7 Places to Get Back to Nature in London

Pink cherry blossom in London - where to get back to nature

London’s parks make up 18% of the city. In fact, they cover more land than railways and roads combined. Surprising, right? Mayor Sadiq Khan is even striving for London to become the world’s first National Park City by 2050. That means a target of 50% of the city covered in green space.

But luckily, we don’t need to wait until 2050 to get back to nature. If you’re desperate to swap the manmade for the evergreen, discover below some of London’s best parks and wildlife reserves that offer escapism when you need it most.

1. Richmond Park

Richmond Park is London’s largest royal park and has earned protected status for its wildlife. The Isabella Plantation within the park is a 40 acre woodland garden that was planted in the 1830s and has become known for its stream, ponds and vibrant pink azaleas. This popular park for weekend dog walking is also home to around 630 free-roaming Red and Fallow deer.


2. Hackney City Farm

Established in 1984, Hackney City Farm helps to burst the ‘London bubble’ and remind us where our food comes from. Animals include sheep, chickens, goats and donkeys, among others. The livestock has its own country retreat – rotating between the city and a working farm in Kent. Aside from fresh eggs and honey, there is also a packaging-free shop onsite for dry goods.


3. London Wetland Centre

Located in SW13, ten minutes from Hammersmith, London Wetland Centre ‘brings the countryside to the capital’. The site makes use of four redundant reservoirs and is home to 180 different species, including water voles, dragonflies, lizards and kingfishers. There are also meadows and gardens to explore.


4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

With more than 30,000 plant species, it’s difficult not to connect with nature during a trip to Kew Gardens. Climb the Victorian spiral staircases in the Palm House and you’ll be transported to a steamy jungle oasis, far from Central London and commuting chaos. Kew is also one of the best places in London to see blossom in the Spring.

The roof of the Palm House, Kew Gardens

5. The Barbican Conservatory

Yearning for some green scenes but stuck in the city? The Barbican Conservatory is a quick pick-me-up for plant lovers – there are over 2,000 species growing here. It’s open on selected Sundays and even better, it’s free.


6. Hill Gardens and Pergola, Hampstead

The Pergola is an Edwardian raised walkway, commissioned by the wealthy
Lord Leverhulme in the early 20th century. Often described as ‘faded grandeur’, the once lavish Pergola is now overgrown with vines and plants, creating a fairytale escape overlooking the Hill Garden.


7. Parkland Walk, Haringey

The Parkland Walk follows the former railway line that once connected Finsbury Park and Alexander Palace. Around 4 km in length, the route made up of wooded areas and meadows is the longest linear nature reserve in London. It’s home to wildflowers, foxes, butterflies and birds.

There are plenty of places to slow down in London and find a better connection with the great outdoors. And aside from designated parks and gardens, London’s tree-lined streets in areas such as Notting Hill also offer a glimpse of nature, especially during Spring when #wisteriahysteria and the cherry blossom season is in full swing. Though, you’ll probably have to wait your turn for that Insta-worthy shot.


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. April’s theme is Slow Living & Getting Outdoors.

Thought-Provoking and Inspiring Slow Living Quotes

Go with the slow quote

These carefully curated simple and slow living quotes inspire us to live better not faster in the modern era. They include key thinkers on the slow movement, such as Carl Honoré and the man attributed to the birth of the slow food movement, Carlo Petrini.


“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds” 

Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed


Go with the slow

Unknown, but appeared in Flow Magazine


“Slow living is all about creating time and space and energy for the things that matter most to us in life, so ask yourself what you stand to gain.” 

Brooke McAlary, quoted in Stylist


There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

Mahatma Gandhi


” …slow living is not about living your life in slow motion; it’s about doing everything at the right speed and pacing instead of rushing. By that same logic, slow living is not about losing time by going slowly; it’s about gaining time by doing the things that are most important to you.”

Kayleigh Dray, Stylist


“For fast acting relief, try slowing down.”

Lily Tomlin


“Slowing down is sometimes the best way to speed up.” 

Mike Vance


“In order to seek one’s own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life.”

Plato


“In the 1980s, simplicity was seen primarily as “downshifting” or pulling back from the rat race of consumer society. Several decades later, there is a growing recognition of simplicity as “upshifting”—or moving beyond the rat race to the human race.”

Duane Elgin, quoted by Eco Walk the Talk


“Slow living is a curious mix of being prepared and being prepared to let go. Caring more and caring less. Saying yes and saying no. Being present and walking away. Doing the important things and forgetting those that aren’t.” 

Brooke McAlarySlow


“The idea of the modern has been superseded; the challenge today is to return to the small scale, the hand made, to local distribution – because today what we call ‘modern’ is out of date.”

Carlo Petrini, quoted in The Independent


“Urban life itself acts as a giant particle accelerator. When people move to the city, they start to do everything faster.” 

Carl Honoré, In Praise Of Slow


Discover more about what slow living means.

A Year of Living Slower, April: Slow Living & Getting Outdoors

Slow living and getting outdoors

We’re a quarter of the way through A Year of Living Slower, a challenge in living better, not faster. Throughout the year-long challenge, we explore twelve themes, inspired by the slow living movement.

We kicked off the year exploring the basics; the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. Next, in February, we focused on putting the self-care back into Sundays. During March, we explored the roots of the slow food movement, from motivations for cooking from scratch to seasonal eating and London’s zero waste shops. It took the slow living movement one step further, not just focusing on ingredients and culinary heritage but also on food packaging and taking time to enjoy the food on our plates.

The Power of Getting Outdoors

With the first signs of Spring arriving, we turn our attention to April’s theme; slow living and getting outdoors.

This month seemed to be particularly tailored to city-dwellers, but in reality, it seems that getting more fresh air could be something we should all consider. It’s reported that UK adults spend 90% of their time indoors and 36% of parents don’t think their children spend enough time outdoors.

With this in mind, April’s challenge is about slowing down to reconnect with the reassuring pace and pattern of nature; a constant in our ever-changing world. We explore how getting outdoors can affect our happiness and mood and share some of London’s finest green spaces.

How are you finding the challenge so far? Use the hashtag #AYearOfLivingSlower on Instagram to share your experiences.



A Month-by-Month Guide to Seasonal Eating

Fresh fruit and vegetables

Seasonal eating means buying and cooking fresh food that is at its best at a particular time of year. Of course, most of us would struggle to be without bananas and other foods that can’t be produced in the UK, are grateful for the vast choice we have and find it important to support Fair Trade producers. However, there are still many reasons to try and eat more seasonally when it comes to the produce we can grow over here.

After sharing these seasonal eating motivations, we list what’s in season with a rough month-by-month guide to fruit and vegetables in the UK. Remember that the seasonal periods can change slightly each year due to the weather and many local foods can be stored to be eaten later.

Reasons to Eat with the Seasons

1. Fewer food miles

Eating food that can grow naturally at a certain time of the year in the UK can help to reduce food miles. While it’s claimed that meat and dairy farming produces higher CO2 than food miles, it’s still worth looking for a local alternative where possible.

2. Best Taste and Higher nutritional value

As locally grown seasonal produce is harvested at the optimum time and eaten sooner, it’s often more nutritious.

Senior nutrition scientist for the British Nutrition Foundation, Ayela Spiro, explains that fresh fruit and vegetables “can spend weeks or even months in transit; refrigerated lorries and chiller cabinets slow down the spoiling of produce rather than preventing it.” Eating or freezing produce soon after it’s picked can help maintain nutrients and taste. However, older fruit can still be put to good use and edible food should not be wasted.

3. Support local producers

In 2012, the government reported that just 23% of the fruit and vegetables bought were produced on home soil. Of course, we can’t produce everything in the UK, but eating seasonally helps to support local producers and celebrate British ingredients, while helping more money to be invested back into the local area.

4. Creative cooking

There are many reasons to cook from scratch, including slowing down and enjoying a mindful activity after a busy day, placing more importance on family mealtimes and eating fresher, less processed foods. Eating seasonally encourages creativity in terms of trying new recipes and new ingredients.


What’s in Season in the UK?

January:

  • Beetroot, potatoes, kale, celeriac, brussel sprouts, leeks, swedes, turnips, shallots, parsnips
  • Apples, pears

February:

  • Potatoes, kale, celeriac, brussel sprouts, leeks, swedes, turnips, parsnips, shallots
  • Apples, pears

March:

  • Purple sprouting broccoli, spring onions, spinach, shallots, leeks, cauliflower, celeriac
  • Rhubarb

April:

  • Spring carrots, Spring cabbage, Jersey new potatoes, leeks, spinach, spring onions, cauliflower
  • Rhubarb

May:

  • Asparagus, spinach, new potatoes, rocket, spring onions, watercress
  • Rhubarb

June:

  • Asparagus, new potatoes, courgettes, green beans, salad leaves, mangetout, watercress, samphire, aubergines, spinach, peas, peppers, carrots
  • Strawberries, cherries, gooseberries, rhubarb

July:

  • Broad beans, peas, green beans, garlic, cucumbers, lettuces, salad leaves, watercress, mangetout, carrots
  • Strawberries, black, red and white currants, raspberries, gooseberries, cherries, blueberries

August:

  • Courgettes, tomatoes, peppers, sweetcorn, potatoes, cucumber, carrots, watercress, carrots, broad beans
  • Plums, cherries, melons, apricots

September:

  • Salad leaves, tomatoes, sweetcorn, beetroot, cauliflower
  • Plums, figs, grapes, melons, blackberries, apples, wild sloes, elderberries

October:

  • Mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage, marrows, squashes, potatoes, young turnips, wild mushrooms
  • Apples (eating and cooking), pears, sweet chestnuts, hazelnuts

November

  • Carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, beetroots, turnips, parsnips, celeriac, leeks, wild mushrooms
  • Apples, pears, quinces, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, chestnuts

December

  • Brussels sprouts, leeks, swedes, curly kale, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, pumpkin, chard, spinach
  • Apples, pears, quinces, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, chestnuts

Find more inspiration on sustainability.

35 Sustainable Swaps for a More Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

Sustainable swaps: string shopping bag

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” – Anna Lappé , advocate for a sustainable and fair food system.

This quote reminds us that one of the most powerful tools we have as consumers is our purchasing power.

Research by Ethical Consumer indicates that we’ve already started to realise this power. Between 2016 and 2017 the not-for-profit organisation reported a 10.8% rise in ethical cosmetics sales and similar rise of 10.1% in sales of household items that were bought for re-use.

Yet thought-provoking stats and predictions, such as the estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish, remind us that we still have a long way to go, on an individual and societal level.

35 Sustainable Swaps to Lessen Your Environmental Impact

  1. Beeswax wraps instead of cling film
  2. Paper, bamboo or metal straws
  3. Reusable shopping bags
  4. Reusable travels mugs
  5. Fabric napkins instead of disposable napkins
  6. Reusable water bottle
  7. Plastic-free tea bags or opt for loose leaf tea
  8. Packaging or plastic-free bars of soap
  9. Silicone baking mats instead of baking paper or foil
  10. Buying fruit and vegetables without packaging
  11. Paper tape instead of sticky tape
  12. Reusable make-up remover pads
  13. Bulk buy dry goods at zero waste shops
  14. Reusable dryer balls
  15. Recycled toilet roll
  16. Natural toothpaste
  17. Coconut husk scourers for washing up
  18. Biodegradable dog waste bags
  19. Metal safety razor
  20. LED bulbs
  21. Buy in-season from local markets
  22. Use recyclable wrapping paper or newspaper
  23. Go paperless for utility and other bills
  24. Biodegradable earbuds
  25. Plastic-free dental floss
  26. Reusable nail varnish remover pads
  27. Organic cotton bedding and towels
  28. Fair trade clothing or buy at vintage and charity shops
  29. Plastic-free shampoo and conditioner bars
  30. Rechargeable batteries
  31. Reusable cupcake cases
  32. Bamboo toothbrushes
  33. Stainless steel wire pegs instead of plastic
  34. Glass food containers
  35. Upcycled furniture

These are just some of the sustainable swaps you can make to reduce waste and lessen your environmental impact. Many of these swaps are very easy to implement and the reusable nature of some products may also save you money in the long run!


Find more inspiration for sustainable living.