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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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.