I crave a bit of nature and outdoorsy-ness on a regular basis and that can be quite difficult to find when you live in the capital. If you are just passing through London you may only discover Hyde Park or Regents Park where London Zoo is! Don’t get me started on zoos though… I’ll never stop!
I’m in the process of gathering together here some nice little jaunts you can do easily from London and feel like you’re actually in the proper countryside far from the jostling platforms and angry commuters of London. So far I’ve got:
- Victoria Park
- Hatfield Forest
- Box Hill
- Epping Forest
You can also head out to some of our smaller cities or towns on an easy day trip from London. Why not check out Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace! If you can’t be bothered to go out of London properly, you might want to check out Victoria Park or even some of East London’s Markets to enjoy the change of pace!
One of the easiest ways to find places to go or things to do is to check out the National Trust website. They have lots of Stately Homes with beautiful gardens or sections of the countryside which are preserved as wetlands and so on.
So, some suggestions:
This space was designated an official Forest in about 1100 by Henry I. This is where the King used to come on hunting trips chasing wild fallow deer through the woods in order to provide venison for the court. Now it is a managed forest rather than a naturally existing one – the shape of the forest and variety of trees has been massively influenced by coppicing techniques and human pursuits like the hunting.
There are a variety of walks you can go on from a 15minute wander around the pond to a more extensive half day walk along the many paths. It is all pretty well marked and easy terrain so even the least active among your friends could manage a trip out here without too much drama.
Top Tip: make sure you leave enough time to play in the wigwam style stick shelters…
If you are a fan of classic literature you may have discovered the existence of Box Hill as I did, by reading Austen’s Emma and loving the picnic idea Emma had to fulfill her desperate desire to get out of her house and see something of the world! Though, now having been to Box Hill and walked up it, I can sympathise massively with the characters and any real people who did that walk in frock coats, stiff collars, long dresses and silly shoes. I did it in leggings, a T-shirt and walking boots… and it was quite a climb!
The best thing to do is to park on top of Box Hill in the National Trust carpark and then embark on the circuit route which takes you down to the village of Mickleham (handy pub right there for a cheeky mid-way tipple) and back round to the top of Box Hill. It’s an 8mile walk in total and it does have quite a few ups and downs some of which are fairly brutal. But, it is so pretty and the scenery is varied enough that you’ll have a lovely time even though it’s a bit tough.
Here is the route map and details of the Box Hill Hike trail. You can choose shorter routes, more child friendly routes or just go for a wander about on the top to see the views.
Top Tip: make sure you also go down to the stepping stones before you leave – it’s pretty beautiful and really good fun!
Epping Forest is another lovely spot with many different routes for walking and cycling. You can just go for a potter or spend a good few hours getting lost in the woods. Always fun! There are also places you can go and have a riding lesson – imagine you’re a Robin Hood-esque character galloping through the dappled light caused by the canopies – a lovely way to spend the day!
If you’re lucky like us you can go in the company of a dog as cool as Thora (Art Dawg) which makes everything better!
Now, if you’ve been in London for a while you may have heard that Epping Forest is a hotbed of sin. Mostly famous for dead bodies and dogging! Well, as far as the dogging goes – I’d say you’d be out of luck but then I did visit on a Sunday around lunchtime – I’d guess this isn’t exactly rush hour in the dogging world!
The dead bodies are a bit more interesting. Epping Forest is the site of much paranormal activity; ghosts, including the spirit of infamous Highwayman Dick Turpin, have been spotted (is this the correct terminology?) here. Due to its proximity to London it is thought that the forest was a good hideout for many criminals over the years and was most likely the burial place for many poor victims. The Forest is also the location of Hangman’s Hill – a peculiar place where cars in neutral start to roll up the hill. The legend goes that the spirit of the hangman is dragging the people in their cars up the hill to their execution.
There may be an explanation for some of this spookiness – apparently the phenomenon of a car rolling uphill is actually caused by an optical illusion making the road look like it goes uphill whilst it is actually a downwards slope… phew!
You should be safe from the ghouls and ghosties if you head out to Epping Forest but just to be on the safe side make sure you’re back in London by nightfall!
If you’ve enjoyed this post please give it a share! Put your suggestions for more adventures in the comments…