant story behind its existence.

Pergola Hill Gardens

The ornate garden was built in the 1900s but left to ruin and now feels lost in time

It was commissioned back in 1904, by a wealthy philanthropist, politician, and lover of landscape gardening called Lord Leverhulme, who made his fortune selling soap then became a proud patron of the arts.

Leverhulme lived in a large town house on the Heath known as ‘The Hill’, and in 1904 the extravagant Lord decided his mansion needed a bit of outdoor space.

He wanted a beautiful garden where he could hang out with his friends and family by day, then host extravagant parties by night.

Pergola Hill Gardens

The garden was taken over by City of London in 1989, and is free to enter

Leverhulme, not one to do things by halves, then bought the land surrounding his estate, and commissioned what would become his legacy; the Pergola.

He enlisted the help of world-famous landscape architect Thomas Mawson, shipping in the building materials via the Hampstead extension of the Northern Line, and the entire thing was completed by 1906.

After Leverhulme’s death the Pergola was left to rack and ruin, particularly during the second world war, and remains a shell of its former opulence.

Pergola Hill Gardens

It was originally built by Lord Leverhulme in 1904, to host extravagant garden parties

But most people who visit the garden today will agree that it is the sense of faded grandeur which gives the hidden beauty its sense of timelessness, mystery and intrigue.

Wandering between the beautiful old overgrown brick archways, and along seemingly endless stone walkways flanked by pillars, it is hard not to feel like you have fallen into a fairytale.

Butterflies flit between the flowers, dragonflies skim across the ornate pond, and parachutes of fluffy white cottonwood float delicately between the stone pillars.

Pergola Hill Gardens

The few locals who have known about it for years call it ‘the secret garden’

According to local residents, the park was even more hidden and overgrown back in the day, and in the 80s there were even flamingos roaming around the pond.

The garden is stunning in every season, whether you visit in spring when wisteria curls around the trellises, in summer when it is in full glorious bloom, in autumn when leaves carpet the floor, or in winter when snow clings to the rounded rooftops.

If you’re looking for things to do in London this summer, make sure this is top of your list.

Do you reckon any of the other Londons can compare with our stunning capital city?

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