The beauty of Hampstead Heath

On Monday, I had a day off and, rather than lounging on the sofa all day (which I really wanted to), I decided to get out and visit a place I’d consider one of my favourites in London, Hampstead Heath.

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As I was walking onto the Heath, I remembered that 2 Willow Road, Erno Goldfinger’s house, was nearby so diverted off to see it. Goldfinger was a Hungarian architect who ‘redesigned’ three townhouses in Willow Road in his signature concrete-block style, so typical of the era. This annoyed one of his neighbours so much, a certain Mr Fleming, that his name was given to one of the baddies in James Bond.

Now, does anyone remember what often happens when I try and go places and see things? Yep, well done. They’re often closed. I really have to start looking online before I visit. Anyway, Goldfinger’s house was closed so off I went, back to the Heath.

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I followed a guided walk that took me up past tranquil ponds…

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… past quaint little cottages…

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…through fields of wild flowers…

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…and past trees blown over in the storm of ’87.

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I also diverted off to another little heath called Sandy Heath, which was totally wild and full of huge imposing trees and suddenly understood why people would worship nature. This tree has been standing there for 300 years…

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…. just about the only thing to be protected from the constant digging out of the sand for various purposes over time. The most recent purpose was to fill sandbags during WWII. The digging has been so insistent, in fact, that while the Heath was once on the same level as the road, it is now far far below road level. The descent from road to Heath is now easily the height of a house.

After re-entering Hampstead Heath, skirting round the Vale of Health and heading off towards the top end of the Heath, I came across directions to Kenwood House and knew I had to divert off to make a visit.

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And it was magnificent. Typical Robert Adams design. Huge columns, big square courtyard area, all blues and greens inside.
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It’s one of those places that makes you gasp when you turn the corner into a new room. Coming out into the back area of the house, with its huge windows and views across the Heath was one such moment.
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It looks so ordinary in a photo but it really stops you in your tracks in real life.

Another room that made me gasp was the room containing the Van Dycks and the Rembrandt self-portrait.
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Mind blowing.

After leaving Kenwood House, I decided to head down by the bathing ponds then across the Heath in a straight line until I got to the road, then down to the station. Can anybody tell me then, how, as I thought I was getting to the road at the bottom of the Heath, I found myself back at Kenwood House, at the top of it?!

I did eventually find my way back to the station but it took about an hour to work it out!

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15 responses to this post.

  1. I really have not explored Hampstead Heath. I had no idea that was all there. I shall have to visit! Especially that tree.

    Reply

  2. I wanna go! Who lives in the little cottages?

    Reply

  3. Nice work but there is trouble on the horizon when the chain saws get to work in January 2015 if the City of London has its way. See http://www.ProtectOurPonds.org.uk for a full explanation of why.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Carina on July 23, 2014 at 01:37

    Hello. I am a Swedish reporter and I interviewed Vaughn Ross a week before his death. He talked to me about you. I would really like to get in touch with you. If you want to, please send me an email. Thank you.

    Reply

  5. I’m a huge fan of Robert Adams. Have you explored Osterley House, great conflicting designs by Adams (fan of the grotesque) and William Chambers (classic).

    Reply

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