Imagine this. A peaceful pond in a rural setting. A good bench for a picnic and the ducks in the pond are quacking gently and getting on with their Spring business. We are sitting in the middle of a slightly run down Humphrey Repton landscape that has somehow survived here since 1792. The pond is on top of a hill and from here we can see out to the wider landscape along Repton’s vistas.
A little while later we walk down through oak woodland which is clearly carefully maintained but with a light touch. The standing deadwood, piles of brushwood and the odd felled tree have not been cleared away, providing habitats for the myriad creatures that dwell in such places.
Across the road from the wood the view changes dramatically. We are in a landscape of ancient fields complete with higgledy piggledy hedgerows bursting with blackthorn. We discover that the fields are managed organically as hay meadows which are cut annually. The meadows are alive with wild flowers and dancing with butterflies during the summer months. Definitely worth another visit later in the year.
And where is this idyll? It’s called Fryent Country Park. If we walked a few metres from our picnic spot by the pond on Barn Hill we were almost on top of Wembley stadium. This 103 hectares of countryside is in the London Borough of Brent!
We discovered it because we are walking the Capital Ring, an astonishingly green route that links Underground stations in a 78 mile circuit through the suburbs of London. It makes its way across parks and commons, along rivers canals and ancient footpaths. Surprisingly little time is spent in dreary streets with paved over front gardens. I found it inspiring to see how much normally invisible green space there is in the most ordinary parts of our city, how many wildlife corridors there are and how by living in Greater London you don’t have to lose touch with the natural world. You can choose to engage with it and be thankful it’s still here.