I grew up surrounded by nature. My childhood home was nestled a twenty-minute drive from both the beach and the mountains, in a city rife with green space. When I left home for university, the tiny Scottish village I found myself in was also on the coast and held in by beautiful rolling hills. So, moving to a city like London was jarring to say the least.
The feelings derived from time spent in nature are difficult to describe. Wilderness is restorative, cleansing, simple and awe-inspiring. Whenever I’ve spent too long in the concrete jungle, I start to get an itch that pulls me back.
Luckily, I’ve found ways to scratch that itch without leaving the city. All accessible by tube while still lending themselves to pretending you live in the wild, here are my top five favourite spots to reconnect with nature in London.
More Midsummer Night’s Dream than Into The Wild, Kew Gardens is a Royal botanical garden in the southwest of London, which is home to the world’s largest collection of living plants. It is easy to spend an entire day (especially in Spring, when the garden is exploding with colour) getting lost among the orchids and rhododendrons. So, if what you seek is a more relaxed and civilized experience, Kew is the place for you. And, for those interested, the historical and culturally-diverse architecture found around the garden is as beautiful as the flowers. In the depths of Kew, I defy you to remember you’re in the city.
(Image courtesy of Kew.org)
For a more rugged experience, the Woodberry Wetlands in Stoke Newington are definitely worth checking out. After 200 years of functioning as a reservoir, Sir David Attenborough has just opened this nature reserve to the public. In some ways more urban than Kew (there is a backdrop of tower blocks and the skyline of the City is clearly visible), the Wetlands still somehow feel like a piece of wilderness in the middle of the city. Always open, accessible by tube, free of charge and begging to be explored, the Woodberry Wetlands are the perfect destination for those wishing to don their wellies and maybe catch sight of a bird or two.
(Image courtesy of the Hackney Citizen)
The Holy Grail of London green space, the Heath is a real natural crowning jewel of London. At its centre, there would be no way of knowing you are actually in the heart of one of the busiest and most densely populated cities in the world. If you really want to get lost in nature and disconnect from the stress of the city, Hampstead Heath is our absolute top pick.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
The Hill just north of Regent’s Park is not only a great place to practice inclined sprinting but also a picturesque viewpoint to look over the city from while still being surrounded by green space. As central as can be, this is the perfect place to watch the sunrise over the city or grab brunch and a power walk on the weekend.
(Image courtesy of Cool Places)
Windsor Great Park
Ok, I’ll admit it; this is a little bit outside of London, technically. But it only takes 25 minutes by train from Paddington and this park really is worth the trip. Windsor Great Park is massive and full of hidden gems including ancient oak trees that look like the Whomping Willow in Harry Potter, an authentic Haida Gwaii Totem Pole, a deer park (with actual deer!) and a beautiful ‘Long Walk’ that goes from the centre of the park right up to Windsor Castle. For a Saturday or Sunday escape, Windsor Great Park is absolutely gorgeous and ideal for a spring or summer picnic.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)