The Handbook
The Handbook

London never tires of telling itself that it has more green space than any other capital city in the world. I looked this up and we’re actually 10th, pipped by Moscow, Stockholm, Madrid and Rome among others, but nevertheless 33% of London is parkland. Which makes choosing our absolute favourites a tall order. However, we have and here they are…

20 – Brockwell Park

Brockwell Park comes with its own lido, which sets it apart (so does Tooting Bec Common, but it didn’t make the cut), but there’s so much more to his Herne Hill hangout.

Despite being in densely populated ‘sarf’ London, there’s a real countrified air, complete with country house and gardens.

The Prince Regent Pub, on the edge of the park and close to the station, serves excellent scotch eggs and is worth checking out once lockdown restrictions are lifted.

19 – Kensington Gardens

The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is gravity defying and yet rather wonderful. It snakes round in a loop somehow ever flowing. Ideal for children paddling.

More formal and less wild than its immediate neighbour, Hyde Park, look out for royal nannies and the Peter Pan statue…

18 – Dulwich Park

Never a dull moment in Dulwich Park, not least because there’s pedalos!

Opened in 1890, the 72 acre park is ideal for everyone, with free tennis courts, cricket nets and bowls. For the less energetic there’s a café and plenty of space to lie down.

17 – Peckham Rye

What is a rye? It’s an old English word for brook, and in this case referenced the river Peck, which used to run across Peckham Rye and gives rise to the name Peckham.

Mainly enclosed, the river (more of a stream) can still be seen on Peckham Rye. Enjoy the recently refurbished Round Cafe (it’s round) or adventure playground or lie on the grass and soak up some rays.

16 – Victoria Park

Cool London spends its weekends hanging out in Vicky Park. Famous for its skatepark and as a concert venue, the trendy set also share the park with the world’s oldest model boat club.

As well as cricket nets, a lake with rowing boats and flower beds there’s plenty of open space for picnicking and sunbathing.

15 – Clapham Common

A charming interlude between Clapham and Balham or a desert of grass, it’s up to you to decide. Sprawling between Clapham Common and Clapham South tube stops, Clapham Common centres around its bandstand, the Windmill Pub (sadly no windmill, but a worthwhile visit nevertheless) and the area around Clapham Old Town.

When it’s not the UK’s premier ultimate frisbee destination, the entire common spends summer strewn with bodies like Waterloo the day after, except mainly semi nude, pale English people trying as hard as possible to tan. Plan a visit to Trinity Restaurant while you’re in the area.

14 – Battersea Park

There’s more to Battersea than not being ‘South Chelsea’ or the place to collect a rescue dog. And chief among the reasons to cross the river and visit is the park.

Not only does it play host to a tremendous fireworks display come Guy Fawkes’ night but during the summer months there’s rosé by the lake from Pear Tree Café, athletics and tennis facilities, a petting zoo and a rather delightful Japanese Pagoda.

13 – Greenwich Park

Greenwich, not only the main character in Wicked! but a the setter of international time. And above the imposing structure of the old Navel College and the bristling masts of the Cutty Sark rises Greenwich Park.

Home to the Royal Observatory this 131 acres affords the best view of the Canary Wharf skyscrapers.

12 – Alexandra Park

Set high above London overlooking the city from the North West, Alexandra Park is lofty and regal. Named to mark the marriage of Alexandra of Denmark to the then Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. That’s a bit like naming a park Camilla Parker-Bowles Common nowadays.

Dominated by Alexandra Palace, the former BBC studios and broadcasting transmitter that now plays host to myriad events, away from Ally Pally there’s plenty to enjoy.

11 – London Fields

Perfect for Broadway Market, London Fields covers just 31 acres, but fits plenty into the space including a BMX Track, cricket pitches and tennis courts.

Close to its grander sibling, Victoria Park, Hackney’s London Fields can claim better pedigree, having been a public park since the twelfth century.

As soon as possible check out Pub on the Park, which sits on the edge of London Fields.

10 – Holland Park

Holland Park was one of London’s great homes, built in the seventeenth century and inhabited by  the earls of Holland (hence Holland Park) and Ilchester. Bombed in the second world war, the ruins and remains passed to the council in the 1950s and the park opened up to the public.

The gardens, a mixture of wilderness and formal gardens as well as parkland also offer visitors the chance to poke around the old house, which now houses a youth hostel.

9 – St James’ Park

Despite its distinctly royal connections, from  nearby Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and St Jame’s Palace (King Charles I took his final walk before facing the gallows here), St Jame’s Park has not always been quite as stately as today. The park was previously a red light district before the Victorians cleaned up its image.

Now it’s where prime ministers come to jog and in the absence of tourists you can enjoy uninterrupted grassy space in this largely uninhabited area of London.

8 – Crystal Palace

Forget remote islands and a fossilised mosquitoes, the real Jurassic Park is right here in South London. Crystal Palace’s dinosaurs are the stuff of legend. A favourite of Queen Victoria’s, these lifelike (and mainly un-lifelike) dinosaur sculptures make any visit worthwhile.

7 – Hyde Park

The ‘lungs of the capital’, Hyde Park is viewed by most as London’s centrepiece, a vast park right in the centre. Except developers, who presumably longingly look at it as London’s biggest real estate opportunity.

Not that they’ve done badly out of it, properties lining the edges of Hyde Park are some of the most desirable in the world. The Serpentine Gallery, as well as the Serpentine itself (people swim in it all year round).

6 – Regent’s Park

Created by John Nash and James and Decimus Buton in the early nineteenth century, Regent’s Park is noble by name and nature.

One of London’s royal parks, it’s formally laid out in series of rings, surrounded by grand villas owned by overseas billionaires. If you get bored of it’s beautiful rose garden or rolling parkland then it’s also got the American Ambassador’s mansion as well as London Zoo, so you get to enjoy monkeys whether or not Trump’s in town…

5 – Green Park

Don’t sit on a deck chair, someone will materialise out of nowhere and agressively demand a fiver. But if you can source a very similar looking deck chair you can wind them up no end by placing it close to the paid chairs and watch the tout’s disappointment.

When you’re not winding up those involved in the deck chair racket you can wander the broad avenues, visit the Bomber Command memorial or pop into nearby Mayfair. The Ritz, anyone?

Image: @willrawoski, Instagram

4 – Wandsworth Common

Stumbling upon Wandsworth Common from the genteel shops of Bellevue Road (including Handbook favourite Chez Bruce) or close-by Wandsworth Common station, you could be forgiven for mistaking this as a small park, even wanting. But the common opens out and stretches far, straddling the train lines with endless playing fields, a fishing lake and tennis courts.

Sit and watch the cricket or enjoy watching some of the poshest mums and dogs in South West London.

3 – Hampstead Heath

The vastness of Hampstead Heath is only matched by its variety. At times stately, such as by Kenwood House, at other moments wild as you hack through woods or happen into ponds. The views across London from Parliament Hill fields are breathtaking and iconic and it’s all within walking distance of the city centre.

2 – Richmond Park

Back drop to the famous FENTON! video, a defining feature of Richmond Park is its majestic deer. The vast park feels like a (very well kempt) wilderness, making it the perfect destination for cyclists, ramblers or anyone seeking to leave London behind them, without y’know, leaving London behind them.

1 – Wimbledon Common

And our favourite park? Wimbledon Common! Wimbledon Common is so uncommon that it’s even got a windmill in the middle, which you don’t see that regularly (though there’s one round the back of Brixton you should totally check out too!)

The 1,140 acres of common land include riding routes, a lake, woodland and wide open spaces, not to mention three golf courses (including London Scottish, where all the players must wear red jerseys).

My favourite element is Cannizaro House, a decent hotel and the bistro, when open, is ideal, but it also hides a little park-within-a-park, offering a lovely stroll.

Look out for tennis famouses and wombles.