James and I are always on the search for green spaces. Places to escape the oppression and pollution of the city; places to breath the clearer air and listen to the wind in the trees; discover animals other than foot-mangled pigeons; to touch our hands to tree bark and watch flowers open in the sun.
Epping Forest (which you can reach at the end of the Central Line, eastbound) is one of our favourites. I think the most beautiful time to visit is Autumn, when the forest floor is ablaze with vibrant leaves and there are dozens of curious mushrooms to discover. There’s also Greenwich Park, Hampstead Heath, Farthing Downs, the London Wetlands Centre (in Barnes, West London), Hainault Forest, Kew Gardens, Richmond Park and many more besides.
This weekend we headed to Ruislip Lido, at the opposite end of the Central Line to Epping Forest, on a warm day under clear skies. The reservoir was created in 1811 but it was opened as beach and lake for boating and swimming in 1933 – though the red flag indicated no swimming that day.
It took a train, two tubes and two buses to get there but we made it in the end. An impromptu guide we met at the bus stop directed us to the entrance- an older gentleman living near the Barbian who mentioned to us approximately 58 times that the lido ‘has more sand than Southend!’
At midday it was already overrun with families with young children, who, in that inimitable British style, cheerfully don shorts and T-shirts, grab their towels and head to the beach, even if there is a distinctive chill in the air. And there was – a jacket was much needed, but that never perturbs English people when they see a glimpse of sunshine. The yells of children and chug of the miniature train that circled the lido was inescapable during the short walk round the water.
We strayed slightly off the path and saw two small tortoiseshell butterflies dancing together. So immersed were they in their courtship that we could get incredibly close and they didn't even notice we were there.
We found a few small fishing platforms hidden from the main path where we could sit and feel the breeze. In the shallow water, dozens of dark brown frogs were grappling with one another: mating or fighting, we weren’t sure which.
After circling the water, we headed into the woods which were much quieter and more secluded than the beach that was by the early afternoon a seething hive of adults, small children and dogs. For a quiet place to visit and escape the city it might not be the best option – but if you have kids they will absolutely love it!
>> Find out more about Ruislip Lido