It's a great family day out which happens over Easter weekend. The trails are all over the country and Ham House is so easy to get to and makes for some really stunning photographs.
The entertainment works for the whole family with loads of activities, interesting areas to explore and lots of great play areas. Kids can enjoy face painting too!
This atmospheric graveyard in north London is full of architectural gems, and it paints a fascinating portrait of Victorian times. If you take the tour of the West Cemetery (book in advance), your guide will reveal intriguing stories behind the lives and deaths of the eminent and ordinary Victorians who are buried here.
Enchanting paths wind through woodland, amid ivy-clad angels and jumbled headstones, leading to the Lebanon Circle Vaults, where you'll find a 300-year-old Cedar of Lebanon tree. Other highlights are the Egyptian Avenue, the Terrace Catacombs, and the enormous Julius Beer Mausoleum. At 1000ft above sea level, this stately home of a mausoleum has a commanding position gazing down over London, and cost the equivalent of £3 million today.
In the East Cemetery you can wander at will, and it is here where you will find the tomb of the most famous Highgate inhabitant, Karl Marx.
Swain's Lane, London N6 6PJ
+44(0)20 8340 1834
Nearest tube: Archway
Google map: bit.ly/e24iLF
The Phoenix is a great pub for a quiet drink, a hangover breakfast at weekends or a full-blown meal. The pub is so named because it rose from the ashes of the fire which gutted Denmark Hill railway station. I particularly like the gigantic Potters & Sons clock which dangles from the high beamed ceiling and the chunky leather sofas you can sink into and snooze. The pub quiz on Tuesday evenings is a good laugh, even better if you win the pot.
The Cambria is one of the best pubs in south London. Located on a quiet back street, it would be easy to miss on a bus ride from Brixton to Camberwell, but it's well worth making a short detour for the fabulous food, live music and magnificent chandeliers.
40 Kemerton Road, Camberwell, London SE5 9AR
+44(0)207 737 3676
Google map: bit.ly/e4L1s8
Getting there: overground rail to Loughborough Junction or Denmark Hill, buses 35, 45, 345
In my humble opinion, Franco Manca serves the best pizza in London. Situated in a modest venue, on two sides of a corridor through Brixton's covered market - and next to the fragrant fish stall - Franco's (as it used to be called when I first became a regular in the late 1980s) offers six pizzas, for extremely reasonable prices - even the most expensive costs less than £6. The newer name Franco's Missing, is a reference to the previous owner.
The sourdough base is prepared 20 hours ahead of baking and then fired in the 260°C oven for 40 seconds so everything is fresh, crisp and piping hot.
The only drawback is it's open when the market is, so not in the evening. A huge queue forms on Saturday lunchtime, snaking right out of the building and into the market, however the staff are pretty efficient so you shouldn't have to wait too long.
Nunhead Cemetery is one of the best places for a stroll in southeast London.
It's one of the least known, but most attractive, of the great Victorian cemeteries of London. Consecrated in 1840, it is one of the seven Victorian cemeteries established in a ring around the outskirts of London.
Some parts of the cemetery have been renovated in recent years, and the paths are well-maintained and the ruined yet elegant Anglican chapel sensitively preserved. However, there are also wild parts, with overgrown secret trails, romantic areas, spooky tombstones, beautiful trees, abundant wildlife and crumbling Gothic architecture to discover. It's a lovely place for a Sunday stroll and photo opportunities abound.
The Brockley Footpath, leading between the walled border of the cemetery and the covered reservoirs, is a strenuous workout, leading steeply uphill, but I wouldn't undertake it at night.
Nunhead Cemetery North Gate
Linden Grove, SE15 3LP
Google map: bit.ly/gfDp1e
Nearest overground railway station: Nunhead
Petitou is a little French cafe/bistro with a huge green terrace on Choumert Road.
Choumert Road seems almost totally French: at the corner with arty Bellenden Road there's a French bistro and towards Peckham's Rye Lane there's the great Montpelier pub, recently refurbished and serving scrumptious organic Sunday lunch roasts. Even the name suggests a Gallic cabbage, and the street market at the Peckham end is a good place to pick up fruit and veg. The menu at Petitou is wholesome: salads, quiches and fresh juices as well as cheesy Marmite crumpets. The terrace is shaded by trees and a lovely place to while away a morning. It's out of the way for public transport, but that's part of its charm.
63 Choumert Road,London SE15 4AR
+44(0)20 7639 2613
Google map: bit.ly/geAZA7
Open: Mon-Sat 9am-5.30pm, Sun 10am-5.30pm
Getting there: overground train to Peckham Rye
No.67 is a really great cafe, serving snacks, full meals, home made cakes, fresh lemonade, unusual beers, wines, you name it, in an arty setting. It's very, very hip but also very relaxed and friendly (these two are not exclusive, I suppose!) and a great place to chill out on the Peckham Road. The cafe takes up most of the ground floor of the uber cool South London Gallery and in warmer months, the terrace is a great place to sit and soak up the sun under the ancient 'tree of heaven'.
The lunch menu changes daily - today's offers included venison bresaola with rocket and parmesan, fish stew, celeriac soup or fennel marinated pork chop. I had a home made apple crumble tart (£3.75) - yum. The Spanglish breakfasts are legendary, but get there early at weekends as it's very popular.
South London Gallery, 67 Peckham Road
London SE5 8UH
+44(0)20 7252 7649
Google map: bit.ly/gC2LxH
Open Tue 10am-6.30pm, Wed 10am-9pm, Thurs-Sun 10am-6.30pm, closed on Mondays
Buses: 12, 36, 436, 345, 171 to Southampton Way
A project space that showcases the creative work of artists from Peckham and beyond.
Currently curated and managed by Sisters Burn, the gallery's programme includes exhibitions, live art, performance, events, lectures and workshops.
A recently opened gallery and cafe located almost opposite Camberwell Art College and a great place to chill out of a morning.
From the outside, along the vaguely grim Peckham Road, it looks a bit bleak and industrial inside but the welcome is really warm and there's free WiFi all day, cocktails, snacks and a licensed cafe and bar.
On Thursdays there are introductory food and drink offers, such as a buy one get one free 12" pizza, which can't be bad.
Conveniently close to the super cool South London Gallery and also supportive of The Sassoon Gallery (www.thesassoongallery.co.uk) NewGallery London is THE place to be seen on the Peckham Road.
While it feels a little odd to be recommending a visit to a cemetery, it’d be a shame to pass through Stoke Newington without experiencing the historic and very lovely Abney Park.
I enjoy wandering through and getting a bit lost in there once in a while, perhaps stopping for a quiet sit-down and a ponder on one of its old benches. It’s very peaceful considering it’s in an inner-city borough. When I’m deep inside, the whoosh of the Hackney traffic is almost completely masked by the tweeting of cheerful birds.
It’s overgrown and higgledy piggledy, with curious little pathways leading in between the ancient graves, some of which house beautiful stone statues. The park is a local nature reserve, and the eerily empty gothic-style chapel slap bang in the middle is now a Grade II listed building.
There are two entrances – the main one on Stoke Newington High Street and smaller gates on Stoke Newington Church Street. It's a lovely location to spend a quiet half an hour in London, and priceless on a sunny day.
The Bonnington Cafe is a homely, community-run, vegetarian restaurant in South London. The ex-squat cafe is tucked in a delightful square behind the heavy traffic of South Lambeth Road. If you find it, you will be treated to more of an experience than just a meal. Each night there is a different chef who gets to run the restaurant so the food varies. Prices are very cheap (three courses for £13) and the food is made fresh on the premises every day. Often there'll be local musicians who play in the evening to entertain you too. Overall a little gem of a place that maintains the hippy spirit of its beginnings.
This meat-free eatery in the heart of London is my current favourite for a face-scoffing session – and coming from a life vegetarian, that’s something.
What makes Tibits special is the fact it’s a buffet. This means the variety of dishes you can have on your plate is much wider than in your average restaurant. The food is incredibly fresh and colourful, making it hard not to overload. Curries, salads, stir fries, grains, pulses, seeds, steamed and fried vegetables, pasta, tofu and cheese are all present, but the abundance of choice doesn’t mean for a second that the quality is compromised. Since it’s all good, wholesome stuff, I usually decide that it’s OK to indulge myself a bit.
My plate piled high, I go to the till to have my dinner weighed and pick up my free bread roll. It usually comes to about £8. It’s the same procedure again with desserts – although my quirky dad likes to put his on the same plate as his main to save time (he doesn’t mind at all if his soya yoghurt runs into his lentil dahl).
The drinks are OK value considering you’re in the centre of town. I usually wash it all down with one of their posh herb teas.
Despite the buffet set-up, Tibits maintains the relaxed feel of a normal restaurant thanks to an attractive décor and unobtrusive lighting and music. It’s very spacious, and there are toys in the downstairs bit for the children.
The staff, mostly young and European, seem happy in their work and are helpful and smart.
Overall, Tibits is a relaxed and classy joint where you really will enjoy your food.
This is a truly brilliant little pub that almost fooled me into thinking I was sitting in my grandma's front room. Comfy seats, a warm fire and delicious ale (all from small, independent UK breweries) - what more could I need?
I arrived feeling delicate the afternoon after a big night out, and a couple of hours of its relaxed vibe and a few pints of yummy stuff sure did set me straight again, no problem.
Foodwise, I was most impressed to hear they offer a veggie scotch egg with a lentil batter instead of pork, as well as other meaty stuff.
This is the type of pub everyone wishes they had around the corner.
139 Highgate Road, London NW5 1LE
+44(0)20 7485 1511
Tube: Kentish Town or Tufnell Park (Northern line)
Google maps: tinyurl.com/4nnpsuv
A fascinating market which reflects the diversity of the local population.
A stroll down Atlantic Road and Electric Avenue in the centre of Brixton will take you past well established British fishmongers and more recently arrived Portuguese grocers. Further into the market are the stalls and shops stocking Caribbean staples, salt fish, plantains, green bananas and cassava. Butchers shops cater to many different communities, some are halal some sell pig's trotters and tails. Others sell Brazilian sausages or Columbian delicacies. In the last 12 months the Brixton Village project has seen the development of previously empty market units so that there are now new shops and stalls in the Granville Arcade, sitting alongside those selling dried fish from West Africa and a bewildering variety of yams. These ventures include small independent coffee shops and pizza restaurants, bakeries and an old fashioned sweet shop. Best of all there is always something new and especially on a Saturday you never know what you may find.
Abi Ruchi, a Keralan restaurant in Church Street in Stoke Newington, is great for a cheap, healthy meal and my number one takeaway option.
There are a number of mouthwatering dishes that I could talk about here. One that springs to mind is the kadala curry (£3.75) - chick peas cooked in probably the tastiest coconutty stuff I've ever eaten. Another of my favourites is the masala dosa (£4.95). I've had rather a few dosai in my time and can say confidently that the sambar Abi Ruchi serve with theirs is of a particularly high standard, with its succulent chunky vegetables and rich flavour.
For non-vegetarians there are loads of meat and fish options that I've heard are also of high quality. Oh, and I don't know what they do to their rice but it's mighty good.
To cap it all, I always receive the warmest of welcomes when I visit Abi Ruchi. The staff insist on giving me poppadoms and pickles while I wait for my takeaway and the waiters are very knowledgeable about all the dishes, which might be unusual to those not used to south Indian food.
42 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0LU
+44(0)20 7923 4564
The Diwana is my favourite Indian restaurant in London. There are three reasons: the first is the fond memories it evokes of childhood trips to London, which invariably featured a re-fuel here. The second is the quality of the food - speaking as a British Asian it is the only place in London I have found which rivals my grandmother's cooking (although in case she ever reads this, it still comes off second best). The third is the value for money. If you go at lunchtime, for roughly £8 plus a drink, you can enjoy the sumptuous vegetarian buffet. This features dahls to die for, delicious saags, soul-nourishing channa massalas, more salads than you could possibly wish for, home-made raitas, freshly baked naans, pooris and parathas, and a fantastic selection of deserts. The gulab jaman are especially good here. The menu is of the same high standard but for the full experience I would wholeheartedly recommend going at lunch. If you do, don't eat any breakfast, and don't make dinner plans. You will be too full and in too high a state of food nirvana to want to eat another bite for the rest of the day.
121 Drummond Street, London, NW1 2HL
+44(0)20 7387 5556
Google map: bit.ly/f9NPgj
It is not immediately obvious how to find it, but once you do, the new View Tube; café, classroom, fledgling art space and bike hire, located on the Greenway adjacent to the stadium offers something alternative. A structure made from recycled shipping containers, this low-key green building solution puts into focus the monumental building project just feet away in the Olympic Park.
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