London’s best picnic spots for a socially-distanced meet up

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Now lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease (again) allowing us to meet in groups of up to six, here’s our guide to some of London’s lesser-known picnic spots made for hunkering down with a luxury hamper…

  • Turner’s View, Richmond Hill

    Turner’s View, Richmond Hill

    There’s nothing quite like the sight of the River Thames’ meandering curve, best seen from high up on Richmond’s famous Marble Hill, affectionately known as Turner’s View. Since the late 17th century, artists including J.M.W. Turner and Sir Joshua Reynolds have immortalised the picturesque sight of that burbling river, flanked by verdant woods and meadows. In fact, it’s the only English landscape view which is protected by an Act of Parliament. While it’s a beauty any time of the day, come here for a sunset picnic when there are fewer crowds and the backdrop is nothing short of magical.

  • Hampstead Heath Pergola, Hampstead

    Hampstead Heath Pergola, Hampstead

    Hampstead Health might be one of London’s most popular picnic spots but those in the know make a beeline for the lesser-known Pergola, a rather gorgeous but faded reminder of its former glory days, when former resident Lord Leverhulme held wild parties for the Edwardian upper classes among the stone pillars and arches. Today it’s a truly scenic spot for a picnic, with green, overhanging and tumbling plants, providing a lush, Instagram-worthy canopy to tuck into a gourmet picnic from nearby deli Melrose and Morgan beneath.

  • Fulham Palace Gardens, Fulham

    Fulham Palace Gardens, Fulham

    The former residence of the Bishops of London, Fulham Palace is today a historic house and museum with gardens worthy of a high-end picnic. The botanic garden here is the second oldest in London (after the Chelsea Psychic Garden) with a dreamy 18th century walled garden peppered with an apple orchard, bee-humming scented borders and spectacular magnolia worth spying out at the Tudor gate entrance in spring. Pick up an ice cream or palace afternoon tea takeaway from the café and find a spot on the lawn for an afternoon loll.

  • Chelsea Physic Garden, Chelsea

    Chelsea Physic Garden, Chelsea

    There’s something rather secretive about this four-acre patch on the edge of the Thames that dates back to 1673 and was first established by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in order to grow medicinal plants. Today, the Chelsea Physic Garden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in London, hidden behind high walls, where rainbow tulips and sweet-scented daffodils sprout from every corner, flecked by bottlebrush-fringed pond rockery, glass greenhouses and beehives aplenty. Stop by Battersea’s Bayley & Sage, just across the river, to pick up honey-glazed ham and sourdough on your way over, or the garden’s own tearoom does excellent salads and homemade cakes.

  • The Japanese Kyoto Garden, Holland Park

    The Japanese Kyoto Garden, Holland Park

    If you’re thinking of flocking to Holland Park for a picnic, head to the famous Japanese Kyoto Garden which was a gift from the city of Kyoto to commemorate the long friendship between Japan and Great Britain. Inside you’ll find an array of tranquil tiered waterfalls, ponds teeming with koi carp, vibrant Japanese maple trees and perhaps even the park’s famous peacocks parading around. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were anywhere but in the middle of bustling London.

  • St Dunstan in the East, London Bridge

    St Dunstan in the East, London Bridge

    While you might think of London Bridge as lacking in tranquil picnic spots, head to St Dunstan in the East and be prepared to be surprised. This former church was bombed during the Blitz and today, its ruins have become the ultimate urban oasis away from the high rises of Tower Hill. Trees have grown up through the windows and twisted creepers and exotic plants have been cleverly planted so, over time, they’ve snaked their way around pillars and over walls. There’s waving palm trees, a rather serene fountain and heaps of quiet little pockets to nest down for the day with a good book and even better hamper.

  • Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon

    Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon

    A stone’s throw from Wimbledon Common, this gated park, set in 34 acres of ornamental landscaped gardens and ponds, is the perfect place to while away an afternoon away from the crowds who roam the busier Southside. There’s a gorgeous rose garden, numerous rare trees and plants to spot, along with an aviary filled with luminous cockatiels and canaries. Head to the pizza van on weekends that’s parked up by the Hotel du Vin for drinks and snacks. In non-Covid times, Shakespeare performances take place in the hidden Italian garden, where locals bring along deckchairs and hampers to put Glyndebourne to shame.

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