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Nine extraordinary neighbourhoods for Londoners who love the outdoors

By
Luke Abrahams
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You may have seen a few months back that we got behind this really cool campaign to name London the world's first National Park City. Forty-seven percent of our humble abode is actually green space, which makes us pretty lucky compared to other major world capitals.

Shaped by rolling hills, valleys and a few famous rivers, London is a glorious urban sanctuary that's home to 8.3 million trees, 13,000 species of wildlife, 3,000 parks, 1000km of signed footpaths, 30,000 allotments, two National Nature Reserves, 300 farms and a colossal 3.8 million gardens – with those figures it should SO have National Park status, right? 

If you fancy seeing it for yourself, here are eight neighbourhoods and boroughs for Londoners who just can't get enough of the good old outdoors.

1. Hampstead Heath and Hampstead Woods

 

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Eight hundred acres of enchanting elvish greenery, winding pathways and hilly walking trails make Hampstead Heath one of London's most extraordinary natural gems. Home to 15 species of dragonfly and at least seven different types of bats, it was the Heath's unusual inhabitants and magical landscapes that inspired legendary author CS Lewis to write 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'. 

2. The Oxleas Woods (Shooter's Hill)

The Oxleas Woods are old, so old in fact that some parts of it date back to the end of the last Ice Age – that's a whopping 100,000 years ago! Covering 72 lush hectares of Eltham, south-east London, it's the dreamiest place in town to go on an autumn hike through 'Sleepy Hollow'-like woods of silver birch, hornbeam and ancient coppice hazel trees.  

3. Bloomsbury (Camden)

Bloomsbury is easily one of London's most walkable neighbourhoods and has a square to suit all outdoorsy types. There's Brunswick and Russell Square for the sporty folk, Gordon Square for the book boffins, Tavistock Square (pictured) for the spiritualists, Bedford Square for the historians and Coram Fields for the Pokémon hunters - yes, 'Pokémon Go!' is still a thing.

4. Richmond upon Thames

 

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Unbelievably, Richmond is the only borough in London where residents live on both sides of the river - mind-blowing right? In total, there's over 500 acres of parks, sports grounds, greens and nature conservation sites to frolic in. The biggest pull to the area is Richmond Park, one of the two National Nature Reserves you'll find right here in the capital. Over the centuries, 630 free roaming deer, woody woodpeckers, rabbits, parakeets, snakes and numerous old as hell trees have made this enchanting and famously misty wilderness their home.

5. Kew

 

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Kew is the definition of paradisal suburbia. It's pretty, it's eccentric, it's well-to-do and it's got an on-fleek green scene for days. Littered with picket fenced squares, playing fields, allotments and pristine lawns, the star of the show is ultimately the iconic and UNESCO-listed 250+ year-old botanic gardens. 

6. Hackney

 

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Believe it or not, Hackney actually has the largest expanse of green spaces in inner London. There are 58 parks here totalling well over 300 acres. Footie freaks will find the largest concentration of football pitches in Europe at Hackney Marshes.

7. Tower Hamlets

 

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From nature reserves to walking trails, Tower Hamlets harbours the most diverse parks and open spaces in town. Get lost in urban jungles, reservoirs and nature reserves, party hard in Victoria Park and visit the beautifully eerie Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park (pictured), one of London's 'Magnificent Seven' (and probably most haunted) Victorian cemeteries. 

8. Haringey

 

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Haringey: a place synonymous with leafy phwoar-ness. It stretches through East Finchley, Highgate Village, Muswell Hill and Crouch End, so grab your walking boots and fill those lungs with a dose of country air in the mystical Queen's Wood. The wood is one of the four ancient hornbeam woodlands in London and is thought to be the direct descendants of the original 'wildwood', a once vast forest, which covered the bulk of Britain about five thousand years ago.

9. Dulwich (Southwark)

 

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A grand old neighbourhood, Dulwich is a sanctum of picture-perfect squares, greens and gardens. Most Londoners come here to spend a few hours in the bewitching and very fancy Dulwich Park. Covering 29 hectares of viridescent epicness, it's crammed full of magical follies, fields of kaleidoscopic wildflowers, prehistoric trees and a few romantic-as-hell picnic spots. 

For more leisurely strolls, check out these autumn park (and pub) walks.

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