I went to Dulwich Park, which is pretty local to me, last weekend to enjoy the lovely weather and go for a walk. When I first moved into this area, the park was in the middle of some heavy restoration work, and so there were lots of bits closed off, including the pond, which was more of a building site. This seems to now mostly have been completed, and so the park is now a really nice place to go.
The pond is now open again, and features a nice boardwalk across one end of it. They've also installed a pump system, to allow water to flow down a small stream and so gain more oxygen. More importantly, a 'goose fence' has been erected in order to try and stop the Canadian Geese, which cause real problems to park ponds, from laying eggs on the banks. The fence (below) is slightly unsightly, but it does have small gaps in it for ducks to swim through, which is quite amusing to watch.
At first, Fiona and I were confused as to how the fences would work. 'Surely the geese can fly over?', we reasoned. However, we figured out that whilst the geese are good flyers (as they are migratory), they can probably only land on water, doing the feet-skidding-on-water thing.
Also in the park is somewhere that you can hire recumbent bikes (mostly trikes), which is also quite funny to watch. When we first went to the park, we didn't realise that they were all hired, and thought that there was just some kind of recumbent-bike-craze which was localised to the poshos of Dulwich. They do seem popular with the kids though, and we'll probably give it a go ourselves some time.
Dulwich Park apparently has quite a long history. The restoration work was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (which also props up lots of museums), and there are now quite a few 'information plaques' around the park, which make for good reading. I can't find much online about the park's history though. The history page on the Dulwich Park Friends website, which I've just discovered (they're a local charity, it seems), promises that the page 'will be available shortly'.
I read within the park that Queen Victoria used to be a regular visitor (so much so that they named an entrance after here), and there's an old 'American Garden' full of rhododendrons, which was apparently all the rage in Victoriana times (I guess they didn't have much else to do).
I'm interested in the fact that most traditional British parks have a very natural layout, with windy paths, grass that you can walk on, and planting arranged in irregular, curvy patterns. This seems in marked contrast to most of the parks and gardens in Paris, where the layout is much more formal, with straight gravel paths, flower beds and grass you're not meant to walk on. I'm interested in why this may be the case. Victorian British engineering is known for being fairly rigidly about strong, straight lines and bold ironwork. So why were the parks so different? I'm guessing that there's a whole backstory behind British park design, perhaps with some link to the philosophical thinking of the time, but I don't know what it is. If you have any ideas, or pointers to books or resources I might look at, please let me know...