My garden at the palace

How our palace gardens help our visitors, volunteers and local communities cultivate positive mental and physical wellbeing.

By Historic Royal Palaces

Yew Tree Walk and Lady Alice's Pond, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens (2018) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

Welcoming local communities to the gardens of the historic royal palaces is hugely important and mutually beneficial. The gardens have a positive effect on people's wellbeing, and volunteers play a huge role in preserving these historic green spaces.

Volunteers in the nursery yard (2019) by Ian TocherHistoric Royal Palaces

Powered by Volunteers

At Hampton Court Palace and Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, volunteers work alongside the skilled gardening teams in the nurseries and gardens. ​ 

Working in the Kitchen Garden (2019) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

"[Gardening] is a meditative and peaceful experience. You concentrate on keeping everything precise and neat, focus on what you're doing and the people around you. It's one of the best things I've decided to do. I've learned a lot." 

Volunteer gardeners at Hillsborough (2020) by Claire WoodsHistoric Royal Palaces

Some garden volunteers are career-changers, wanting to get experience. Others like Louise started out volunteering to fill their spare time, although she now has a new career as a seasonal gardener. 

View of volunteers planting bulbs, Hillsborough (2020) by Claire WoodsHistoric Royal Palaces

"It’s great feeling useful and contributing to such an excellent garden. Seeing the pleasure the public are getting out of the gardens – that's a real feel-good factor."

As well as the day-to-day care of our palace gardens, volunteers play a crucial role in supporting important outdoor events such as The Tower Remembers WWI centenary commemorations in the Tower of London moat.

Beyond the Deepening Shadow: The Tower Remembers (2018) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

Such was the feeling of this event that some of the volunteers who contributed to Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, which saw the moat filled with thousands of ceramic poppies in 2014, returned four years later to help install Beyond the Deepening Shadow

Beyond the Deepening Shadow: The Tower Remembers (2018) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

"It's such a momentous thing to be a part of... To be part of something that represents 100 years of history, in this building that's 1,000 years old, that's awesome." 

Visitors in the Granville Garden (2018) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

Palace gardens and their communities

In their roles as historic monuments and their more modern guise as visitor attractions, our palaces have been bringing people together for centuries. 

While some of our visitors travel thousands of miles, many are from much closer to home. Both use our palace gardens to connect with people in their community, get out into the outdoors and spend time with their loved ones.

Visitors in the Kitchen Gardens (2019) by Flossy GibbonHistoric Royal Palaces

At Hampton Court Palace, each area of the children's Magic Garden represents myths, legends, stories and even real objects that can be found in the palace. 


Opened in 2016 by the Duchess of Cambridge, the space provides local families with a unique way to feel part of a larger community and to encourage their children to enjoy the outdoors

"It's quite amazing to have kids growing up seeing this all the time in all the different seasons. We come here in the summer, and in the winter they love running around in the kitchens."

Hear from some of our members as they explain how they use the Magic Garden to mix with other local people during the summer holidays:

A group on a sensory tour of the TOL (2018) by Alastair Fyfe​Historic Royal Palaces

Elsewhere in our palaces and gardens, our Community Access Scheme (CAS) offers free entry and practical advice to local community or adult learning groups based near Kensington Palace, Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace .

The Lost Garden at the Bloody Tower, Tower of London (2019) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

For many of these groups, a visit to a palace provides the perfect setting for members to connect with other people, spend time in the outdoors, learn and get active.

For example, at the Tower of London, one group were given a sensory tour of Walter Raleigh's Lost Garden.

Hear from some of our current community group participants and leaders about what living near Kensington Palace means to them.

Our Sensory Palaces programme is designed for people living with early 'mild' stage dementia and their carers. It offers the chance to spend time in nature, participate in fun activities and build social connections at both Hampton Court Palace and Kew Palace.

Lady Alice's Temple, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens (2018) by Richard Lea-HairHistoric Royal Palaces

Supporting people with dementia and their carers

Participants enjoy activities inside the palaces and outside in the gardens and report a huge boost to their sense of wellbeing

The Chapel Royal ceiling, Hampton Court Palace (2012) by James BrittainHistoric Royal Palaces

"I enjoy it as much as him. With age we are not going out so much, and so this is such a nice way of going out, seeing something beautiful."

Credits: Story

Compiled with thanks to the Historic Royal Palaces volunteers, members and community groups who shared their stories.

Learn more about volunteering for Historic Royal Palaces, or find out how you can benefit from family membership, including unlimited adventures at our palaces and gardens.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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