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Neal’s Yard, a Secret Garden in Central London

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Close to Covent Garden, London, and yet hidden away, Neal’s Yard is one of those places that if you didn’t know it was there, you might well pass by it loads of times and simply never come across it.

There are only two alleyways leading into the Yard, both of which are fairly unassuming, and give little hint of what lies beyond. Neal’s Yard is almost like a secret garden in the center of London, well off the main drag, and visited only by those who know exactly where they are going.

I had walked up and down Neal Street loads of times before I became aware of the existence of nearby Neal’s Yard, but by happy chance discovered it when I went there to do a student job with a company that had its offices right on the Yard itself, and there I found the gorgeous Neal’s Yard Bakery, the delicious yogurt ice cream, the New Age bookshop, and the Remedy Shop.

So how did this discreet little haven in the center of London come about? Well, the late Nicholas Saunders was a well-known figure in the

trip traveling around England and Wales in a van, he produced the amazing book “Alternative England and Wales” which was a cornucopia of advice aimed at those attempting to live some sort of alternative lifestyle, and included advice on how to squat empty houses, how to live on a low income, and incorporated a clear emphasis on communal living and spiritual development.

It was in 1976 that Saunders moved into an old warehouse in Neal’s Yard, which at the time really was just a scruffy backyard behind warehouses and other buildings. With his emphasis upon alternative and healthy living, Saunders set about opening up a wholefood shop, and the enterprise proceeded to be a huge success. Going from strength to strength Saunders then set up a dairy, a cafe, and an apothecary specializing in alternative remedies and healing.

The whole Yard was also brought to life by sculptures from Tim Hunkin, a Cambridge graduate who first made his name by producing the informative cartoon “The Rudiments of Wisdom” in the Observer newspaper. Hunkin created the magnificent water clock that is on the outside of the wholefood shop, and the animated sculpture of people standing in line at a baker’s within the Yard itself.

Since its debut, this cosy backwater and its shops have simply gone from strength to strength, so if you happen to find yourself in Covent Garden, be sure to visit Neal’s Yard, as you will be in for a real treat. It is the perfect place to have lunch outdoors in the summer, and in winter you can warm yourself up with a massage in the Therapy Rooms followed by tea and a healthy snack in the Bakery and Tearoom.

Neal’s Yard is three minutes from Covent Garden tube station, and five minutes from Leicester Square tube station.

Photo of Neal’s Yard, London, UK, by Okinawa Steve

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer carol ferndale

Carol Ferndale has lived in the UK, Japan, Sweden and the Middle East, as well as studying in France, and doing cultural exchange activities in Belgium. She has also traveled by bus across the USA from coast to coast, spent time in Canada, strolled around the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, explored other parts of Eastern Europe, made a number of journeys to Turkey, and onwards into various parts of Asia, including China and Thailand. Carol Ferndale now spends most of her time in England, writing, computer programming, and taking an interest in the nature of the universe.

4 responses to “Neal’s Yard, a Secret Garden in Central London”

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  1. john andrews says:
    February 14th, 2011 at 00:49

    I used to buy Neal’s Yard aromatherapy candles at (later but they no longer sell online. I miss them… high quality, unique products. Fascinating to see the source as a travel destination!

  2. Dyanne Devito says:
    April 25th, 2012 at 20:28

    Do you know where I could get a poster of this picture or of Neal’s Yard?

  3. Doc Truli says:
    September 9th, 2012 at 17:57

    The original Diagon Alley. I will visit!

  4. Ericka says:
    May 21st, 2014 at 18:24

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    I’m impressed! Very helpful information specifically the last part :) I care for such info much.
    I was seeking this particular info for a very long
    time. Thank you and good luck.

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