Home » Parks and Gardens of London » A Short Guide to Hampstead Heath

A Short Guide to Hampstead Heath

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Hampstead Heath is one of London’s largest and most popular open spaces, over time the area of the park has grown to cover 790 acres. The Heath is located in North London on a high ridge between Hampstead and Highgate, it is an area of great diversity with hills, large ponds, modern and ancient woodlands and features the stately home of Kenwood House and its grounds. One of the most popular parts of the Heath is Parliament Hill , from where you can enjoy panoramic views over London.

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The Heath was first recorded in 13th century and was generally known as Hampstead Heath from the 16th century. A number of hollows were excavated to extract sand and gravel that gradually became ponds throughout the park. From the 18th century, the Heath became a popular place for Londoners to frequent including poets such as Shelley and painters, Constable made a series of paintings of the area. The quiet rural idyll was changed by the arrival of the railways in the late 19th century when thousands of Londoners made their way to the area to enjoy the country air.

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Hampstead Heath John Constable 1820 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)

The Heath gradually became a recognized beauty spot away from the grime and dirt of industrial London. However its popularity amongst the young workers from the city led to accusations of rowdiness and violence especially on Bank Holidays and Bonfire nights. These concerns began to reduce at the start of the 20th century when the large crowds of visitors began to behave in a more respectable manner.

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The Heath was bought under public ownership in the late 19th century and various additions of land made throughout the 20th century, most notably Kenwood House and its grounds to the north of the heath. Other developments have included turning some of the ponds into swimming areas and the creation of a number of havens for wildlife.

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In the 21st century, Hampstead Heath probably does not attract the thousands of visitors from all over London, but as the north suburbs have grown considerably, the heath has become an important open space in an increasingly developed North London. The Heath is very popular with walkers, joggers, cyclists, swimmers and those who enjoy the wide open spaces.

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Public transport near the Heath includes the London Overground railway stations of Hampstead Heath and Gospel Oak, Underground stations Hampstead, Belsize Park, Golders Green, Highgate and Archway. A number of bus routes serve the various parts of the Heath.

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If you would like further information, visit the City of London website here

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