battersea park & riverfront views

Although most people will only know it for the iconic power station of the same name, Battersea is home to a sprawling park with much to offer its patrons. It was actually much bigger than I had previously expected, and despite being only 3 kilometres upstream from the bustle of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, it had a certain serenity that made it seem worlds away.

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Battersea Park certainly had no shortage of points of interest. The first one I came across was a massive boating lake, with lovely reflections of the autumn foliage and lots of dangerous looking swans prowling around the edges. These gangsters.

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There was a photo opportunity at nearly every corner, and I wasted no time in taking advantage of that! This park works best when you’re just mindlessly wandering through it.

I found one area with a beautiful old bandstand, surrounded by a quiet circle of leaves strewn across wooden benches. I took this chance to stop and sit down for a little, and just enjoy the moment. Then I got cold and had to stand up and start moving again, as silly me had not yet allowed herself to believe that summer is over and was not dressed appropriately. Hmmph.

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I even came across a sub-tropical garden, which featured exotic plants from across the world, including some Flax from New Zealand. I remember my family spending ages trying to get rid of flax in our garden back home in New Zealand, so it made me chuckle that someone would willingly plant it somewhere else!

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As I wandered northwards towards the river, I came across some beautiful botanical gardens. A signpost helpfully informed me that these gardens were purpose built in the 1950s for the ‘Festival of Britain’. While most of the attractions of the event didn’t survive the decades, the grand vision of the past still exists in some lovely water features and mid-century architecture. To my delight, the golden hour was upon me, and it made for some beautiful photos.

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To get back home, instead of walking back through the park to where I arrived at, I decided to take the route that took me across the river to Sloane Square station, north of the park. It worked out much better actually, as I got to see an entirely different side to the Thames river!

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Seeing the old townhouses across the river almost made me feel like I was in some other European city or something. Its hard to believe that this peaceful riverside walk eventually gives way to the bustling South Bank of London! This part of the park is also home to the London Peace Pagoda, which cuts a particularly impressive sight.

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The Peace Pagoda.

The stations in its immediate vicinity are not part of London’s tube network, so it can be a bit of a pain getting there, which is a let down for its otherwise potentially high rating. That being said, Sloane Square (which is on the District/Circle line) is only a 10-20 minute walk from the park, which also includes sections walking along the picturesque riverbank, so its not all bad! If you’re ever in the area, Battersea Park is a lovely day out with lots to see and do.

Final rating: 7.5/10

Nearest stations: Battersea Park or Queenstown Road (National Rail). Zone 2. Sloane Square (District/Circle). Zone 1.

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chingford // epping forest

Disclaimer: I got a little lost here. That was okay though, because I still had 4G signal, so Google Maps was always comfortably in the back of my mind if worst came to worst.

Actually, I’m not even sure if I’d go as far to say that I was lost, per say. It was more like I knew what direction I came from and where the exit was, I just wasn’t on a Official Path. So this was an organised form of being lost.

Folks, this is the story of an adventure in Epping Forest.

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Epping Forest is a massive, 2,400ha swath of woodland, located on the northern side of London. There’s been evidence to suggest that this area has been continuously wooded since the late stone ages, and it’s uncultivated nature has been a source of local interest for just about as long. The infamous ‘black knight’ scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail was even filmed inside, which I was quite delighted to learn! Epping Forest is so vast that it technically encompasses a few train stops, but for today, I visited the Chingford section.

Chingford is quite a fun word to say, and for a long while I only recognised the name as the northern terminus of one of the several Overground lines. A yet, a mere 5 minutes from the station, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re in the middle of nowhere quite quickly. It’s autumn now, so I was greeted by orange and red hues in every direction. It was very peaceful. Epping has that almost magical feeling, where you feel like anything could happen. The only reminder of civilisation is the faint chatter of people and dogs barking, and you can go several minutes without seeing a soul. It’s easy to see why centuries worth of creatives have found their muse in these paths.

There’s also an excellent example of Tudor timber-framed architecture in Queen Elizabeth’s hunting lodge, a bespoke building by Henry VIII. It’s quite close to the edge of the forest, and it cuts quite an picturesque image at its hilltop perch. It wasn’t hard to imagine the pompous and frilly nobles of the day enjoying a lavish feast, looking out through the iron windowpanes towards the plains. It’s rare to see this kind of architecture this close to London, so for someone who came with literally no other expectations of the area beyond the fact that ‘Epping Forest is supposed to be quite nice’, seeing some Tudor design was quite exciting!

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Not real deer, of course!

 

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View from the hunting lodge.

 

Epping Forest is absolute massive, and it’s formidable 2,400ha means that there’s several different ways to get there. Obviously today I entered via Chingford, but the Central Line runs along the perimeter as well, which gives you an alternate route if the overground isn’t that accessible.

On a nice day I could easily imagine bringing a picnic here to enjoy, and on a more overcast day like when I went, it was just nice to explore the atmosphere. Epping Forest is well worth seeing if you ever need an escape into nature from the city! There’s a varied enough landscape that you’ll be entertained for hours. I know I’ll definitely be coming back often.

Final rating: 9/10

Nearest station: Chingford (London Overground). Zone 5.

hampstead hill gardens

The Hampstead Hill Gardens quite easily make my short list of London attractions. Hardly anyone seems to even know about it, and that’s all part of its charm. When you first enter the sanctuary with flowers and vines twisting over marble pillars you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve stumbled into an enchanted garden from a fairytale.

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SEE WHAT I MEAN ABOUT A SECRET GARDEN?

IMG_1413There’s hardly ever anyone around, and the gardens are big enough that if there are people, you don’t really overlap with them. It’s like a secret! I’m almost reluctant to tell people about it sometimes, because I feel like it should stay hidden! It’s close proximity to Hampstead Heath (it’s just across the road) just tops it off.DSC_0120

The gardens are the public part of a large estate, which is still inhabited today. They date back to the early 1900s, where they were a prime location for evening strolls and showing off to others at Edwardian garden parties. The most interesting thing about these gardens though, is that back when they were constructing them, due to the time period they obviously had no large trucks or heavy machinery to transport the dirt for landscaping, which made things difficult. However, conveniently enough, the Northern line tube extension was underway very close by. They needed somewhere to put all of that dirt from the tunnelling, and guess what it was used for! The contractors were so desperate to get rid of the dirt that they actually paid the the garden builders to take in the dirt. Public transport really shaped this city, even in the most unlikely of ways!IMG_1345

When I purchased my first DSLR I knew this was the place to practice my photography, which is why the photos in this article are so much better than all of my other ones! Honestly, this place is ridiculously photogenic. There’s an endless array of interesting angles, shadows and perspectives to play around with, it’s such fun!DSC_0154DSC_0119

However, it’s otherwise high rating is let down by it being a bit of a walk from the station. Sure, you could take the bus directly there, but that’s such a hassle. I jest. It’s actually a very pleasant and quiet ride/walk through the leafy suburbs/forests of north London, and it’s well worth the extra effort! You can either walk/ride the bus through the leafy and village-like suburbs of north London from Hampstead station, or take the overground to Hampstead Heath and take a lovely stroll through the park of the same name.

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The contrast in colours is beautiful here.
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The view over the trees.

Final rating: 8.5/10

Nearest station: Hampstead (Northern Line) – Zone 2

Thanks to the historical background from: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath/heritage/Pages/the-pergola.aspx

abney park cemetery

Just a few minutes off the busy Stoke Newington High Street, you will find yourself in the cavernous Abney Park Cemetery. Melancholy is the word that immediately springs to mind when you walk in here. You can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook. This is one of my favourite places to visit when I want to just think in silence.

Every time I’ve visited I’ve been pretty much the only one there, so it’s actually quite eerie in a way. Abney Park has a timeless feel to it; save for the occasional plane flying overhead you could be just about anywhere, or anytime. I don’t know, maybe I’m just being a romantic, but you can’t help but feel that you’re the first person to discover this place.

This cemetery was built during the industrial revolution to deal with the quickly rising city population, but after it reached capacity it was left completely untouched. Decades of neglect have resulted in today’s cemetery/nature reserve, which is totally overgrown with greenery. Branches and leaves snake over the tombstones and many have disappeared into the undergrowth completely. It’s got quite a fascinating history actually, but I won’t get into it here, it’ll take too long! I highly recommend looking it up though.

It’s not too far out, with a location on the edge of Zone 2, and it’s only a short walk from Stoke Newington station. If you don’t have an connection to this particular Overground line you can change at Hackney Central or Seven Sisters, so it’s quite well connected. The rest of Stoke Newington is a quite nice area as well, with a rather village-like atmosphere despite its its close proximity to the A10.

Final rating: 8/10

Nearest Station: Stoke Newington (overground). Zone 2

Lloyd Park

I’ll be honest, I mostly came down here because I wanted to ride the mythical London tram system. And that I did. It was a just like a train, except we got caught in traffic jams. Very exciting. There was a stop (or is it station?) right outside the park as well, conveniently enough. The park was lovely too, so it was two birds with one stone! If you don’t take that tram though, it’s a relatively straightforward 20 minute walk from the Croydon centre.

There was this fairground thing when I went, but I’m more of a nature gal’ so I kind of just ignored it and went straight into the woody growth behind it. There was quite a big field which would be useful for a casual game of football I imagine, but there were also quite a lot of wild grasslands that gave you that countryside feel.

It was a bit hilly by London’s standard’s, which means there were mild inclines that made me embarrassingly out of breath. That being said, at this point you’re basically in Surrey anyway so a bit of rolling landscapes is understandable.

It was a lovely park, but probably not worth making the trek all of the way from North London if you aren’t local to the area (unless you, like me, are a fan of the Croydon trams). Of course, if you’re anywhere near South East London and you want a countryside escape that’s not actually in the countryside, it’s a great spot to visit! I didn’t get all of the way in, but it seemed quite big, with plenty of parts to explore.

Final rating: 6.5/10

Nearest station: Lloyd Park, London Trams, or East Croydon, National Rail

Clapham Common

This park was so much bigger than I initially thought it was! At first I just saw a lovely, but not particularly noteworthy green space. It seemed a bit smaller than I was expecting, but lo and behold, I changed direction and crossed a corner, and all of a sudden it was huge! It had all of the usual features of a park, except it was all relatively  spread out because the park was so big. There were children playing football in the fields, and I walked past a lovely pond where some people were fishing. There was a bandstand which was really lovely too, you don’t see too many of these around nowadays!

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I saw lots of people using this park as a cyclist through-fare on their way home from work too, which I always love seeing! It just goes to show how London is becoming greener every day.

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London cyclists in the park.

There’s quite a few busy roads criss-crossing through the park which you have no choice but to cross, which unfortunately can ruin the vibe of the otherwise peaceful urban stroll. Ah well, you can’t have everything! Luckily enough, the park is big enough so that once you’re away from the roads you can forget about them. It’s insanely well-linked transport-wise too, with the northern line serving stations at both the north and south ends of the park. There are plenty of normal shops, pubs and cute cafes at either end as well which can provide a great introduction back into the city life once you’re done!

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Worth mentioning that the tube station here is one of two on the entire tube network that has these tiny island platforms. Presumably they don’t have the space to widen the tunnels, so you’re left with these questionably small platforms…

Mind the gap!

Final rating: 7/10

Nearest Station: Clapham Common (Northern Line). Zone 2.

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Pretty reflections in the water!

Stanmore Country Park

My series will begin with Stanmore Country Park. To many, Stanmore is only known as the place where Jubilee line terminates. However, it is so much more than that!

Walking there from the station, you can’t help but feel like you’ve already left London. Detached houses, wide roads, people driving everywhere? Is this really the city I’m so familiar with? But it is. The walk from the station is barely a few minutes at most, and during that time you can pretend you live in an alternate universe where you’ve actually escaped the money-grabbing jaws of London. Despite this, you’re actually only in Zone 5.

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Is this really London?

When you first enter heading from the station, you’ll find yourself in a woody area, full of a winding maze of paths disappearing into the undergrowth. This is where just exploring the area is the best way to see it, there are plenty of peaceful clearings, meadows, and even cows grazing in a field if you’re there at the right times!

IMG_9925I was very pleasantly surprised when I emerged into this lovely grassland area at the top, and then I turned around and got a smashing view of the city! I was lucky enough to have visited on a clear day, so I could see as far as the radio mast at Crystal Palace, over 20km away. If you are in a rush, basically head uphill in any direction from the entrance of the park and you’ll be there.

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The resolution isn’t great, but you get the idea!

Forests, quaint clearings, meadows, it’s got all of the makings of a great park. It’s close proximity to the Jubilee Line (arguably one of the more pleasant deep-level tube lines too) and lack of people give Stanmore Country Park a final rating of…

Final rating: 8/10

Nearest station: Stanmore (Jubilee Line). Zone 5