9 Photos Of London That Look Nothing Like London

M@
By M@
9 Photos Of London That Look Nothing Like London
A beautiful beach with a red flag and green treeline on a blue sky day
This is north-west London

They call it the Big Smoke, the Great Wen, the filthy, stinking, overcrowded metropolis that's 99% tarmac. But there is another side to London.

As these photos show, our city has a surprising variety of landscapes — from forests, to beaches, to rolling countryside. The Outer Boroughs in particular can often surprise with unexpected scenery.

1. The forest

An empty forest scene. Beech trees dominate - a mature pollard in the foreground with slenderer specimens in the distance

Although much of Epping Forest is indisputably in Essex, the southern-most sections intrude into the Greater London boundary. Here you can vanish into an ancient landscape of beech, birch, oak and hornbeam. It's the most extensive woodland in the London area, but you'll find many similar bosky pockets across the capital.

2. A view with no buildings

A distant lake surrounded by trees viewed from a hill

The Old Orchard pub in Harefield (NW London) is possibly unique in its view. Where else in London can you enjoy a pint without being able to see a single building (besides the pub itself)? To be fair, the view is undergoing transformation, as the HS2 Colne Valley viaduct is built — but viaducts can only improve a view, right?

3. The rural idyll

A horse looks out of a stable window. A barn is in the background behind a white gate

London contains over 200 farms, which cover about a third of London's green belt. Some of them could be in the deepest countryside, like the one above at Edgwarebury on the very northern fringe of London.

4. The sandy beach

A series of simple sandcastles on a beach with a lake and distant trees behind

London's largest sandy beach is a long way from the Thames. It can be found on the southern shore of Ruislip Lido, in north-west London. Just watch out for the goose poo!

5. The white cliffs of Croydon

White cliffs, an old quarry, form the background, with a modern building in the foreground

London has its very own chalk cliffs... kind of. An old quarry near Purley presents this unlikely face to anyone following section 9 of the London Loop walking path.

6. London's 'Alp'

A low hill covered in trees, viewed from battlements

A woody hill viewed from battlements... it could be a scene from Ivanhoe were it not for the cable in the foreground. This is the view from St Mary Magdalene church near East Ham, looking south towards Beckton Alp (a mound of industrial waste that once served as an artificial ski slope, but is now fenced off).

7. Rolling countryside

A wheat field with a motorbike in the foreground

Countryside as far as the eye can see. Views like this are surprisingly common round the fringes of London. This shot was taken in the rural lands between Barnet and Mill Hill. I couldn't resist including the burnt out motor cycle as a nod to the nearby city.

8. A taste of Italy

A long outdoor walkway purple with wisteria

London has plenty of stately homes with impressive garden features, but few are as extensive or continental as the sprawling pergola on Hampstead Heath. Free to explore, you'll find the pergola and Hill Garden in the western most section of the Heath, towards Golders Green. The view here to Harrow is also rather special.

9. Lavender fields

A purple lavender field with a mature oak sticking up two-thirds of the way across
Image by Peter Trimming, creative commons licence

Lavender fields have become popular destinations in recent years, as people seek to reconnect with nature (but actually just want a good shot for Instagram). Most are in the home counties, but Mayfield Lavender Farm just sneaks into Greater London, between Sutton and Carshalton.

All images by the author, Matt Brown, except the lavender field, which he's never had the pleasure to visit.

Last Updated 12 July 2022