When visiting London, you might not think that the city is teeming with country walks. With such an urban metropolis and huge sprawl of a business, entertainment and transport hubs, you might not think there room for beautiful green spaces. The reality, however, is far different than you might think. With such a long history to it and over 1500 square kilometres of space, London has always made room for the idyllic and the pastoral. Though you might not find them right in the heart of the city centre, the outskirts and suburbs of London are some of the most spacious, woodland filled areas outside of the country. With tonnes of history and thousands of years of growth, many of these areas may be smaller than they once were, but reflect an often overlooked aspect of the city.
Below are just some of the walks that city break London packages guests can make the most of. Whether summer or winter, these walking routes boast diversity, colour and a whole host of wildlife you might be surprised to find in the UK capital.
Why does London have so many parks and forests?
London has been built upon land that dates back thousands of years. From the Roman’s to the Victorian era, the city has expanded slowly out of a small area originally used for trade and commerce. Whilst the city grew, many areas, such as the royal parks and Hampstead Heath were reserved for use by the royal family and nobility as hunting grounds and private gardens. Since then, these parks have reopened to the public, alongside many nature reserves that have been used to preserve endangered species and animals that would not otherwise be found in London. Below are just some of the amazing parks and green spaces that put a new spin on urban exploring.
Based in the borough of Richmond, this huge Royal Park was originally the deer hunting ground of Charles I. As of 1872, the land has been made public, but the deer originally bred in the early 17th century still have ancestors roaming in herds today. Overlooking the River Thames and with a variety of historic monuments, Richmond Park has become one of the best walking spots in London, with over 955 hectares of fields and woodland.
Probably the most famous of the Royal Parks, Hyde Park is located in the centre of the city and close by to some of the best 5-star accommodation in London City. With walking trails around the Serpentine Lake, as well as horse-riding paths, Hyde Park and it’s neighbouring Kensington Gardens are the easiest parklands and natural landscapes to get to from the city centre.
London Wetlands Centre
Though small at 100 acres, the London wetland Centre in Richmond is a beautiful South West London retreat into the wilderness. Built on disused Victorian reservoirs, the boggy marshland has been repurposed to be a home for river birds and other wildlife. As a beautiful nature reserve on the outskirts of the city, the London Wetland Centre offers education on nature conservation for adults and children alike.
Kew Gardens is a botanic garden and historic royal house that offer respite to weary West London visitors. With glass conservatories full of rare and exotic plants and flowers, Kew Gardens is one of the best city walking spots, especially during the summer months when the flowers come out to bloom, as long as you don’t mind the high pollen count!
This ancient forest dates back thousands of years but was first recorded in the 17th century when it was known as Waltham Forest. Bordering the area of East London and Essex, this is an easy one to reach for guests at the Montcalm Hotel Barbican who can take the overground or central line from Liverpool Street to Epping. The forest spans over 12 miles and is home to ancient oak trees and herds of deer, among many other forms of wildlife.
This 790 acre woodland in North London’s Hampstead is famous not only for its natural swimming ponds but for its lush forests as well. With hilly scrubland terrain and idyllic woods to explore, North London’s Hampstead Heath is one of the best areas in the city to escape the hustle and bustle.
This enclave of Hampstead Heath neighbours the famous Highgate Cemetery, resting place of Karl Marx, Douglas Adams and many other famous thinkers and writers. The woods paired with the cemetery make for a beautiful day out in an idyllic North London suburb.
Home to the Walthamstow Reservoirs, this beautiful stretch of East London reserve rests between Blackhorse Road and Tottenham, making for a breath of fresh air from the urban grey of East London. This beautiful reserve is home to woodlands, canal-side walks and even a field of cows. As an oasis of calm and beautiful cycling routes, East London doesn’t get much more idyllic than this.
Another East London gem, the green fields and parkland surrounding the once-Olympic now West Ham Stadium includes adventure playgrounds, skate parks and the nearby canal district of Hackney Wick.
Full to the brim with canal-side houseboats and fields, the walks around Hackney Marshes can lead you through playing fields and nature trails all the way to Hackney Wick. If you follow the path even further, it’ll take you even further towards Walthamstow Wetlands, making for a beautiful East London walking trail.
Made up of 1100 acres of land, Bushy Park is another Richmond based royal park that offers ample space for picnicking, cycling and nature trailing. The park itself is the second largest of the Royal Parks, trailing behind the nearby Richmond Park, with which it shares many of the same scrub and woodland features.
The historic palace of Hampton Court is well known for its glorious surrounding parkland. Alongside a visit to the still running castle, Hampton Court is home to botanic gardens, cafes and plenty of parklands to explore.