IN THE PRESENCE OF NATURE

“In the presence of nature,” wrote renowned American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, “a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows.” Writing in the 19th century, he was clearly ahead of his time, since nowadays it’s widely accepted that fresh air can be powerfully restorative. A good thing to keep in mind when living in one of the world’s leading cities. If London’s constant hum is just a little too much to handle or you’re after somewhere isolated to get your exercise, any of the nearby green spaces listed below should help you recalibrate. Let’s start with Deptford Park…

 

DEPTFORD PARK

Closest station: Deptford Train Station

Easily accessible from both Deptford and Surrey Quays station, Deptford Park was originally a market garden which formed part of the estate of the Evelyn family. Thanks to its proximity to the Thames, it was particularly noted for its rich, healthy soil which gave way to an abundance of celery, onions and asparagus. For the last 120-odd years though, the space has been a public park to which people have flocked with kids, dogs and families alike. Its 17-acre area provides plenty of space for everyone to relax there undisturbed, and those looking for a kick-about will be pleased to know that the football pitch and play area was saved from being AstroTurfed over in 2015, due to the council’s rejection of the plans following opposition from the passionate local community.


FOLKESTONE GARDENS

Closest station: Surrey Quays Tube Station

Folkestone Gardens is surrounded by mature trees, making it an immediately peaceful refuge from the hustle and bustle of Lewisham. The area, with all its undulating mounds, is a former section of housing which was destroyed in the war. Such a history is unfortunate, but the beautiful pond and popular café that have since occupied the space are fitting places to sit, contemplate and give thanks. Although, if staying active is more your style, paddles are available to rent from the café for a game of table tennis, and the nearby playground and skatepark are worth checking out too.

SAYES COURT PARK

Closest station: Deptford Train Station

An archaeological dig in 2011 by the Museum of London archaeology unearthed the remains of Sayes Court, the 17th Century home of diarist John Evelyn (whose name keen-eyed readers may recognise from the above section about Deptford Park), yet it’ll still be a while before the entire area is restored to its former glory. However, on part of the former grounds of the house sits the beautiful Sayes Court Park, originally a section of Evelyn’s private gardens. The 1.5-acre park may not possess the scale of Deptford Park, but its long opening hours and play area still make it a great spot for a Sunday walk or an outdoor date.

THAMES PATH

Closest station: Woolwich Dockyard Train Station

With so many parks to choose from, it’s easy to forget that London is also home to several breath-taking natural trails which provide an astonishing alternative. The Thames Path does exactly what it says on the tin: the trail is a parallel walk along the entirety of the Thames, totalling at 184 miles, though no one is expecting trail-walkers to take on the whole thing. What’s easy about the trail for Deptford locals is that the trail ends at the Thames Barrier, just a stone’s throw away. So even a quick 15-minute stroll along the trail’s end should provide a refreshing hit of nature that can rival the enormous Deptford Park. Art lovers can also check out J. M. W. Turner’s house en-route.

PEPYS PARK

Closest station: Deptford Train Station

Keep the cobwebs away by taking a stroll through Pepys Park. During the regeneration of Deptford in the 1960s by the local council, the park was created in memory of the celebrated diarist Samuel Pepys. It makes for a great alternative to Deptford Park and sits just next to Pepys Community Library, also built in Samuel’s honour. It’s a scenic spot that provides the sight, smell and sound of the Thames.