London is one big, tiring city. As a tourist, you get to enjoy the best parts: the iconic buildings, the scenic landscape, the excitement of the touristic attractions. Living here, on the other hand, is not as fun. Sooner or later the crowds, the insanity of the rush hour and the long commute to work will make you feel exhausted. There is one part of London though that, no matter if you are a tourist or a local, you will absolutely love: its amazing parks. Among my favourites: Regent’s Park, the ancient woodland of Epping Forest in Leytonstone, Holland Park | Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Richmond Park for its stunning wildlife.
Reasons to go to the parks:
- You get to feed the squirrels (bring a bag of nuts with you) as they are really friendly and most of the time they will come and eat from your hand
- You get close to swans (almost every park in London has a lake and swans) and have the chance to take some amazing photos
- You can sit down on the grass and enjoy a lovely picnic among ancient trees ( yes, you are allowed to walk, play, sit on the green spaces)
- You can really immerse yourself in nature as the parks will stop the city noise
So, why of all London parks I have chosen these 4? Here it is:
Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill can be reached by taking Central Line up to Great Portland Street and then walk for 5 minutes. It was the first park where I got to feed the squirrels and also the first time when I was actually chased by them when I had finished the bag of nuts. Let’s just say that 10 squirrels running after me were one image you are not about to forget. There are more than 12,000 roses in Queen Mary’s Gardens where you can relax. As an alternative, you can hire a rowing boat, visit the Open Air Theatre and London Zoo or take a stroll up Primrose Hill for excellent views of the London skyline.
Epping Forest in Leytonstone is one of London’s wild area, where you can enjoy vast open spaces, see a wild flock of parrots, take your dog for a run or hire a boat and enjoy the swans, ducks and geese. The forest has no established alleys or wide roads, just the narrow pathways that people have carved in time through the grass. You can stay for a picnic or just take some bread from a supermarket and feed the birds. From swans to seagulls and crows, the number of birds gathering for feeding is staggering. Hitchcock was born at 517 High Road, Leytonstone, in the east of London on 13th August 1899 and it will not be hard to see where he might have found his inspiration for the movie Birds. You can reach the forest by getting Central Line up to Leytonstone station (enjoy also the 17 mosaics from Hitchcock films installed in the entrance corridors of Leytonstone tube station) and then walk for about 10 minutes.
Holland Park in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in west London, is comprised of 22.5 hectares of gardens, children’s play facilities, sports areas, a cafeteria and large areas of woodland abundant with wildlife. Contained within the park is a beautiful Kyoto Garden with its koi carp and bridge at the foot of a waterfall. You can feed the squirrels, admire the peacocks, and be stunned by the vivid murals by the artist Mao Wenbiao for the Orangerie Arcade ( the artist also included the faces of members of Park staff among the figures in the murals.)
Richmond Park is the furthest of all parks I have been to, as it takes an average of 1.30 min to reach it ( by tube, train and bus). The park has a protected status as an important habitat for wildlife and is a National Nature Reserve, London’s largest Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European Special Area of Conservation. The biggest attraction here – the hundreds of wild deer ( Red and Fallow deer) grazing free. You are advised not to come within 50 m from the animals especially during breeding season or in May – July when the calves are born.
Do not be surprised though, as it happened to me if the deer will pass nearly 20 meters from you or stumble upon them hiding in the high grass. I loved the chance of photographing them in close range, watching them play or test their strength. Trust me, the experience is worth the long journey until the park. For more on Richmond Park, you can visit the official website here.