Heath

The green lungs of London 
On a snowy afternoon, while walking on Hampstead Heath, author C.S. Lewis was inspired with the idea for a new novel, it became The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Anyone who has ever been to the Heath will have to admit that there is something magical about it. 
Hampstead Heath
It’s hard to point out exactly what makes the Heath so special, so enchanting and alluring. Maybe it’s the combination of old and new woodlands, the ponds, the many paths, the wildlife, or the hilly landscape. Or perhaps it’s simply the sheer joy of finding 800 acres of breath-taking nature and fresh air right here in London.

Whatever the reason, artists have always been drawn to the Heath. There are numerous poems, paintings, and books dedicated to, and inspired by, its beauty. But even though this collection of art is impressive in its own right, there is only one way to truly experience the Heath, and that's to walk on it. 

I say walk, but I mean roam. Follow the main walkways or discover an overgrown path. Leap over a brook, walk up Parliament Hill and enjoy the stunning view. Unlike many of the other London parks, the Heath is devoid of signs pointing you towards the nearest tube station or tourist attraction. This just adds to the feeling of truly being out in nature. Once you set foot on the Heath, you leave the rest of the city behind.

A newspaper from 1816 described the Heath “like Shakespeare and Newton, the property of Europe”. Common land, open to the public, and yet having the qualities of a hidden treasure.

New plaque on Parliament Hill


The Shard, The Eye and The Gherkin are just some of the many London landmarks visible from Parliament Hill. A new plaque funded by our members, replacing the one we donated in 1984, now helps to identify the new and old.
Compare the view today to those captured in these historic postcards.
A map of Hampstead Heath

Did you know?
  • The grand gate to the garden of the house to which Prime Minister Willian Pitt retreated during his mental breakdown, stands alone, half-strangled by a gigantic beech, hidden deep in the woods of the Heath.
  • You can still walk along the Saxon ditch mentioned in King Ethelred the Unready's grant of Hampstead to the monastery of St. Peter's Westminster in AD 986.
  • The Bagshot Sands at the summit of the Heath were laid down by a vast river about 40 million years ago.
  • The flagstaff by Whitestone Pond stands at 440ft above sea level, Inner London's highest point and the site of a beacon established to provide warning of the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
  • The Heath is home to 15 species of dragonfly and at least seven species of bats: Noctule, Serotine, Natterer's, Duabenton's, Brown Long-eared, Soprano and Common Pipistrelle. It is also home to breeding grass snakes.
  • Around nine million visits to the Heath are made each year.
  • One of London's few natural bogs can be found on West Heath.
  • Four of London's rivers rise on the Heath: The Westbourne, the Tyburn, the Brent and the Fleet.
  • West Heath has been identified as an important Mesolithic site (10,000-5,000BC)
  • Over 800 old trees have been identified on the Heath some of which are veteran oaks over 500 years old. And the existence of rare wild service trees is indicative of ancient woodland.
The work of the Heath Committee

The greatest danger facing Hampstead Heath comes not from the fact that it is loved too little - but from the fact that it is loved too much. The pressures faced by the Heath today are unprecedented.

Hampstead Heath

The Heath Sub-committee advises on everything that affects the Heath including:

Protecting the Heath Landscape
The Dams
Heath Fringes
Cycling
Swimming
Dog walking
Sports on the Heath
Wildlife and Tree conservation
Views
Concerts
Footpath Erosion
Car Parking
Benches
Invasive Species
Sexual Activities
Long-term Planning

Heath Vision cover

The principal objective of the Society is to protect Hampstead Heath

And today, we need to be as pro-active as 100 years ago in communicating our ideas about management of the Heath.

That is why the Heath Committee has produced the booklet Heath Vision

Download (PDF 1Mb)