31 – Hampstead Heath ramble 5.75 miles – 14th September

In short: a leisurely ramble across the Heath, free on street parking, plentiful clean well-appointed public toilets, delicious coffee and scone at the lovely Kenwood cafe. 2 hrs 5 mins walking + 20 mins pitstop.

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There are some days when the weather is stunning but you’re not really feeling 100%, when you need to get out in the fresh air but can’t afford the time for a long exploration, that only a ramble over the Heath will do. So it was today and hence we head for our usual free parking spot on Bishops Avenue, approximate postcode N2 0BJ.

Bishops Avenue is even more manic with building work than usual so we park a fair distance from any of the trouble, leaving us with a 5-10 minute walk to the end of the road where we turn right onto Hampstead Lane and immediately left into the car park and path into the grounds of Kenwood.

Emerging out of the trees beside the house we turn right and pass through the covered arched walkway to the far side of the house and the always stunning view across to the ornamental lake.

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We turn left onto this path and walk past the back of the house, the toilets and cafe and follow the curve right and downhill, still with the pond on our right. We walk through the woods and emerge at a gate at the edge of the Kenwood estate. Here we carry straight on, again downhill, on a path bordered to our right by trees.

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At a junction of paths we turn left and head towards one of the Highgate ponds which we circuit on the far side to avoid all the earthworks going on. We continue straight on past a second pond and the entrance to the men’s bathing area and turn right at the end of this with a third pond now on our left.

We turn left onto a path around this third pond and take a left when we come to a junction of paths heading towards the road at the periphery of the Heath. We turn right just before the fence and walk behind the first group of tennis courts, turning right between the two sets of courts, passing the bowling green and playground to the the public toilets.

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We take the path past the cafe, running track and playground, bending right at the end up hill. Passing the ends of a couple of residential streets on our left we arrive at the brow of this first hill and bear left keeping to the edge of the Heath, taking a path through the trees.

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We ignore paths off right and follow our noses through thickets of trees taking paths which take our fancy and occasionally glimpsing the Kenwood boundary fence on our right.

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After s while we decide to cross through into the Kenwood grounds beside an information board – finding ourselves at the south west corner of the grounds. We follow this path with the boundary to our left, emerging from the trees into an open green space with a white estate building on the hill in front of us. We follow the path as it curves right – ignoring the path uphill to the white building – and passing through a gate in front of a stunning modern sculpture.

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Bearing left in front of the sculpture we are now on the straight avenue leading back to Kenwood House where we avail ourselves of the lovely cafe and enjoy one of the generous scones and a lovely coffee.

From here we head back the way we initially came, under the arched path beside the House and left back to the car park. We cross Hampstead Lane at the traffic lights and return along Bishops Avenue to our car. Easy to take Hampstead Heath for granted when you live this close to it – but well worth reminding ourselves of how genuinely lucky we are to have this on our doorstep.

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