Richmond Park is the largest of London’s Royal Parks covering 2115 acres. Created by Charles I in the 17th century as a home for deer, it is of national and international importance regarding wildlife conservation. Head down to the floral and fauna jewel that is Isabella Plantation, established in the early 19th century by former Prime Minister Lord Sidmouth, which is the perfect place to be peaceful and a safe haven from roaming deer. And make sure to walk to the highest point in the park, King Henry’s Mound (King Henry VIII), where you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of St Paul’s Cathedral. If you’re wanting a more unique experience, word has it that a bicycle ride around the park illuminated by a brilliant full moon is quite the thing to do — just look out for dashing deer!
Seeking peace and tranquility in the heart of London, you can’t go wrong visiting St Dunstan-in-the-East, originally a church whose Gothic beauty sits resolute between London Bridge and the Tower of London. Originally built in 1100, it possesses a storied past which includes being severely damaged in the Great Fire of London (1666) and having almost been totally destroyed during the Blitz (1941). The steeple, designed by Sir Christopher Wren between 1695 and1701 thankfully remains, and in 1971 the City of London opened up the lawned and tree-lined the ruins, turning it into a public garden which now serves as a sanctuary for all who choose.
For an old-fashioned dip, try Hampstead Heath and swim in one of three freshwater ponds. Originally dug in the 17th and 18th centuries as reservoirs to meet London’s growing water demand, there are in fact 30 bodies of water, but three are used specifically for bathing, one for women, one for men and one for all. The City of London Corporation tried to close the bathing ponds in 2004, but a challenge at the High Court by swimmers overcame this, though charges for swimming were then introduced.
If you’re able and feeling determined, the best way to explore the city is by foot. There are countless walks along the Thames and around the city that will soothe your soul whilst working your muscles and stimulating your mind. One wee gem is strolling Regent’s Canal which is almost a direct route from London Zoo to Camden “Lock. Highly recommended on a sunny Sunday dawn, when most remain in slumber, it’s a pleasure to experience the feeling that you’re on some towpath of a countryside canal, when the reality is that you’re in the midst of a thriving cosmopolitan capital.
ST PAUL’S CHURCH
When tired, weary and fed up with the hustle and bustle of urban life, make your way to this treasure of a place, built in 1633, to pause, reflect and rejuvenate. Hidden in broad daylight in London’s West End, St Paul’s Church is affectionately known as ’The Actors’ Church’, given its longstanding connection to the theatre community. Whether you venture inside or rest on the lawn beneath the ancient trees, you’re sure to decompress and recalibrate, making you ready once more to explore the brilliant city that is London.