London is a funny place, during the week thousands of people dash around the city, in groups yet all alone, somehow coordinated, managing not to bump into one another like a bird flying within a flock or a fish swimming in a school. However, there is something extraordinary about London on the weekend, especially when the sun comes out.
The same individuals, who during work time hurry alone between their job and home, unite with their friends under the rays. There is a fiery mix of endorphins, happiness and over-excitement in the air, so prominent you can almost smell it- manifesting as a distinctively delicious combination of smokey barbeque, freshly mown grass and English cider. Draws are emptied onto the bedroom floor, dark garms are pushed aside and colourful summery numbers are chosen instead. It’s a magical metamorphosis, like a dark horse transforming into a unicorn.
As London is so vast, there are many great choices when it comes to green spaces in the city. From small intimate areas to immense parks reaching out as far as the eye can see. I am listing a few of my favourites:
Best parks to have a picnic:
Kyoto Garden, Holland Park
Lay your blanket on the open greens or find a secluded spot in the forest for a more intimate picnic.
North London. Closest station: Highgate. Northern Line.
London’s largest open space is an area of ancient woodland near Epping. Get lost in the forest and have a picnic that can last as long as you like… it’s open 24/7.
East London. Closest station: Loughton. Central Line.
The Kyoto Garden is a little slice of Japan within Holland Park and, although not exactly full of benches for sitting on, it provides a relaxed experience amid the fury and chaos of the city. Lay down your blanket and basket and relax in the Zen surroundings.
West London. Closest station: Holland Park. Central Line.
Best parks to have a barbeque:
This tree-lined 29 acre park has swimming and fitness facilities, allowing plenty of room to roam, bathe and bask in the sun and then set up the Barbie for some good old grilling.
North London. Closest Station: Highbury and Islington. Victoria Line.
A large swathe of these ever-busy fields towards the Broadway Market end are designated as barbecue-friendly. There’s even a handy map to show you exactly where. buzzing atmosphere and a whole side of the park dedicated to barbecuing!
East London. Closest station: London Fields. Overground.
The park contains a number of barbecue stands in a specially designated area. So if you are someone who likes to do things right, this is the ideal spot for you.
South London. Closest Station: Waddon. Croydon Tramlink.
Best parks to hire a pedalo:
Crystal Palace Park
Take to the water in a pedalo in the largest park in the borough of Bromley, in the shadow of the famous Victorian dinosaurs.
South London. Closest Station: Crystal Palace. Overground.
When? Weekends, school holidays and bank holidays from Easter-October, 10am-5pm.
Prices: Adult £4 | child £2 | family £10. No credit cards.
Ally Pally Boating Lake has rowing boats and pedalos available to hire by the hour or half hour. If you go for a pedalo, there’s a choice of the classic swan, dragons, or a VW Beetle car.
North-West London. Closest Station: Wood Green. Piccadilly Line.
When? Open all year, 10am-4pm October-March; 10am-6pm April-September.
Prices: Rowing boats (half an hour) adult £4.95 | child £3.95 Pedalos (half an hour) adult £5.95 | child £4.95
Regal Boat Hire is responsible for the boating facilities in Victoria Park. The fleet of 40 boats includes row boats and pedalos.
East London. Closest Station: Bethnal Green. Central Line.
When? Currently open Tuesday-Friday 11am-4pm, Saturday-Sunday 11am-5pm. Open every day during the summer. Until 31 October.
Prices: £10 per boat for 30 minutes.
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