Heaps of food and an old-fashioned EU lake of wine, not to mention hours slumped in front of fire or film. The need to get some air in the lungs grows. Our part of South London is blessed with lovely parks like Dulwich, Brockwell, Ruskin and Crystal Palace and of course there are Dulwich and Sydenham Woods but here are a three suggestions, a little further afield but reachable by train or tube.


First up is Knole Park, the estate attached to Knole House. It’s great for an aimless amble, interrupted by den building and gazing at the herds of fallow deer and occasional Japanese sika. The park covers a thousand acres, though sadly a chunk of that is occupied by a golf course. Nevertheless, there is lots of grassland, woodland and some avenues to stroll through.

Knole House is open to the paying public, though the courtyard and orangery, as well as the bookshop and old brewhouse cafe are all free to enter. The nearest train station is Sevenoaks and it’s a twenty minute walk from there. Turn right out of the station and walk up the hill, past a flourishing, vertical garden on a branch of M&S and small shops selling good stuff like chocolate, vinyl and wine. As you emerge on the other side of town, the entrance is on the left next to Sevenoaks School.

A more urban suggestion is the Parkland Walk. It’s London’s equivalent to New York’s High Line and Paris’s Coulée verte René-Dumont. An old railway line provides a ribbon of woodland, running from Finsbury Park to Highgate, where you can either link up to another stretch of ex-railway leading to Alexander Palace or have a ramble around Highgate Woods instead.

This walk is well known to North Londoners at least, so don’t expect to find yourself in solitude. It’s a fascinating stroll, with houses gardens and streets visible in glimpses between the trees and there are railway bridges and platforms to give you a sense of where you are. For kids, there is a very large wooden structure (I hesitate to call it a climbing frame, as that doesn’t do it justice) to play on at Crouch Hill.

The third walk is Box Hill, a classic day trip from town. A short walk from Box Hill & Westhumble station and you’ll reach the stepping stones over the River Mole and start your climb. At the top, there’s a National Trust cafe if you need restoratives and a clutch of leaflets detailing various walks. Just behind the cafe is a fort which dates back to the 1890s.

We usually do a walk called, the Box Hill Hike which takes in the woodland play area, a folly tower (which until recently had a tree growing inside it), a couple more steep assents to tax the leg muscles and a pub stop at the Running Horses in Mickleham for decent grub and a pint of Brakspear. If the Hike is a more than you fancy, there are the Hill Top Stroll and the Stepping Stones Walk or just wander off wherever your feet take you.

box hill folly

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