St James’s Park is the oldest of London’s eight Royal Parks, the first to be opened to the public by James I in 1603. It covers 23 hectares (57 acres) of land in the City of Westminster in central London. It is surrounded by three palaces: Westminster (now the Houses of Parliament), St James’s Palace, and Buckingham Palace which lies to its west. The park features a small lake with two islands and a collection of waterfowl, including a small colony of pelicans which was first established in 1664 by a gift from a Russian ambassador.
There are currently six pelicans resident in the park: five Great White Pelicans and one South American White Pelican. These are fed daily between 2.30pm and 3.00 daily. Other waterfowl living in the area include various species of duck, including migrating species which visit annually. Also to be seen are Black swans, the Great-crested and Little-crested grebe and Canada and Greylag geese. In the surrounding areas, owls and woodpeckers thrive.
Mammals you’re likely to spot include grey squirrels and, as dusk falls, bats. Foxes, wood mice and brown rats are also common, but are rarely seen.
The park is close to, or home to, several notable historic ceremonies, including the Changing of the Guard (alternate days in autumn and winter; daily in spring and summer) which takes place at Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards Arch. Annually on the Queen’s official birthday, Trooping the Colour is held on Horse Guard Parade in St James’s Park.
St James’s Park is open from 5am to midnight all year round.
The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk is seven miles long and is marked with 90 plaques set in the ground. It takes in views of many of the famous landmarks associated with her life. There is also a children’s playground.