The Sky Garden: London’s Highest Public Garden
By Celestine Fraser
London’s highest public garden, the imaginatively-named Sky Garden, sits on the 35th floor of the ‘Walkie Talkie’, a 525ft skyscraper in the City. It’s not Shard-high, but it’s still pretty damn high. It’s free to enter, so long as you book a slot ahead of time. I overslept so was faced with the superhuman feat of crossing London in rush-hour, but I made it nonetheless, arriving in the nick of time for my 10am slot: breathless, bleary-eyed, but excited.
The queue for security upon entrance is a bit laborious – I do wonder if it’s more an attempt to build audience anticipation than necessary safety procedure, but hey. On the plus side, I neither set off the alarm, nor was groped! Things were looking up.
After a speedy climb in the lift, we arrived tone deaf on the top floor. Hard of hearing and dizzy from the altitude, you might be excused for thinking you were about to board a long-haul flight: the architecture is functional to a fault and the waiters have about as much charm as an airport lounge.
But it’s not all bad! We stepped into the Garden and were met with breathtaking views over the city. Architecturally, it falls somewhere between a greenhouse and a post-apocalyptic dystopian space-station. If we were to re-locate to Mars to simulate life on Earth over there, I’d imagine it would look something like this. The air is thin and muggy, and sprays of mist systematically douse people and plants. It was a bit early to sample the cocktails, but the pastries were cheaper and tastier than Starbucks, so a trip up to the Sky Garden won’t leave you bankrupt.
The ‘Sky Garden’ has a fairytale ring to it, but expect something from out of Studio Ghibli and you’ll be disappointed. It isn’t so much the Sky Garden that’s extraordinary, but this city. From up in the clouds, I had an aerial view of my local haunts: my home, my uni, my local park, the trusty Tesco to which I make pilgrimage every Tuesday. Yes, I was briefly crippled by the whole I-am-but-a-measly-ant-in-this-vast-and-unfathomable-universe thing, but once you get over that, it’s actually rather liberating. Is there something to be said for feeling insignificant? I don’t know, but maybe it takes a hike 500ft up in the clouds to plant your feet firmly back on the ground.
celestine fraser blogs at instant stories.