I love the city as much as the next Londoner does – but, I think I speak for most of us when I say that I sometimes crave a breath of fresh air. Luckily for us, the Big Smoke is not solely a metropolitan concrete jungle, but is also peppered with little (or large) pockets of woodland that offer a plethora of green oasis. With summer on the horizon, we need look no further than London’s lush leafy spaces in order to be provided with endless entertainment: picnics, exploring, sunbaking, and maybe a couple of afternoon bevvies… what more could you ask for? And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, a major incentive is that it is all entirely free, so it’s super student-budget friendly.
First up is Hampstead Heath; an epic island of countryside in amongst the metropolis. Situated just 6km from Trafalgar Square, the heath is easily accessible by tube, with the nearest tube station being Golders Green. Having said that, the park’s sprawling nature means that you may well need to get off at a different tube stop depending on which part you plan to explore. For an ultra ‘country’ vibe, round up some mates, pack up a picnic and make a day of it. But grass is not all that Hampstead Heath has to offer. Kenwood House, a magnificent 17thcentury country house, lies at the heart of the park, and stands as an intriguing culture activity to punctuate your day of leisure. An amble up Parliament Hill will remind you that despite the plentiful greenery, you are still at the very centre of London, and is a fab spot to stop off for a picnic with a view. And if you’re feeling brave, and you’re lucky enough to have ventured out on one of Britain’s sunnier days, why not dig out last summer’s swimsuit for an appearance in and around one of the many swimming ponds.
At 9.55 square km, Richmond Park stands as London’s largest royal park, which means there is plenty of space to roam around in. Much like Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park offers fantastic views of the city, despite being relatively removed from it. However, with lakes, woodland, and Pembroke Lodge, it is also easy to get fooled into thinking you are wandering around in the depths of Sussex. And due to the ground’s original purpose, it’s not uncommon to bump into a couple of the park’s many deer, which only serves to make for a more involved experience. If you’re on the hunt for a quaint coffee shop or ice cream parlour, Richmond certainly does not disappoint, with places such as Petersham Nursery and the vibey riverside offering plenty of options. One of my personal favourite hang-out spots is at the top of Richmond Hill, from which you can view the Richmond bank of the Thames, and with some friends by your side and an ice cream in hand… it doesn’t get much better than that.
If you fancy something a little less intimidating and a little closer to home, try the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden – a modestly sized community garden that obscures the city to make you feel as though you’re picnicking in a secluded wood. You’re welcome to bring your own food, but they serve beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) which they ask to be the only drinks there in order to fuel the community project. With an epic atmosphere and a magical aura, the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden makes for the perfect summer afternoon hang-out. Or even an autumn visit accompanied by some mulled wine wouldn’t go amiss!
So there you have it, a few budget-friendly, super relaxed and uber groovy woodland scenes that are ideal for summer. Come on then London, bring on the sunshine!