Things to do | Posted 20 Oct 2020

You might picture London as being all bright lights and busy roads. While it certainly has its fair share of skyscrapers and bustling tourist attractions, the city isn’t completely devoid of peaceful outdoor spaces.

As well as being home to 5,000 acres of parkland (including eight major Royal Parks), London is fringed by some truly gorgeous countryside. If you’re keen to enjoy some fresh air and stretch your legs out during a mini-break to London, you’ll be spoilt for choice by the city’s green spaces – some of which are still well-kept secrets.

From disused railway tracks wild with foliage to heroic memorial gardens right in the heart of the city, why not get off the beaten path at one of the following secret walking locations in London?

Kew Riverside Walk

If you want to skip the lines at Kew Gardens, save your money and head for the area’s riverfront instead.

Kew Riverside Walk is a relatively under the radar section of the Thames Path – a 180-mile-long stretch of walking trails which follows the major waterway from the Cotswold hills all the way to the sea! It would take you a good two weeks to complete the entire route by foot, so hopping on the tube to West London and joining the path at Kew is a great compromise.

Head out on this short, but serene section of the Thames Path just north of Mortlake station and then follow it west past Kew Gardens and down to Richmond. As well as lovely views of the water and big stretches of parkland, you’ll also pass a handful of heritage sites – from the regal Syon Park and pretty Kew Palace to the charming grade II listed Richmond Lock and Weir, one of London’s many bridges.

Get there: Catch a train to Mortlake station and walk north along Ship Lane to reach the Thames Path.

Parkland Walk

You’ll need to venture north of Central London for this gem of a walking trail that’s sprawled out across a disused railway line between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

The entire route is just under 5 miles long and it meanders through some lovely rural areas, including Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood (see below). You’ll really feel like you’re out of the city, especially as it’s likely that you’ll spot some form of wildlife lurking in the undergrowth. The Parkland trail is home to all sorts of creatures, from birds and butterflies to hedgehogs, foxes and even deer!

Look out for the old Crouch End Station platforms, the remains of an old signal post near Stroud Green station and the disused train tunnels next to Highgate which have now become the roost of a colony of bats…

Get there: Get the tube to Highgate and then enter the Parkland via Holmesdale Road.

Victoria Park

When you think of London parks, we bet Hyde Park and Regent’s Park tend to be the first ones to pop into your mind! Journey a little further east, though, and you’ll stumble across one of the city’s oldest park.

Victoria Park sprawls out across 200 acres and borders Tower Hamlets, making it the weekend stomping ground of many East London residents in search of some peace and quiet. Highlights of the park include the ornamental boating lake and the vibrantly painted Chinese pagoda.

While you’ll find Victoria Park is lively in the summer months thanks to the fact it hosts a number of London festivals, it’s usually quiet the rest of the year and has plenty of space to spread out. What’s more, Victoria Park runs right past Regent’s Canal – another great walking route which takes you alongside the water all the way down to Limehouse Basin near the Thames.

Get there: Get off the tube at Mile End and walk straight up Grove Road or catch an overground train to Cambridge Heath and then access the park via Bishops Way.

Streatham Rookery Gardens 

Tucked away in the South London neighbourhood of Streatham, The Rookery is a beautiful spot to visit for some much-needed outdoor time in the capital!

Protected by the Streatham Common Cooperative, the ornamental gardens always look well-maintained and are bursting with tropical foliage throughout the year. Walk along the network of criss-crossing pathways and pass tinkling streams, ornamental rock features and blooming flower beds.

The pretty park is also enveloped by woodland and the grassy Streatham Common, giving you plenty of terrain to cover on your walk.

Get there: Catch the train to Streatham and head south down Streatham High Road. Turn left onto Streatham Common North and then wander through the Common to the Rookery Gardens.

Postman’s Park

If you’re staying at one of our Central London hotels and want somewhere to enjoy some fresh air without any crowds, the small but idyllic Postman’s Park is ideal!
Often overlooked in favour of St Paul’s Cathedral gardens, you’ll find the entrance on King Edward Street. Postman’s Park was originally the burial ground of three different churches within the vicinity before it became the home of a unique memorial in 1900, which commemorates everyday people who died while saving others.

Stroll through the gates to this leafy oasis and take a seat on a bench to relish a moment of silence in the bustling city. You’ll also spot the Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice in one corner – have a read of the 35+ plaques to learn about average Londoners’ incredible actions.

Get there: Walk north from St Paul’s Cathedral along Canon Alley and then join onto King Edward Street; the park entrance is a few minutes up the road, on the right-hand side.

Queen’s Wood

You wouldn’t expect to stumble across a woodland as wonderful as this one in London! Found on the edges of Haringey, Queen’s Wood is an ancient area of woodland which now has nature reserve status.

This wild forest was given its regal-sounding name during Queen Victoria’s reign and has been open to the public ever since. Huge oak, cherry, hawthorn and hazel trees dominate Queen’s Wood, plus you’ll also hear numerous birds chirping away, including three types of woodpecker!

Autumn and spring are the best times to visit Queen’s Wood as the area blooms with colour! If you’re planning a trip to London in April or May, you might even see some parts of the woodland carpeted in pretty bluebells. There’s also a great café if you fancy a warming cup of hot chocolate half way through your walk…

Get there: Get off at Highgate tube stop and walk north-east along Wood Lane.

With a city as well-connected as London, you can stay right at its heart and still have easy access to all the above secret walks!

Sleep in comfortable suites and soak up the sights of Central London at our Leonardo Royal Hotel London St Paul’s and Leonardo Royal Hotel London City. Both are additionally well-placed for discovering pretty Postman’s Park and for hopping on public transport to green spaces in all four corners of the city.

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