green spaces

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Along with its free museums, the other great public amenity of London is its array of parks. Not just the magnificent Royal Parks, but also hundreds of other parks and gardens, including unexpected roof gardens, pocket parks, city farms, wildlife reserves, and woods. Every one is worth a visit, and all are free.

OUR FAVOURITE green spaces

20 Fenchurch Street. A spectacular conservatory, with restaurant, atop the 'Walkie Talkie' skyscraper. Free visits bookable online. More info. 

Golders Hill Park. Barnet. Rising high above London, the park slopes to the west with roe deer, bandstand, duck pond, putting green, and free zoo featuring butterflies and laughing kookaburras. More info. 

Hackney City Farm. Offers children and adults the opportunity to get up close to a range of farmyard animals, and to see, smell and plant vegetables. More info.

Hill Garden & Pergola. A beautiful secluded hillside Edwardian garden tucked into the western side of Hampstead Heath. More info. 

Inner Temple Garden. Three acres of beautiful garden in the City of London, with sweeping lawns, rare trees, and fine herbaceous borders. More info. 

Primrose Hill. The summit of Primrose hill is one of the most magical places in London. Spectacular southerly views over the city. More info. 

Regent's Park. Surrounded by spectacular cream stucco terraces. Boating lake, open air theatre, and more than 12,000 roses. More info.

Richmond Park. The largest of the Royal Parks, with 2500 acres and 600 deer. The Isabella Plantation is famous its azaleas and camellias. More info. 

St. James's Park. Westminster. A beautifully landscaped pleasure garden, with striking views and a colony of pelicans gifted to Charles I in 1664. More info.

LIST OF GREEN SPACES

ROYAL PARKS

Bushy Park. Richmond. Created by Henry VIII adjacent to Hampton Court Palace. Contains a mile long chestnut avenue, planned by Christopher Wren as a grand approach to the Palace. Roaming herds of red and fallow deer. More info. 

Green Park. Westminster. 40 acres of grassland, next door to Buckingham Palace. Memorials, fountains and statues, with over a million daffodils blooming in spring. Created by Charles II from a swampy burial ground for lepers. More info. 

Greenwich Park. Straddling the Greenwich Meridian, the park is set on a hill providing spectacular panoramic views of London and the Thames. Flower, herb and orchard gardens, and the Pavilion Cafe. More info. 

Hyde Park. Westminster. Created by Henry VIII in 1536 on land he seized from Westminster Abbey. Improved in the 18th century by Queen Caroline and much used for duels between the nobility. Site of Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace for the 1851 Great Exhibition. More info. 

Kensington Gardens. Kensington & Chelsea. This 270 acre park was once the private garden of Kensington Palace. Fenced and open only during daylight, it is more private than next door Hyde Park. Contains the Round Pond (with model boats) and the Albert Memorial. More info. 

Primrose Hill. Camden. Together with Regent's Park, it was part of a great chase appropriated by Henry VIII. Historically a site for duels and prize fights, it commands spectacular southerly views over London. More info. 

Regent's Park. Westminster. Surrounded by spectacular cream stucco terraces designed by John Nash and Decimus Burton. Boating lake, open air theatre, a breeding population of hedgehogs, and more than 12,000 roses. More info. 

Richmond Park. At 2500 acres, the largest of the Royal Parks, created by Charles I.. Diverse wildlife including deer. The Isabella Plantation is a woodland garden famous for the flowering in April and May of its azaleas and camellias. The quietest and darkest place in London. More info. 

St. James's Park. Westminster. A beautifully landscaped pleasure garden, with striking views and a colony of pelicans gifted to Charles II in 1664. More info.

OTHER PARKS & GARDENS

Alexandra Palace Park. Haringey. Alexandra Palace opened in 1863 as The People's Palace - a north London companion to the Crystal Palace. The park, of 196 acres, is a mixture of informal woodland, open grassland and formal gardens. More info. 

Barnes Common. Richmond. At 120 acres, this is one of largest areas of common land in London. It is owned by the Dean and Chapter of St.Pauls. Comprising grassland, meadows, secondary woodland, reed beds and heath, it is a Local Nature Reserve. More info. 

Battersea Park. Wandsworth. A 200 acre park created in 1846 by the Commission for Improving the Metropolis. The swampy land was previously used for growing carrots, melons, asparagus and lavender. More info. 

Blackheath. Lewisham & Greenwich. The 211 acre Blackheath heath was the rallying point for Wat Tyler's Peasants' Revolt of 1381, and for Jack Cade's Kentish rebelion in 1450. A haunt of highwaymen in the 17th and 18th centuries. More info. 

Bonnington Square Garden. Lambeth. The product of a wonderful initiative by local residents in 1994, this pleasure garden was created from bomb damaged waste land. Contains a great wheel rescued from a demolished marble factory, After dark fairy lights create a magical atmosphere. More info. See on map.

Breaker's Yard. Hackney. A tiny and eccentric pocket park created from an overgrown and contaminated scrap yard. Contains an unusual double-decker caravan and a solarium ice-cream van. Also water features, giant tractor, sandpits, and growing beds for fruit and vegetables. More info. See on map.

Brockwell Park. Lambeth. A historic park between Brixton, Dulwich and Herne Hill. Ornamental ponds, formal flower beds, a walled Old English herbaceous flower garden and a 19th century clock tower. Contains Brockwell Hall and the Brockwell Lido - an outdoor pool created in 1937. More info. See on map.

Clapham Common. Lambeth. Mentioned as common land in the Domesday Book of 1086. The land was drained in the 1760s, and from the 1790s onwards fashionable houses for wealthy business people were built around it. Acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1877 to create a public park of 220 acres. More info. See on map.

Crystal Palace Park. Bromley. After the Great Exhibition of 1851 the Crystal Palace architect Joseph Paxton argued unsuccessfully for the building to be retained in Hyde Park. He then raised £1.3m to buy the building and re-build it on 389 acres at the summit of Sydenham Hill in Kent. The building was destroyed by fire in 1936 but the park lives on, complete with its famous life-size concrete diosaurs of 1854. More info. See on map.

Floating Pocket Park, Paddington Basin. Formed within a waterway off the Grand Union Canal, the Floating Pocket Park has lawned areas, densely planted nectar-rich raised borders and communal seating. It allows people to walk over the water on a series of decked plaforms and walkways. It is designed to attract ground-nesting birds, and has a special duck ramp. More info. See on map.

Gasholder Park. Camden. Pocket park created within the circular structure of Gasholder No.8 near Kings Cross Station. The gasholder originally stood on the opposite side of the canal and held 1.1 million cubic feet of gas. It is the largest of the iconic gasholders that dominated the skyline at Kings Cross. The other gasholders now hold newly constructed apartments. More info. See on map. 

Golders Hill Park. Barnet. Rising high above London, the park slopes to the west with roe deer, bandstand, duck pond, putting green, and free zoo featuring butterflies and laughing kookaburras. More info. 

Grosvenor Square Garden. Westminster. Originally reserved for the use only of residents, the garden is now open to the public and managed by the Royal Parks. Reflecting the adjacent site of the former US Embassy, there are statues of Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan. More info. See on map.

Hampstead Heath. Camden. A large ancient grassy public space of 790 acres, managed by the City of London since 1989. It sits astride a sandy ridge, running from Hampstead to Highgate, which is one of the highest points in London. It includes ponds, woodlands, a lido, playgrounds and a running track. It adjoins the stately home Kenwood House. More info. See on map. 

Hill Garden & Pergola. Camden. A beautiful secluded hillside garden tucked into the western side of Hampstead Heath. The Pergola is an Edwardian raised and terraced walkway built to connect two gardens. More info. 

Holland Park. Kensington & Chelsea. Formerly the grounds of the Jacobean mansion Holland House, the park of 54 acres contains woodland and formal gardens around the ruins of Holland House, bombed in World War II. The park is notable for its population of peacocks. More info. See on map. 

Inner Temple Garden. City of London. Three acres of beautiful garden, with sweeping lawns, rare trees, and fine herbaceous borders. An exceptional haven of tranquility. Open free most weekdays from 12.30 pm to 3 pm. Dates from the 14th century. More info. 

Kenwood Gardens. Haringey. The grounds of Kenwood House, laid out by Humphry Repton, are now a public park. They include parkland (with sculptures by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth) and ancient woodland, which is home to the largest Pipistrelle bat roost in London. More info. See on map.

Kyoto Garden. Kensington & Chelsea. This traditional Japanese garden, complete with waterfall and koi carp, was gifted to London by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in 1992. It is within Holland Park. The gift coincided with a Japan Festival, including the first international sumo wrestling competition in the Royal Albert Hall. More info. See on map. 

Lee Valley Park. A remarkable 10,000 acre, 26 mile long, public park created by Act of Pariliament in 1967. The vision to create a huge park from neglected and derelict industrial land (occupied by industries, gravel pits, water works and munitions factories) was first proposed by Patrick Abercrombie in his 1944 Greater London Plan. More info. See on map.

Linear Park, Nine Elms. Lambeth. A key element of the masterplan for the re-development of Nine Elms is the Linear Park running from Vauxhall Bridge to the Battersea Power Station, providing a green backbone to the new quarter. Inspired by New York's High Line, a mile long park built on an elevated section of the old New York Central Railroad. More info. See on map. 

Morden Hall Park. Merton. 125 acre free public park owned and managed by the National Trust. The River Wandle meanders through parkland spanned by numerous foot bridges. Old buildings include the former Snuff Mill (historically the main source of income for the estate) a city farm, and a garden of 2000 roses. More info. See on map.

Paddington Street Gardens. Westminster. A pair of small parks, with towering London plane trees, tucked behind Marylebone High Street. Originally burial grounds for the nearby St. Marylebone parish church, they were converted to public parks in 1886. More info. See on map. 

Paradise Park. Islington. Includes children's playground with water play feature, outdoor gym equipment, a table tennis table, chess tables, an open grass area, and an RSPB sparrow meadow. Adjacent to Freighliners City Farm. More info. See on map.

Postman's Park. City of London. A small, secluded, and special park in the heart of London's financial centre. Notable for the remarkable and moving Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. Initiated in 1900 by the artist G.F.Watts, it commemorates those (including several children) who saved lives at the cost of their own. More info. See on map.

Putney Heath. Wandsworth. In 1684 Charles II reviewed his forces on Putney Heath. In 1770 George III visited the fireproof house built on Putney Heath by MP and inventor David Hartley. The King and Queen remained unharmed inside while Hartley set various parts of the house ablaze. A stone and brick obelisk marks the spot. In 1798 William Pitt the Younger survived a duel with William Tierney MP. Tierney did not. More info. See on map.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Newham. A sporting complex built for the 2012 Olympic Games, adjacent to the Stratford City development. In addition to major sporting venues and the ArcelorMittal Orbit (the largest piece of public art in London, with a heart-stopping 178 metre tunnel slide) there are parklands, waterways, playgrounds and cafes. More info. See on map. 

Springfield Park. Hackney. This 36 acre park was created by public spirited businessmen in 1905 from the grounds of three private houses. It slopes from high ground on the edge of Stamford Hill (with views to Walthamstow Marshes and Epping Forest) to the towpath of the River Lea. The Capital Ring walking route passes through the park. More info. See on map.

Streatham Common. Lambeth. Purchased for use as public open space under the Metropolitan Commons Act of 1878. A long tradition of cricket playing since the 18th century, and currently a successful annual kite festival in May. An adjacent formal garden, The Rookery, has old cedar trees and a White Garden similar to that at Sissinghurst Castle. More info. See on map. 

Victoria Park. Tower Hamlets. Created in 1842 by the Crown Estate on land, formerly the park of the Bishop's Palace, which had become spoiled by the extraction of gravel and clay for bricks. With its fine lake, it was designed as a People's Park by James Pennethorne, a pupil of John Nash, the designer of Regent's Park. A hotbed of social reform, it hosted the soapboxes of William Morris and Annie Besant. More info. See on map. 

Waterlow Park. Haringey. This 26 acre park was given to the public by Sir Sydney Waterlow in 1889 as a 'garden for the gardenless'. Set on a hillside, it offers views across the City of London. It has three ponds all fed by natural streams. Laid out as gardens since the 17th century, the park has many mature trees. More info. See on map.

Wimbledon Common. Merton. The orginal park was landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century. Earl Spencer sold the park in 1846 to a property developer. The modern park, with its ornamental lake, was bought by the Borough of Wimbledon just before the First World War. A watersports centre offers Sailing, Kayaking and Canoeing. More info. See on map.

ROOF GARDENS

20 Fenchurch Street. City of London. The Sky Garden is a spectacular tropical conservatory, containing cafe and restaurant, at the top of the 'Walkie Talkie' skyscraper. Entry is free, but online pre-booking is essential. More info. 

Brown Hart Gardens, Duke Street. Westminster. Another improbable place. In 1906 an imposing electricity substation, with dome and balustrades, was built on a former recreational garden. The landowner, the Duke of Westiminster, insisted that an Italianate terrace be built for the public above. Re-opened in 2013 after a substantial refurbishment, including creation of a cafe. More info. 

One New Change. City of London. With 220,000 square feet of shopping space and 330,000 square feet of office space, this is one of largest developments in the City of London. It was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, its angular form being compared to a stealth aeroplane. There is a large roof terrace with dramatic views of the adjacent St. Paul's Cathedral. More info. See on map. 

Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden. Southwark. The roof garden of the Queen Elizabeth Hall (which is undergoing refurbishment) is open free to the public. With spectacular views of the Thames and the London skyline, it has wild flowers, fruit trees and allotments. Also a cafe/bar. More info. See on map. 

Roof Gardens, Kensington (currently closed). These quaint roof gardens were created in 1938 on the roof of the former Derry & Toms department store in Kensington High Street. The gardens comprise a Spanish Garden, a Tudor Garden, and an English Garden with four flamingos call Bill, Ben, Splosh and Pecks. The gardens sadly closed in January 2018, but it is hoped that they may re-open. More info. See on map. 

CITY FARMS & ZOOS

Deen City Farm. Merton. Established in 1978 the farm is now based on five acres of National Trust land forming part of Morden Hill Park. With animals of all shapes and sizes, the aim of the farm is to teach the local community about the rural environment and where their food comes from. Includes a riding school. More info. See on map. 

Freightliners City Farm. Islington. Visitors can pick up tips on food growing and find out about seasonal produce. The potager garden grows food alongside shrubs and flowers to produce an ornamental kitchen garden. Heritage fruit trees line the walk to the paddocks, home to horned goats. More info. See on map. 

Golders Hill Park Zoo. Barnet. Exotic birds and small mammals including laughing kookaburras, ring tailed lemurs and whistling ducks. Also a butterfly house during the summer. More info. 

Hackney City Farm. Offers children and adults the opportunity to get up close to a range of farmyard animals. and see, smell and plant vegetables. Also pottery and drawing classes. More info.

Mudchute Park and Farm. Tower Hamlets. A 32 acre city farm in the middle of Isle of Dogs in east London. Share your lunch with friendly furry and feathered creatures. Includes kitchen garden, farm animals, and a horse riding arena. Accessible via the Docklands Light Railway. More info. See on map. 

Spitalfields City Farm. Tower Hamlets. In a dense and deprived area, close to the square mile of the City. Created in 1978 on the site of a former railway goods depot. Animals include donkeys, goats and hens. Workshops on pot making, seed planting, bee keeping, story making, and cookery. More info. See on map. 

Stepney City Farm. Tower Hamlets. Founded in 1979 by a group of residents on a bomb site. Free entry. Open every day except Monday. Home to chickens, ducks, geese, donkeys, rare breed goats, sheep and pigs. Also 'small furries' including a working farm cat, ferrets, guinea pigs, and rabbits. More info. See on map. 

Surrey Docks Farm. Southwark. A free to enter educational farm, open seven days a week, on the banks of the Thames. Get in touch with your inner countryside by meetings cows, donkeys, ponies, goats, pigs, sheep, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, ducks, geese, turkeys, chickens and bees. More info. See on map. 

Vauxhall City Farm. Lambeth. Free to access and open every day except Monday. Specialises in educational, recreational and therapeutic services including school trips, workshops, gardening projects, birthday parties and riding lessons. More info. See on map. 

Woodlands Farm. Greenwich. An 89 acre working city farm in Shooters Hill. Farming and farm animals, native bird species, butterflies, wild flower and ancient woodland. Animals include sheep, ponies, ducks, bantams, British Saddleback pigs and Gloucester Old Spot pigs. Open every day except Monday. More info. See on map. 

WILDLIFE RESERVES

Crane Park Island. Richmond. A London Wildlife Trust nature reserve near Twickenham, created in 1935 on the former site of the Hounslow Gunpowder Works. A restored shot tower of 1828 has been restored as a visitor centre. A mosaic of woodland, scrub, ditches, ponds and reedbeds alongside the River Crane, it is home to many important and rare species. More info. See on map. 

Greenwich Peninsular Ecology Park. A 27 acre nature reserve, managed by The Conservation Volunteers, which opened in 2002. Half the area is aquatic and half is terrestrial. The park contains man-made fresh water habitats to encourage amphibians, fish and insects. These comprise two lakes, marshald, shingle beach, alder carr, shallow pools, willow beds and meadow. More info. See on map. 

Lavender Pond Nature Park. Southwark. An urban wildlife reserve of 2.5 acres adjacent to the Thames in Rotherhithe, managed by The Conservation Volunteers. Provides a variety of habitats for communities of plants and animals. A system of wooden boardwalks enables visitors to enjoy plants and animals at close quarters without trampling the vegetation. More info. See on map. 

London Wetland Centre. Richmond. A wildlife centre of 100 acres formed in 2000 from four disused Victorian reservoirs. It is home to many birds which cannot be found elsewhere in London including Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Bittern and Northern Pintail. It hosts regular lectures and events concerned with preserving British wetland animals. More info. See on map. 

Welsh Harp Reservoir. Brent. Officially known as the Brent Reservoir, the Welsh Harp Reservoir was constructed in 1835 to provide water for the Regent's Canal at Paddington. It enjoys a reputation for rare birds. There are several birds, such as the Iberian Chiffchaff, whose first presence in the UK was recorded at the reservoir. It is home to several sailing clubs. More info. See on map. 

Wilderness Island. Sutton. A six acre nature reserve between the Wandle and the Wrythe rivers in Carshalton. Managed by the London Wildlife Trust, it comprises fish pond, woodland, meadows and river. It is home to the woodpecker, kingfisher, and grebe. Also to many butterflies and moths including the Speckled Wood and the Holly Blue. More info. See on map. 

Woodberry Wetlands. Hackney. An operating reservoir built in 1833, now open to the public after 180 years. A nature reserve beside the lake, managed by the London Wildlife Trust, has been created as part of the large Woodberry Down housing development. Home to kingfishers, reed warblers, bees and dragonflies. More info. See on map. 

WOODS

Barnsbury Wood. Islington. London's smallest nature reserve, covering just under one acre. Originally a 19th century rectory garden, it was abandoned and became woodland. Islington Council bought it in 1974 intending to develop the site, but in the 1990s it was decided to keep it as woodland and turn it into a nature reserve. The trees include sycamore, ash, lime and horse chestnut. More info. See on map. 

Coldfall Wood. Haringey. A 34 acre ancient wood in Muswell Hill. It is surrounded by the St. Pancras and Islington Cemetery. Like other ancient woodlands in the area it is dominated by oak, with some beech, hazel, and mountain ash. One of six Flagship Woods in London, which are part of the Capital Woodlands Project. More info. See on map. 

Epping Forest. Waltham Forest. Straddling Waltham Forest and Essex, Epping Forest is an ancient woodland 12 miles long and covering 5,900 acres. A former Royal Forest, it is managed by the City of London Corporation. More info.

Highgate Wood. Haringey. 70 acres of ancient woodland between East Finchley, Highgate Village, and Muswell Hill, managed by the City of London Corporation. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, it was part of the ancient Forest of Middlesex which covered much of London, Hertfordshire, and Essex. Trees include oak, hornbeam, holly and Wild Service Tree - a rare tree indicating ancient woodland. More info. See on map. 

Oxleas Wood. Greenwich. 177 acres of ancient deciduous forest, parts of which date back over 8,000 years. Acquired by the London County Council in 1930 for recreational purposes. The site covers most of the top of Shooters Hill. It contains a folly called Severndroog Castle built in 1755 by his widow to commemorate William James, captor of the Indian island fortress Suvarnadurg. More info. See on map. 

Queen's Wood. Haringey. 52 acres of ancient woodland between East Finchley, Highgate Village, Muswell Hill and Crouch End. Named in 1898 in honour of Queen Victoria. English oak and beech provide a canopy above cherry, field maple, hazel, holly, hornbeam and mountain ash. Ground flora include wood anemone, goldilocks buttercup, wood sorrel and yellow pimpernel. More info. See on map. 

Ruislip Woods. Hillingdon. At 726 acres, the largest area of ancient woodland in Greater London. Contains oak and hornbeam coppice woods, with acid and neutral grassland, ponds, streams and marshland. Owned and managed by the Borough of Hillingdon. Several tributaries of the River Pin flow through the woods in natural meandering courses. More info. See on map. 

Ruffet & Big Wood. Sutton. 17.5 acres of woodland on upper chalk in the northernmost part of the North Downs. Has features of ancient woodland in place since at least 1600. Ground flora include bluebells, dog's mercury, and sanicle. Trees include sycamore, ash and beech. Birds include great-spotted woodpecker and nuthatch. More info. See on map. 

Russia Dock Woodland. Southwark. A long narrow 35 acre wooded park in Rotherhithe, created by infilling one of the former Surrey Commercial Docks. The dock was formerly used for importing timber (used mainly for newsprint and furniture) from Norway, Russia and Sweden. The woodland still contains surviving dock features including retaining wall capstones, depth gauges, bollards, and mooring chains. More info. See on map.