By Kingfisher Visitor Guides
When the weather in fine, there’s nothing better than getting outdoors in one of the county’s green spaces. And you’ll have plenty to choose from, whether you want to keep things urban with a city park or go wild in a nature reserve.
Parks and gardens
At 2,500 acres, Richmond Park is the largest of London’s eight royal parks and home to 650 deer – just be careful to keep your distance during rutting season (October-November). This pastoral landscape of hills and woodlands can be explored on bike, horseback or on foot and is a peaceful place to escape the noise of the big city. You could easily spend the whole day rambling the gorgeous grounds, but there are also gardens and playgrounds at Kingston and Petersham gates, as well fishing at Pen Ponds and golf at the two courses near Roehampton Gate.
Another of London’s royal parks, Regent’s Park was designed by architect John Nash and was named after Prince Regent, who later became King George IV. This 395-acre beauty is home to the largest outdoor sports facility in central London, as well as Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens, which feature more than 400 varieties of roses. That’s not to mention the boating lake, open-air theatre and chichi Primrose Hill, which offers both celeb spotting and spectacular views of the London skyline.
Regent’s Park is also home to ZSL London Zoo. Opened in 1828, it’s the world’s oldest scientific zoo and was originally intended for study and research, before opening to the public in 1847. Now millions of people visit each year to get up close and personal with the animals who call this place home, including Sumatran tigers and western lowland gorillas.
If you want to make your visit extra special then you can book to be a keeper for a day and even stay overnight in one of the private on-site lodges, right inside the Land of the Lions exhibit, so you can hear their fearsome roars as you drift off to sleep.
Regent’s Park was designed by architect John Nash and was named after Prince Regent, who later became King George IV. This 395-acre beauty is home to the largest outdoor sports facility in central London
Just six kilometres from Trafalgar Square, Hampstead Heath is one of London’s most popular open spaces and has been voted London’s best picnic hotspot. It includes swimming ponds, splash pools, countless sports pitches, an athletics track, playgrounds and a beautiful pergola. It’s also home to Parliament Hill Fields, which has a popular lido that you can swim in year-round.
Back to nature
If you love green spaces don’t just stick to city parks. Head away from the city centre and you’ll find country parks and nature reserves in abundance. Colne Valley Regional Park is the first large stretch of countryside to the west of London. The park, which was founded in 1965, stretches from Rickmansworth in the north to Staines and the Thames in the south, Uxbridge and Heathrow in the east to Slough and Chalfont in the west.
Covering 43 square miles of varied scenery, ranging from semi-urban to unspoilt countryside, the park includes the Arthur Jacob Nature Reserve, a beautiful wetland with huge numbers of water birds, as well as the 101-acre Rickmansworth Aquadrome Nature Reserve.
It’s also home to wooded walks, play areas and two lakes – one with a water-ski club that operates throughout the year and the other offering sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and model yachting.
Sporty types will find plenty of places to watch and play sport in Middlesex, but you can also book tours of sports grounds and stadiums, giving a behind-the-scenes insight into their history and traditions.
Football fan or not, a tour of Wembley Stadium is an unforgettable day out. One of the most famous stadiums in the world, Wembley has hosted some of the biggest football games in history – as well as some impressive live music.
You can climb up the famous trophy winners’ steps, see the changing rooms and step inside the iconic Royal Box. There’s also The Crossbar Exhibition and The Walk of Legends, which includes new and never displayed treasures from the Wembley archives, dating back as far as The British Empire Exhibition of 1924.
On tours of the modern Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Spurs fans can visit the locker rooms, pretend they’re at a press conference and walk the players’ tunnel to the pitch, as well as get the lowdown on the team at the on-site museum. If you’re feeling brave you can book the Dare Sky Walk, during which you’ll scale the stadium and step on a glass walkway 46.8 metres above the pitch.
Over in St John’s Wood, Lord’s – the home of cricket – also offers behind-the-scenes tours for cricket fans, during which you’ll visit the world-famous Long Room, the players’ dressing rooms and check out all kinds of memorabilia at the MCC Museum.
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