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London’s Lesser Known Parks and Gardens

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Although it has its fair share of urban sprawl, London is a surprisingly green city with a large number of parks and gardens that break up the buildings and give respite from the crush and traffic. From the skies, what appear to be unbroken urban developments is more of a patchwork with plenty of parks and gardens in between the buildings.

The Royal Parks, such as Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, are well-known to visitors as part of the London landscape but there are many smaller and less well-known parks and gardens that provide little escapes from the hubbub to locals and visitors alike.

On your next trip to London, seek out some of these secret green spaces and find your new favourite park in the city far from the madding crowd.

 

Russell Square

Across London, there are countless garden squares that were built for the private use of residents in some of the most fashionable areas of London. While most of these remain as residents-only parks, several have been opened up to the public and provide a small sanctuary from the bustle of London’s busy streets.

cabmen shelter russell square

The Cabmen’s Shelter at Russell Square

Russell Square is one such garden square that is now open for public visiting. One of the larger gardens, Russell Square has park benches, flower beds and just enough trees to shield the space from some of the noise of the traffic. The square is also home to one of only 13 remaining operational cabmen’s shelters, where licenced London Black Cab drivers can get a hot meal when on duty in the city, subsidised by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund.

 

Victoria Park

Known locally as the People’s Park, Victoria Park has consistently been voted as the favourite park of Londoners looking for an escape from the city. Covering just short of 90 hectares of open space in East London, the park has become well-known for the popular music festivals that have taken place in the park since the 1980s.

For locals, there are plenty of sporting activities to keep people moving including two league football clubs, an athletics club and cricket played every evening through the summer on the Park’s three wickets. However, there’s plenty for the out-of-town visitor too, and you can see some of the remnants of the now-rebuilt London Bridge in the form of two pedestrian alcoves that now act as sheltered benches for those looking for shade from the sun or a refuge from the rain. Although the bathing pond hasn’t seen action from bathers since the 1930s, the pond is now popular with anglers who use it to practice their coarse fishing skills in the city.

 

Hampstead Heath

The largest and probably best known of the central London green spaces without Royal charter is Hampstead Heath. Known simply as the Heath to locals, this open space in North London covers a huge 320 hectare area and has plenty of activities and attractions to bring in urban escapists.

hampstead heath pond

One of the many ponds on Hampstead Heath

 

One of the most widely known activities on the Heath is outdoor swimming. There are two separate swimming ponds for gentlemen and ladies that are open all year round in all weathers, and a mixed sex pond that’s open only during the summer months. Swimmers can be seen in the ponds on every day of the year, including when there’s ice on the surface of the water.

It’s a little-known fact that the Heath has its own police force with all the powers of a regular constabulary that can be enforced within the boundaries of the park. The Hampstead Heath Constabulary numbers 12 constables and four trained police dogs that patrol the park 24 hours a day to ensure the by-laws of the heathland are adhered to.

 

Conclusion

While most visitors to London come for the many urban sights, you’ll find plenty of green space if you want a break from the crush of the crowds. Although the Royal parks are popular, you’ll probably find that there’s a bit of green space much closer than you think.

 

 

Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 & 2

Follow the Trends in Fashionable North London

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North London has been the home of fashion in London for many years. The areas around Islington, Stoke Newington and Hoxton have their own unique styles and offer creative, innovative fashions from a whole host of independent stores and boutiques.

Head a little further west and you’ll find some fantastic vintage and bargain fashion finds on the famous Portobello Road Market. Mingling in with the small independent fashionistas you’ll find some big names vying for attention amongst the rest of the market vendors.

Each area has something different to offer, so take a look through our guide and choose an area with a style that fits with your own take on fashion.

 

Angelic Islington

One of the most up-market areas in North London, Islington brands itself as a village rather than as a London borough. From the air, it almost looks like one with a village green and relatively small streets teeming with local people shopping and eating in the many boutiques and bars around the area.

islington angel building

Islington’s famous Angel – a building that gives hints to a grand past for Islington village

 

The signature of Islington is minimal glamour, and this can be seen at one of its most sought-after boutiques – Wild Swans – on Cross Street. Established by Danish designer Caroline van Luthje, inside you will find the straightforward, clean lines and simple styling of Scandinavian designers in the clothing, shoes and jewellery on offer. A soothing ambiance with comfortable fitting rooms and fresh flowers make for a real shopping experience to remember.

Islington’s boutiques definitely offer the most refined style of our featured destinations and is the place to go to find timeless pieces to add to and enhance your wardrobe.

 

Stoke Newington

Stoke Newington, or Stokey as it’s affectionately known locally, is a centre for independent fashion boutiques. Alongside other independent stores including bookshops and non-chain restaurants, Stoke Newington has a loyal set of devotees to the cult of independent shopping who frequent its many stores.

One of the most celebrated outfitters in Stoke Newington is Hub, on Stoke Newington Church Street. Stocking men’s and women’s wear, the boutique stocks clothes from small independent designers and a range of shoes and accessories. Their Mimi Berry handbags are a particular find and come in a range of on-trend colours to co-ordinate with any outfit.

As a prime spot for young families, Stoke Newington also has a number of independent children’s fashion boutiques. Little People and Pink and Blue, both on Stamford Hill, stock a range of fashionable outfits for the kids in your life.

 

Hoxton heroes

At the cutting edge of London fashion is Hoxton. The area has gone up in the world in the past few years, finding it elevated from salt-of-the-earth London heartland to the epicentre of art and fashion in North London. Designers such as Alexander McQueen have rubbed shoulders with modern artists like Tracy Emin and brought about a cultural revolution in this formerly neglected part of the city.

hoxton square garden

Once you’re all shopped out, take a break at the pretty Hoxton Square Garden

The Hoxton style – garish, mismatched prints and oversized plastic accessories – was a deliberate backlash against the polished Portobello princesses and Sloane Rangers from the West End, making a statement about using what was available to best effect. The area now plays host to the Hoxton Street Market, London’s only dedicated fashion market, just off Hoxton Square, every Saturday from 10am-6pm. Amongst its many stalls you will find only independent fashion designers offering clothing at the leading edge of style in London.

Hoxton is the fashion capital for young people, and if you’re looking for indie clubbing attire, this is the place to go.

 

Conclusion

North London has a whole range of fashionable districts that appeal to different people for different reasons. From timelessly stylish Islington through to trendy Hoxton, there’s somewhere for everyone to find a style that suits.

 

 

Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 & 2

London’s Great Stadiums

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As well as being the UK capital and a thriving hub of business and culture, London has a number of world-class sporting venues that have played host to some of the most prestigious events in the world. In summer 2012, London held the Olympic Games and the stadiums across the city old and new saw some incredible feats of sporting achievement watched by spectators in the city and across the globe.

The stadiums within the city can host a whole range of sporting spectacles from football, the country’s national sport, through to track and field events more at home on the Olympic programme. Including some household names, London’s stadiums hold some of the greatest sporting spectacles in the world.

 

The home of British football

Located in North West London, Wembley Stadium is thought of across the country as the spiritual home of the British national sport. Playing host to decisive league and cup final games from across the spectrum, the stadium has been visited by some of the most prestigious clubs as well as many an upstart who wish to challenge the dominant clubs for their place in footballing history.

london wembley sport event

London’s famous Wembley Stadium is used for all sorts of sports and musical entertainments

The current stadium is a reworking of the original, which stood on the site from 1923 to 2002 when it was demolished to make way for the impressive new structure with its soaring arches that replaced the former stadium’s iconic twin towers. During the reconstruction, all its usual fixtures were moved to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, over the Severn in Wales.

The stadium is not just a venue for sporting events. During its short life, it’s seen some huge music spectacles as well as sports ones. It offers the greatest capacity of any venue in the city for music and with big hitters such as Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Williams, there’s always something big going on.

 

Not exactly a stadium

The second most famous sporting venue in the UK is located in South West London and sees a huge amount of international attention in the summer each year. The All England Lawn Tennis Club, better known to most people as Wimbledon, hosts the British Open Tennis Championships that sees the best of the best in international tennis battle it out on the courts for a £1 million prize.

The tennis club sits on undulating ground and has at its heart the now-famous “Henman Hill,” which grew popular with people hoping to see the first ever British Men’s Wimbledon Champion since 1909. The crowds still haven’t seen a Brit win the final, but did have the chance to see Andy Murray secure the Olympic Men’s title last year during London 2012, causing much jubilation on what is now referred to by some as “Murray Mound.”

 

Lording it

The home of British cricket can be found in North London at Lord’s Cricket Ground. The site of many an historic victory of England’s best men in white, the ground has most recently seen a smashing victory of the English side over the visiting Indian team in 2011, where the four-match series was won decisively 4-0 by England.

 

lord victorian pavilion

Lord’s beautiful Victorian pavilion

 

The test matches played at the ground are ticketed on a ballot basis, which means that anyone can get tickets provided they apply and are successfully drawn from the hat. There can be few more quintessentially English ways to spend an afternoon than listening to the sound of leather on willow with a pint of ale in the summer sunshine.

 

Conclusion

London is the home of several high-profile sporting venues that offer a full programme of entertainment throughout the year. Boasting names that are iconic around the world, followers of tennis, football and cricket will find something of interest to them in the city.

 

 

Image Credits: Wikipedia and Wikipedia

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