For many of us, upcoming exams and assignment deadlines means long days spent in the library looking at computer screens, and not enough time spent outdoors. Now that the snow has finally passed and the sun is shining down on us again, it’s high-time we spent some much-needed time in the fresh air, soaking up some good old UV-rays. In fact, exposure to sunlight and vitamin D has a long list of health benefits, not to mention that natural light regulates your sleeping pattern (a very important bonus for the sleep-deprived student).
But what most people don’t realise is that simply spending time amongst nature has its own set of benefits too. Research has proven that being in a natural environment can help centre your mind, lower stress hormones, and even boost serotonin levels: all things students are in desperate need of during exam season. This means it’s important, now more than ever, to explore the green spaces lurking around Mile End. Whilst nature is the last thing anyone would associate with the area, believe it or not, this busy but small neighbourhood has some beautiful green spaces – perfect for escaping to when you’re in need of a study break, or simply want to get away from it all:
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park
Nestled between Mile End and Bow, this historically rich and naturally diverse area is one of East London’s hidden gems. The Gothic Victorian architecture combined with the woodland that covers much of this area gives it an incredibly eerie, mysterious atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film. Although burials in the cemetery ended in 1966, the site is still a hive of activity; playing host to regular events, activities and volunteering opportunities all year-round. I stumbled across the cemetery park last summer after attending the park’s annual Shuffle Festival: a music, film and food festival that aims to ‘to build a more integrated community presence in the built and natural environment.’ This festival made perfect use of the many beautiful and hidden spaces in and around Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, so be sure to stroll over to see Spring in action.
As a country-bumpkin, discovering the many ‘City Farms’ of London was amazing for me: they are truly the best taste of the countryside the metropolis has to offer. Each farm holds regular events, boasts their own independent cafes and shops, and some even have restaurants that sell fresh produce from the farms’ own allotments. There are always opportunities to get involved or simply visit the animals for free, which, for many people, is a wonderful way to relax. The connection between de-stressing and contact with animals is so strong, that universities often hire petting zoos on campus during the exams period to help alleviate student anxiety. But you don’t need to wait around for that time of year – visit one of the many city farms in East London: Stepney, Spitalfields, and (a personal favourite of mine) Hackney, all have city farms and are less than 15 minutes away from Mile End.
Mile End Park
Yes, yes, we’ve all been to Mile End park: a bit bleak and nearly always scattered with rubbish. But what most of us don’t realise is that there’s a purpose-built walk that makes you feel as though you’ve been momentarily transported from the bustling city into the countryside (that is, until you see Canary Wharf peeping over the trees). The route takes you up over the grassy bridge (move over Thames Garden Bridge), and leaves you at the top of a hill that gives you a breath-taking view over Mile End and even as far as the City. However, the main attraction for me at least, is when – in Spring and Summer – Regents Canal jump back into action: the boat-dwellers potter around, play music and relax. The atmosphere is a shared one of calm and community: the perfect place to escape to when work related stress becomes too much.
If you live around Mile End and you haven’t visited Victoria Park yet, you’re really missing out. A short walk along the canal from Mile End Park, Victoria Park is set on the border between Tower Hamlets and South Hackney. Like Tower Hamlet’s cemetery, this park has a rich history. The ‘People’s Park’ was built in the Victorian era as a green space for the people to escape from the suffocating pollution of the city. However, with its promenades and pedalos it is a world away from Tower Hamlets Cemetery, boasting luscious open spaces, a picturesque lake filled with swans and even a Chinese Pagoda. The venues held at this park are immense: Field Day, Lovebox and the ten day-long All Points East to name a few. So, before the summer festival season kicks off, take a study-break: spend the day at the Pavilion Café and enjoy the serenity this green space provides.
These are just a few of my favourites and are only within a few miles radius of Mile End – so, make sure to venture out and see what other green spaces London has to offer.