Just 40 minutes from Euston, walk up the ancient Hastoe Lane. Overhung with hawthorn, chestnut and in the summer edged with bright red woundwort and fragrant white wild garlic.
Past the entrance to the park continue past the beech woodland and turn left into King Charles walk. You are now on a 2000-year-old Ridgeway path. In autumn the woodland is sublime. Colours of golden syrup and copper glint in subdued autumn light, and at the viewpoint you can see the Rothschild's Tring Park school and beyond to the castle-like Mentmore towers. The Iron Age fort of Ivinghoe Beacon is to the east.
In summer the park is carpeted with common orchids, scabious and harebells.
In winter snow it is a sledge and ski resort for the town.
Google map: bit.ly/Tq3DKR
Whether you are visiting Olympic Park or just looking to keep the kids occupied head down to Billingsgate, take a picnic but be sure to pack a mackerel (the fish market closes at 8.30am) and when you spot Sammy the seal (although most likely Simone) throw the fish at her. She has been hanging around here for a few years and why not with all that fish around? You might see porpoises and the odd dolphin too....
River Thames between Canary Wharf and as far in as Vauxhall Bridge. West India Quay on DLR and walk along the docks.
Google map: bit.ly/QdJAzO
Cheap and good fun for all the family - Richmond Park has lots of space for young ones to run around, beautiful deer to admire from near or far, the Isabella Plantation with its gorgeous walks and hide and seek places, cycle paths, free car parking, cafe or lots of picnic spots and great views of London over to canary wharf. If you hanker after a nice river walk or town amenities, you can just stroll down from the park along the riverside, watch boats and feed the ducks. Bliss.
There are innumerable books written on bike rides in the UK. But for the five million people living in South London there is a secret corridor into winding, empty country lanes, villages and a place that feels far from London.
Dropping down from Crystal Palace to Elmers End and through West Wickham you arrive at Corkscrew Lane, and suddenly its woods, valleys and rolling fields. The Lane takes you right to the top of the majestic North Downs and on a good day you can see 30 miles. You might touch 40 mph on the exhilarating drop to Westerham. Turn left to follow the ancient Pilgrims way as it winds through vineyards on its way to Canterbury, 70 miles away. Then it’s the big cogs to climb the elegantly named Hogtrough Hill (15%), heading north through Cudham and the pretty Downe to Keston. Cutting left down the steep hill by the Norman church takes you past fields and stables until suddenly you arrive back at West Wickham again. The last push up Anerley hill is helped by the thought of the amazing double expresso at Café Paradou on Crystal Palace Parade – the perfect place to nod to the other riders who meet there.
Begin in Crystal Palace, South London
Cafe Paradou: 10 Crystal Palace Parade
London SE19 1UA
+44(0)20 8670 7600
Google map: bit.ly/GSITc8
Found near St Pauls, Postman's Park is a quiet retreat that will keep you captivated for hours. A former burial ground, it has since 1900 served as a Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. Dozens of memorial tablets line the walls in poignant memorial of ordinary and otherwise forgotten people, who died saving the lives of others.
King Edward Street, London EC1
Google map: bit.ly/ykjudK
In February 2010, Southwark Council planted 40 fruit and nut trees in a corner of Warwick Gardens.
A fascinating, illustrated board, complete with map, explains when the different varieties of apple, pear and nut trees were introduced to the UK and by whom. Alongside the regular Cox's, Bramleys and Blenheim Oranges, there are more unusual varieties, such as the Vranja. A short message reads that residents can take one or two pieces of fruit home for their own use, but as the trees are only a few years old, they may have to wait a while.
In in the meantime, if starving for fruity vitamins, visitors to the park can also find blackberry bushes by the railway line and a large cob nut tree towards the main road.
Lyndhurst Way, Peckham, London SE15
Google map: bit.ly/nMOobt
A walk along Buckinghamshire's Chess river, through ancient forests, past water meadows, and through fields teeming with wild flowers, lined by cob nut trees and blackberry bushes, is a wonderful way to clear the smog from your brain.
Best of all, it's accessible on the Metropolitan tube line and a round trip will cost all of £7. En route, the Cock Inn at Sarratt and the Rose & Crown at Chorleywood make splendid stopping off points for sustenance and liquid refreshment. We passed a watercress farm too, and a huge bunch of freshly-harvested greens cost £1.50 and tasted a hundred times better than the stuff from the supermarket.
Take the Metropolitan Line from Baker Street or Marylebone Station to Chalfont & Latimer. Follow the river walk along the Chess river to Chorleywood village.
Chorleywood is on the Metropolitan tube line also.
The walk is about 7km.
Chorleywood Common, Chorleywood, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, WD3 5LW
Google map: bit.ly/reCtPs
Church End, Church Lane, Sarratt, Herts WD3 6HH
Google map: bit.ly/nI5yiW
When I tell friends I know of a haven of peace and tranquility in Peckham I am often met with raised eyebrows, but it does exist! Peckham Rye Park is a beautiful oasis located to the south of the bustling, noisy streets.
Peckham was mentioned in 1087 in the Doomsday Book, when it was called Pecheha, an Anglo Saxon word meaning 'village among the hills'.
During the reign of Henry 1, Peckham was a farming village and the land was used for growing crops and fruit. By the 18th century it was famous for its melons, figs and grapes.
In 1767, William Blake visited Peckham Rye and had a vision of angels in an oak tree. The ''Angel Oak', as it was later called, has since disappeared
The park's original layout opened to the public in 1894. There is a large lake and several smaller ponds alive with noisy ducks and geese, a Japanese garden, arboretum, bowling green and woodland walks. My favourite spot is in the Sexby Gardens where plots of lavender give off a wonderfully soporific, mid-summer ambience.
During the Second World War, temporary huts were erected to detain Italian prisoners of war. One still remains, located next to the café.
Peckham Rye Park
Peckham, London SE22 0LR, +44(0)20 7525 1052
Open until 20.30 during the summer
Bus 12 to Peckham Rye
Google map: bit.ly/nBHHNT
At the end of Columbia Road you can cross a busy road and find yourself at the Hackney City Farm. It’s a little oasis of life’s simple pleasures; you can eat a hearty meal at the bustling café before visiting the chicken’s, goats and pigs and see city children squeal in delight chasing a duck or petting a sheep. On my last visit I saw a demonstration on how to shear a sheep and how to yarn wool. In a city obsessed with style and fast living this is the perfect way to get reacquainted with your country loving self.
Despite the fact that I live in the middle of nowhere in the north of England I had my best view of a fox as I exited the London Underground at 10pm one summer's night. Reynard and me walked down the street together, me on the pavement and he in the middle of the road, completely nonchalant, as if he too were returning from a night at the theatre! Earlier that day I had visited the nearby Ecology Centre at Gillespie Park Nature Reserve where there are meadows, woods, ponds and hedgerows full of birds, apparently. The annual Gillespie Festival was in full swing so I didn't see much nature. How strange then to find it on the other side of the fence? We humans need our defined spaces for nature but wild things will not be contained!
191 Drayton Park, London, N5 1PH
+44(0)20 7527 4374
Google map: bit.ly/l4gc9l
A nature lovers walk or cycle that quietly winds through the heart of London's East End. See heron, geese, kingfishers and reed warblers, cows ducks and moorhens. Starting at Springfield Marina in Clapton, view the colourful canal boats or take tea in the Spark Cafe at the top of Springfield Park - then wander along past the Hackney marshes for spectaluar views of the 2012 Olympic site being constructed, plus graffiti on the sides of old industrial sites. Head off along to Victoria Park in Hackney to Lauriston "village" for fish and chips, pubs and cafes. Then hop on the bus home.
Google map: tinyurl.com/36lcq7l
Sydenham Hill Woods is a lovely area of woodland for walking in. It's quiet and peaceful, even on the weekend, and popular with dog-walkers and young families. It's big enough that you're not endlessly coming up against fences with roads on the other side of them, yet small enough that you can't get lost there. It's also the most pleasant way to get from Forest Hill to East Dulwich and when you do get to the Dulwich side, there is a marvellous area of pretty allotments to wander around, from which you may take in 'the best view of London in London'.
From the Forest Hill end, it's about a ten minute walk from the train station. The 185 and 176 buses also stop nearby.
Lurking in the hinterland that is Hack-Hack-Hackney, this little bit of east has most definitely missed out on the regeneration, but it's also missed out on the outlaw years of estates, grime and crime. It's a beautiful spot offering tranquillity amongst the sprawl, where you can stroll along the river, watch the wildlife scuttle by, catch a real odd (but truly unique) pint at the Hope and Anchor, or pick up a fry-up at the cafe opposite Lea Valley Marina. Beautiful, chilled and totally hidden.
Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath, Regent’s Park, Trafalgar Square are all well known options but I would heartily recommend Holland Park and its surroundings. Hugely underrated, this beautiful park in West London has a truly gorgeous flower garden, Marco Pierre White’s yummy Belvedere restaurant, tennis courts and ample space for a summer’s day picnic.
For those who love variety and nature, R. B. Gardens at Kew may be the most pleasant destination in London. There's a Travelodge near the garden with great pre-booking offers, which can be booked via online, usually a few weeks in advance.
At more than 300ft long and 100ft wide, the centrepiece of the Royal Botanic Gardens is no ordinary greenhouse. You can imagine a T Rex stalking its prey among the prehistoric cycads, or close your eyes and let the warmth and perfumes transport you to a tropical isle. Underneath is the equally primordial Marine Display.
Kew Gardens, tube Kew Gardens, Richmond
The Temperate House is the largest of the glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; in fact it's the largest, extant Victorian glasshouse in the world. Despite this fact, many visitors never reach it because it's a fair way from the main gate and it's hidden from view until you're almost upon it.
This is a shame because the Temperate House contains some fabulous specimens, including the world's rarest plant - a cycad called Encephalartos woodii - and the world's largest indoor plant, the 52-foot high Chilean Wine Palm.
A remnant of the Great North Wood that used to extend from Deptford to Selhurst, this is a great place for a sunday afternoon stroll. There were once large Victorian villas in the area, so along with oak, beech and cedar trees, you'll find bamboo and rhododendrons. Cox's Walk is an avenue of oaks that is fabulous in autumn. London Wildlife Trust manages the wood and runs various guided walks such as bat watches and dawn chorus patrols.
South-east London between Dulwich Village and East Dulwich
London Wildlife Trust - Email email@example.com
Take your bike or go by foot. Start at Sprinfield Park (N15) and have a slap up breakfast at the cafe by the Rowing club. Afterwards walk down the River Lea. There are many things that will satisfy those yearning for a slice of country.
Anyone fit enough can walk all the way down to the River Thames or chip off into town along Grand Union Canal.
Look out for the rare breed cows.
The Lea Vally
A genuinely unique experiment, this Site of Special Scientific Interest features 40 hectares of created wetland in the midst of the city, and should not be missed for its beauty and for the diversity of the plants and animals that thrive there.
From Hammersmith tube a 'Duck Bus' (number 283) will take you to the Centre in ten minutes; www.wwt.org.uk
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