London has more trees per resident than almost any city in the world, and many thousands of these are concentrated in its green parks. Hyde Park is seen as London’s Central Park; Regent’s Park and St James’s Park are two prettier green spaces. For serious walking, try Hampstead Heath or Richmond Park. Greenwich Park is London’s oldest enclosed royal park and offers awe-inspiring views across London.
The parkland around Richmond in south-west London has been a favourite with England’s kings and queens dating as far back as the 13th century. Today it’s a National Nature Reserve, much loved by local and all Londoners, who come here for walks, cycling, sports and wildlife watching.
The easiest way to get to the park from central London is by train or tube to Richmond; then catch the 371 bus to the stop at the American University and enter the park through the grand Richmond Gate.
Stroll as you please, taking in a long trek through the meadowland grasses all around the edge of the park, or check out the many sporting opportunities (including golf, fishing and kite flying) to find something that suits you. However, one good hearty walk can easily take in some of the park’s finest features.
Once inside Richmond Gate, stick to the right and follow the path that leads to King Henry’s Mound. From here you get a magnificent view, all the way to St Paul’s Cathedral in central London, and you can enjoy the gardens around the Georgian mansion called Pembroke Lodge. The Lodge has a great café and from its terrace you can see the River Thames below you, in the distance.
Carry on walking south from Pembroke Lodge, and branch left at the signpost for Isabella Plantation to take in the lush floral splendour of this ornamental woodland with its landscaped ponds. From here, walk on towards Kingston Gate and look out for the park’s famous herds of red and fallow deer. Head out of the park via Kingston Gate and walk along Queen’s Road to Norbiton rail station to return to central London.
Alternatively, from Pembroke Lodge follow directions down the hill towards the children’s playground and on to Petersham Road. Walking along this road you’ll see signs to the elegant 17th-century Ham House (www.nationaltrust.org.uk). From here take the Thames riverside walk to Richmond, or even cross the river on a small ferry in summer months.
For more about getting to and exploring Richmond Park, visit www.royalparks.org.uk.
The riverside area known as the South Bank is one of London’s greatest success stories. The area is now home to many of its greatest attractions, all within easy walking distance.
Start at Westminster tube and take in the grand Houses of Parliament, with the unmissable Big Ben. Cross Westminster Bridge and turn left, past the London Aquarium, for the vast, revolving London Eye, then walk along the bank with the Jubilee Gardens to your right, passing Hungerford Bridge on your left.
Just ahead is the Southbank Centre, a large arts centre. Beyond it stands the landmark architecture of the Hayward Gallery and the Modernist blocks of the National Theatre. This leafy length of riverside is always busy with crowds enjoying the views across the water to Somerset House.
Halfway between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges is the art deco tower of the Oxo Tower Wharf, which boasts excellent views.
Continue along the bank, passing Blackfriars Bridge to arrive at the Bankside Gallery and the soaring spaces of Tate Modern. Further along is Shakespeare’s Globe and, to the left, the extremely elegant Millennium Bridge. Cross over it and you’ll find yourself at the foot of the stairs leading up to St Paul’s Cathedral.