Kobi Rahman is a banker, husband and Father to a lively 1 year old with a second child on the way. Hes a friend of the site and when hes not "working from home" he likes to walk. Here he shares some of his recent rambles............
Prior to Lockdown, I was the kind of person who would take a 2-minute bus ride instead of a 10-minute walk, or rather go for a drive than a long weekend family walk. The restrictions during initial stages of lockdown meant that unless I was prepared to go spare in my SW London home for days and weeks on end, I would have to start discovering (and gradually begin enjoying) new walking routes in my still fairly new locale and a bit further afield (once lockdown restrictions eased to allow slightly further travel for walks). So with that background, here are a list of parks and beautiful walking areas I visited and enjoyed in SW London and into the fringes of Surrey during the current lockdown period…..with a pregnant wife and 18 month old baby in tow no less (therefore all routes are also buggy friendly and not too challenging):-
Morden Hall Park
With a walking time of approx. 15 mins from my home, the first port of call was of course the beautiful Morden Hall Park (nearest station Morden, bottom of Northern Line) and despite visiting once or twice before, during lockdown I really discovered that it’s not only a beautiful park in its own right with a lovely café and garden centre contained (both closed during initial stages of lockdown but the garden centre now reopened) and picturesque streams and bridges (it is a
wedding venue also after all), but in addition has a lovely long walk route through wetlands and along the River Wandle all the way up to Colliers Wood and Deen City Farm (also unfortunately
currently closed). The downside is just how busy the park was particularly on weekends, with weaving in and out of people’s paths with a baby buggy and trying to maintain 2m distance proving tricky.
Another very popular spot for the SW London residents seemed to be the Wimbledon Village area (nearest station Wimbledon on National Rail and District, then 10 mins walk), which whilst was
eerily quiet during the first couple of weekends of lockdown gradually returned to pre-lockdown levels of footfall with many people also found on the Common. With plenty of space, overcrowding wasn’t really much of an issue and during the warm weather of May the lake cooled wind was a welcome relief from the sun. There is also of course a beautiful walk through the common up to The Windmill, though again on some routes there is some people dodging required. The saddest thing by far during lockdown has been visiting the Common and not being able to pop into one of the many lovely surrounding pubs.
Part of Henry VIII’s hunting grounds adjacent to his Hampton Court Palace abode, this park (nearest station Kingston or Hampton on National Rail) was busy but still very spacious with its sheer
gigantic size, and plenty of social distancing space even when trying to get close to the hordes of deer that can be found. Beautiful gardens and water features if you can follow the map to find them, and was quite easy to find parking space nearby (we parked in Teddington which has a lovely high street and walked 5/10 mins).
Beautiful as it was with its various structures and different garden areas, we had to pre book a ticket (costing £9 per adult) and happened to get the worst weather in a while on the Saturday we visited which meant that although the gardens were very quiet (they had only reopened that week), the pouring rain coupled with lack of any lockdown food and drink options meant that this was maybe one we should have saved for a bit later in the summer. Parking was free and easy to find however, with Kew Station (on National Rail) only a short 5/10 min walk to the gardens
Sitting within the vast Great Windsor Park grounds and within a short distance to the fancy Wentworth Golf Club are the beautiful parklands of Virginia Water (approx. 25-30 min drive from SW London and close to Thorpe Park), with landscaped gardens and lovely woodland walking routes overlooking a beautiful picturesque lake. The scenery is breath-taking at times with a lot of picnic areas, which might also be why on the down side it seems to be so busy that in certain areas it can be difficult to keep social distances (whether that be because there is a constant flurry
of bikes whizzing through the public pathways or a lot of other groups and baby buggies along sometimes narrow pathways). If you brought along a picnic (as the restaurants are currently closed) and were lucky enough to have good weather, you could spend a whole day here and fit in a long stroll down The Great Walk to Windsor Castle (also, you guessed it, currently closed).
Chiswick House and Gardens
This one we drove to on a weekend (various tubes and stations nearby followed by a walk) on a beautiful sunny day and it was fairly small but stunning, with perfectly landscaped gardens and tree covered walkways. By far the biggest perk of this place however was the best selection of lockdown food and drink options found with a fully functional café (no seating of course) with hot food options, alcoholic drinks and outdoor bars and ice cream vans catering for the masses. The idyllic lakeside picnic spot with nearby waterfalls in view were a particular highlight.
Devil’s Punchbowl, Hind Head
Venturing into the Surrey Downs, this was the first place we went to when lockdown rules allowed you to travel further afield to exercise, with a 25 minute drive taking us to the town of Hind Head and the National Trust maintained Devil’s Punchbowl. We took a 2 to 2-and-a-half-hour gentle walk all the way around the punchbowl on the raised path before returning back on the lower path (with a stop for food included in between). During our time there, we must have passed no more than 6
or 7 other people, which meant this was a far safer and more enjoyable walk than the ones we had been on within London, and the views were spectacular. We parked in the free car park courtesy of Hind Head council, and walked the short 5/10 mins into the park. Without a buggy holding you back, there are more challenging walks up and down the hills also.
Again in Surrey (about 15 minutes drive from us), we were hoping to visit the National Trust run Claremont Gardens but as we found that still closed, we instead crossed the road to venture in
West End Commons which is part of the Esher Commons areas. The walks weren’t easy with a baby buggy but once we crossed the road to walk in Oxshott Heath and towards the Black Pond (which was a large, beautiful serene lake) it was quieter and peaceful. West End Park in Esher however was picturesque and full of life, situated next to the Garsons complex which had reopened on the we visited and was truly what garden centre dreams are made of with a huge area to explore, large farm shop, fruit picking and kids play areas (the latter two currently closed).
There you go – the National Trust is just starting to reopen a lot of its parks and gradually its gardens (though without catering facilities) so there should be plenty more places to visit and enjoy over the next few weeks and months, but there are many other places well worth a visit such as Holland Park and its beautiful Kyoto Gardens or the Rose Gardens in Regents Park. ENJOY!