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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

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
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Book Review : The Capital Ring by Colin Saunders (Aurum Press)

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Guide Books  for walks in Central London are numerous, however The Capital Ring by Colin Saunders offers an interesting alternative by offering a series of walks that are close enough to London for easy access to transport but far enough out to offer something a little different from the usual guides.

The development of the Capital Ring and the larger London Loop was the product of a number of organisations including the London Walking forum, Walk London and Transport for London.

Part of a wider initiative to promote Walking  as a pastime , these orbital walks were first suggested in 1990 and through the cooperation of the local authorities , the walking organisations and Transport for London they came to fruition in 2005.

Some of the history of the route is told in the book’s introduction , here is also some information  on accessibility , safety, transport , signs and waymarks.

The next section The Capital Ring  forms the main part of the book in which the Ring is divided into 15 separate but consecutive walks . The walks range in distance  from 3.5 to 7.7 miles with the average being around 5 miles.

The  Ring itself has a walking route of 78 miles (125 km) and generally lies between 4 and 10 miles from Charing Cross, so offers easy access from Central London.

It is this distance from London that offers a wide range of  attractions which include the Thames Barrier, Eltham Palace and Wimbledon Common. One of the great attractions of the walk is that it transverses many green and waterside environments, it also passes through  nature reserves, parks , woods and even farmland.

Each walk in the book follows the same format , the reader is first given basic information about distance, public transport, terrain, refreshments and toilets.

History of the area is discussed and interesting sights to look out for are marked on the accompanying map and illustrated  by  photographs.

The walk is then described in detail with a few local diversions that you may want to take to see places of interests.

The range of destinations  include Woolwich, Falconwood, Grove Park, Crystal Palace , Streatham, Wimbledon Park, Richmond, Osterley Lock, Greenford, South Kenton, Hendon Park, Highgate, Stoke Newington, Hackney Wick and Beckton District Park.

 The final section in the book is Useful Information which offers useful tips on transport, starting points and useful addresses.

The Capital Ring is quite an unusual London guide book in as much that the destinations are not necessarily ones that would be the first port of call for walkers or visitors to London.

But that is the great strength of the guide, it does not replicate the hundreds of London Walking books but offers something different and perhaps more importantly offers a series of smaller walks within a wider walk that circles inner London.

This attractive and well designed  book also illustrates that there are a large number of attractions and locations that are often neglected. With a large number of attractive photographs and interesting historical snippets, the book seeks to promote the benefits of discovering or rediscovering these areas.

Visiting London Guide Rating  – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or would like to buy the book, visit the publisher website here

 London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January, we attract thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.

We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here