Did you know that almost half of our capital city is green space? (47% to be exact). We have eight million trees in London, making it the world’s largest urban forest.
According to Daniel Raven-Ellison, founder of the Greater London National Park campaign, the city, which covers more than 1,500 square kilometres, has more than 13,000 species inhabiting 3,000 parks, 30,000 allotments, three million gardens and two National Nature Reserves. Overall, 47 per cent of London is green space, and 60 per cent is classified as open space. This is illustrated nicely in the green map above, produced by Greenspace Information for Greater London showing only rivers and green space. It features no roads, buildings or other structures.
With all that green space to explore and with spring is approaching we thought it was time to rediscover the best parks, farms and gardens in East London and to start planning some outdoor time. Here are our recommendations of the best places to get some air, get back to nature and if you’re lucky, catch some rays…
Geffrye Museum Gardens, Hoxton
View of the period gardens – photo – Jayne Lloyd
If you like a little history with your outdoor space, Geffrye Museum is the place for you. Founded in 1914, the Geffrye Museum explores the home from 1600 to the present day. Evocative displays of middle-class living rooms and gardens illustrate homes and home life through the centuries, reflecting changes in society, behaviour, style and taste.
Inspired by Shoreditch’s history as a centre of horticulture and market gardens, the gardens are chronologically arranged to explore the links between home interiors and gardens. The front gardens are open all year round and are a popular open green space in busy inner-city Shoreditch. The herb and period gardens reopen on 26th March. Admission is free.
London Fields, Hackney
London Fields is one of Hackney’s most popular parks. It’s classified as common land due to its history as a site for grazing animals and moving them to market at Smithfield. The park has a reputation as being a mecca for hipsters and it’s BBQ area is often full of young people cooking up a storm. Based near Broadway market and some great pubs, it’s a great place to while away an afternoon. The park holds a Green Flag award – an award given annually to the best green spaces in the country and has a whole host of amenities including sports facilities, a lido, a BMX park and a paddling pool.
Mudchute Farm – Isle of Dogs
Photo – mudchute.org
Mudchute Park and Farm is a large urban park and farm on the Isle of Dogs just south of Canary Wharf. The Local Nature Reserve is a site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. It’s name comes courtesy of the excavation of Millwall Dock, when silt from the excavation was dumped on nearby land. The park covers 32 acres and is described by The Mudchute Association as the largest urban farm in Europe.
To visit the farm, enjoy the park and spend some time in the Mudchute Kitchen allow at least two hours for your visit and make sure to swing by the farm courtyard, the farm itself and the stables for the full urban farm experience.
Spitalfields City Farm
As well as hosting the annual Oxford Cambridge Goat race, Spitalfields City Farm has been providing locally grown food and a little slice of rural life in the city for nearly four decades.
Situated on a former railway goods depot, it’s the nearest city farm to the square mile. It began in 1978 in response to local people’s wishes to convert wasteland into allotments, having lost theirs to developers. With a long tradition in the East End of backyard farming, it wasn’t long before chickens, rabbits and geese appeared on the scene.
The farm gained charitable status in 1980 and has since developed into a project providing a wide range of activities and opportunities to the local community and visiting groups.
Receiving over 18,000 visitors a year and spread over 1.3 acres of land owned by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Railtrack, the farm keeps a selection of farm animals and has developed growing areas in every available space.
You can read about the farm and other social initiatives in East London in our ‘Reasons to be positive’ blog.
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park
Photo: Cemetery Club
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is a historic cemetery consisting of thirty one acres of beautiful and atmospheric woodland in the heart of East London. Opened in 1841, The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery, one of the Magnificent Seven Victorian cemeteries, is now a designated park, Local Nature Reserve and Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation.
The site has a varied network of paths that take you on a tour around wonderful woodlands taking in unique and special wildflower meadows. On your tour you will see many birds, butterflies and plants uncommonly seen in London. The park is open from dawn till dusk and it is free to visit.
Victoria Park is 86 acres of Victorian greenery in the heart of East London. It is regularly voted the nation’s top park and is enjoyed by millions each year. It opened in 1841, making it the first public park in the country and it has been benefitting East London communities ever since. The park brings huge benefits to health, community and housing. We love it. To get a fuller picture of what’s on offer at the park, see our A-Z of Victoria Park.
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