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Ten great local parks in London

Your tiny terrace not cutting it this summer? Head to your local public lawn instead

 Their Royal cousins are great, but sometimes you can't beat an afternoon amid the scruffier splendour of one of London's laid-back local parks. Find your nearest below.
CHECK THIS OUT: London's major parks

Clissold Park, N16

Barbecues allowed? No

Opens 7.30am

Closes Dusk

Transport Canonbury overground, Stoke Newington rail

What’s it like? Calm, lush, spacious and diverse in its population; young families, canoodling couples and football lads are among the regulars, but rarely does it feel like anyone one group’s about to take over.

Main recreational activities? Depending on which side of 30 you are, there’s the charming, recently restored Grade II listed Clissold House to admire (from the outside only, unless you’re getting married in it), or a decent-sized skatepark and open-air table tennis area.

What’s new? Along with the aforementioned improvements to Clissold House and the skatepark, 2012’s Lottery-funded refurbishment also brought several new kid-centric attractions to the park. Look out for new animal enclosures to the park’s small farm, a butterfly dome, a large play area, five-a-side football facilities and more.

Any weird ones? The guy who floats around offering £5 foot massages to groups of sunbathers can be either an irritant or harmlessly hilarious, depending on how much cider you’ve had.

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Springfield Park, E5

Barbecues allowed? No

Opens 7.30am

Closes 9.30pm in summer, 4.30pm in winter

Transport Stamford Hill or Clapton rail or Clapton overground

What's it like?  London’s most beautiful, untouched local park. A fountain, a graceful slope, a playground, tennis courts, a bowling green, a cricket pitch and a bit of tangled shrubbery for the kids to get lost in. There’s an upscale fresh-juice-and-homemade-cake sort of café at the top, and a great greasy spoon by the river at the bottom.

What's new? Very little changes in this part of the world, which is just how we like it.

Main recreational activities? Pottering, picnicking, sunbathing, non-strenuous sports. The slope is great for sledging in the winter, or the rolling of cheese and/or children in the summer.

Any weird ones? On hot weekends, the stretch of river at the bottom of the park is a noisy jostle of boats of all shapes and sizes, from Victorian narrow barges to inflatable dinghies. The bridge across to the marshes makes for a great lookout post from which to watch the fun.

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Upper Clapton
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Burgess Park, SE5

Barbecues allowed? Yes, in the designated area (see the map below)

Opens 7.30am

Closes Dusk

Transport Elephant and Castle tube

What’s it like? A long-thin stretch of green hills, hidden playgrounds and swan-inhabited lakes nestled among the grey estates of Walworth Road. The park’s nearly completed a £6 million makeover, so the 113 acres are currently looking mighty smart and luscious.

What’s new? A ‘national-sized’ BMX track is due to open by the end of July, if adrenaline sports are your bag. A stroll across the new wooden bridge over the lake (which now has impressive 30ft fountains) is a more tranquil alternative.

Main recreational activities? There are sports aplenty here – tennis courts, cricket lawns and football pitches, plus a signposted 5k running route and fishing in the lake. The massive adventure playground is a hyper kid’s dream, and there’s even a gokarting track for under-16s (currently closed for refurbishment).

Any weird ones? Only the geese, who seem to quietly threaten to scare joggers into falling in the lake…

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Crystal Palace Park, SE20

Barbecues allowed? No

Opens 7.30am

Closes Dusk

Transport Crystal Palace overground

What's it like? Vast, grassy and very hilly – climb high enough and you'll be treated to a fantastic view of the London skyline. It's got stacks of sporting history, too, having hosted the FA Cup final (21 times!) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

What's new? Not much, really, although the recent-ish refurbishment Crystal Palace train station (which sits on the park's southern edge) and its connection to the London overground network now means the park's accessible from pretty much anywhere in the city. 

Main recreational activities? Just about everything you'd expect from a 78 hectare patch of grass in zone four, plus a few things you absolutely wouldn't. It's home to London's biggest maze, for a start, as well as a collection of hundred year-old, life-size dinosaur sculptures and a racetrack for remote-control cars.

Any weird ones? Nothing crazy during the summer, but come the snowy season, look out for bobble-hatted nutters using the park's gentle slopes for ski practice.

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Crystal Palace
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Victoria Park, E9

Barbecues allowed? Currently they're not, although Tower Hamlets council are considering designating an area

Opens 7am

Closes Dusk

Transport Hackney Wick overground, London Fields or Cambridge Heath rail

What's it like? A hell of a lot less stabby than it used to be, mainly thanks to £12 million worth of pre-Olympics sexification. A bit of a joggers’ and commuter cyclists’ paradise during the week, but 86 hectares of space mean you’re generally free to take a sunny snooze without fear of being mown down.

What's new? The Chinese pagoda that popped up last spring in the middle of the East Lake is still looking grand – stroll over the newly built bridge for a side of serenity with your sarnie.

Main recreational activities? Of a weekend afternoon, the majority will be walking off monster brunches from the park’s own Pavilion Café or nearby Broadway Market. More determined calorie-shedders head for the football pitches, cricket nets and tennis courts. You’ll also spot people slack-lining (the less hardcore version of tight-rope walking), practising tai chi and pulling gnarly tricks at the skatepark.

Any weird ones? Probably worth steering clear of the place whenever there's a festival on (unless you've got tickets, obviously).

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South Hackney

London Fields, E8

Barbecues allowed? Yes, in designated areas (see outline on map below)

Open 24 hours

Transport London Fields rail

What's it like? A modest green scrap interspersed with pollarded trees, dog walkers and the odd sports fanatic. Until the sun comes out, that is, when  hundreds of semi-naked ‘free spirits’ cover every inch of the south-western barbecue field with tin box fires and sausages. It’s like Woodstock, but with more meat, man.

What's new? A huge wildflower meadow. Currently a fenced off mud square which looks like an army field latrine, but come late summer it'll look aMAzing. 

Main recreational activities? Drinking pink wine and eating kebabs. Swimming at the heated lido. Cricket pitch and basketball nets. And there are three kids’ playgrounds with climbing frames – on which superfit adults occasionally do scary hard-ab sit-ups. 

Any weird ones? The guy who comes and practises his whip-cracking skills every Saturday morning.

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South Hackney

Lloyd Park, E17

Barbecues allowed? No

Opens 7am Monday-Saturday, 9am Sunday

Closes 5pm January, 6pm February, 8.30pm March, 10pm April-August, 8.30pm September-October, 5pm November-December

Transport Walthamstow Central tube/rail, 123 bus

What's it like? Lloyd Park has recently reopened following a big development, linked to the William Morris Gallery refurbishment, with new landscaped gardens inspired by his designs. The park contains an eighteenth-century moat, and outdoor gym, a new skate park, table tennis tables, excellent children’s play areas with a sandpit and fountain and a community café. Beyond these grounds are large fields containing dog walkers, joggers and sporting activities… 

What's new? Most of it, as it’s been recently  redeveloped. There are also free courses taking place regularly, from aerobics to den-building to birdwatching. Den-building!

Main recreational activities? Running, dog-walking, picnicking, doing sport and family stuff: it’s a real community park.

Any weird ones? It’s always amusing to watch the gym bunnies who think they are on muscle beach.

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Holland Park, W8

Barbecues allowed? No

Opens 7.30am

Closes 30 minutes before dusk

Transport Holland Park or High Street Kensington tube

What’s it like? Undeniably your upper-class park. Minutes away from all the rather imposing houses of Notting Hill, it’s a striking mix of the practical and the beautifully landscaped: carefully tended lawns, sheltered pathways and Japanese gardens sit alongside busy playing fields and overgrown woodland, but there isn’t an alcohol soaked barbecue in sight. 

What’s new? Opera. The annual Opera Holland Park festival season, showing works from the likes of Puccini, Donizetti and Bizet, happens every June, July and August. Staged on the old ruins of Holland House, and covered by only a canopy, the opera isn’t that expensive (£12-£70) and you can book a picnic. 

Main recreational activities?
Dog-walking, peacock-spotting, playing in the children’s park, football, lounging in the sun, walking through the shady foresty bits and generally soaking up the posh garden culture. 

Any weird ones? Gucci sunglasses-wearing dog owners who bray loudly on their phone throughout their saunter with Fido, which they believe equates to an hour in the gym.

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Holland Park

Ravenscourt Park, W6

Barbecues allowed? No

Opens 7.30am

Closes Dusk

Transport Chiswick Park or Turnham Green tube

What’s it like? A mecca for yummy mummies from nearby Chiswick and Hammersmith, Ravenscourt Park is home to not one but four children’s play areas, a pretty little lake, a bowling green, tennis courts, a modest paddling pool, a secret garden and a cute little café dispensing obscene cakes by Fait Maison. 

What’s new? Outdoor film screenings are scheduled for summer 2013. Those willing to take their chances with the elements can take their pick from films including 'Top Gun', 'Terminator', 'Fight Club' and 'Moulin Rouge'. 

Main recreational activities? There’s fierce competition along the pathways as joggers desperately try to avoid designer dogs, posh prams and the occasional top-off, Stella-wielding wasteman. Tennis, football and bowls players are also provided for. 

Any weird ones? Don’t be perturbed by a strapping, ruddy-faced giant roaming the park. Chances are it’ll be local resident Matthew Pinsent.

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Ravenscourt Park
Acton Green Common, W4

Acton Green Common, W4

Barbecues allowed? No

Open 24 hours

Transport Chiswick Park or Turnham Green tube

What’s it like? Containing more Bugaboos than a Destiny’s Child reunion, Acton Green Common is green and pleasant little strip of greenery outside of Turnham Green station. Reputedly the spot for a battle between Royalists and Republicans during the English Civil War, you’re unlikely to see anything kicking off here these days – unless there’s a spot of pram rage.

What’s new? Very little. Change in Chiswick seems to move at a slower pace than elsewhere in the capital. 

Main recreational activities Toddlers on scooters love the pathways, while a children’s playground thankfully keeps the majority of little ’uns behind bars. Twenty- and thirty-something couples and groups of teenagers tend to settle for the old favourite of drinking tinnies or a bottle of vino from the local offy. There’s also a five-a-side football centre on the adjoining Chiswick Common. 

Any weird ones? At dawn, when most sensible people are still tucked up in their beds, a drill sergeant yells instructions at compliant locals as part of the regular boot camp classes.

See local parks in north London


Tina Gray
Tina Gray

Burgess Park now has built-in barbecues, just bring your charcoal briquettes & firelighters & lighter/matches. There are special barbecue-bins to empty previous ashes into & the next person using the same grill as you does the same with the ashes you leave behind (once they have died out and gone cold). Its a good idea to bring a packet of kitchen-wipes to give the grill shelf a quick wipe over before use. Saves buying disposable-use-once-portable-barbecue-trays. I suggest buying a large bag of charcoal beforehand & just take along as much as you will need, this will save you a lot of money in the long run. I haven't visited Burgess Park since its revamp but friends have told me about the barbecue area & say it seems a great idea & addition which is bringing more visitors to the park. I'm not sure on the park policy regarding music but apparently people are taking along music players & everyone gets into the " carnival mood ", this might be the thing to take-over the annual Southwark Carnival in Southwark Park which has been gradually squeezed out over the past 4-5years (great shame as this event was the highlight of the summer calender...still, Burgess Park is the new place to be in Southwark.