With the Wimbledon tennis tournament recently concluding, the famous London suburb sharing the event’s name been immensely popular, but this hotspot isn’t the only leafy spot worth a day of your time. Strike out for the suburbs to see the city as Londoners see it.
Recent improvements in London’s transport network — notably the Overground train network — have made South London more accessible for visitors. Cultural highlights include the Horniman Museum, an eclectic collection started by Victorian colonial tea trader Frederick John Horniman and housed in an eccentric Arts and Crafts building — with a façade that has hardly any square edges and is absolutely fitting for the unusual collection inside — just uphill from Forest Hill station. For a preview, check out the museum’s Tumblr, where it shares some of its weirder exhibits, including items from its renowned collections of musical instruments and indigenous arts. And the adjacent gardens are perfect for a summer picnic.
The nearby Dulwich Picture Gallery was founded in 1811 in one of London’s toniest southern suburbs: Dulwich Village. Its permanent collection is strong on classical paintings, including Dutch Old Masters and works by John Constable, Guido Reni and other major names — with Nicolas Poussin’s The Triumph of David being one of the most high-profile works in the collection. Take the train from Victoria to West Dulwich or London Bridge to North Dulwich.
Richmond Park has a long and varied heritage, from its founding by King Charles I as a royal deer park to a starring role in one of the funniest viral videos of 2011. London’s largest royal park, it is still home to more than 600 red and fallow deer as well as the Isabella Plantation — in bloom with rhododendrons, Carolina Allspice and Japanese irises all summer. And the London city planning office thankfully protects the 10-mile line-of-sight from King Henry’s Mound to St. Paul’s Cathedral. To get to the park, take the Tube or Overground to Richmond station — the end of the line.
It’s been almost a year since the Olympics came to town. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park reopens in late July, and you can get even closer to the action at the Lee Valley White Water Centre — the rapids course used in the Olympic kayak and canoeing events that is now open to the public. And you don’t need to be an expert to feel the spray in your face with the professional guides leading you down the courses. Rafting experiences run Wednesdays through Sundays, and all you need to take is swimming gear and a towel. To reach the Centre, take the 20-minute train journey from Liverpool Street to Waltham Cross.
There are miles of wooded and moorland trails to roam in Epping Forest, London’s largest open space. The Temple — built in the 1760s in what is now the Wanstead Park area of the protected forest — hosts open-air theater sporadically through the summer. Shakespeare’s As You Like It plays on July 28 and there’s an evening performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado on August 29. Epping Forest is well off the tourist radar, so you’ll see London as few visitors do. To reach the Temple, ride the Tube’s Central Line to Wanstead.
Photos courtesy of Stuart Leech and Sarah Cuttle