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Top 10 Peaceful Places In London

By Londonist Last edited 66 months ago
Top 10 Peaceful Places In London
Wapping steps by Matthew Hanratty.
Wapping steps by Matthew Hanratty.
The Thames Barrier.
The Thames Barrier.
Signs by the Thames Barrier.
Signs by the Thames Barrier.
Wapping foreshore by Matthew Hanratty.
Wapping foreshore by Matthew Hanratty.
Battersea Power Station by Miriam Lessar.
Battersea Power Station by Miriam Lessar.
Eel Pie Island.
Eel Pie Island.
Kew Gardens, on the way to Queen Charlotte's Cottage.
Kew Gardens, on the way to Queen Charlotte's Cottage.
Hampton Court
Hampton Court
Look up at the sky! by Mathew Hanratty
Look up at the sky! by Mathew Hanratty

Writer and literary blogger Gemma Seltzer has spent 2011 collecting the most peaceful places in London for her project ‘Look up at the Sky’, charting the quieter side of the city. From March to October, she walked along the River Thames, wrote about her experiences, played with maps, took photographs and collaborated with other writers and artists.

Here, she compiles the top 10 peaceful spots in London, as featured on her blog. You can contribute to this ongoing project by adding your own favourite Peaceful Place to the map, follow the link here.

1. Barge Walk, Hampton Court

Following the curve of the river from Hampton Court Bridge to Kingston is a tree-lined stroll, with clusters of swans, vine-covered walls and rowers aplenty. Halfway along, the land lifts to reveal Seething Wells, the marvellously named former water treatment works with pipes wide-mouthed over the river. This walk does get busy, but is worth it for the pockets of peace you’ll encounter along the way.

2. Queen Charlotte's Cottage, Kew

A lovely little place within Kew Gardens, situated at the end of a paddock, which can also be spotted from the riverside path alongside. This 18th century rustic cottage was built as a country retreat for the royal family. The paddock originally housed exotic animals including kangaroos, but is now a fine flower garden which, in the spring, sports more bluebells than you've ever seen in your life.

3. Eel Pie Island, Twickenham

No cars! No bikes! No barking dogs! The few residents on this island don't seem to like visitors (clock the copious ‘Keep Out’ signs), but don't let that stop you having a wander. It can be reached only by footbridge or – what a nice idea – boat. Eel Pie was known for its jazz venues and recording studios in the 1960s, but now it is very quiet and smells of honeysuckle.

4. Daunt Books, Marylebone

One of the loveliest bookshops in London, housed in an old Edwardian store with oak galleries and long lengths of bookshelves to browse. When last we visited, a gaggle of small children read calmly in the kid’s area, a man knelt on the floor examining an ordinance survey map, and free cups of elderflower cordial were available.

5. Barbican Centre

Still an underrated building in London – possibly because of the difficulty finding an entrance door – and full of peaceful places to enjoy including the high walkways, the music library and the indoor tropical conservatory. Try the lakeside terrace in the early morning for some stark concrete loveliness, traffic-free and with few other people to disturb your still moment.

6. Hampstead Heath

An obvious choice, but well deserving of a place on this list. Kenwood House is beautiful, Parliament Hill delightful and the ponds, in summer, a treat. But the real hidden gem of this heath is on the north-west side, the extension, which was originally farmland, later tacked on to the main heath. Think hedgerows and open spaces, ancient trees and ponds. It’s eerily silent, too.

7. Thames Path, Pimlico

From Chelsea Bridge to Vauxhall, the north side of the river takes you through a straight-line landscape of roads and pillars and fences. Battersea Power Station dominates the view at all points of the path; you’ll have seen it from all angles by the end. If you can tune out from a road energised with traffic and slow your pace to that of the river, this really is a remarkable part of the city.

8. The Saison Poetry Library

The top floor of the Southbank Centre is filled with British poetry from 1912 to the present day. From obscure, hand-printed pamphlets to full collections by the finest poets, plus most literary magazines ever published. This place is a real treat for lovers of the written word. It’s free to join, has a few tucked away study desks, and the reference section is worth dedicating some time to explore.

9. Wapping Old Stairs

If the tide is out, slip down the passageway by the Town of Ramsgate pub and to the algae-covered Wapping Old Stairs. Ancient maritime inns overlook this stony shore, which is littered with fragments of history and debris. Marvel at the deserted riverbed, the driftwood and the old execution dock constructed for pirates and smugglers. Apart from a few pesky speedboats, it’s completely silent here.

10. Thames Barrier

Perhaps the most peaceful – and desolate – spot in London. By the Thames Barrier, there's a visitors’ centre with no visitors; it’s an essential part of London's flood management with no witnesses. The landscape here, in the lead up to 2012, is stark and industrial. The entire riverside is decorated with barbed wire, signs and cranes. The barrier itself is impressive, its huge steel gates rising nobly from the river.

By Gemma Seltzer. Gemma Seltzer is a writer and literary blogger. Her book, Speak to Strangers, was originally a blog and is now available in print (Penned in the Margins, 2011). Find out more about Gemma’s work at www.gemmaseltzer.co.uk.

Last Updated 29 November 2011

Hannah P

Thanks Gemma - Eel Pie Island sounds delightful!

tyroneshoelaces

No Canizzaro Park? Postmans Park?

dgbdgb

St Dunstan's in the East Churchyard.  Magic. 

Guest

A few more
The walk along the path on the north side of the Thames just off the Hammersmith Bridge down to Barnes. Near Rainham, walking along the Thames from the end of Ferry Lane towards Purfleet (it dead ends if you walk far enough!)
Hornchurch Country Park from Airfield Way towards Berwick Pond.
Wandering through the marsh land paths from Hackney north past Tottenham

Gemmaseltzer

Thanks for all these...some real gems and plenty I haven't yet visited. Feel free to add them to the 'Peaceful Places' map! http://lookupattheskylondon.wo...

Mike Woodruff

The pond on Putney Heath is quite possbly the most peaceful place in London, get the 14 bus, and just walk for hours.

Ross Corben

woods in Epping Forest - only the sounds and sights of nature

Guirilandia

Agree! St. Dunstan in the East it's a quiet oasis in the middle of the City: 
http://www.guirilandia.com/201...

Ginette Allen

2 of these 10 are on our bike tours! Check out Eel Pie Island on our Royal Deer Park Ride and we cycle the Hampton Court route from Richmond on our King Henry's Palace River Ride. No bike? We meet you with our bikes, serve an afternoon tea picnic on all our rides and take the bikes away at the end!  http://www.merrypedallerbiketo... 

Julian Shute

The middle of Lincoln Inn Fields near Temple should be on the list.

playgirlc

if i told you of my quiet places to go, you'd all go there....!

Dilshad Shawki

Mount Street Gardens, Mayfair

Gemma Seltzer

Thanks for all these thoughts and ideas, I need to get exploring again. If anyone fancies joining me for peaceful morning creative writing sessions, I'm gathering people to join me in a few spots in London: More info here: http://write-and-shine.com/

All best!
Gemma

Why I love early mornings: http://londonist.com/2015/06/w...