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The free UK park that inspired Peter Pan where exotic birds eat from your hands

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FINDING cheap things to do in London is becoming increasingly difficult, with the cost of everything on the up.

However, for the price of an apple, or a packet of sunflower seeds, you can spend an hour or two getting up close and personal with some of London’s most colourful residents.

Kensington Gardens are a great place to visit the parakeets in London

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Kensington Gardens are a great place to visit the parakeets in LondonCredit: Ryan Gray
Apples are among their favourite foods along with peanuts and sunflower seeds

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Apples are among their favourite foods along with peanuts and sunflower seedsCredit: Ryan Gray
People love visiting the park to take pictures with the birds

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People love visiting the park to take pictures with the birdsCredit: Jack Hill/The Times

Anyone who’s wandered through the city’s parks will have heard the shrill high-pitched squeak of the ring-necked parakeets.

How they came to live in London is the subject of myth and speculation, with some even laying the blame at the feet of rock star Jimi Hendrix.

The story goes that Hendrix released some of the birds on Carnaby Street in the 1960s, before they went on to breed very successfully, spreading throughout the trees of the city’s green spaces.

It’s almost certainly nonsense, but it’s one of the more creative theories about the birds’ arrival – and my personal favourite.

Read More on UK Attractons

Another hypothesis claims that the birds escaped from the set of the film The African Queen, which was shot in Ealing in 1951, another almost certainly fictional account.

Regardless of how they got to London, they’re there to stay, adding shocks of bright green to parks and rooftops throughout the capital and its surroundings.

For the most part, they’re a fairly skittish species and keep themselves to themselves, as far from people as possible.

However, in Kensington Gardens, and a few other spots, they’ve learnt that humans can be an easy source of food.

Next to The Long Water in the park is a stretch of hedges which I frequently visit, especially if looking for a cheap way to entertain visiting friends with children in tow.

There the parakeets can be found loitering and squawking optimistically at visiting people, hoping that they’ve brought snacks along with them.

And, against the park’s wishes, many people do. Apples, monkey nuts and sunflower seeds seem to be among their favourite snacks, although they’re not especially fussy.

They’re happy to pose for photos either close by or perched atop your head if they’re feeling extra friendly, providing an excellent free wildlife activity right in the centre of London.

A bronze statue marks where JM Barrie set part of Peter Pan

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A bronze statue marks where JM Barrie set part of Peter PanCredit: Alamy
The Elfin Oak is another fairytale that can be enjoyed in Kensington Gardens

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The Elfin Oak is another fairytale that can be enjoyed in Kensington GardensCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
A giant pirate ship can be found in the Princess Diana Memorial Playground

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A giant pirate ship can be found in the Princess Diana Memorial PlaygroundCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd

All that they ask in return is that you provide them with something to munch on for their trouble.

To see as many of the birds as possible, it’s best to get there earlier, as the less hungry they are, they less likely they are to come and see you.

However, there’s usually plenty of them there hoping to make the most of generous visitors throughout the day.

The park is a fitting place to have a small green bird on your shoulder, given that it inspired one of the most famous pirate stories of all time.

Author JM Barrie lived close by to Kensington Gardens and used them as a setting for his most famous book Peter Pan.

In the story, Peter lands in the park and the exact spot mentioned in the book has been honoured with a bronze statue of the flying boy from Never Never Land.

The parakeets can be found just around the corner from the Peter Pan statue, making both very easy to take in during the same visit.

The pirate theme can also be found extended into the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, where a huge pirate ship with its own beach makes the perfect place for children to have a run around.

Other fairytales can be enjoyed in the park too, with the Elfin Oak another sight worth seeing while exploring.

The 900-year-old oak tree has been carved and painted to look as though elves, gnomes, fairies and small creatures have made a home in its hollowed out bark.

The park is one of my favourite spots in London, especially if I need to entertain friends’ kids on a budget.

Although,as a big kid myself, I find seeing the parakeets up close just as exciting as anyone below the age of eight.

Meanwhile, this park in the UK is so exotic it feels like you’re visiting Asia.

And this Victorian attraction is found within an “enchanted” forest with lakes, waterfalls and a mountain landscape.

I frequently visit the park, particularly if I'm with friends with young children

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I frequently visit the park, particularly if I’m with friends with young childrenCredit: Ryan Gray

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