Published: 17/08/2022Hampstead Heath, perhaps the most famous part of Hampstead, is a wild park of meadows and woodland that lies only four miles from the centre of London. The park's sprawl measures 800 acres and provides some of the best views of the city, in the city. As Zadie Smith puts it, Hampstead Heath is “where Keats walked … where Orwell exercised his weakened lungs and Constable never failed to find something holy”. Londoners from all over have been coming to the Heath to escape the city for over 200 years.
It is deemed the perfect place to spend a Sunday. There are many local pubs that surround the Heath. The ponds, be they mixed, ladies, or men's are perfect places to seek isolation and serenity in the city. You can picnic, survey the views, and while away the day at any part of the Heath.
Notable feature: The PondsAcross Hampstead Heath lie 18 ponds. They have been used for swimming, primarily, but over the years they have been used for model boating, fishing, ice skating and other activities. The various ponds for swimming remain as popular today as they have ever been. On weekends when the sun is shining, they attract large crowds.
Kenwood HouseKenwood is one of London's hidden gems. It stands on the perimeter of the Heath. This enormous stately home was remodelled by Robert Adam between 1764 and 1779. The interiors and world-class art collection, which includes Rembrandt's 'Self-Portrait with Two Circles, are free for everyone to enjoy. It was originally constructed in the 17th century and served as a residence for the Earls of Mansfield during the 18th and 19th centuries.
In popular cultureWhile living in London, Karl Marx and his family went to the heath regularly, as apparently, it was their favourite outing. Marx is buried nearby, in the prestigious Highgate cemetery. The Heath has provided inspiration for, among others, Bram Stoker, George Orwell, John le Carre, John Keats, and William Wordsworth. Some promotional photographs for the Kinks’ masterpiece ‘...Are The Village Green Preservation Society’ were taken on the Heath, with Kenwood House visible in the background.
HistoryThe Heath’s history is long, stretching back to the Domesday book at least. Over time, plots of land in the manor were sold off for building, particularly in the early 19th century, though the heath remained mainly common land. The main part of the heath was acquired for the people by the Metropolitan Board of Works. Parliament Hill was purchased for the public for £300,000 and added to the park in 1888. Golders Hill was added in 1898 and Kenwood House and grounds were added in 1928.
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