Wild London: Where to reconnect with nature within the M25
Living in a city is stressful. Studies have found that you are at increased risk of developing psychosis, anxiety disorders, and depression if you were born and raised in an urban environment. According to the World Wildlife Federation, spending time in nature can reduce the symptoms of ADHD, depression, and anxiety. Simple, get yourself some nature!
However, when you live in a concrete jungle like London, connecting with nature can sometimes feel like an impossible task. So, we are sharing some of our favourite places to be at one with nature inside the M25.
The one with the deer – Richmond Park
Best for: Nature spotting and long walks
What to do: King Henry’s Mound – Panoramic views of London reaching as far as the Thames Valley and St. Paul’s Cathedral allow you to feel truly removed from the hustle and bustle of the city below. Isabella plantation – This 40 acre woodland garden planted in the 1830’s is known for its evergreen azaleas, that line the waterways making it the perfect spot to relax and reconnect with nature.
Best time of year to visit: April to July – Isabella plantation is in bloom and there will be bundles of baby deer bouncing around!
Keep an eye out for: Deer, bats, stag beetles, rabbits, shrews, foxes, mice and voles.
Fact: Richmond upon Thames is the happiest borough in London!
The one with the Japanese Garden – Holland Park
Best for: A family day out and activities
What to do: Kyoto Garden – In the heart of the park you’ll find a beautiful Japanese oasis of calm featuring a waterfall, maple trees, and koi carp. Opera Holland Park – Every year, during the summer months, Holland House is backdrop to a temporary canopied auditorium for theatre and opera performances.
Best time of year to visit: Summer – The open-air theatre and opera performances will be in full swing.
Keep an eye out for: Peacocks and koi carp.
Fact: Cloudmachine‘s song “Time Passes For Everyone” describes Holland Park and its visitors on an autumn day.
The one with the otters – WWT London Wetland Centre
Best for: Family outings and wildlife
What to do: The Observatory – start your visit with a breathtaking view across the wetland. Otter Feed – every day at 11am and 2pm visitors can feed the otters that have been bred at the centres. What better way to reconnect with nature!
Best time of year to visit: Spring and summer – the flower meadows will be in bloom and you might even spot some newly hatched chicks.
Keep an eye out for: Rare swans, ducks and geese, and Dragonflies, frogs, bats and butterflies.
Fact: This wildlife oasis is home to 300,000 plants and 27,000 trees. That’s a whole lot of nature!
The one with the Tudor Lodge – Epping forest
Best for: Sports and activities
What to do: Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge – Take a step back from modern life in this 500 year old Tudor Lodge. Built in 1543 on the orders of Henry VIII you’ll find exhibitions on Tudor food and fashion helping you feel truly removed from city life. Guided walks and cycle rides – enjoy some outdoor exercise and breathe in the fresh air whilst learning about the area.
Best time of year to visit: Spring and autumn – if you’re taking part in any sports activities then it’s a good idea to follow Goldilocks’ rules and visit when it’s not too hot or too cold.
Keep an eye out for: Fallow deer and longhorn cows.
Fact: The forest has been used as a location in 35 films including Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The one with the views – Hampstead Heath
Best for: Dog walks and views of London
What to do: Parliament Hill – make the walk to this viewpoint for one of the most spectacular views over London allowing you to gain a little perspective on city life. The Zoo – home to ring-tailed lemurs, white-cheeked turacos and European eagle-owls, any many other animals this little zoo will no doubt help you reconnect with the more exotic side of nature.
Best time of year to visit: All year round – perfect for a picnic in spring and summer and a refreshing walk in autumn and winter. In the snow the heath is perfect for building snowmen, snowball fights, and tobogganing.
Keep an eye out for: Deer in the Golders Hill enclosure.
Fact: Fancy taking a dip in the great outdoors? Well, Hampstead Heath has 3 swimming ponds, one men’s, one women’s, and one mixed.
The one with the rare plants – Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew
Best for: Experiencing the outdoors, indoors
What to do: Temperate house – learn about the some of the 10,000 plants held within the newly restored Temperate House on a guided walk. Treetop walkway – at 18 metres above the woodland floor you can take in the breathtaking views across the Gardens and beyond giving you a fresh look at nature. Palm House – the rainforest climate inside supports tropical plants from some of the most threatened environments on Earth.
Best time of year to visit: All year round – as an indoor collection of botanicals, visiting the gardens is something you can enjoy through every season.
Keep an eye out for: ‘Suicide palm’ (lives for around 50 years, flowers once, then dies soon after). Ancient cycads (they were widespread over 250 million years ago, before dinosaurs and well before the appearance of flowering plants). Madagascar periwinkle (used in the treatment of a number of different types of cancer.)
Fact: Temperate House is the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse, holding over 10,000 plants compiled of 1,500 different species.
The one with the butterflies – Horniman Butterfly House
Best for: Rainy day escapes
What to do: Get up close with hundreds of butterflies in the tropical indoor garden.
Best time of year to visit: Winter – the tropical heat of the garden makes this a perfect place to retreat from the cold whilst also bonding with nature.
Keep an eye out for: All the beautiful butterflies of course!
Fact: As well as hundreds of butterflies, the garden houses over 500 exotic plants.