The Elfin Oak, a London oddity: London Living

If you go to Kensington Park today,
You’re sure of a big surprise.
If you go to Kensington Park today,
You’d better go in disguise.

Well, actually, you don’t need to go in disguise as it’s not the Teddy Bears picnic, but there is a whimsical folly, nestled in one of London’s premier addresses – found in a corner of Princess Kate & Prince Williams official London front yard – Kensington Park.

The figures were created by the illustrator Ivor Innes between 1928 & 1930 on a c.800 year old Oak stump relocated from Richmond Park, carved and painted with elves, princesses, fairies and woodland creatures.

Random? Yes. A little mad? Without a doubt. Cute? Absoloutely.

The Elfin Oak of Kensington Gardens, the children’s book which Ivor Innes published with his wife Elsie in 1930, describes how “for centuries now it has been the home of fairies, gnomes, elves, imps, and pixies. In the nooks and crannies they lurk, or peer out of holes and crevices, their natural windows and doorways. It is their hiding-place by day, their revelry place by night, and when the great moon tops the bare branchless tree the Elfin Clans come out to play and frolic in the moonlight.”

“Those with whom the ‘Little People’ dwell find their hearts’ desires”

“These [figures] include Wookey the witch, with her three jars of health, wealth and happiness, Huckleberry the gnome, carrying a bag of berries up the Gnomes’ Stairway to the banquet within Bark Hall, and Grumples and Groodles the Elves being awakened by Brownie, Dinkie, Rumplelocks and Hereandthere stealing eggs from the crows’ nest.” I love Wikipedia.

Caged to prevent vandalism and ward off some of the inclement weather, it’s a sweet way to utilise an old oak ‘stump’.

There are even Pink Floyd & Spike Milligan links; Dave Gilmore poses infront of the tree on the inside cover of Ummagumma, and Spike Milligan was a lifelong fan and led a very successful campaign to have it restored in 1966.

In 1997 the oak was declared a Grade II listed structure, after another restoration capaign by Spike Milligan. Good man.

It’s super easy to get to – simply make you way to the NorthEast corner of the park, and look for the Diana Princess of Wales playground (circled in yellow below). There will be lots of happy excited children, young and old.



Random fact: nearby Kensington Palace has long been a collection of flats for royal relatives – the Duke of Windsor used to call it ‘the Aunt Heap’
What are your favourite childhood figure? Elves, Fairies, Hairy Maclary? The Hungry Catepillar?

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