Whether you're walking the dog, having a kick about with the kids or cracking open a can of cider, there's no better place to spend summer in London than in one of the city's glorious parks.
But with great choice, comes great responsibility. So where's the best place to plonk down your picnic blanket?
Here are our favourite green spaces from across the capital.
On a hot day it has the atmosphere of a festival. The vibe is amazing. It hosts all kinds of characters, and with Broadway Market just off the park, you can stock up on gourmet goodies, enjoy a picnic and soak it all in.
Take a stroll down the canal which runs through Victoria Park and you'll find a friendly elderly gentlemen selling tea, coffee and cake out the back of his canal barge. With all those trendy East London types hanging around it's a great place for people watching. Plus, one lap round the park is about 5k, so it's a good place to go running.
Postman's Park in the City of London
The most moving memorial in London is found in this park. It's dedicated to "heroic men and women" who have died as a result of acts of bravery. There are dozens of plaques telling each of the stories. They date from the 19th century and are incredibly poignant and profound. It's also got nice grass.
A lesser-known park that's perfect for whiling away the summer hours, Caledonian Park is situated between Brewery Road and Caledonian Road. It's a relatively small park with a large open space (perfect for ball games) and a beautiful clock tower. You'll find an eclectic mix of dog-walkers, yogis, bookworms, families, young couples and kids playing football here. There's even the occasional birthday party complete with gazebos and tables.
If you're after a quieter park, this one's for you. So grab some friends, take a portable BBQ and prepare to have a jolly good afternoon. Plus, there's a Co-op around the corner to stock up on all the essentials - ya know, like ice cream.
Besides the pedaloes, and ubiquitous yellow recumbents, Dulwich Park's inner circle makes a great running track, and it's proximity to the Picture Gallery makes it a perfect location for a family day out. The Tennis courts are plentiful and the pavilion stocks all the drinks and snacks you'd need to keep an overexcited child happy.
Hardly what you’d call a hidden gem, but a treasure nonetheless. Improbably vast considering its location, Regent’s achieves a kind of peace and tranquility that just isn’t possible in a smaller park. It boasts everything from formal Italian gardens, to gloriously untamed hedgerows, as well as acres of space set aside for sports.
Despite being one of London’s most famous landmarks, it remains defiantly underdeveloped, with only a couple of small cafes and stalls to cater to its thousands of visitors. Other green spaces can provide a brief respite from the stress and strain of the city, but for my money, Regent’s Park the only place in London where you can truly forget that you’re in the city.
Crystal Palace Park
A huge park with fantastic views, but the main highlight is the something’s-not-quite-right dinosaur models to admire in ‘Dinosaur Court’. A real treat for a sunny stroll.
Stunning public access golf, dusk jogging alongside the 9th green, fishing, wombles - yes! wombles - Wimbledon Common is a world within the city and shines no matter what time of year you visit.
Beautiful Hillside park with lovely cafe adjacent to the Lea River. Walk through the park to the cafe, have brunch, then walk it off by taking a leisurely stroll by the rover. Perfect for sunday hangovers.
The biggest municipal park in London. Surrounded by pubs and with a gorgeous Cafe by the lake. Perfect for Hipster spotting.
Located at the end of Stoke Newington's Church St, Clissold Park is perfect for a day out with the kids. Laze by the paddling pool, go deer spotting or click back with a nice glass of red whilst the kids play on the huge adventure playground.
Richmond Park is in the heart of south-west London, with gates on all sides from Richmond, Kingston, East Sheen and Ham. The minute you drive through the gates, it feels like you've completely left the city and gone deep into the country with its ancient oaks and rolling hills as far as the eye can see. A glimpse through the trees of Princess Alexandra's home at Thatched Lodge and the Royal Ballet's home at White Lodge remind you of its prestigious connections, but the 600 deer that roam the park, shy but serene, remind you that this park is for everyone. And when the sun sets late in the summertime, it's magical.
Whilst most South Londoners hotfoot it to the grassy flat roundabout that is Clapham Common the minute the sun puts in an appearance, those in the know prefer the less crowded and infinitely more interesting surrounds of Brixton's Brockwell Park. Whether you find yourself an elevated spot and admire the landmarks of London unfolding in the distance, take a picnic to the back field where it feels like you could be in the middle of the English countryside (honest) or park up next to the secret garden and duck ponds, the different nooks and crannies provide a totally different perspective on every visit. Oh, and if that heatwave does actually kick in you can take a refreshing dip in the Lido's outdoor pool.
It's green, verdant and a well-placed oasis to enjoy a moment of respite from the central London hurly-burly. The deck-chairs that get offered when it's sunny are a rip-off though. Ignore them, just enjoy the pristine surroundings.
St James's Park
There are so many reasons to love St James's Park: the view across to Buckingham Palace at one end; Horse Guards Parade (possibly my favourite London building) at the other - and in between not just greenery and flowers, but also a cracking restaurant and a lovely, calming lake full of all kinds of waterfowl. Most notably: pelicans. What's not to love about a park with a 'pelican island'?
Hilly Fields, Brockley
Being, yes, hilly, it has great views - the Shard, the Millennium Dome and the Crystal Palace transmitter are all visible from its pathways - but as well as being a pretty place to wander around, it also oozes community life. It's the place in the heart of Brockley where people come to walk their dogs, to run and play sport (including bowls); to bring their kids to the fab children's play area; to hang out at Pistachio's cafe with the papers; and/or to sit in the middle of a stone circle which may or may not have been put there by Druids (clue: it wasn't). And while it's stunning in spring and summer, it even looks beautiful in the snow (see pics).
One of London’s eight royal parks, this most central of the city’s open spaces is surely the daddy of them all. It hosts some of London’s best open air gigs and concerts including this year’s British Summer Time al fresco fandango.
From the blingy Albert Memorial opposite the Royal Albert Hall to Speaker’s Corner to the Diana Memorial Fountain, Hyde Park is home to some London’s most instantly recognizable landmarks, as well as the most fearless urban squirrels in the world.
Bushy Park, Hampton
When you're feeling stressed or in serious need of wanting to be in the countryside without actually travelling there, Bushy Park is it. It has this amazing ability to feel quite wild, and just as you're pondering the meaning of life by one of it's little brooks, a herd of deer will trot by and take you to a place of utter wonder. Perfect for picnics, cycling, walking or just lying in the long grass watching the clouds drift by. Plus, no twats with frisbees.Suggest a correction