The heritage enthusiast who will lead a new future for London’s Royal Parks has this week unveiled a £500,000 project at one of the capital’s most impressive locations.
Chairman of the new Royal Parks charity, Loyd Grossman CBE, set out part of his vision for helping to generate more funding for the parks as he formally opened the new Italian Gardens Cafe in Kensington Gardens.
With spectacular views across the 150-year-old Italian Gardens – a gift from Prince Albert to his wife Queen Victoria – the site was once a disused toilet block but has now been transformed into The Royal Parks’ latest catering facility, with its very own living roof to support biodiversity and wildlife in the gardens.
At a reception on September 14, Mr Grossman, who became the new Chairman of The Royal Parks in July, spoke about his ambitions for The Royal Parks as it joins forces with its charity the Royal Parks Foundation to become a new, single charity.
He emphasised the importance of projects such as the cafe development, which allow The Royal Parks to maximise its income while also improving the experience for the 77 million visitors who enjoy the parks every year.
Loyd Grossman CBE said:
“People say the Royal Parks are the green lungs of London, but they are more than that; they are the heart, the brain and the soul of London – they are key parts of what makes this city the greatest in the world. I am honoured to have been asked to become the Chairman of The Royal Parks as it becomes a new charity, and play my part in helping to protect them.
“My vision is to continue maintaining them as the best parks in the world for this and for future generations. We won’t see overt commercialisation but we do need to grow income and support. The Italian Gardens Cafe is a perfect example of what The Royal Parks will be doing as a new charity, using our current assets to transform them into fantastic new facilities which not only offer our visitors an even greater experience but help generate the much needed income to keep these parks at the standard you see today.”
The new cafe and its landscaping have been designed to not only reflect the Italian style of the gardens, but also to complement the neighbouring Grade 2* Listed Queen Anne’s Alcove, which is currently being restored.
The conservation works include repairs to the stonework and brickwork, and to the timber panelling and seating. The roof covering has also been replaced in lead, after it was damaged during a storm in March.
The iconic shelter alcove was built in 1705 and originally sat in the gardens of Kensington Palace, until 1867 when London builder Mr Cowley funded its relocation to its present site, as he thought it ‘unsightly’ and ‘a resort for undesirable persons’.
Kensington Gardens Manager, Andy Williams, said: “The new cafe and restoration of Queen Anne’s Alcove has made a huge improvement to this part of Kensington Gardens – in my opinion, it boasts one of the finest cafe views in London, looking across the fountains towards the Long Water.
“Both projects ideally complement each other with the new cafe enhancing the alcove within the Italian Gardens landscape, as well as offering visitors to Kensington Gardens a unique place to sit, eat and lap up some of the tranquillity the gardens have to offer.”