In the fight to keep green spaces open in the ELL boroughs, what better way to show your appreciation for your local parks than by using and exploring them? Whether you want to walk the dog or sit on a bench and bask in the sunlight, we guarantee there will be something for you in this guide to the best parks in Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, and Croydon.
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Roughly 40 per cent of Lewisham is made up of green spaces, making it the second greenest ELL borough after Croydon. In more good news for local residents, over the last 10 years there has been a 35 per cent reduction in areas deficient of green spaces, meaning the number of parks is only increasing. And with 15 Green Flag awards – the title given to the best parks in the country – Lewisham is home to some wonderful parks that everyone can enjoy.
Best for kids – Telegraph Hill Lower Park
Telegraph Hill Lower Park is perfect for children interested in spending a sunny day on the swings. It has two play areas, one for younger kids and one for older ones. Sporty children can make use of the multi-use games area, perfect for football and basketball, and there’s also a cool skate park. Be sure to visit on Saturdays when the bustling farmers’ market pays a visit, so you can grab a coffee and pastry while watching your children tackle the climbing frame.
The park also has a free play club for under-fives that allows younger children to learn and play surrounded by nature.
To spend a day in the life of Telegraph Hill Lower Park, click here.
Location: Kitto Road, SE14 5TY
Best view – Blythe Hill Fields
Blythe Hill Fields may be somewhat of a hidden gem in Lewisham, especially when it comes to spectacular views of Canary Wharf and the City. You can make out the famous buildings and landmarks more clearly, you can see a wider scope of the city, and there are no pesky trees obscuring your line of vision. And there are benches lined across the entire path at the top of the hill, allowing you to sit and appreciate the view in comfort. Next time you want to watch the sunrise or sunset, or just want to admire the city you live in, make sure your journey ends in Blythe Hill Fields.
Location: Blythe Hill Lane, SE23 1SP
Best for dog walkers – Hilly Fields
Hilly Fields has won the Green Flag award on numerous occasions and is a favourite green space of Lewisham residents. The park offers a diverse range of amenities, but its size and openness makes it perfect for dog walking. You can also take your dog to the fully enclosed dog exercise area, where they can run around without you worrying about their escape. Once they’ve had enough exercise, enjoy some locally sourced seasonal food and drink at the cafe.
Hilly Fields also hosts a monthly farmers’ market, so you can grab some food for a well-earned refreshment after a long walk.
Location: Montague Avenue, SE4 1YP
Best for a picnic – Manor House Gardens
Manor House Gardens is tucked away in a residential area of Lewisham, but once you walk through its ornate gates, it opens up to reveal a beautiful space. Pack your own food or get a takeaway from the café serving locally sourced, seasonal food, and forget about the stresses of city living as you sip on a coffee in the sun. If you want to bring the kids, they can wear themselves out in the play area or sports courts while you relax on your picnic blanket in the open park. To avoid the crowds set up camp by the tranquil lake as the sun breaks through the overhanging trees. There are also picnic tables, so don’t worry if you forget your picnic blanket.
Location: Taunton Road, SE13 5SU
Best for joggers – Ladywell Fields
Ladywell Fields runs from Ladywell Station at the top to Catford Bridge station at the bottom. Intersected by the Ravensbourne River, the park is a mile long as the crow flies. This size and overall flatness of the terrain makes it perfect for jogging. There’s only one small incline nearly Ladywell Road that can be avoided, but be warned you will have to climb steps to cross over the river. And if you complete a lap of the park, make sure to treat yourself to some food and drink from the café which opens daily from 11:30am. If you prefer to go jogging in the evenings, you’ll be pleased to know the park has plenty of street lamps.
Run Together has a handy jogging route for Ladywell Fields that you can find here.
Location: Ewhurst Road, SE4 1SD
Tower Hamlets has the lowest percentage of addresses with private gardens in the whole country, making public parks all the more valuable. And with the population set to grow by 26 per cent over the next 10 years, more people will be needing access to them than ever. If you find yourself in the borough for work or play, be sure to check out these great parks.
Best for kids – Weavers Fields and Weavers Adventure Playground
Weavers Fields is the largest open space in the west of Tower Hamlets and is popular with families year round. For football lovers, the park has a marked pitch and even more unmarked grassy areas to have a kick about. If a swing set or climbing frame is more your child’s thing, they can tear around the park’s fully accessible play area.
But the star of the show is the adventure playground. Weavers Adventure Playground boasts an impressive list of indoor and outdoor activities, such as gardening, making bonfires, den-building, and cooking. It opens at 3:30 on weekdays so is the perfect place for children and teenagers to blow off steam after a long day at school. You can drop younger children off and grab a coffee; the playground is fully supervised.
Location: Vallance Road, E2 6HD
Best view – Allen Gardens
Often overlooked by people descending on Shoreditch for its food and vintage fashion scene, Allen Gardens provides a surprising view of the City.
With bustling distractions such as Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane, it’s easy to forget to look up and take in the skyscrapers London is so famous for. Grab a bagel from one of the two famous 24-hour bagel shops in Brick Lane and bring it to the park to enjoy while soaking up the view of the City or the street artists honing their graffiti skills on the walls. For an even better vantage point, be sure to have a go on the zipline, not least because it’ll make you feel like a kid again.
Location: Buxton Street, E1 5EH
Best for dog walkers – Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is a nature reserve and historic cemetery regarded as one of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries of London. The park today encompasses the original Victorian cemetery, with additional pockets of green spaces around it. It’s also a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and is surrounded by high brick walls on the national register of listed buildings. All of these wonderful features make it the perfect place for dog walkers to escape into nature while their four-legged friends explore. There’s so much to discover, you’ll keep coming back time and again.
Location: Southern Grove, E3 4PX
Best for a picnic – Victoria Park
Spanning a whopping 212 acres, it’s the biggest park on our list and it does not disappoint. If you want to be among one of its nine million yearly visitors, be sure to pack a picnic and set up your picnic spot by one of the three lakes, or take your pick of one of over 4,500 trees if you’re seeking out some shade. Bring your own food or choose from one of the multiple cafes serving pastries, English and Sri Lankan food; the choice is yours.
Location: Grove Road, E3 5TB
Best for joggers – Mile End Park
Mile End Park is home to an impressive diversity of wildlife, so you might find yourself running alongside one of the 400 species of beetle that call it home, as well as many species of birds and butterflies. It also boasts an impressive 170 types of spiders. Wildlife aside, Mile End Park provides a beautifully scenic jogging route, with Regent’s Canal running alongside it. There’s also a mix of flat and inclined terrain, perfect for every ability.
Location: Clinton Road, E3 4QA
Like most of the ELL boroughs, Hackney is largely built-up urban landscape, with only 39 per cent of its land taken up by green spaces – the second lowest percentage of the four. However, its 58 parks and green spaces are dotted pretty evenly around the borough, so you should be able to find one close by. Though Hackney could benefit from more green spaces for its growing population, it’s clear the existing community already uses and appreciates what they’ve got, with 96 per cent saying they liked or loved them.
Best for kids – Clissold Park
Big kids and actual kids alike are guaranteed to have fun at Clissold Park. It’s one of the borough’s most loved parks and has previously been awarded the Green Flag for best green space in the country. Arguably the most popular feature of the park is the animals. Clissold Park is home to birds, goats, and a small herd of deer. Children can also go wild in the impressive play area, or try their hand at table tennis, tennis, basketball, or football in the multi-use games area. When summer rolls around be sure to take a dip in the park’s splash pad, perfect for cooling off. The stunning grade II listed Clissold House also has a café, providing a perfect spot to unwind after a long day on the swings.
Location: Green Lanes, N16 9HJ
Best view – Springfield Park
Like Clissold Park, Springfield Park also holds a Green Flag award. It’s made up of formal gardens and conservation areas, but its standout feature is the sweeping views of Walthamstow Marshes in the west. Unlike the other parks in the “best view” category on this guide, Springfield Park does not provide views of skyscrapers and the landmarks of central London. Instead, visitors can enjoy a beautiful vista of lush fields and glistening lakes laid out before them, with a few high-rises dotted in the distance. Sit on one of the perfectly placed benches at the top of the hill and admire the openness in front of you.
Location: Springfields, E5 9EF
Best for dog walkers – Abney Park
Abney Park in Stoke Newington is one of the “Magnificent Seven” garden cemeteries of London. It’s a woodland memorial park and nature reserve that will provide tranquillity for dogs and humans alike. Its peacefulness make it the perfect place to walk and unwind, losing yourself amongst the intertwining paths. You get the pleasure of feeling like you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of London and found your own private slice of the country. Dogs will love exploring as they weave in and out of the overgrown shrubbery. There’s also the option of a self-guided tour or audio walk of Abney Park to learn about its fascinating history.
Location: Stoke Newington High Street, N16 0LH
Best for a picnic – Haggerston Park
Haggerston Park is yet another of Hackney’s parks that has been awarded the Green Flag that is given to the country’s best green spaces. The park boasts an impressive list of amenities for people of all ages, from a BMX track to a community food garden and orchard. You can’t go wrong with a simple picnic sat on a bench, under a tree, or in the open park area, or why not explore the woodland walk area and throw down your picnic blanket under the shade of the gorgeous trees?
Haggerston Park also has a kiosk selling sandwiches, pastries, and drinks, so don’t worry if you forgot to pack food from home. And after your picnic, why not pop across to Hackney City Farm and say hello to the range of friendly animals (for free!).
Location: Yorkton Street, E2 8NH
Best for joggers – London Fields
With a completely flat terrain, London Fields is perfect for joggers – and it’s one of Hackney’s most popular parks. Even though there are no inclines, joggers can still test themselves distance-wise by running the mile-long perimeter or choosing the scenic route of the intertwining paths. After your run, take the weight off your feet on one of the many benches and picnic tables, or simply plop down in the lush grass (if it hasn’t been raining). Though bikes are allowed in the park, they’ll either have a separate lane or pedestrians will have the priority on the paths, so don’t worry about constantly having to look over your shoulder. London Fields also holds a Green Flag award.
Location: London Fields West Side, E8 3EU
Croydon has the largest number of green spaces in the four Eastlondonlines boroughs, making up 56 per cent of the land cover. It’s a surprise to many that an area of London could have such a significant chunk of land dedicated to green spaces, making Croydon the perfect place to escape the city buzz and surround yourself in what feels like the countryside.
Best for kids – Wandle Park
Perfect for kids of all ages, Wandle Park has a number of recreational facilities. It’s got a playground equipped with all the essentials including a slide, climbing ropes, and tyre swings to name a few. For more adventurous kids, Wandle Park has its own skate park, which is always bustling with young people of all ages practicing their tricks. If that wasn’t enough, there are also tennis courts bookable via this link. You could probably keep the kids occupied for a whole day here, switching between the play areas, tennis courts, football pitches, and skate park. Pack a picnic or visit the café for a much-needed refuel. The park also boasts an impressive list of events when summer rolls around, so be sure to keep updated on arts events it is hosting.
Location: Cornwall Road, CR0 3RD
Best view – Addington Hills
Addington Hills is London’s largest area of heathland – a wide open landscape dominated by low-growing shrubs. It’s also a Site of Metropolitan Importance, making it a nature conservation area containing important habitats and species. But you’ll forget all about these accreditations once you reach the viewpoint and gaze across the vast expanse that is London. From Crystal Palace to the north to Canary Wharf in the east you can see all the major landmarks any good view of London should include. Once you’ve finished admiring the cityscape, why not explore its 130 acres of woodlands and end your day out with a meal at Addington Hills’ Chinese restaurant?
Location: Shirley Hills Road, CR0 5RF
Best for dog walkers – Lloyd Park
Lloyd Park is a vast open space, equipped with a café, outdoor gym, and even a disc golf course where players throw frisbees at a target. No matter when you go, you’ll be sure to see other dog walkers with their four-legged friends tearing across the wide field, ears flailing in the wind. The 114 acres of mostly flat land are more than enough to tire out any excitable dog. Sit on one of the benches as you throw a ball back and forth or walk around with them at your side.
Lloyd Park is also great for connectivity to the centre of Croydon as the tram stop is right outside.
Location: Coombe Road, CR0 5RA
Best for a picnic – Coombe Wood Gardens
Tucked away next to an unassuming car park and Premier Inn, Coombe Wood Gardens is a gorgeous small woodland and garden area so lush you could be forgiven for thinking you’re visiting a National Trust property. With lots of benches and big trees for shade when the sun makes an appearance, Coombe Wood is perfect for a picnic, whether you bring your own food or get a takeaway from the café on-site. It’s overflowing with enough life to make you forget you’re in London. The quaint garden is absolutely a must see, and it’s up to you whether you decide to ramble through the woods behind.
The only downside is its accessibility. If you don’t have a car, you’ll have to take the tram and walk alongside a main road to get to Coombe Wood gardens. But don’t let that put you off because it is absolutely worth the journey.
Location: Conduit Lane, CR0 5RQ
Best for joggers – Duppas Hill Recreation Ground
Duppas Hill Recreation Ground is the perfect park for joggers of all abilities. The undulating mixture of flat areas and inclines means you can take it slow or really test yourself as you power up the hill. It’s said that jousting took place here in medieval times, but now instead of knights you’ll find it full or runners and Sunday league footballers going into battle instead. If you want to get fit while making new friends, you can join the Wandle Valley running group who meet here every Monday evening.
Location: Cooper Road, CR0 4BY
For the rest of our series on green spaces, click here.