The Inn’s gardens are known as ‘the Walks’ and are one of the largest privately owned gardens in London, with a history almost as old as the Inn itself. The current layout dates back to the early 17th century when Sir Francis Bacon was Treasurer of the Inn.
Today the Walks offer an open parkland feel, teeming with wildlife and various species of trees and plants across its 5.8 acres, right in the heart of the bustling city. They provide a popular lunch time retreat for members of the public, local workers and tenants of the Inn and are open to the public from 12:00pm to 2:30pm on weekdays (public holidays excluded). The Walks occasionally close during these hours for maintenance and operational reasons as required by the Inn. Non-residents and residents of the Inn are not allowed to bring dogs (except guide dogs) into the Walks.
The Walks also provide the perfect setting for the Inn’s Croquet Club and the Summer Marquee which offers daily lunch and event hire opportunities to both members and non-members.
At the main entrance at Field Court there is an elegant wrought iron gate with griffins keeping guard on its pillars. The gate dates back to 1723 and includes the initials of the Treasurer at that time, William Gylby.
Flora and fauna
From just beyond the main gate until the north end steps which lead to upper level of the Walks, the central gravel path is lined by an avenue of American Red Oaks (Quercus rubra). These are pictured above.
The Walks feature many majestic old London Planes eye-catchingly surrounded by circles of blue hyacinths in spring, and in midsummer interesting white candle like flowers can be seen on the Catalpa trees. You can also find a small mixed orchard, planted in 2009, on the upper west lawn.
Along the bank flanking the north end steps is a wide expanse of long grass and wildflowers which fills with daffodils in spring and Ox-eye daises in summer. Beyond the bank a long hornbeam hedge screens the Walks from Theobalds Road, but still provides those on the top deck with a view!
In June you can find hollyhocks and climbing roses along the railings by the Dolls House near the Jockeys Fields entrance to the Inn (pictured below). The climbing roses are the deep red ‘Guinee’ and the pink edged ‘Handel’.
There are also smaller garden areas within South Square and Gray’s Inn Square consisting of lawns, rose beds with lavender hedging and areas of seasonal bedding displays.
Regular feathered visitors to the Walks include Blue Tits, Robins, Blackbirds, the Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jays. Sparrow Hawks have also been spotted flying around the Walks.
The Bronze Angel
The Bronze Angel sculpture was installed next to a small herbaceous border on the lawn south of Atkin Building in late 2012. The sculpture, by the artist and teacher Geoffrey Wickham (1919 – 2005), was created in the early seventies and originally stood above the Milford Lane elevation of the large office complex at 190 Strand. The sculpture is in fact not bronze but actually made of fibreglass!
The Millennium stele
On the top lawn by Theobald’s Road is a small stele, installed in 2000, engraved with two quotes from Francis Bacon’s The Advancement of Learning (1605). The quotes read:
“If a man will begin with certainties he shall end in doubts but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties”
“Men must pursue things which are just in present and leave the future to divine providence”