One of London’s most popular spaces, Hampstead Heath is an expanse of beautiful countryside rich in wildlife with extensive sports and recreational opportunities for visitors – not forgetting the zoo, athletics track, education centre, children’s facilities, three swimming ponds and Lido.
The park sits astride a sandy ridge covering an impressive 790 acres of land running between Hampstead and Highgate, first entered the history books in 986, adjoining the grounds of the grand stately home Kenwood House in the north with the south-east home to Parliament Hill and it’s well-loved farmer’s market. Running along the east side of the Heath is a chain of ponds including the three public swimming pools with lakeside concerts being held each summer.
There are around 30 ponds within the Heath and they are much loved by locals and visitors alike. The Highgate Ponds, a series of 8 former reservoirs on the east side, include 2 swimming pools (1 for men, 1 for women) if you fancy a dip as well as a model boating pond and 2 wildlife reserves.
Hampstead Heath holds an important role with local wildlife, offering a refuge for numerous species including foxes, rabbits, grass snakes, slow worms, squirrels and frogs. The ponds offer habitat for beautiful kingfishers amongst other birdlife and bats are often spotted nearby.
I recommend a trip to the small Zoo, found in the fenced Golders Hill Park which adjoins the West Heath and occupies the site of a large house which was destroyed during World War II. The Zoo is home to a wide range of animals from donkeys and lemurs to white-cheeked turacos and graceful European Eagle owls. Golders Hill Park also offers a large expanse of grass with a beautiful formal flower garden as well as a pond where you can relax and feed the ducks.
For the best views head to Parliament Hill Fields which boasts an incredible vista across the City of London including Canary Wharf, St Paul’s Cathedral and other landmarks all in one protected panorama. Here is also the best spot for flying a kite, a popular activity on the Heath, so be sure to bring along your best flyer!
Lastly, whilst in the Parliament Hill area take a walk down to the well-known Parliament hill farmers market which offers all sorts of fantastic British produce from vegetables and meat to eggs and artisan breads. The market aims to help support British farms as well as provide high quality local /seasonal foods to urban communities. For more information check out the website: http://www.lfm.org.uk/markets/parliament-hill/