Londonâs best local parks
Victoria Park, E9
Victoria Park, E9No territory better exemplifies the tension between east and west London than Vicky Park. It sprang to life as a Royal Park but became municipal in 1887; it’s rougher around the edges than its western counterparts and thus a great expanse to kick back and let nature revitalise you.Getting in
6/10Mile End tube is a good 15-minute walk away so buses are your best transport bet (Hackney Wick rail is also near). Cycle paths and the huge 86 hectares the park covers make for great bike rides. History
10/10The park was opened following a petition to Queen Victoria signed by 30,000 East Enders – and at the request of the professional classes, who wanted a barrier to airborne diseases heading west from the overcrowded east.
Designed by John Nash protégé James Pennethorne, the park became a magnet for public speakers and political rabble-rousers; the protest spirit continued into the ’70s, when a 100,000-strong Rock Against Racism march ended there with a concert by The Clash. Even before it officially opened in 1845, Victoria Park was a hugely popular recreation spot. Victorians were especially keen on the bathing pond, though Hazel Conway, in ‘People’s Parks’, says that rope-skipping was forbidden.
In World War II Vicky Park was used as a POW camp and anti-aircraft ground. The 1943 Bethnal Green tube disaster, when 173 people died in a crush to get underground, has been blamed on a panic set off by explosions from rocket testing in the park. The MoD denies this.
Vicky Park is wonderful for youngsters: the V&A Playground is equipped with swings etc, and the fantastically designed Pools Playground features undulating paddling pools, quirky sculptures and rock formations that encourage creative play. Wildlife includes a deer enclosure, moorhens, grey and Canada geese, squirrels and fish. Footballers and cricketers are served by several pitches; there are also tennis courts, cricket nets and a bowling green. There is even a skate park with a quarter pipe and grind rail. A tranquil landscaped garden is popular with senior citizens and anyone after a quiet spot. By the lake is The Pavilion Café (www.the-pavilion-cafe.com) serving tasty, locally sourced food from breakfast to tea-time.
Since 2007 the park has hosted the Underage Festival and Field Day; other recent concerts have included the Lovebox festival and Radiohead. And every November park-goers in their thousands are treated to a wildly ambitious theatrical fireworks display which is laid on by Tower Hamlets Council.
On a smaller scale, the One O’Clock Club runs in termtime for parents and under-fours (020 8986 6150), while Pushy Mothers exercise classes take place on Tuesdays (www.pushymothers.com). Victoria Park Harriers & Tower Hamlets Athletic Club is open to all (www.vphthac.org.uk).
Two alcoves from the parapet of Old London Bridge, brought here circa 1860, provide pleasant spots for shade. The Hackney Wick War Memorial obelisk is nearby. The ornate Burdett Coutts Memorial Drinking Fountain and the decrepit, menacing looking Dogs of Alcibiades statues are also noteworthy. Natasha Polyviou
Victoria Park, Grove Rd, E3 (020 8985 1957). Mile End tube then 277, D6 bus. Open daily 6am-dusk.
Clissold | Springfield | Battersea | Ravenscourt | Gladstone | Brockwell Finsbury | Victoria
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Two alcoves from the parapet of Old London Bridge, brought here circa 1860, provide pleasant spots for shade. The Hackney Wick War Memorial obelisk is nearby. The ornate Burdett Coutts Memorial Drinking Fountain and the decrepit, menacing looking Dogs of Alcibiades statues are also noteworthy. Clissold | Springfield | Battersea | Ravenscourt | Gladstone | Brockwell Finsbury | Victoria