West London is leafy, but we bet you didn't realise it was this leafy.
Yes, this little pocket of nature is only five miles from Buckingham Palace, and there's a tube stop right outside the front gate — you can be stood right in the middle of this urban jungle a few minutes after alighting your train. You'd never guess you were so close to civilisation.
Sandwiched between three railway lines, local residents saved this parcel of land from development in the 1980s. The London Wildlife Trust was invited to manage the area as a nature reserve, and it has blossomed ever since.
The Gunnersbury Triangle features ponds, meadows, hedgerows, a swamp and plenty of wildlife, all linked together by a meandering woodland walk. Volunteers have handily noted key features of the resident wildlife on placards throughout the area.
The pond, tucked away at the back of the reserve, is a real highlight. When we came to visit, a school group had just finished pond dipping. The local community are really involved here — many of the volunteers that look after the space are from the surrounding area, and regular events mean that everyone can get in touch with nature.
Don't get us wrong — there aren't rolling hills and dramatic landscapes to be seen here, but once you start exploring, this 2.7 hectare site feels a lot larger than you might think. It's well worth an hour of your time to stop by and take in the surrounds.
Indeed, bounded by three railway lines, a major office development to the west, blocks of luxury flats to the north, and Chiswick High Road to the south, this is not exactly where you'd expect to find a little pocket of countryside. It's only the rattle of passing trains and the sight of these urban monoliths poking their heads over the trees that serve as a reminder that you are still, in fact, in London.
And it's almost a shame, because without these luxury flats leering over the fence, you really would feel lost in a little oasis. There was concern that construction of the adjacent luxury apartment block would damage the delicate ecosystem of the Gunnersbury Triangle. The developer's boast of apartments that overlook a 'tranquil nature reserve' proved bit of a slap in the face to the community behind the pocket of greenery its sales pitch was based upon.
Luckily, this special place is still well worth a visit. While it's true that you can see glistening white balconies at the fringe, it's still possible to escape the high rises as you delve deeper into the greenery — and why wouldn't you? There is so much to explore here.
So next time you're looking to escape the city, you might not need to go as far as you think...
Gunnersbury Triangle Nature Reserve is located outside Chiswick Park tube station, and is open 10.30am-5pm all year round.