Updated: Feb 1
Welcome back to my blog! I hope you enjoyed the recipe I put up last month for a twist on a traditional Summer Pudding. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, click here!
In today’s post, I want to take you with me as I explore the chocolate box village of Hampstead. During the time I have lived in London, I have been lucky enough to delve deeper into the capital’s history with a couple of friends based here who, like me, were keen to discover its hidden gems. When they suggested a trip to Hampstead, I was surprised to find out that I haven’t really ventured very far north, instead focusing on the City and West End so I was intrigued to see what it had in store.
Reached easily from the centre of town by the Northern Line, Hampstead has lots to enjoy from tree-lined parkland on the Heath to the picturesque streets lined with quirky independent shops. In recent decades, many artists have made it their home which adds a little extra magic to the already beautiful surroundings.
Come with me as I show you what I got up to with my photos to illustrate along the way.
To accompany this post, here is my cover of the brilliant Electric Light Orchestra’s (ELO) Mr Blue Sky – a celebration of the beautiful weather I enjoyed the day I visited Hampstead.
THE BOOKSHOP CAFE (Waterstones)
On arrival, we planned our day over coffee at The Bookshop Café in Waterstones. Handily placed on the High Street, it lured us in with the elaborate displays of books in the window. We were delighted, however, to discover the café tucked away up a triumphant staircase at the back. It was the perfect spot for a morning coffee as the quality of the food and drink was top class and it set us up for the day ahead in style.
CHURCH ROW, ST JOHN’s CHURCH & FAMOUS GRAVES/YARDs
The first thing on our list to discover was Church Row. Lined with beautifully kept houses and gardens in full bloom, Church Row has been home to many famous entertainers including Peter Cook, satirist and owner of Private Eye, who is also well-known for his work with Dudley Moore.
Soaking in the surroundings, we found our way into the churchyard of Hampstead Parish Church. The graveyards of the Parish church are known for the graves of artists – past and present. So well-known in fact, that tourists specifically visit to find the final resting place of people they have admired. In the church you can even pick up a map to help you find where they have been laid to rest. I found this pastime slightly disconcerting but was vaguely amused that Kay Kendall, third wife of actor Rex Harrison, was buried opposite actor Anton Walbrook, famous for his role in the Red Shoes. Despite being a burial ground, the graveyard was surprisingly peaceful and used by locals as a place to sit and catch up the latest news on their phones.
Next, we popped inside to look at the church. It was untouched by the passage of time with painted grey pews lining the aisles leading to an elaborately designed altar and quire. The space was flooded with multi-coloured light from the ornate stained glass windows giving the illusion that we might be on a filmset ourselves. But my favourite area was the peaceful Lady chapel to the right of the main altar with soft light reflecting off the white walls.
THE WALK THROUGH THE STREETS TO HAMPSTEAD HEATH – FLASK WALK, PAUL & HAMPSTEAD HEATH
Having explored all the church and graveyards had to offer, it was time to think about lunch. Fortunately the streets of Hampstead are lined with delis selling mouth-wateringly delicious food. Given our good fortune with the weather, we decided on a picnic on the Heath. Paul, although a well-known chain outside of Hampstead, stood out immediately as customers were streaming out of the door. Filled baguettes and doughnuts in hand, we found our way through the streets to find the Heath to eat it. We walked down Flask Walk, past stunning houses, and up Well Walk which led directly to the Heath. We ate our Paul picnic on a bench by the Ponds which was the perfect spot to enjoy the beautiful weather.
HAMPSTEAD PONDS & PARLIAMENT HILL
After lunch, we ambled past the wild swimmers in Hampstead Ponds and up the gentle incline to Parliament Hill. The Heath was covered with a patchwork of colours of grass, blowing in the wind, surrounded by trees with the skyline of London peeping over the top. Approaching the crest of the Hill, the greenery gave way to a panoramic view of the capital, which was stunning in the sunshine. Popular with tourists and locals alike, everyone was out enjoying the weather. We took a moment to reflect on the city’s best buildings, enjoying the view. It was strange to think that the majority of the buildings we could see from our vantage point – the Shard, Canary Wharf and the Gherkin – weren’t even built 30 years ago!
Making the slow descent down the Hill, we peeped over the picket gates of the cottages of Willow Road, hidden by foliage and gardens overflowing with delicate roses. Back in the High Street, we had spotted Venchi Icecream earlier in the day and earmarked it for a cooling afternoon treat so we headed inside. The cafe stands out among all the other shops, buzzing with customers and row upon row of rainbow ice-creams. We each chose a flavour and enjoyed them in cones surrounded by local Italians who obviously knew that this was the place to be. The perfect end to a lovely day!
Thank you for coming with me as I visited Hampstead. I love sharing my thoughts and photos with you – if you could visit one new village or city, where would you go and why? I’m always looking for new places to explore!
See you next time for another post but in the meantime,
Happy Tuneful Baking!
English Singing Baker x