London’s air quality is increasingly under threat from pollution, but there are still plenty of green spaces in the capital where you can get some fresh air. Georgina Fuller recommends her favourite places
The latest report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on air pollution makes for alarming reading for Londoners. The report found that air pollution is now a greater threat than Ebola and HIV. London was ranked 1,389th out of the nearly 3,000 cities and towns around the world monitored in the WHO’s database of annual air pollution readings. So where can you and your children go if you’re looking for some oxygen and fresh air? Here’s my top 10 list.
1. Chiswick House and Hogarth House
Chiswick House is a stunning Palladian villa set in 65 acres of glorious gardens (which more than make up for its proximity to the motorway) in this leafy West London suburb. The refined dignity of the house belies the fact is was used as a mental asylum in the 1890’s. The grounds are also supposed to be one of the first examples of an English landscape garden. Hogarth House, just up the road from Chiswick House, is well worth a visit too if you’re in the area.
2. Kew Gardens
The famous Kew Gardens is home to the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world and set in a staggering 300 acres in South West London. It includes dozens of walkways, greenhouses and plant collections and is a children’s paradise.
3. Kenwood House and Hampstead Heath
The beauty of Kenwood House, a stately home which has been a set location of numerous British films including Notting Hill, is worth braving the Northern Line for. The estate includes several acres of ancient woodland and is situated to the south of Hampstead Heath, well worth a visit for the legendary bathing pond.
4. Horniman Museum
The Horniman, perched on top of Forest Hill, is set in 16 acres and includes an aquarium, butterfly house and natural history gallery. Children can also lose themselves in the wild woodland trail and meadow, more reminiscent of a country field than South London.
5. Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is a green haven situated just two-minutes’ walk from Dalston Junction station. The garden includes a café, Pavilion and Pineapple House and often hosts children’s events and activities, such as the Hackney Flower Show. It’s open till 7pm most week days and 10pm on a Friday and Saturday.
6. Fulham Palace Gardens
Fulham Palace and its gardens are tucked away behind the Fulham Palace Road (the clue is in the name) in South West London. The gardens were once enclosed by the longest moat in England and still retain a clandestine, historical feel. 13 acres remain of the original 36, and include a walled garden and open lawns looking out over the river.
7. Princess Diana memorial playground
This lovely playground, which was set up in 2000 as a tribute to the late Princess, centres around huge wooden pirate ship in Kensington gardens. Over 1,000,000 visitors enjoy the free playground each year so it can get busy. It opens at 10am throughout the year but closing times can vary. Only permits children up to the age of 12.
8. Morden Hall Park
Morden Hall Park is a little known National Trust-run oasis in South London. It includes 125 acres of park land and a range of activities for children, including Easter Egg hunts and wildlife watching.
9. Woodberry Wetlands
Woodberry Wetlands opened in May 2016 and is a secret sanctuary amidst the surrounding tower blocks of Hackney. It is set in 27 acres of reed-fringed ponds and dykes and admission is free. There is also a lovely Coal House café on-site and it’s open till 4:30pm seven days a week.
10. Kentish Town City Farm
The farm is run by a community charity and situated on a four-acre site which includes a riding arena, wildlife pond and community gardens. The main farm building houses most of the children’s activities including weekly play groups, arts activities and visiting school classes. The farm is home to a number of animals including ponies, pigs and goats.