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
This south London park, its landscaped gardens formerly part of the Kelsey Estate, has been kept secret by the locals for the past 99 years. It has been our family favourite since Grandma pushed Mum around in her pram before the Second World War. When I was a little girl, Mum and I fed the ducks together every Sunday. As Kelsey Park heads towards its centenary, and since I have no daughter of my own to pass it on to, the time has come to share Beckenham's hidden treasure with the rest of the world. I hope Grandma isn't turning in her grave.
"... Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as ... Parklife!" Blur, 1994
The "Lungs of London": take a break from the city buzz and head up to Hampstead Heath. To breathe in wide, open and green views, start from the wonderful lido at Gospel Oak; trot up Parliament Hill to marvel at the city stretching out from east to west below; continue round the fields and woods to Kenwood House and enjoy a well-earned break on their outside cafe terrace; play spot the bird or spot the dog as you jog gently back down (approx three miles round route). To add to your fitness experience and commune further with nature, stop off at one of the swimming ponds (one each for men and women on the east Highgate side, and one mixed pond near Hampstead entrance) or finish off with a few lengths of the lido! To enjoy all four pools, enter the Hampstead Heath duathlon in early September, running between swims in all the pools, starting at the lido and finishing at the athletics track.
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath for a trails map and details of events like the duathlon. Can be easily reached from Gospel Oak or Hampstead Heath overground stations or C2 bus from Oxford Circus or 214 from the City/St Pancras, stopping at Parliament Fields.
Us south Londoners have the most amazing free sports venue, here on Blackheath and adjacent Greenwich Park. Whatever your age, you can play and run your way across one of London’s biggest green spaces soaked in two thousand years of history.
Arriving at Blackheath Station walk up through Blackheath Village onto the heath proper. On the very place where thousands gathered for the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 you can play football, hockey, rugby, football, cricket, lacrosse, athletics, baseball and American football. It is also ideal and popular all year round for kite flying.
Walk across the heath past the start of the annual London Marathon to the gates of Greenwich Park where children can take a donkey ride. Then cross the A2 along which for centuries pilgrims rode and walked to Canterbury.
Through the gates and into the park where you can play cricket on a pitch in the shadow of the Georgian Ranger’s House, filled with mediaeval and renaissance art and old Dutch Masters; or play tennis on a court split by the nought degrees Meridian Line; walk toward the Royal Observatory and the statue of General Wolfe, winner of Canada for the British, pockmarked with Luftwaffe bullets and then take in the magnificent view that takes in the masts of the Cutty Sark and Canary Wharf.
Walk, run, jog, play with frisbees and cycle all for free in these grounds - horseback-ridden by Henry VIII and Elizabeth 1 - past the remains of a Roman temple, past a deer park, flower garden, bandstand and magnificent trees.
But if you want to be organised by someone else you can take part in sessions for military fitness, weight training and running for mixed groups and mums only. And if you’re worn out by all this you can take children and watch them making some effort on the children’s boating pond in the shadow of the Maritime Museum.
Blackheath Railway Station, Tranquil Vale, Blackheath, London, SE3 9LE
Buses: 53, 54, 89, 108, 202, 380, 386
Other stations around Greenwich Park: Network Rail, Maze Hill: DLR, Cutty Sark
Sports on Blackheath
For all field sports contact GreenScene, London Borough of Lewisham
Tel: 020 8314 2047 firstname.lastname@example.org
Kite-flying is free and can take place all year round.
Donkey rides are temporarily-suspended due to bereavement but will resume in October 2012.
Sports in Greenwich Park
Small putting green at Greenwich Tennis Centre, north of Ranger’s Field
(0)20 8293 0276 www.playzennis.co.uk
One cricket square on Ranger’s Field near Blackheath Gate available to book Tuesday-Thursday and weekends during park opening hours, 1May-30 September. Pavilion with changing rooms and showers.
Tel: 020 8858 2608
South end of the park close to the Blackheath Gate.
Call 20 8858 2608 for details of pitch hire times and prices.
Military/Keep Fit Training/Running
British Military Fitness
020 7751 9742
Contact for prices
Go Commando Personal Training
£20 per 3 hour session
Serpentine Running Club
07970 896440 out of office hours
Michelle - 07956 234309
Rebecca - 07967 793957
Email - email@example.com.
Pedal and rowing boats, open from Easter til October, weather permitting.
Google map: bit.ly/Onf2YV
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.
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
You might think there's nothing more to Lucas Gardens than an elegant, Zen-like, ornamental garden and a few straggly weeds. However, venture into the Victorian park, past the strategically-arranged boulders and you'll discover that Lucas Gardens stretches back as far as the eye can see. It contains vast areas of grassland, where locals spread out and sunbathe, kick a football about or have a picnic, and finishes up in an elaborate children's playground. All that's missing is a ping pong table, so come on Boris, where are you with your Wiff-Waff project?!
Peckham Road, Camberwell, SE5
Buses: 12, 36, 171, 436 to Southwark Town Hall
Google map: bit.ly/nLjSgd
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
Situated on the edge of Peckham Rye Park and right in the middle of Peckham Rye Common, this cafe is a fantastic place for a bite to eat, an ice cream or a sit down in the shade. Gone are the days of stale, curled up sandwiches and lukewarm coffee, now there are pitta, ciabatta, all-day breakfast butties, Rye burgers and tasty wraps. The ice cream comes from Jude's in Hampshire and I tried a divine blackcurrant crush sorbet. Very refreshing.
Strakers Road, Peckham Rye Common, London, SE15 3UA
+44(0)208 693 9431
Open Mon-Thur 09.00-17.30, Fri-Sun 09.00-18.00
A little slice of heaven in the middle of Hyde Park. The lido is part of the Serpentine - a whole 100 metres roped off in the lake itself, just for swimming, be it a leisurely paddle or energetic workout. You can spend the whole day here for £4 which has to be the capital's best bargain! The lake water is cool and refreshing on a hot summer day so much better than chlorine or salt water. There is a little area to bask in the sunshine, a cafe, changing rooms and even a paddling pool for kids, but the real star is the refreshing dark lake water. If you are lucky it will just be you and the ducks - bliss!
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.
A little gem of a gallery this sits in the heart of this leafy part of London, just on the edge of Dulwich Village. There is an entrance fee, but it’s worth it alone to see star exhibits by Rembrandt and Gainsborough plus a large range of 17th and 18th century old masters. The gallery was purpose built in 1811 to house a collection originally commissioned by the last King of Poland.
The gallery has a small but quite up-market café and there’s a very good nearby pub, the Crown and Greyhound.
Entrances are on Gallery Road and College Road.
Nearest Stations: West Dulwich and North Dulwich - the gallery is signposted.
The Little Angel Theatre is a marionette (or puppet) theatre. It's a little gem hidden away in Islington behind the bustle of Upper Street and Essex Road. It's a tiny building on Dagmar Passage.
The puppet masters are just that - masters of their art. I used to go with a friend and we were often the only adults there without children, but many shows have two levels of interpretation and you certainly don't have to be a child to enjoy them.
Before or after the show have a stroll along the New River Walk, running between Canonbury (The Marquess Estate) and the Angel. It's a lovely linear park based around the river that used to bring water to London from the country. It's beautifully peaceful, and there are ducks to watch (or feed) and benches to sit and contemplate. You could do a round walk down the park and back up Upper Street to Highbury and Islington tube and get the best of shops, cafe, theatre and park for a day's entertainment.
14 Dagmar Passage, off Cross Street, London N1 2DN
Highbury and Islington or Angel tube
020 7226 1787 (Box Office)
020 7359 8581 (Admin)
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.
If you are in London for the spring/summer or even autumn months, then be sure to check out the numerous Royal parks that dot the capital. Hyde Park - the city's largest, covers a vast area from Marble Arch to South Kensington and adjoins with other parks in the city. Explore the Princess Diana memorial or row a boat on the Serpentine.
My other recommendation would be Green Park, it has a better location right next to Buckingham Palace. Deck chairs are available to rent (£2 for 4 hours) and many food shops nearby mean that you won't go hungry. Great for running or relaxing - take advantage of London's green parks.
When in London, a visit to Greenwich is a must. See the Observatory and take a walk at Greenwich Park, and visit the National Maritime Museum that has free admission daily 10.00 am to 17.00 pm.
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