When you think of the city, you probably envision a concrete jungle: skyscrapers upon skyscrapers litter London’s landscape, and spring up like trees to create forests of offices. However, I have recently discovered a natural gem hidden in the heart of this artificial landscape: The Barbican Conservatory. Situated on Silk Street, the third floor of the Barbican Centre is home to London’s second biggest conservatory, populated with over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, as well as terrapins and koi carp. As soon as you leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city outside and step through the doors of the conservatory, you feel like you have entered a surreal, hybrid world. Man-made infrastructures such as a glass roof, a large concrete tower and concrete steps, are assaulted by a plethora of creeping plants that sprawl, climb and camouflage every surface. The overall visual effect is that of nature fighting back! This tropical oasis further resembles a scene that would not look out of place in Jungle Book; the warm cosy atmosphere and background music of buzzing (the conservatory is also home to bees) and the trickling of water make it seem as if the conservatory is literally alive: breathing and talking to you as you explore the different levels and walkways.
Located on the second level of the conservatory is a room dedicated solely to different species of cacti- from the tiny to the titanic! This room was a magnet for art students and lovers of art in general, as they squatted on the floor armed with pencils and chalks to draw the specimens in front of them. I never knew so many different plants existed! Returning to the ground level, coloured lighting and fairy-lit archways lead the way to an open space dotted with tables and chairs. Here, members of the public can experience afternoon tea and sample a selection of handmade cakes and savouries if they book in advance.
But I must stress that it is enough to visit the conservatory for the plants themselves (think Kew Gardens but on a smaller scale and for free); open from 12 noon – 5pm on selected Sundays each month and Bank Holidays, it is the perfect place to spend a relaxed and lazy day. Upcoming open dates include: Sunday the 21st of Jan, Sunday the 4th ,11th and 25th of Feb, and Sunday the 4th of March.
Nearest tube stations: Barbican and Moorgate.