Top Parks and Open Spaces

Greenwich Park
Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park is as beautiful today as when Henry VIII deer roamed the open parkland. Nowadays the deer have their own enclosure behind the gorgeous flower garden, which is one of several delightful gardens around the park. There’s the rose garden by Ranger’s House, a sensory herb garden by St. Mary’s Gate, a bandstand, London’s longest herbaceous border beside Queen’s House and perhaps the most compact Roman remains you’re likely to see.

Although currently closed, there’s an epic children’s playground where your kids can run themselves to a stand-still, while you sit still in the picnic area. And if that still hasn’t tired them out, there’s one of London’s most famous climbs, up the hill to the Royal Observatory, home to The Prime Meridian of The World – Longitude Zero.  Here you’ll also find one of London’s finest viewpoints. It’s obligatory to stop and take in the London city skyline, over Docklands, Canary Wharf and the City, all the way back to West London!

The Old Royal Naval College Grounds
The Old Royal Naval College (c) Old Royal Naval College and Jigsaw Design & Publishing, 2013

Just seconds walk from Greenwich Pier, on the Thames Path, you’ll find the grounds of The Old Royal Naval College, which is an undeniable architectural treasure trove, sat at the heart of Maritime Greenwich’s UNESCO protected World Heritage Site. You can wander freely among these buildings, home to the baroque artistic wonders of The Painted Hall  and neoclassical delight of the Chapel of St Peter & St Paul. The setting offers a regal scale and grandeur unparalleled in London.

The story of these buildings, and how Christopher Wren’s masterpiece evolved from the remains of Henry VIII’s Placentia (or Greenwich Palace), are only a small percentage of a rich history that draws people back to the site, for visit after visit. Instantly recognisable as one of Britain’s most in-demand historic filming locations, a stroll through the grounds is to be transported back to bygone eras, brimming with power, adventure, wealth and hard-fought battles at sea!

Eagle eyed movie fans will quickly spot the backdrop for blockbusters like Les MisérablesPirates of the CaribbeanGulliver’s TravelsThe Crown and plenty more, which you can find out about in the free Visitor Centre where you’ll also find our Tourist Information desk.

Blackheath
Blackheath Flowers looking over at All Saints Church

Blackheath is stretched over one of the highest points of South East London, from the South edge of Greenwich Park into the heart of this pretty, cosmopolitan village. Located next to such a high, open expanse, it’s often a bit breezy on the Heath and has become a favourite spot for kite flyers as well as, runners, dog walkers and families out for a refreshing stroll, picnic or gathering.

Historically it’s always been a popular meeting point for crowds – from as far back as Wat Tyler’s revolting peasants, who gathered here in 1381, to London’s first Golf Club in the early 1600s, to the present day where you’ll find circuses and fun fairs, a music festival, a food festival and of course the start of the London Marathon.

The village itself is a chic, picturesque hub of restaurant and café-culture, boutique shops and home to an excellent Sunday Farmer’s Market, where you can shop for artisanal food and drink, seasonal specials, organic fruit and lovely locally grown vegetables to go with your Sunday roast.

The Thames Path
Thames Path

If you prefer riverside views, then Greenwich has an incredible 8.5 miles of open river frontage, stretching from Maritime Greenwich across the entire Borough. That’s miles of safe, uninterrupted walking with family & friends without crossing a single road, as the majority is along the Thames Path!

The Thames Path is a cycling and walking super highway that directly links Greenwich, the Peninsula, Charlton, Woolwich, Thamesmead and beyond. It’s a route that takes in tonnes of famous artworks. Around Greenwich Peninsula alone you’ll pass everything from an upturned pylon and a ‘slice’ through an old boat to not one, but two water-themed pieces by Damien Hirst!

 

Damien Hirst Greenwich Peninsula

 

Did we mention it’s also essentially a highlight walk of famous London landmarks? Starting in Greenwich, you’ll walk past the Cutty Sark, Old Royal Naval College and the Trafalgar Tavern – a favourite haunt of Charles Dickens! Over the river is the sensational Canary Wharf skyline, while up ahead is the world’s most popular entertainment venue, and iconic white tent, The O2. Just beyond here is the Emirates Air Line – a new addition to the skyline that spans the river from the Peninsula to Royal Victoria Docks on the north side. From here you can see the mighty Thames Barrier. At a whopping 520 metres wide, its 10 giant steel gates can be raised to protect our wonderful city from the threat of tidal surges.

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park
Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park is an urban wildlife oasis set amongst the freshwater marshland at the heart of Greenwich Peninsula’s ultra-modern residential development. Retaining traditional habitats where native wildlife can flourish amongst the rapid evolution of one of London’s most exciting contemporary urban villages.

 

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park common blue butterfly in meadow

 

This urban retreat is home to a fabulous variety of wildlife in the Park. You can bring the children on one of the Eco-Park team quests for frogs, toads and newts, plus huge array of ‘minibeasts’ with the guidance of friendly expert wildlife volunteers. During the spring and summer months the Park teems with a myriad of brightly coloured dragonflies and damselflies and watch out for butterflies fluttering over the meadow.

Go undercover in specially designed bird hides overlooking the inner-lake to catch sight of the many different native and migrant species. Whether you enjoy bird watching, looking at wildflowers or just relaxing in beautiful surroundings you are going to love this park. It’s beautiful.

Eltham Palace and Gardens
The North Bridge Eltham Palace

Explore 19 acres of award-winning gardens, set against the backdrop of the historic Eltham Palace. Once a favoured medieval estate and then a Tudor royal residence, the palace and gardens were transformed into striking Art Deco style by eccentric millionnaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld.

Today, you can discover an intriguing mix of historical features as you stroll through the captivating grounds. Admire stunning herbaceous borders and planting and relax in the Rock Garden with its series of pools and cascades running down to the picturesque moat. Cross London’s oldest working bridge, and enjoy a treat for the senses in the fragrant sunken rose garden. It’s the perfect place to relax and play on a summer’s day.

Maryon Wilson Animal Park
Maryon Wilson Animal Park

Part of the former Maryon Wilson family estate, Maryon Wilson Animal Park, is a beautifully landscaped grass and woodland park that’s a happy home to a menagerie of farmyard animals from sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and ducks by a pond, with a special collection of animals the kids can get up close to, in the petting house and three hard-working ponies who, when they aren’t wandering their paddock, give rides to disabled children in nearby Charlton Park!

In a separate enclosure you can get a really close look at some beautiful fallow deer. This herd in Maryon Wilson Animal Park regularly breed, and so is one of the few spots in London where if you time your visit well, you can see fallow deer fawns up close! Find out more here.

Charlton Park
Charlton House

This grandly proportioned, spacious open park was once the stately grounds of Charlton House which lies just to the west of the park. Sitting on the magnificent lawn at the back of the property with a picnic, or simply taking the dog for a walk around the Jacobean mansion house it’s clear to see why this is such a popular wedding location, as the architectural views are enough transport you to another era of bold, classical proportions.

To the east side of the park there are impressive sports and fitness facilities, including an outdoor gym, floodlit football pitches, table tennis tables, a children’s playground, and even a genuinely awesome new skate park! The ideal location to get the family out for a bit of fun and fresh air in these splendid surroundings.

 

The Peace Garden at Charlton House in Autumn

 

There are two lovely cafés in the park, one by the children’s playground and the other, the Old Cottage Coffee Shop, overlooks the cricket pitch. If you’re lucky, you might be able to watch the local league team out in full whites, before heading over for tea and refreshments.

Charlton House is managed by Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, and is one of the finest examples of Jacobean architecture still standing in London. The house itself is home to the Charlton Tea Room, L’Arte Della Pizza Restaurant, and offers afternoon teas and tours of the house stunning 400 year architectural history.

 

Charlton House & Gardens

 

There is an array of secretive walled gardens on the South side of this beautiful imposing House. One is called the Peace Garden, and another known as the Sensory Garden specifically features plants that can be appreciated by people with visual or physical disabilities.

Oxleas Woods, Castle Wood & Jack Wood
Severndroog Castle

Taking your friends, family and dogs on a wander up Shooter’s Hill to look for Severndroog Castle can feel like embarking on an epic quest for a fairy tale tower, nestled in the heart of a magical forest. In reality, you’ll find a fabulous Gothic folly, standing on one of London’s highest points above sea level, in the middle of ancient Castle Wood.

Originally built as a memorial to Sir William James by his widow in April 1784, Severndroog Castle is now open as a unique visitor attraction with a fascinating history. You can explore the beautifully preserved rooms as you ascend it’s 86 steps toward an unparalleled viewing platform experience. Offering gorgeous views across the whole of London and beyond into in seven different counties, it truly is unmissable.

Severndroog Castle Interior

 

Back down on the ground floor you can sit on the terrace, in the dog friendly family café looking out over the woods, which cover more than 70 hectares. A site of Special Scientific Interest, Castle Wood is one of the few remaining ancient deciduous woodland sites in Britain, dated to be at least 8,000 years old! It is also part of a larger parkland area which includes Oxleas Wood, Jack Wood and Shepherdleas Wood.

Oxleas Wood is a favourite for dog walkers and families. It’s huge, open meadow is perfect for launching a tennis ball or roly-polies down the sloping hill, while the dense forest is ideal for making forts with the kids and letting the dogs jump in the streams.

East Greenwich Pleasaunce

Once an orchard, East Greenwich Pleasuance is now a delightfully secluded, walled and tree lined garden park that also happens to house a naval cemetery – offering a glimpse into nearby Maritime Greenwich history. When the graveyard at the Royal Hospital for Seamen became full in the 1840s, the Royal Navy bought an orchard in east Greenwich for use as the new cemetery. The remains of 3,000 naval pensioners who spent their last days at the hospital lie here.

With a children’s playground and table tennis facilities, this is a lovely park to seek the shade on a summers day, or for an informal social get together just slightly off the well trodden path of nearby Greenwich Park. The park even houses an excellent dog friendly, family café – Pistachios in the Park, in which you’ll find in an award-winning eco-friendly building!

Well Hall Pleasaunce
Tudor Barn Well Hall Pleasaunce

Situated close to central Eltham, Well Hall Pleasaunce Is a little haven of formal gardens, ponds and woodland which used to be the grounds of Well Hall, a 16th century manor house. The manor house is gone, but the picturesque 16th Century Tudor Barn, surrounded by a delightful moat is still there today. The Tudor Barn has been renovated and is now a cosy, spacious restaurant and café that offers outdoor seating and is family friendly.

Rich in interesting history, the pleasaunce is connected with the Tudor monarchs’ residence at nearby Eltham Palace, and more recently in 1899, Edith Nesbit, world famous author of The Railway ChildrenFive Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet also lived here on the edge of the park.

The park is very charming with some award winning seasonal flower displays in various themed gardens including an Italian garden, rose garden, heather garden and floral shield garden, as well as a bowling green, play area and several water features. It’s an excellent place to take friends or family along for a stroll to help build an appetite before sitting down at one of the brilliant local Eltham pubs, or in the Tudor Barn in the Pleasaunce. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed here or in the park.

The Tarn

The Tarn is a small but beautiful public park with landscaped garden and a lake featuring a wildfowl and a bird sanctuary. It takes its name from its notable lake (tarn being an old term for lake), which is fed by a small stream that runs into the River Quaggy. It is a surviving element of the 17th Century landscape of Eltham Lodge.

Bostall Heath & Woods

At 159 Hectares, Bostall Heath and Woods is a very large open expanse of grass, with surrounding woodland, and like Shooters Hill, was once the haunt of highwaymen. Although now bricked up, there’s a cave in the woods named after the most famous highwayman of all, Dick Turpin!

A favourite with dog walkers and runners the woods offer miles of uninterupted natural landscape.

 

Shrewsbury Park

Nearby Shrewsbury House was built in 1923, replacing the earlier Shrewsbury House which had been built in 1789 for the Earl of Shrewsbury. The park was formerly part of the Estate of the Earls of Shrewsbury, and located next to Shrewsbury House. This large open space has fabulous views over London, Kent and Essex, as well as some wooded areas.

Abbey Wood & Lesnes Abbey

Abbey Wood’s park and woodland area sits on the border of both the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Borough of Bexley.

Interestingly, Abbey Wood is a site of geological interest, set within a south east London park at Lesnes Abbey Wood. It’s a great place for a walk, run or cycle, but also famous for the fossil pit with its profusion of shark teeth, fish bones and scales, seashells and lots more that can be found with just a quick sift. The public are allowed to dig here, and what’s more exciting than finding your very own fossil while out on your weekend walk?

There’s also plenty of space to play sports with friends and family, as well as one of the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s many outdoor gyms to help you keep fit in the fresh air, and a small picnic area next to a children’s playground.

There's Plenty More...

With over 50 parks and open spaces in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, there are loads of places to get out there and explore. Whether you’re walking, cycling or taking the dog out, you can find a new place to visit for every week of the year!

 

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