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NATURAL WONDERSNATURAL WONDERS

A Londoner’s guide on what to do in the city when it’s sunny

According to a UN definition, London is green enough to be considered a forest, with 8.4 million trees detoxifying the capital. Rebekah Shaman uncovers the natural gems in our concrete jungle
A Londoner’s guide on what to do in the city when it’s sunny
March 13, 2017   |    Dave Thompson

OUTDOOR SWIMMING

There is nothing quite like being submerged in water to wash away all your stress and anxiety. At this time of year, lakes and lidos are around 18°C – a nice temperature for a good, long swim. If you start now, you can build up your tolerance to the cold so that you can swim all year round, regardless of the weather, and get the full benefits of doing so.

Outdoor swimmers swear by it, saying it helps with circulation, strengthens core energy and helps keep you focused.

Lidos to check out: Brockwell Park; Tooting Bec; London Fields; Finchley; Charlton; Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park.

LONDON CEMETERIES

In popular culture, cemeteries are usually associated with dark magic and witches, when they are, in fact, peaceful, restful places. When you need to escape the chaos of the city and gather your thoughts, head to one of London’s Magnificent Seven park cemeteries.

Each one has its own story and historic past, which are definitely worth exploring. It may seem morbid, but you can let your imagination go wherever it wants while spending time in these serene, urban graveyards.

TOP SPOT

Brompton Cemetery

cemetary

Beatrix Potter grew up near this cemetery, and it is thought that some of her notable characters were inspired by names on the ageing headstones.

Take a walk around the majestic grounds and appreciate impressive stonemasonry and sculptures, from more than two centuries.
royalparks.org.uk

Also worth a visit:

Nunhead Cemetery; Abney Cemetery; Highgate Cemetery.

CANAL WALKS

London has an extensive network of canals that are ideal for a gentle family stroll, a guided walk or a lengthy hike.

If you get blisters breaking in your new boots, you can rest your feet by taking a leisurely trip on the water, either by hiring or taking a tour on a narrowboat. Make a day out and take a picnic, or have lunch at one of the many pubs and cafés you’ll find along the way.

TOP SPOT

Lee Valley Canal

Taking you through the counties of Hertfordshire, Essex and London, there are 26 miles of quiet, traffic-free routes through nature reserves and peaceful urban spaces, with time to stop off at blacksmith’s forge or Britain’s longest canal tunnel. Lee Valley will show you nature’s diversity in London and its surrounding areas.

From magical gardens to the Hackney marshes and the Middlesex filter beds, there are different paths to cater to all walkers.
canalrivertrust.org.uk

On another note:
Regent’s Park canal runs from Little Venice in Maida Vale to Docklands, via London Zoo, Camden and Chapel markets.

NATURE RESERVES

London is well-known for its parks and commons, but there are also plenty of great woods to explore – the perfect urban escape when you are looking to calm down and relax.

Find scenic paths off the beaten track, with only dragonflies, swans, geese, ducks and birds
to keep you company.

TOP SPOT

Sydenham Hill Wood

syd

An interesting mix of new growth and ancient woodland with more than 200 species of trees and flowering plants, including wild garlic, early dog violet and bugle. Forget you are in the city as the sound of woodpeckers and other creatures drown out the drone of the cars.

It’s also close to England’s first purpose-built public art gallery, the Dulwich Picture Gallery, so a three to four hour walk will take you through the woods and park, with a stop for a cuppa at the café, then a viewing of the artworks.
wildlondon.org.uk

Don’t miss:
London Wetland Centre, a nature reserve only 10 minutes from Hammersmith, has been recreated in the heart of London. It’s a real urban oasis.

Five ways to connect with nature

1. HUG A TREE
Find a tree you like and give it a hug (yes, really!), feeling the trunk’s strength flow into you. Feel your feet root deep into the earth and raise your head into the branches for a different viewpoint.

2. WALK BAREFOOT
Liberate your feet from shoes and socks for a change, and stroll barefoot, feeling the electro-magnetic rays of the earth travel up through the soles of your feet. It’s magical.

3. ENJOY THE SUN
Stand with your legs shoulder width apart facing the sun. Close your eyes and feel the warm rays of sunlight flowing through your body, energising your cells.

4. BREATHE
During your lunch break, take a walk outside and breathe in deeply for seven counts and then out for 11. Imagine the stress flowing out of your body through the soles of your feet as black sludge.

5. BECOME MINDFUL
Find some flowers, a tree or anything in nature you admire. Observe all the details, becoming aware of how delicate and beautiful nature is. It can put everything into perspective.

Picture this

Dulwich Picture Gallery owns one of the finest collections of Old Masters in the world. Artists featured include Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Poussin, Canaletto and Rubens

Read more: Why cycling in London will change your life

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