Hills (& other spaces) for contemplation (esp. late-night) in London
July 1, 2018 4:01 AM   Subscribe

I think I need to find spaces in London to sit, exist and contemplate - places that would be free to access and have somewhere to sit. Ideally places slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of humanity, and places I'd be able to access at night as well as during the day. Any ideas? More inside.

Some days I just feel out of sorts. When I was in Edinburgh/Glasgow, I could always go and climb a small hill (in Edinburgh: Arthur's Seat, the Crags, Corstorphine Hill) and gaze down on the city, even (especially) late at night. Or if I didn't want to climb a hill, I'd be able to find a space to exist, a bench on Princes Street. Something slightly out of the expected realm of behaviour, which in its unexpectedness would bring me a sense of peace and realness, a space to be.

I feel like, by comparison, London lacks a public realm, lacks hills, and lacks space to exist at a slight remove from most of humanity. I'm missing this freedom to have somewhere I can *go* when I'm restless and out of sorts late at night, in particular. Any recommendations?
posted by tangerine_poppies to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath and Brockwell Park both have panoramic views over London and tend to be quiet. There'll be a few people there in the day, but very few at night. It's spooky but lovely!
posted by starstarstar at 4:17 AM on July 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I once had a lovely afternoon dozing on Primrose Hill. Woke up after sunset to see the city below me like a carpet of stars.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 4:55 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Brockwell Park is open and has a mild elevation, from which there are really mystical views northwards towards the city- it looks like a castle in the air from there. There are many smaller parks/commons like it across south London which might provide what you're looking for.

It's not far removed from the hustle and bustle but sitting on a bench on the South Bank or other bits of the embankment and looking out over the Thames might be an option to try.
posted by mymbleth at 6:10 AM on July 1, 2018

Judge's Walk on Hampstead Heath is pretty much always quiet. It's at the back of someone's house. Even Constable painted it.

If you're up for this experience at a slightly earlier time i'd also suggest sitting in the Pergola in the Woods (again in Hampstead).

You'd do well to just walk around Hampstead Heath and find somewhere.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 7:04 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding South London. I moved from Hackney to Forest Hill for this exact reason. There are astonishing views around here,and the population density is so much lower than North London. I walk a lot and there are myriad pockets of serenity.

Following the green chain walk will get you to most of the main sites but you can also find plenty of less trafficked areas if you’re willing to seek them out. I just look for green spaces at higher elevations on gmaps.
posted by freya_lamb at 8:35 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I lived in Stoke Newington, Walthamstow Marsh Nature Reserve was one of my favourite places for thinking. Now I live in Bermondsey, I usually walk along the river. For a very quiet high place in South London, I've never seen better than Nunhead Cemetery or the heights of Nunhead Reservoir next to the cemetery (which can be accessed through a generous gap in the fence at the northern end of Brockley Footpath). Or there's Crystal Palace, which has wonderful views towards the south.
posted by kelper at 9:48 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Lots of views from Epping Forest. Particularly along the ridge above Stewardstone Road. Train to Chingford, then walk up Bury Road for 10-20 mins and take one the footpaths to the left.

Walthamstow marshes is often my thinking place, good views but not up high. In daytime now, you can get up on the reservoir banks in Walthamstow Wetlands and have fine views (the advantage of London being relatively flat is that you only need a little height to get a view).

For a completely different perspective, go down on the Thames foreshore, tide tables and rules about searching for artefacts are on the Port of London website. Don't go at night until you're confident about tides and the conditions.

Other good hills/views Greenwich Park (go beyond the observatory), Blackheath, Alexandra Palace.
posted by Helga-woo at 9:50 AM on July 1, 2018

I can also recommend the Capital Ring Walk - I found loads of quiet green spaces I never knew existed when I walked it. Various canals, Queens Wood and Highgate Wood, all of Harrow... really stunning. I thought sections 6-13 from Wimbledon north (clockwise) to Stratford were the best, though all were interesting in some way.
posted by tinkletown at 4:28 PM on July 1, 2018

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