Half of London is green space. Which is why it deserves to be the world’s first National Park City. As the campaign gets under way, our bloggers reveal their favourite verdant spots around town.
A fairytale setting
Samantha Baines: ‘Walking through Epping Forest, looking out over Eagle Pond as sunlight catches the water and the trees sway in the breeze/cold British wind, you can catch a glimpse of majestic Snaresbrook Crown Court. With this as your setting you might feel like you are in a Disney movie and your fairy godmother will appear any minute to give you those shoes you spotted online. It’s a perfect place to sit and think, but beware the sarky swans.’ Follow her on twitter @samanthabaines.
An aristocratic garden
Miss Rosie: ‘My absolute favourite hidden gem is the garden just behind Leighton House Museum in Holland Park. The tiny museum itself is full of stunning treasures, but if you wander down the side of the building, an iron archway lets you into Lord Leighton’s garden, complete with seating and statues, beautifully kept and absolutely free for the public to use.’ Miss Rosie blogs as Damzel in this Dress. Follow her on twitter @damzlinthisdres.
A historic bridleway
Jude Brosnan: ‘This path that runs through the south side of Hyde Park was a popular place to promenade in Victorian times. Rotton Row is now divided for cyclists and pedestrians to use, and the Household Cavalry exercise their horses on the adjacent sanded bridleway. On some mornings you get a musical accompaniment when the mounted band practises.’ Follow her on twitter @JudeBrosnan.
A charming graveyard haunt
Katie Wignall: ‘An underrated east London gem, Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is London’s most urban woodland. It might not boast the A-list clientele of Highgate but it’s still a charming mess of sprawling foliage and impressive, haphazard monuments.’ Follow her on twitter @Look_UpLondon.
A gloriously mad park
Chris Heasman: ‘Tottenham’s Lordship Recreation Ground is a nexus of absurdity trapped in a largely ordinary part of town. It’s got its theatre, it’s got its BMX tracks, it’s even blessed with the near-perpetual presence of a steel band in summer and some sort of weird model traffic area thing that no one seems to know what to do with. It’s as mad as a park can get. And if the ducks would just quieten the hell down, it’d be nigh-on perfect.’ Follow him on twitter @nightawaytravel.
A bit of serenity in the City
Stacy Sobieski: ‘Though perhaps not the most snappily named of places, this little churchyard is an unexpected slice of serenity just a few paces from Liverpool Street station. St Botolph without Bishopsgate Garden is a lovely little green space where City types and tourists alike can scoff their lunches in peace. I often head there in the evenings for a bit of Zen time before hitting up the neighbouring Victorian Bath House for a cheeky cocktail.’ Follow her on twitter @Adventure_Stacy.
A green lifeline
Alex Foch: ‘I often want to escape the city but have difficulty tolerating the M4 traffic jams, the smell of fresh manure and the alarming friendliness of the locals. Since stumbling upon Parkland Walk – a 7km green artery connecting Ally Pally to Finsbury Park – I can think of no better place to while away a Sunday afternoon. As I lie back on the graffiti-covered platforms of the disused railway line, everything is at peace. Neither the area’s legendary “Goat Man” nor its impish spriggan sculpture can disturb me.’
A romantic Edwardian ruin
Emily Steer: ‘I first visited this dreamy spot on a non-romantic adventure with work one summer, and promptly whisked my boyfriend along the following weekend. The Pergola and Hill Garden in Hampstead Heath is romantic as hell. There’s a long, raised walkway that’s dripping with plant life and it makes you feel more like you’re in Italy than north London.’ Follow her on twitter @EmilySteerAW.
A south London oasis
Christopher Sharpe: ‘When London life gets a bit too much, I like to retreat to the pastoral paradise of Morden Hall Park. After moseying by the working watermill at Merton Abbey Mills, tiptoeing through the reeds of the wetlands and crossing a scenic bridge over the River Wandle, you’ll finally reach the park’s green inner sanctum. Bring a picnic and settle down in a spot near the white ironwork bridge opposite the grand hall. Or simply relax in the rose garden. An oasis in Morden – who’d have thought it?’ Follow him on twitter @makenewtracks.
A history-filled lunch spot
Flora Tonking: ‘You can only find the St Bartholomew the Great churchyard by ducking through an old stone archway or wiggling along tiny backstreets, but this secret spot is my favourite green space for a lunch break in the summer. From a bench in the churchyard you can also check out 41-42 Cloth Fair, reportedly the oldest house in the City of London, which survived the Great Fire of 1666.’ Follow her on twitter @floratonking.
A gardening hub
Emily Gibson: ‘You can find Dalston Eastern Curve Garden tucked away opposite Dalston Junction station. Green-fingered types can get down and dirty with the flowerbeds during Saturday volunteer gardening sessions, while everyone else can kick back in the verdant surroundings with a homemade cake and/or glass of wine from the café.’ Follow her on twitter @CuriouslyEmily.
A tranquil spot that may soon disappear
James FitzGerald: ‘It’s sandwiched between a former hospital, the railway lines at Euston and the frenetic motorbike speedway that is Hampstead Road, but St James Gardens is a surprisingly tranquil little spot. An old burial site, it has a lot of history that stands to be lost if HS2 goes ahead – that would be such a pity for us locals who need a green oasis now and then.’ Follow him on twitter @jamesfitz789.
A green gem by Brick Lane
Alex Jones: ‘This is an under-appreciated gem of a green space between Liverpool Street and Bethnal Green. It offers a welcome respite from Brick Lane and its surrounding hotspots in the summer. Allen Gardens gets the sun till late in the evening, so you can watch it go down over the glittering glass jungle of the City. Expect colourful characters and make sure you explore the world-class graffiti peppered around the fringes of the park.’ Follow him on @thepubraider.
A Bloomsbury hideout
Luke Abrahams: After a long day, I chill with a coffee from Half Cup in St George’s Gardens. It’s one of the lesser-known Bloomsbury gardens and is a secret 300-year-old hideout for us locals. The place is actually a graveyard, the first in London to be built away from its church, but don’t let that put you off. It’s really beautiful, full of wildflowers and winding pathways. It’s also blissfully quiet.’ Follow him on twitter @travellerluke.
JOIN THE CAMPAIGN: When you think of London, do you think of traffic, tower blocks and air pollution? Or parks, commons, farms, gardens, nature reserves, rivers, streams and reservoirs? Believe it or not, 47 percent of the capital is green space, and itís home to 8.3 million trees and 13,000 species of wildlife. Now a campaign has been launched to make London the world ís first National Park City, to help conserve and raise awareness about everything we have here. Sadiq Khan has got behind it. So have we. Show your support at www.nationalparkcity.london.