Leisure London

Hampstead Heath Hiking

April 16, 2015

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The Beard and I decided to book a few days off over Easter for a little Staycation. We were thinking about a last minute holiday, but with the school holidays in full swing flights were through the roof. So Staycation we did, and our first day involved a Hampstead Heath Hike. Did you know that the definition of a β€˜Hike’ is just a long walk? Yup. Google it. Hiking is walking. I always imagined Hiking as a strenuous climb, but it’s just walking. This definition pleases me no end because as someone who does a lot of walking, it means I get to tell everyone I’m a hiker. Because I am. Technically I hiked home from the coach station last week. And the Beard and I hiked to Aldi. Anyone fancy a hike to the pub this weekend?

I kid. Of course I understand that it is meant to be used in the sense of long country walks and such, something you may think you won’t get a lot of in London. But if you pop to the West side of the capital to the beautiful town of Hampstead, which I am very lucky to live near, you will feel as if you have transported yourself to a little country village. Not only are the houses ginormous and beautiful, the high street quaint and cobbled, and the pubs traditional, but of course there is Hampstead Heath! A stunning park nearly 800 acres large, full of grassy hills, stunning bridges, wildlife and woodlands, and ponds you can swim in. And if you climb to the highest point, you are can see the most spectacular views of the entire city.

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It took the Beard and I about 45 minutes to walk to the highest point from our house – and it was all uphill! We then spent a further three hours walking hiking around the Heath, taking in the stunning sights, the amazing weather, and admiring the wildlife. There were so many couples out walking their pooches and I couldn’t help feel jealous of all the Dogs who get to run around this beautiful park every day. I also felt very jealous of all the people who clearly didn’t have to be stuck in an office. This lead to the Beard and I wandering along the bridge discussing our futures, imaging ourselves as self-employed, freelance, work-from-home la-de-da types with a Hampstead cottage and two little pups that we would walk on the Heath on our lunch hour. Sigh. You’ve got to paint the picture to make it a reality.

On scorcher days like this particular one it’s easy to find an ice cream truck on the heath. Of course due to the Easter Hols the one we found was jam packed. But in the need for something cool and refreshing we joined the very very long line and queued up for ice cream. I couldn’t tell who was more excited about all the choices on offer, me or the eight year old girl pushing in front of me. Ice creams have changed over the years – they now have something called an Oyster. I kept it classy and chose a Twister, and the Beard surprised me by going for the 99 … which now costs Β£1.35. Pfft. (For the non-Brits reading, a β€˜99’ or β€˜99er’ is a cone filled with ice cream and a flake stuck in it).

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Unfortunately, after nearly four hours of walking hiking, we needed more than ice cream, we needed CARBS. We began the walk back to our town of Willesden Green, passing through Hampstead High street, and wandering into Kilburn. Here we decided to eat at one of our fave independent restaurants Small and Beautiful (which was one of the first food joints I ever blogged about, back in Feb 2012). I gave up bread for Lent and had gone 43 days without Pizza, so of course I ordered a giant Quattro Formaggi and an ice cold coke. After a long day in the sunshine, this was bliss.

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Hampstead Heath Tips

  • If you’re planning on doing a bit of a Hampstead Heath Hike, pack plenty of Water and wear comfy shoes such as trainers or walking boots
  • If you’re on a budget pack your own water, the shops nearby are expensive
  • If you’re not much of a hiker pack some food and enjoy a picnic instead, the lookout spot would be a perfect for a romantic picnic
  • If you want to go swimming in one of the ponds but are a little shy, then fear not, there is a womens-only pond (plus a mens-only pond and a mixed)
  • Nearest tubes are Hampstead (Northern Line) and Belsize Park (Northern Line)
  • Nearest overground stations are Hampstead Heath and Gospel OakΒ 

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