Tag Archives: nature

47: Take a Sunday stroll around Richmond

A recent survey has showed that the residents of wealthy Richmond upon Thames were among the happiest – if not the happiest – of England. This is hardly surprising: only a few miles away from London’s bustle, Richmond is a haven of peace.

Located on a meander of the River Thames, Richmond boasts a large number of parks and open spaces including one of England’s most famous greens (Richmond green).

Richmond Hill rises a few hundred meters south of the city centre. Though only 165 ft (50m) high, the view from its top has inspired such artists as J.M.W. Turner and Sir Joshua Reynolds and is one of the best-known on the Thames. You may find that the landscape has changed little since its depiction by these masters two hundred years ago.

Image of the view from the top of Richmond Hill

To the south of Richmond Hill lies Richmond Park. Three times the size of Central Park in New York, it was originally a hunting reserve of king Charles I and is famous for the hundreds of deers it still hosts.

On Sundays, a stroll along the river Thames is a popular activity for families and lovers alike. Even if as a broke londoner, you may not afford to live in Richmond (after all, the council prides itself on being “a favourite retreat of Royalty, the rich and the famous”…), you might still wish to check out why Richmond’s inhabitants are so happy with their lot.

Tube station: Richmond

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23: follow Regent’s canal from Camden Town to Regent’s Park

Regent's Canal from Camden market

Regent’s canal is only a small part of London’s larger network of canals, and connects the Grand Union Canal (near Paddington) in the west and the Limehouse basin and the Thames in the East.

a jogger at Regent's Canal

Exiting Camden market and its noisy and animated atmosphere, the peace of the canal is even more striking.  The traffic noise and crowd of Camden are replaced by still water, trees, the occasional passers-by and… Banksy’s graffiti.

banksy's graffiti at Regent's canal

At mid-way, it is possible to leave the canal and walk up Primrose Hill for a panoramic view over London. Then, the canal will lead you to the London zoo, in Regent’s Park North-East corner. This walk could take no more than half an hour.

Regent's Canal

Photographs: Julien Stievenard

Nearest Tube: Camden Town

18: Pay tribute to Karl Marx

If on a weekend you want to escape London’s frenzy and breath some fresh air, you can make for Highgate cemetery in North London, a few miles from Hampstead Heath.

Highgate West Cemetery door

Highgate Eastern cemetery (3 pounds) is home to the tombs of some famous names, including George Eliot, Foyle (the Bookseller), or Adams (author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, his tomb is the one garnished with pens…). Some of them are less known but their stories can be worth hearing, like that of Harry William Thornton, a pianist who held the record of continuous piano playing: 21 hours, 17 minutes and 56 seconds! Note that accordingly, his tomb is piano shaped.

The best-known inhabitant of the cemetery is with no doubt Karl Marx, whose memorial is surmounted by a huge bust of the author of The Capital, and surrounded by the tombs of other communists.

Highgate West Cemetery 1

On the other side of the road, Highgate West cemetery is much more expensive (7 pounds) and only accessible by guided tours lasting an hour. In the beginning of February, the combination of half-fallen statues covered up by ivy, the pale light and frozen ground, was creating a breathtaking atmosphere.

Highgate West Cemetery 2

If at first sight the place seems peaceful, after an hour spent wandering around the tombs I felt that the cemetery was in fact engaged in a fierce battle against nature. Visitors are not allowed to walk freely around the cemetery, as some of the tombs are unstable: in fact, the cemetery’s ambience is more one of dereliction than one of peacefulness. The cemetery had indeed been abandoned for several decades, until in the 1970s the Friends of Highgate cemetery formed to restore the place, most of their funds coming from the guided tours they organise.

Highgate West Cemetery 3

After the out of the time, thick atmosphere of Highgate Cemetery, Waterlow is a refreshing park attended by families and dog walkers.

Nearest Tube: Archway station