With autumn in full swing, London comes alive with vibrant colours and crisp air, making it the perfect time to explore the city’s picturesque parks. Although the days are drawing in and darkness beckons, there are plenty of ways for midlife bloomers to get outside, enjoy a ray of sunshine and maintain healthy bones, toned legs and an upbeat mood.
The best parks in London where to embrace Autumn vibes
Whether you’re a fan of brisk walks or prefer a more leisurely stroll, London truly transforms into something enchanting during Autumn. Here’s where you can embrace the changing colours of the season.
1 – Hampstead Heath
Londoners love to walk. And with every good reason, as there are plenty of great parks to choose from. Hampstead Heath remains a firm favourite, covering some 790 acres of meadows and woodland.
The Circular Walk is just under 10 km long and takes 4-5 hours to complete. It guides you around the edges of the heath via many highlights en route.
Begin at the Parliament Hill Café at the Gospel end of the heath and walk past the Highgate Ponds to Kenwood – a sumptuous 17th-century mansion occupying a central position within the heath. There is an extensive art collection inside if you have time for a detour, but maybe it’s best left for a separate excursion.
From here, descend to Bird Bridge and across onto the West Heath towards Golders Hill Pak and Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola. Explore these manicured gardens before you cross back onto East Heath, onto Parliament Hill and back to the café to finish and enjoy a well-earned pastry and steamy coffee.
2 – Great Wood Northaw Country Park
There are three marked trails of different lengths, plus several smaller permitted paths. The blue trail is 2.2 km and takes about half an hour, the red is 1.1 km and takes about 20 minutes and the yellow is 4.3 km and takes about an hour. It’s part of the Woodland Trust and visitors are encouraged to stick to the paths to protect the wood and its wildlife, keeping dogs on leads in certain areas to protect nesting birds and other wildlife.
There are many benches and picnic tables throughout and whilst enjoying a break, look out for badgers, hares, deer, stoats and rabbits as well as bats, frogs, newts, shrews and voles.
Some interesting features include a couple of ancient beech trees whose girth suggests they were part of the original 18th-century woodland. The entrance to the Great Wood in Carbone Hill is now quite overgrown. It was built during WWII to access an anti-aircraft position and a few tank traps remain visible today. They were intended to be the final defensive position for London should an invasion have happened.
Take wellies as it’s muddy most of the time, but glorious and wild.
3 – Thames Path
This National Trail follows the river from a source near Kemble in Gloucestershire right to the Woolwich foot tunnel in the southeast of the city. It’s about 300 km long so you can do as much or as little as you want.
The walk uses the existing Thames towpath wherever possible and foot access is possible to at least one side of the river for almost the whole of the way. Historically, the origins of the towpath go back to the Industrial Revolution of the 1790s-1810s. The development of a railway system around the 1840s ensured it was swiftly allowed to decay. In summer, several small campsites pop up.
You can divide the sections of the path into the following: Thames Head to Oxford (87km), Oxford to Henley on Thames (82 km), Henley to Windsor (37 km), Windsor to Richmond (45 km) and Richmond to Woolwich (47 km) and Woolwich to Crayford Ness (14 km) with much to see along the way. No time to get bored!
4 – Richmond Park
For those seeking a true escape from the urban jungle, Richmond Park is a must-visit. With its rolling hills, majestic deer, and vibrant foliage, this expansive park feels like stepping into another world.
It’s the largest Royal Park and is a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its 1000 veteran trees and unique mix of habitats including wetlands and meadowlands.
This place is a hit among wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers! It’s actually the biggest lowland acid grassland area in all of London.
Acid grassland is less fertile than other habitats which means it is more suited to native wild plants. Across its 2,500 acres, is a veritable haven for rare or endangered species such as stag beetles, bats, moths and anthills that are nearly 200 years old. There are 600-strong herds of red and fallow deer, who have roamed the park since the 1600s. Much of the landscape developed organically and naturally over centuries of grazing deer.
The entire park is a playground for mini adventures and there is something for everyone. There are 25 permanent ponds to be discovered hidden in the landscape – the best known being Pen Ponds, a haven for terns and gulls. Grey herons are often spotted here, with kingfishers harder to spot. Richmond Park is a sanctuary for 144 species of birds, 29 species of butterflies and 11 species of bats, some of which are rare.
5 – Parkland Walk
This walk is officially London’s longest local nature reserve and, as such, is one of the best to spot wildlife. Mostly the domain of London’s notorious urban foxes. And, depending on the time of year, you may see hedgehogs and dainty muntjac deer along this 4.5 km route.
It follows a disused railway track that used to connect Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace and you’ll stumble across remnants of abandoned platforms and rusty old tracks along the way.
Development of the track was halted when war broke out despite work being quite advanced at this stage. It was officially opened in 1984 as the Parkland Walk.
Start your walk at Finsbury Park station on the western side of the East Coast Main Line beside a foot overbridge that allows entry from the eastern end of Oxford Road to Finsbury Park itself. Before Crouch End station, keep an eye out for a sculpture by Marilyn Collins in one of the alcoves of the wall at the footbridge, just before the station. Popular graffiti adorn the way too. The walk is suitable for runners, walkers, cyclists and dog walkers.
6 – Jubilee Greenway
For London lovers, this 60 km long (one for each year of the Queen’s reign in her Diamond year) cycling and walking route was completed in 2012 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Sights along the way include Kensington Palace, Little Venice, Greenwich Park, Pepys Park Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and Thames Barrier to name but a few.
It’s quite a relaxing walk and would take you an average of 12 hours to complete, making use of existing walking and cycling routes wherever possible. It begins at Buckingham Palace and joins Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens with Paddington Station and the Grand Union Canal at Little Venice. Then it follows the Regent’s Canal through Camden Town, The Greenway then connects to East London through Victoria Park to the River Thames where the Woolwich foot tunnel ties Greenwich and the South Bank to the Jubilee Walkway at Tower Bridge and back to St James’s via Westminster.
Did you know?
Regular rhythmic walking is not just a good way to exercise. The Journal Of Applied Physiology reported that it also increases blood flow through the brain and stimulates greater neurocognitive resources.
Keeping your walking pattern steady and smooth appears to be beneficial for creativity. You can try this cool concept of gently pushing off your back foot to improve the smoothness of your forward movement. And if you aim for a walking cadence of around 110-115 steps per minute, you'll be on the right track!
Studies have shown that regular steady-paced walking can actually enhance your ability to remember things you've learned before improving your memory
How awesome is that? So, why not give it a try? Take a nice stroll, keep your walking pattern steady and smooth, and see how it positively impacts your creativity and memory recall. Happy walking!