Better late than never. It seems that proper summer, as opposed to ‘that warm week we always get in May’ has finally hit England’s capital. Temperatures have inched over 25 for the first time this year, and the infamous Central Line has inevitably become a sauna.
More seriously, most people imagine a sprawling metropolis when they think of London. However, it’s currently the first capital city in the world to be applying for national park status. If successful (it has a high enough percentage of green space to easily qualify), this accolade would not only prevent all London’s parks and their wildlife from being built over, but it would also protect the sacred annual picnic pilgrimage that we city slickers love so dearly. It is indeed, Pimms O’clock.
By joining my fellow Londoners in the mass exodus from our cramped, over-priced flats into the city’s glorious open spaces, I’ve realised that green is something this city does pretty well. So well, in fact, that within a few kilometres of my home, I’ve struggled to narrow down my favourites
For Saturday morning bird watching: Victoria Park
Grab a coffee and a bench and watch the breeding habits of countless species of birds at this hipster hotspot.
Migratory birds nest right next to the pavilion cafe in spring, dog walkers abound and in summer, the grass is a sought-after picnic spot. If all that still sounds too mellow, you can hire a rowboat to take you into the middle of the bird lake where Hyde Park’s old Chinese pagoda stands guard over all the wildlife.
For after work picnics: Lincoln’s Inn Fields
An ideal way of avoiding the sweaty commute at peak times, this Zone 1 haven provides sun, shade and several quirky museums on its outskirts for those who fancy an evening tipple with a difference. For more sporty types, there are also tennis courts conveniently situated alongside a stone-fired pizza café. If picnicking, make sure you grab supplies from local supermarkets before bagging your green patch!
For solitude and contemplation: Abney Park Cemetery
This is place is so peaceful I’ve dedicated a whole post to it. The old cemetery in Stoke Newington borders Clissold Park, but is a noteworthy green space in its own right. With beautiful marble tombs, quiet benches and an extensive network of shaded paths, it’s the perfect place to sneak some silent time and escape the traffic of northeast London.
For getting out of Zone 2: Epping Forrest
Start your walk into the forest from Loughton (Central Line) and follow the paths that take you into the centre. This perfect weekend stroll can be combined with some culture at the forest’s visitors’ centre or a look around Waltham Abbey, and followed by a hearty, great value pub lunch in Loughton itself.
For an urban meadow: London Fields
Every year, meadow seed is planted on part of London Fields. By July, multi-coloured flowers including poppies and forget-me-nots pepper this local haunt. There’s a lot going on for local residents here, with Broadway Market, an Olympic length lido and Regent’s Canal all within a stone’s throw. The picturesque, tall grass makes for the perfect chill out venue after a swim or a heavy brunch at Broadway market.
For a celebrity-endorsed nature reserve: Stoke Newington
David Attenborough recently cut the ribbon of London’s newest nature hotspot – Stoke Newington Nature Reserve. Originally built to provide additional water supplies for the city, the two manmade reservoirs here began to attract all types of birds and mammals to the area. There are already established paths through the reeds for dog-walkers, and now protected, the wilderness here can only go from strength to strength.