London sometimes feels like a long-term boyfriend. You know you love them, you know you don’t want to leave them – but, my God, you get sick of them sometimes.
When the view from the Shard no longer makes your knees weak and when it’s the price of your drink (not the alcohol content) that makes you feel all dizzy, it might be time to re-inject a bit of magic back into your relationship with the city. Have a look what’s out there beyond Zone 1 and you’ll soon be head-over-heels again.
1. Painshill Park, Cobham
Okay, okay. It’s beyond the zones. But it is within the M25, so we’re counting it. In 1981, a registered charity was set up to restore the 18th century landscape garden, originally created by Honourable Charles Hamilton as a tranquil escape enriched by follies, water, trees, shrubberies and a vineyard.
The crystal Grotto, dating back to 1760, is the most recent folly to be restored and it looks pretty magical. You will feel like you’re in another world (and then remember you’re in London – and love life).
2. London Wetland Centre, Barnes, Zone 3
Go and spot all your favourite feathered friends at the London Wetland Centre, an urban oasis for wildlife and people, situated just 10 minutes from Hammersmith. (I know, we couldn’t believe it either).
With ducks and water birds from around the world (and a couple of cheeky otters floating around too), the London Wetland Centre brings the countryside to your doorstep. Or your bus stop. Depending on where you live.
3. Highgate Cemetery, Highgate, Zone 3
There are approximately 170,000 people buried in around 53,000 graves at Highgate Cemetery; one of London’s great Victorian graveyards. It might seem like a pretty spooky place to loiter but the cemetery boasts stunning architecture, including Victorian chapels, the Lebanon Circle and Egyptian Avenue.
A surprisingly romantic trip to make, it’s a perfect mini getaway for a Sunday afternoon. That, or a great place for a vampire sighting.
4. Horniman Museum and Gardens, Forest Hill, Zone 3
The Horniman Museum has got a pretty phenomenal collection, plus an aquarium and a rather spectacular view of London to boot.
5. Petersham Nurseries, St Margarets, Zone 4
Stopping for a coffee and a slice of homemade carrot and walnut cake at The Tearoom at Petersham Nurseries is perhaps one of the most idyllic ways to spend a Sunday afternoon that London has to offer. Stroll around the gorgeous gardens and you’ll really feel like you’re living in a fairytale. The Rapunzel Of Zone 4.
6. Hill Gardens and Pergola, Hampstead, Zone 2
A treasure of Hampstead Heath, the blossoming and eerily deteriorated Pergola sits towards the North-West. It was built in the early 1900’s to cater to a Lord’s demand for extravagant Edwardian parties, but has since lost its glamorous sparkle. However, we’ve always preferred the rustic vibes and the pergola is now a landmark that’s beautiful in all its untamed glory. It looks down upon the Hill Gardens, which you can also explore.