Hampstead Heath, London
Hampstead Heath is a large park and heath covering 320 hectares (790 acres). The park is about 6 km (4 miles) from the City of Westminster and located in the northern outskirt of Central London, mostly within the London Borough of Camden. Hampstead Heath is the largest single area of common land in Greater London with 145 hectares (358 acres) designated as protected commons.
The park is one of the most loved in London and offers plenty of green space to enjoy. It’s a large slice of the countryside that gives you the feeling of escape and sanctuary from the hustle of city life. Hampstead Heath is a designated Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation due to the significance of the fauna, flora and diversity of habitats that it supports. The City of London Corporation (a local government authority) owns and manages Hampstead Heath.
The first recorded history of Hampstead Heath dates back to the 10th century when Ethelred the Unready granted a large plot of land to one of his servants. The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded the land as owned by the monastery of St. Peter's at Westminster Abbey. Over the centuries, the land passed through several ownerships and plots sold for building especially in the early 19th century. In 1865, the Open Spaces Society (a national conservation group that exist to this day) took on the task to preserve the commons including Hampstead Heath.
See & Do
Hampstead Heath straddles on a sandy ridge resting on a bed of clay with its highest point reaching 134 metres (440 feet). The easy penetration of the rainwater through the sand and then held by the clay, creates a landscape of numerous ponds. The park features wide areas of open grasslands, undulating hills and ancient woodlands. It’s a habitat of low-growing shrubs, which is fast diminishing and considered rare in Europe. The habitat is a refuge for various wildlife including foxes, rabbits, squirrels, bats, birds, grass snakes and amphibians.
Goose and goslings near a lake by Garry Knight
The focal point is Parliament Hill and situated in the southeastern corner of Hampstead Heath at an elevation of 98 metres (322 feet). It also has the nickname of ‘Kite Hill’ because of its popularity with kite flyers. Besides kite flying, Parliament Hill is popular with strollers, joggers and a major venue for cross-country races. Facing towards the south, the top of Parliament Hill offers excellent views of the Central London skyline. Landmarks seen from the hill include the towering skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, The Shard, The Gherkin, London Eye and the Domes of St Paul’s Cathedral.
View from Parliament Hill by Bukach
There are over 25 ponds across Hampstead Heath. Popular with visitors are the three ponds that open to the public as swimming pools. The Highgate Men’s Bathing Pool and the Kenwood Ladies Bathing Pool open all-year round and located in the southeastern section of the park. The Mixed Bathing Pond is in the southwestern section and opens from May to September. In the southeastern section are the Model Boating Pond and two ponds that serve as a wildlife reserve namely the Stock Pond and Bird Sanctuary Pond. Fishing is another popular activity at Hampstead Heath and permitted at some of the ponds.
The Mixed Bathing Pond by Stephen McKay
Golders Hill Park is a formal park and fenced unlike the rest of Hampstead Heath. It only opens to the public during the daylight hours. Golders Hill Park features large areas of grass, a beautiful flower garden, a water garden, a duck pond, area for fallow deer, tennis courts and a putting green. There is also a small zoo with donkeys, owls, cranes, egrets, ibis, pheasants and exotic animals such as lemurs, kookaburras, maras, coatis and turacos. Another attraction is the butterfly house, home to colourful species of butterflies. In June and July on Sunday afternoons, there is live music at the bandstand.
Visiting Hampstead Heath
Hampstead Heath opens 24 hours throughout the year while Golders Hill Park opens from 7:30 a.m. to dusk with the earliest closing time at 4:30 p.m. in winter. The nearest London Underground station is Hampstead Station (serving the Northern Line) which is a short walk from Hampstead Heath. The London Overground stops at Hampstead Heath Station and Gospel Oak Station, which are also within walking distance.
Hampstead Heath on the Map
Hampstead Lane, London NW3 7JP, UK
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