Despite its proximity to Oxford Street, The Phoenix Garden has always been regarded as something of a local secret. It is, after all, remarkably inconspicuous: a bombsite turned car park turned community garden hidden behind high hedges and wrought iron railings. The entrance is in St Giles’ Passage, contrary to what Google Maps will have you believe, and a wooden sign just beyond it reveals the garden’s three rules: NO ALCOHOL, NO BIKES, NO DOGS.
Follow the middle of the three pathways and you’ll soon reach a little raised pond filled with goldfish and frogs. This is where you’ll find the garden’s most coveted bench: one that provides an excellent vantage point for sketchers and painters.
Walk a bit further and you’ll come to the most characteristically urban section of the garden. Here, three large stick figures, courtesy of graffiti artist Stik, survey passers-by: volunteers tending to the vegetable patches, businessmen winding down on their lunch break, and children crouching behind heaped wheelbarrows in an attempt to extend their playtime.
Rest here for a while, or follow the path as it loops back towards the garden’s community centre. When you’ve arrived, plant yourself on a log stool, pull out a good book and enjoy a rare moment of peace among the flowers.