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beautiful allotment

11 super secret summer spots to visit this weekend

Dodge the crowds and go off the beaten track at these under-the-radar summer spots

By Alexandra Sims
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Summer in London means alfresco boozing, swimming in the great outdoors and making the most of London's loveliest parks. But if the sunny weather means you've exhausted all your favourite parks, swimming spots and rooftop bars, it's time to look further afield.

We've got you covered with 11 under-the-radar spots to keep your summer going, including a wild swimming lake, a pimped allotment and N17’s answer to Vegas.

RECOMMENDED: London's best beer gardens

Anna Niburska

1. Kingstonian Ice Cream

Put down the Magnum and wend your way to Kingston for some of the best ice since Vanilla sampled Queen and Bowie. Family firm Kingstonian Ice Cream has been dishing out the cold stuff for more than 100 years. The father-and-son duo running the business make more than 100 flavours of ice cream and sorbet in their west London factory. Twice in a row, they’ve scooped the Ice Cream Alliance’s Best Chocolate Ice Cream accolade. Pick up a cone (and more) at one of their two ice-cream vans, which are usually found at Richmond Park and beside the Thames in Kingston at weekends.

2. One New Change

Restaurants St Paul’s

Move over, Frank’s Cafe. There’s another rooftop in town with peachy panoramas. Sitting above shiny City shopping centre One New Change, this one places you nose-to-nose with St Paul’s baroque Stone Gallery. It’s open from sunrise to sunset so there are plenty of opportunities to catch a swoonworthy, sun-soaked view of the city. Look out for alfresco yoga classes and free screenings over the summer. Or just pop up there with a can of Coke to take in the capital’s scenery.

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3. Barking Splash Park

There’s one surefire way to beat a sticky, city summer: get drenched. While our city-centre fountains are absolutely chocka, shoot over to Barking Splash Park for a watery adventure that Bon Jovi would be proud of. Sheets of water tumble across this pastel-coloured park, spurting from jets in the ground. Grab a slushy from the café and take a turn around the boating lake on a pedalo, if you want to splash out.

Barking Park. Barking Overground. £4, under-15s. £2, accompanying adult.

Lesley Henderson

4. Shepperton Open Water Swim

As sure as the Central line becomes a blistering furnace in summer, you can bet half of London will flock to Hampstead Heath’s swimming ponds once the mercury rises. Avoid the hour-long wait and go west to Shepperton Open Water Swim, a spot straight out of your wild-swimming dreams. This idyllic lake is surrounded by shade-giving greenery and there’s even a sandy beach. Open on selected mornings and evenings, it’s perfect for a brisk swim – and not a queue in sight.

Shepperton Open Water Swim. Shepperton rail. £5.

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Andy Parsons

5. Chumleigh Gardens

Find respite from the sun-seeking crowds in this secret space nestled in a quiet corner of Burgess Park. Grade II-listed Chumleigh Gardens is home to an eye-popping World Garden designed to reflect Southwark’s multicultural mix. Explore four themed areas: Oriental, Mediterranean, African and Caribbean, and Islamic, with planting that has been meticulously conceived so that exotic species can thrive in south London. Grab a seat beneath a palm tree by the aquamarine-tiled fountain and you’ll almost believe you’re in Marrakesh (especially if the heatwave comes back).

Burgess Park. Tube: Kennington. Free entry.

Eric Mouroux

6. Costa del Tottenham

News Nightlife

Can’t afford a foreign holiday this year? Not a problem. The
Costa del Tottenham has your back, with a ramshackle vibe and ‘Only Fools and Horses’ screenings. N17 warehouse venue The Cause has been kitted out with 15-foot palm trees, potted plants and an actual (albeit petite) swimming pool – and is all set for a summer of wild, sun-soaked shindigs. You’ll also find the city’s first BYO barbecue here: rock up with whatever carnivorous or veggie delight you fancy and the folks at Grow Tottenham will sling it on the grill for you and artfully char it up. Get ready for pool parties, alfresco DJ sets, live bands, cocktail masterclasses. As Del Boy might say, puscas puscas!

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David Tett

7. Duke of Edinburgh

Bars and pubs Brixton

It’s an age-old summer saga. As soon as the sun graces us with its presence, seats in beer gardens are harder to find than pints that cost less than a fiver. Enter the Duke of Edinburgh in Brixton. This fun-loving boozer boasts an immense garden, so enormous it packs in an outside bar and barbecue pit beside a sea of picnic tables. Fab food from White Men Can’t Jerk in the kitchen and a lip-smacking selection of beers on tap make for plenty of reasons to grab yourself a sunny spot here. 

8. Sunset Foodie Market

Soak up the sunset with fine booze and delicious street food at this laidback evening market. Set up by the people behind Beckenham Market and set in the magical grounds of Beckenham Place Park’s stunning Georgian mansion, which has recently been renovated as an arts, cultural and community centre by the people behind Copeland Park and the Bussey Building, Sunset Foodie Market has all the edge of its SE15 counterparts, but without the heaving crowds. Sample tasty plates from a hand-picked selection of street-food stalls  Once you’ve had your fill, throw some shapes to the DJs under atmospheric pink summer skies.

Beckenham Place Mansion. Beckenham Hill rail. Thursday evenings throughout the summer. Free entry.

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Isle of Dogs beach

9. Isle of Dogs Beach

We can’t promise you that the Isle of Dogs Beach has any donkey rides, Mr Whippy ice creams or rock pools. In fact, high-rises rather than coastal cliffs tower above you. But hey, this is London – beaches are few and far between in the metropolis. If you want to sprawl out on the sand without rubbing sun-creamed shoulders with a stranger, this little slice of seaside looking out over the Thames checks all the boxes. Go when the tide’s out to lounge around on the pebbled shore with a couple of posh tinnies (see below) and take in some top-notch views of the O2 Arena just across the Thames.

Thames Path. Crossharbour DLR. Free.

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