Chelsea Physic Gardens can be found off Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, in London, and are an eye-catching anc calming charity-run family day out. Opened to the public in 1983, the family attraction was established in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, which still nurtures more than 5000 plant species at Chelsea Physic Gardens.
Facing south to the Thames, Chelsea Physic Gardens boast a micro-climate that suits plants from the Mediterranean and Canary Islands, notably the biggest outdoor fruiting olive tree in the UK. By the 18th century, Chelsea Physic Gardens had become an international seed exchange, and the result is visible all about this bewitching family attraction.
With over four acres of land, Chelsea Physic Gardens include a Grade II-listed Georgian pond rock garden, made of stones from the Tower of London, Icelandic lava brought to it in 1772, bricks and flint – the oldest public rock garden in the country.
Tea seedlings were introduced to Chelsea Physic Gardens in 1848, though medicinal plants are the priority, along with rare and endangered species. Those with tickets can see the Garden of World Medicine and beds of plants used for medicines by North American Indians, Maoris, Australian Aboriginals and Chinese, as well as in India, South Africa and Europe.
The Pharmaceutical Garden has plants rich in therapeutic substances, notably the Madagascar Periwinkle (anti-cancer alkaloids), Woolly Foxglove (a cardiac glycoside, digoxin), Meadowsweet (salicylic acid, used in aspirin) and barley (lignocaine anaesthetic).
The west-facing Historical Walk at Chelsea Physic Gardens includes Rosmarinus and Jasminum officinale, North American Aster tradescantii and Tradescantia virginiana, Yucca filamentosa, Rose Plantain, Plantago ‘Rosularis’ and Rosa sherardii. Not something you can say of many other family attractions!
As well as flora, Chelsea Physic Gardens welcome many types of fauna, including birds attracted by boxes and feeders. Some of the species enlivening a family day out to Chelsea Physic Gardens include dunnock, wren, robin, blackbird, thrush, long-tailed, coal, great and blue tits, heron, mallard duck, wood pigeon, woodpecker, jay, magpie, crow, starling and greenfinch. Occasionally, it’s also possible to see migratory kingfisher, wagtail, blackcap, whitethroat, chiffchaff, goldcrest, willow warbler and spotted flycatcher, or even a cormorant, sparrowhawk, gulls and toucan. For bord spotters, it’s worth the price of a ticket alone!
Chelsea Physic Gardens also gets visits from foxes, mice, grey squirrels and pipistrelle bats, while a couple of ponds are awash with insects such as dragonflies, damselflies, caddisflies and mayflies, not to mention water beetles, pond skaters, water boatmen, Cyclops, snails, lake limpet, sticklebacks, common frog, toad and newt.
A family day out at the enchanting Chelsea Physic Gardens is a restive break from city life, and refreshments are served at the café. Disabled facilities include pre-booked foyer access and a wheelchair, making it a family attraction that everybody can enjoy all year round. In addition, Chelsea Physic Gardens can be booked out for lawn parties, weddings, meetings and lectures.
66 Royal Hospital Road
London SW3 4HS
Tel: 020 7352 5646
Times: See attraction for specific details.