Wednesday, August 10, 2005Hampstead Heath on a sunny January afternoon
Hampstead Heath is one of the many, many reasons for why North London is better than South London. I could give you a thousand reasons as to why, and 50% of them would be postcodes (N1, N5, N6, N7, N10, NW1, NW3, NW5, NW6, W9, EC1...), but Hampstead Heath, sat between NW5, N6, NW11 and NW3 is a thousand reasons in itself. Unlike Regent's Park and Hyde Park, you really do feel like you are in the countryside. It is, in many respects, untamed. There is proper woodland, natural ponds, rolling hills, meadows and the most fantastic imaginable view over London. I like to sit up there, wrapped in the warmest of wools, and imagine that London is my own private world. You can't hear the buzz of the traffic, the sigh of busses as they crawl, packed like sardines, up the Camden Road. It looks like a miniature toy town, and the North London Line scraping the bottom of Parliament Hill gives it a model railway feel.
You could argue that my penchant for Hampstead is evidence for a desire to escape the bustle and hustle of London that I love. But I think it's the contrasts and the contradictions of the opportunities that London presents which make it so appealing. You can have it all, at the same time, separately and almost instantly. Ten minutes on the Northern Line from Euston and you have the gentile idyll of the countryside. And when you get bored ten minutes later, you can be in Leicester Square in under twenty minutes. That is ace. But Leicester Square isn't.