Chelsea Physic Garden: Chelsea’s Green Oasis

Chelsea Physic Garden: Chelsea’s Green Oasis

With a fascinating programme of walks, talks, events and workshops, spring and summer are the perfect time to visit Chelsea Physic Garden and enjoy London’s wonderful secret space

‘There are around 400,000 types of plant in the world, and only 20,000 are edible,’ explains Michael Holland, Head of Education at Chelsea Physic Garden. ‘That’s about five percent. The fact that we humans have worked out how to use so many poisonous plants as medicines – medicinal poisons – is a fantastic paradox. Our extraordinary Garden has contributed significantly to that global pool of knowledge.’

Occupying the same four-acre riverside site since 1673, Chelsea Physic Garden was established by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries to grow medicinal plants, develop remedies and train apprentices in the physic or healing arts. Later, the Garden’s main benefactor was Sir Hans Sloane, the physician, naturalist and founder of the British Museum, who himself trained at Chelsea. In 1712 Sloane acquired the Manor of Chelsea from Charles Cheyne and leased the Garden to the Society for £5 a year. That sum is still payed to Lord Cadogan.

The Garden’s location is no accident. The Apothecaries chose Chelsea, then a village four miles outside London, for its horticulturally-friendly microclimate; the close proximity to the river ensures warmer air currents which makes it ideal for growing herbs and plants that otherwise might not survive in the UK.

The Thames-side land is also south-facing, has light soil and the river access allowed specimens from around the world to be introduced directly via the Garden.

Today, as well as being a London ‘destination’, the Physic Garden is still a working botanical garden and internationally-renowned teaching institution. As the Head of Education, Michael manages an imaginative, wide-ranging annual programme of walks, talks and workshops. ‘We have a unique living collection of 5,000 species of edible, useful and medicinal plants that have changed the world. They can’t speak for themselves, so it’s up to us to tell their remarkable stories.

‘Our evening Supper Talks are particularly popular. Visitors can enjoy a meal in the Garden before listening to a talk from a prominent plants-person (subjects coming up are plants with super powers and learning to concoct healthy drinks from garden produce). During school holidays, we put on Family Activity Days designed to engage and inspire all ages; these include exploring the world of mini-beasts, making seasonal herbal lotions and potions (hay fever remedies in spring and cough and cold treatments in winter) and mixing chocolate blends – children always love that one!’

Among the other regular courses and events organised by Michael and his team are behind-the-scenes tours with Head Gardener, Nell Jones, propagation and compost clinics, tree identification and garden photography seminars, a plant summer school and medical herbalism workshops focusing on different parts of the body.

‘Most importantly, we take our expertise out into the community,’ adds Michael. ‘We visit schools and colleges and recently we’ve got involved with the Council, helping to look after a community garden right next to Trellick Tower. Also, for the last five years, we’ve run a project in East London with a Young Offenders team that uses gardening to get youngsters back on track.’

Tucked away behind high walls, with its beautifully kept plant beds, friendly volunteer guides and excellent café, the Physic Garden is a wonderful green oasis. There can’t be many more tranquil places to retreat from the stresses and strains of urban life.

Chelsea Physic Garden
66 Royal Hospital Road,
Chelsea, London SW3 4HS
+442073525646
enquiries@chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk
https://www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk
Chelsea Physic Garden Chelsea SW3

Chelsea Physic Garden Chelsea SW3

Chelsea Physic Garden Chelsea SW3

Chelsea Physic Garden Chelsea SW3

Chelsea Physic Garden Chelsea SW3

Chelsea Physic Garden Chelsea SW3

Chelsea Physic Garden Chelsea SW3

Chelsea Physic Garden Chelsea SW3

Chelsea Physic Garden Chelsea SW3

Chelsea Physic Garden Chelsea SW3
Chelsea Physic Garden
66 Royal Hospital Road,
Chelsea, London SW3 4HS
+442073525646
enquiries@chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk
https://www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk

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