My Kensington

Detail of the Elfin Oak.

‘Elfin Oak, Kensington Gardens (c) 2010 Rev Stan. Used under a Creative Commons license. (

I am quite sure I have stated this before, but I enjoy reading. There is nothing quite like allowing yourself to be transported to new and exciting worlds, and books accomplish this in a way films do not manage in my opinion.

However, one of the best perks of working at a hotel in Kensington, as well as living in the area, is the fact that I do not necessarily need to crack open a book whenever I want to be transported to magical worlds. Our borough is simply rife with little spots where visitors and locals alike can feel they have crossed over into Narnia, Neverland or any other magical worlds authors have created throughout the years.

In previous posts, I have introduced my readers to some of these. I mentioned the statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and the two children tucked away in a corner of a church. However, I never thought of making reference to perhaps the best-known and most unusual-looking of all these ‘magical’ touches, the Elfin Oak. And mind you, I did dedicate an entire post to Kensington Gardens. It is never too late to make amends, I suppose, and that is why, in this instalment of my blog, we will be talking about this natural wonder.

The Elfin Oak is an ancient tree trunk located in Kensington Gardens, having been brought there in 1928 from its original home in Richmond Park – and, as a proud Kensingtonian, I am very pleased that my borough can claim bragging rights to this extraordinary work of art. Not only is this another important notch in Kensington’s already full belt, but it also means I can visit this ancient carved tree trunk without straying too far from my hotel in Kensington.

But aside from its age, what is so special about this tree? My best advice would be to go see it, because I am afraid my words would not do it justice. Despite the horrid wire mesh they put around it – I understand why it’s necessary, but it’s visually dreadful – you will still be able to admire the carvings of elves, gnomes and all sorts of other mythical creatures that sprawl over the tree’s trunk. These are the work of Ivor Innes, an illustrator who in 1930 decided to add his touch to the centenary tree.

As a final endorsement of this piece of natural history, preserved thanks to the efforts of 1960s comedian Spike Milligan, I will tell you this: David Gilmour was so great a fan of the Elfin Oak that he was photographed in front of it for the inside cover of a Pink Floyd album. So the next time you come to London and stay at a hotel in Kensington, why not take the short walk to the Gardens and see this legendary tree?