Hampstead – Belsize Park Walk – 18.03.2013

Emerging from the murky depths of the underground, outer London’s deepest tube station “Hampstead Tube Station”, where we had risen from ~58m below ground to where were going to embark on our walk for the day in Hampstead. We made our way onto Heath Street, where I observed a small black plaque on the building opposite. “The Clock Tower”, was constructed in 1873 and where the Hampstead local fire station was situated until the beginning of the C20th. We continued on by the old fire station, until we found our first part of Hampstead Heath which was going to be a major part of our walk today.

Further along Heath Street, we found “Whitestone Garden” and if the weather had been a little kinder to us, it would have been a nice place to sit and relax. The garden was created from a piece of land which had become derelict and it took a group of volunteers to transform the area. The ground was converted into a haven for the local residents to enjoy and for them to sit away from the busy roads. There is a beautifully crafted wooden bench in the shape of two hands, which is dedicated to the founder of the project. Whilst we were in the garden taking in the surroundings, I noticed a strange looking dome. The dome is part of the “Hampstead Observatory”, which belongs to the Hampstead Astronomical Society. The society has been in existence in the area since the late C19th. One of their main objectives is to ensure that the public have access to a telescope. Therefore, at certain times during week you are able to use their facilities and have the ability to view wonders such as Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s Clouds and the details of moon craters :-).

Just after exiting the garden, I was struck to see in the middle of what seemed like a roundabout, “Whitestone Pond”. This shallow pool was originally known as “Horse Pond” and was often visited by people with horses so they could be refreshed after the long trudge up the hill! By the end of the C19th the pond was enlarged and was often frequented by Military horses. Whitestone, apparently also had the affection name of “Hampstead-On-Sea”, particularly when locals used the pond for recreational use during the C20th for paddling, models boats, paddling and skating in the winter. Today the pond is not as popular for such use and was restored in 2010, I cannot really see that paddling would be much fun in the middle of a roundabout! I noted that we had gone from the deepest underground station and now reached one of the highest point in London, as the pond located at summit of Hampstead Heath!

From 2013 – 18.03.2013 – Hampstead – Belsize Park Walk

Crossing the road, we came across the pub “Jack Straws Castle”, which is a huge wooden clad building. Although it is not the original public house, built here in the 1700’s, it certainly is very impressive. The pub is named after “Jack Straw” who was one of the leaders of the Peasants revolt of 1381. The pub had been patronised by people like Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackerary, Bram Stoker and Karl Marx. We started to walk down Spaniards road, which once had been the haunt of notorious highwayman such as Dick Turpin, today the road is only haunted by traffic. We crossed over and found a small path which was to lead us onto Hampstead Heath. The path eventually led us out onto open land, it was here we could really appreciate how high we were. The view was really was amazing, we could see the Olympic Stadium in Stratford one way and had a clear view of the city of London the other.

Following the path around the heath into the woodland, it became quite undulating, however the trail became quite indistinct as was it very muddy. It we not long before we came across “West Field Gate”, which was to lead us into the “Kenwood House Estate”. Keeping to the path, we soon came across a building that was being renovated. These protected structures were Kenwood’s “Dairy” from the late C18th which was built by Second Earl of Mansfield. During the C18th, the aristocracy saw the dairy as a “fashion accessory”, the lady of House would meet her lady friends here to pose as milk maids, make milk and take tea in the dairy. Lady Mansfield’s visitors to the dairy included the Duke of Wellington. Leaving the dairy behind, we continued along the path into the gardens to “Kenwood House”, while doing so we passed by a bronze sculpture by the french artist Eugène Dodeigne.

Unfortunately, the house is currently being renovated, therefore, we were unable to see it in its entire glory. The first house built here was a Jacobean mansion in 1616 and in mid C18th was sold to Lord Mansfield, who improved the property greatly. In later years the Earls who lived on the estate preferred there Scottish roots and moved away from Kenwood. The House changed hands over the years and in the early C19th the future of Kenwood was uncertain and a wealthy benefactor was sort to purchase the property. In 1925, Lord Iveagh, purchased the entire estate and secured the future of Kenwood. The house contains a wonderful art collection from Artists like Vermeer, Rembrant, Frans Hals, Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds it would have been a joy to see such an assembly of art! This is because these paintings was left to the nation by, the last owner of the Kenwood Estate, when he passed away in 1927. It was in 1928 that Kenwood House was opened the public.

From 2013 – 18.03.2013 – Hampstead – Belsize Park Walk

Following the path through the estate, we passed by “Thousand Pound Pond”, which probably gained it’s name after Lord Mansfield agreeing to sell some more of his land for £1,000 an acre. We had seen a lovely white bridge crossing the spanning the lake from afar, but we discovered that once we reached the bridge it was actually a wooden facade. The bridge is known as the “Sham Bridge”, which was built and designed by the Architect Robert Adam in mid C18th. It was almost a disappointment to find out the bridge was a fake, I can imagine those C18th ladies floating across the bridge in those wonderful dresses! The path beyond the house was to take us to Stock Pond, one of the numerous Highgate Ponds that populate the Heath. We decided to investigate the path just past the pond as we had become fascinated by a strange looking building that we could see in the distance.

We were determined to find it, despite the route we took being slightly treacherous due to the mud on the slope. We were finally rewarded when we reached “Athlone Gardens”, however, we disappointed when the lovely Victorian house lay just beyond some electronic fencing and was just out of reach! The name does sound rather forlorn to me and I much prefer its original name “Caen Wood Towers”. The Towers were built during the C19th by a wealthy partner of a company “Francis Reckitt”. The house changed owners a number of times and in 1942 the RAF took possession of the property and used it as an “Intelligence Training School”. The house is not used today and looks more like something that could be in a scary movie, which a pity as no one is able too view it 😦

We managed to negotiate our way back onto the Heath, through the mud once again, to rejoin our original route. The path brought us round to a sight that I was certainly not expecting, the “Ladies Bathing Pool”. I was surprised to see one brave lady swimming in the pool this early in the year! This pond was originally a reservoir dug in C18th to maintain the water levels in the area, which over time was converted for recreational use such as swimming. I will take my hat off to the Hampstead swimmers, as these ponds were to be closed as they were deemed to be too expensive to maintain, but they fought to keep them open in the high court and won 🙂

From 2013 – 18.03.2013 – Hampstead – Belsize Park Walk

As we turned the corner to leave the bathing pond behind, we discovered that we had not trekked through the worst of the mud! I am not sure how deep some of it was but we were not going to risk finding out, so we improvised by using the fence of the pond as a way through! Once we had navigated our way around this extremely muddy section, we found ourselves by the next set of Highgate Ponds, Bird Pond and the Model Boating Pond. Although we did not see anyone race any model yachts, it was said that in the mid C19th, such a race took place here when many craft took the water and raced their yachts for glory and prizes. I would like to have seen such a race, it would have cheered me up after all that mud!

Our walk then took us past the “Mens Bathing pond”, where we decided go uphill to enjoy some more views and rest for a while. “Parliament Hill”, as it is known as, probably acquired its name in the C17th. This was during the English Civil War when it was defended by troops loyal to the English Parliament. It is also rumored that Guy Fawkes and colleagues were planning to watch the destruction of parliament from this vantage point, I can see why as views are certainly amazing. We would have spent a lot longer but there was a film crew taking up all the room :-(. They were trying film someone trying to fly a kite, which would have been great if there any wind about, this is another popular name for this place “Kite Hill”.

From 2013 – 18.03.2013 – Hampstead – Belsize Park Walk

As we started our descent the weather started to make a turn for the worse for the rest of our walk. We carried on along the path taking us past the Bandstand and the Athletics track. A little confused where to go we made our way back up hill and through the a woodland area of the heath. The paths were very muddy once again despite being under trees. We followed a path which took us down some steps but these felt quite slippery as it was beginning to rain quite heavily. The path led us out past the “mixed bathing ponds” and onto our first concrete path of the day. I was really glad of this as the heath was almost marshland on the other side!

We had now reached the end of our particular walk of Hampstead Heath, we had really enjoyed our trek. It was a shame the weather was not better as we would have sat and whiled away some of the day and enjoyed the spectacular views. I am not sure about partaking in some of the bathing ponds it is still far too early in the year and I am certainly not that brave. We stopped briefly to shelter from the rain, only to see a sign “Keats House”, which we investigated immediately. We were led to “Keats Grove” and glancing behind a locked gate we could see where the Romantic Poet John Keats had lived in the early C19th. It was here that he wrote his Poem “Ode to Nightingale” in his front garden.

From here we made our way to Belsize Park, which is a short walk from Hampstead, to end our walk for the day. We walked pretty quickly as the weather was not very nice at all. For the days walk, please feel free to look at the the photos by clicking on the photo below –

2013 – 18.03.2013 – Hampstead – Belsize Park Walk



3 responses to “Hampstead – Belsize Park Walk – 18.03.2013

  1. Pingback: Ruislip Manor – Ruislip Lido Walk – 01.04.2013 « Karen's Sponsored Walks

  2. Pingback: Richmond – Teddington Walk – 28.04.2013 « Karen's Sponsored Walks

  3. Pingback: Ashford Surrey – Shepperton Village Walk – 28.07.2013 « Karen's Sponsored Walks

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