The paying public can picnic at the palace this summer as the Queen throws open her private 39-acre Londen garden for visitors to explore by themselves for the first time.
With pandemic restrictions forcing the cancellation of Buckingham Palace’s traditional summer opening for a second year, self-guided tours of the landscaped grounds will be on offer from July to September.
The scene of countless garden parties and rare jubilee concerts, the wildlife-rich oasis in the heart of the capital boasts more than 1,000 trees, including a mulberry dating to James I of England, and a 19th-century lake – once graced by a small flock of flamingoes that fell victim to an audacious fox.
The visitor route will encompass the 156-metre herbaceous border, plane trees planted by and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and views of the island and its beehives across the 3.5 acre lake, fed by the Serpentine in nearby Hyde Park.
Picnics will be allowed on one of the sweeping lawns. The rose garden, summer house and wildflower meadow can be viewed through guided tours, which will also be on offer.
Originally landscaped by Capability Brown, the current design dates from the 1820s, when George IV turned Buckingham House into a palace, with the gardens redesigned by William Townsend Alton.
The grounds, once known as Goring Great Garden, was, ironically, the scene of Parliamentarian earthworks during the English civil war (1642-51), although archaeologists from the Time Team TV programme failed to discover any remnants when allowed to conduct a dig in the grounds.
Covid restrictions means the usual tours of the palace will not go ahead, but smaller guided tours of the State Rooms, and the gardens, will be available from May to September. Access to the gardens will be available from 9 July to 19 September.
Weekend tours of the garden will run through April and May, when visitors can see its springtime meadows carpeted with primroses and bluebells, as well as flowering camellia, magnolia and azalea shrubs and trees.
A Royal Collection Trust spokesperson said: “We anticipate that social distancing will still be in place this summer and that visitor numbers to London will be low for some time yet due to the uncertainty around domestic and international travel. The costs incurred opening the palace to the public in the usual way would be far greater than the visitor admissions and retail income that we could expect.
“Maar, we are delighted to offer unique access to the Buckingham Palace garden this year as an alternative.”
Visitor information and tickets can be found at www.rct.uk of +44 (0) 303 123 7300.