The Treacherous Hills of Greenwich Park

Summer Olympics. Three-Day Eventing. Greenwich Park. What could go wrong?

Queen’s House – Olympic Equestrian Stadium under construction
Licensed by Paul Arps

Queen’s House is one of several historic buildings on the grounds of the park. It was the first major commission for the great Inigo Jones, who brought Palladian design with him after his tour of Italy. Its famous Tulip Stairs, the first spiral staircase to be built in England, are reportedly haunted.

The Queen in question was Anne of Denmark, consort of James I. Legend has it the palace was compensation from the king for swearing at his lady in public, after she accidentally shot one of his dogs.

Some say Greenwich Park is an accident waiting to happen.

The lovely weather on Easter Monday and Tuesday drew crowds to Greenwich and many a fair and slender ancle tripped it gaily in the park, as well as down the hill; while others, whose understandings proved they do not stand upon trifles, were less venturous. A few old sinners of the male sex, far down in the hill of life as that at Greenwich, were waiting for those little accidents which, though sport to them, are no joke to the parties…  — The Literary Chronicle and Weekly Review, 1825

It is very easy to trip down the slopes at Greenwich Park. A number of horses and riders discovered this just last week during the cross-country phase of the Olympic Three-Day Event for equestrian sport. The undulating terrain of this oldest of all the Royal Parks poses a difficult obstacle in and of itself. Indeed, I believe there were less jumps on this course than what one would normally find on at a cross-country event–an apology for the terrain, you might say.

Compensation, indeed.

Olympian and Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips aboard High Kingdom
licensed Henry Bucklow/Lazy Photography