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.
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.
We say walk, but we 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.
Interactive Heath Map
The Jenifer Ford Bequest
The estate of the late Jenifer Ford, a lifelong member of the Society and Hampstead resident and painter, bequeathed to the Society a collection of her paintings of Hampstead and the Heath.
Did you know?
The grand gate to the garden of the house to which Prime Minister William 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.
Sheep are part of an ecological trial on Hampstead Heath 11-18 September. If the pilot is successful, animal grazing could be expanded to other areas of the Heath. Grazing is known to play a major role in boosting species-rich wildlife habitats and reducing the use of machinery. Unlike mowing, grazing produces a mosaic of vegetation …
Wildlife charity, Butterfly Conservation, is today calling on people across the country to take part in this year’s Big Butterfly Count (14 July – 6 August) to help scientists understand the impact of climate change on our most-loved butterflies.Read More
The Heath & Hampstead Society together with the City of London Corporation celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Hampstead Heath Act with a concert at the Bandstand on 5th September 2021. The sun came out – along with several hundred spectators – to shine on a free concert calked ‘Natural Aspect’. Why that title? It …
On 27th June 2021, marking 150 years of the Hampstead Heath Act 1871, members of the Kite Society of Great Britain gave a spectacular display of kite flying, with tricks and intricate routines accompanied by music, in the beautiful surroundings of the Heath.Read More
Interpretation boards, promoting appreciation and conservation of Nature on the Heath, have been produced by the Society working with the City of London , English Heritage and the Marylebone Birdwatching Society since 2021. Placed at seven entrances, they will be changed every season to reflect the Heath’s biodiversity and seasonality. Read more…Read More
By Will Coles, Heath Sub-Committee. For many Londoners, our green spaces – especially the Heath – are an important amenity where we can take refuge from city life with fresh air, wildlife, and beautiful views. Hampstead in particular has long been seen as a retreat in times of crisis. In his History of Westminster Abbey, …
A nesting birds survey conducted by the Society has found a family of buzzards at Kenwood.Professor Jeff Waage, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who is leading the research, said: “It is exceedingly rare to see these sorts of birds in an urban area, and now all of a sudden they’re here, …
published by Camden History Society with the support of the Heath & Hampstead Society. The book can be bought from Camden History Society’s website. “This book shows what can be achieved – Helen Lawrence has a fascinating story to tell.” Griff Rhys JonesRead More
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.Read More