Forget Hyde Park and Clapham Common, these green havens in the capital are the perfect place to enjoy the better weather over the summer months. Take your bike, pack up a picnic and discover London’s secret green spaces.
The Conservatory, Barbican
Open only on select Sundays each month, plus Bank Holidays, the Barbican’s Conservatory is a tropical paradise in the middle of a concrete jungle. It houses over 2,000 types of plants and is home to the resident tropical fish. Entrance is free and they still have spaces available for their afternoon tea event that finishes the first week of June.
The Barbican also has a roof garden and lake terrace with a café area, but this can be more crowded.
Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park, North Greenwich
Built for educational purposes and wildlife preservation, Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park sits in the shadow of the O2 Arena right on the banks of the Thames and offers a welcome green retreat in amongst modern apartment blocks. While you have to book onto the events that are held here, the public are also invited to volunteer their time to help manage the area and there’s a boardwalk open every day if you fancy a stroll.
The Sexby Garden, Peckham Rye Park
Built just after the turn of the 20th century, the Sexby Garden – originally named the Old English Garden – is a picturesque formal garden in the heart of Peckham Rye Common that was restored in the mid 2000s. There’s a water fountain, wisteria covered walkway and plenty of quiet corners for reading a book.
The Rookery, Streatham Common
The Rookery in Streatham Common is definitely a spot for only those in the know. Outside there’s a charming café area that gets busy on weekends, but you can enjoy a stroll through the formal and community gardens on a warm summer’s evening without too many people about.
Barnsbury Wood, Barnsbury
Set amongst rows of elegant houses, blink and you’ll miss Barnsbury Wood. It’s completely hidden from the outside, apart from the small entrance on Crescent Street and is London’s smallest nature reserve. Its opening hours are fairly short, owing to the fact that it’s right behind people’s homes and can be accessed every Tuesday and additionally on Saturdays from July to September.
Horniman Museum Gardens, Forest Hill
The Horniman Musuem Gardens cover a whopping 16 acres, where you’ll find a range of garden areas and a host of activities throughout the year for visitors of any age. Their nature trail is the oldest in London and they also host events during the summer months, such as cinema screenings, theatre productions and even an animal walk, with the chance to meet the resident alpacas.
A bit further afield…
Painshill’s beautiful lakeside landscape is certainly a world away from the hustle and bustle of the capital. Built by the Hon. Charles Hamilton, work began in 1738 and his romantic designs include ornamental bridges, temples, follies and the centre-piece of his vision, the painfully restored Crystal Grotto, which is covered in hand-carved crystals. You have to pay to enter the park, but it’s worth it.
Selsdon Wood Nature Reserve, Selsdon
Owned by the National Trust, Selsdon Wood Nature Reserve is a 200-acre woodland site located close to Croydon. There is an ancient woodland, a coppiced woodland – maintained by the reserves volunteers – and a bluebell wood, which may still be in bloom if you can get there quick enough in the month of May.