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Hampstead Heath Bandstand

Home > London > Day Trips | Parks | Music
by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published December 13th 2010
These times of austerity and cut backs cause those who are old enough to remember the war years. When times were hard but simpler, they say, and everyone ganged together and kept their spirits up with rousing and free entertainment. Like spending the afternoon in the park enjoying the musical offering coming out of the bandstand. And just like Spam, this sort of cheap fun never vanished, it just went out of fashion. And now, like home cooking and mending, it's coming back.

One of London's best bandstands is in Golders Hill Park in Hampstead Heath. Best because of its location, which doesn't just allow for an afternoon of free music, there's enough around here for a whole days worth of free entertainment.

For the first hour or so there's plenty to explore in the Golders Hill Park area itself. There's grass and a couple of nice flower gardens, yes, but all parks have that Golders Hill Park also has a little zoo, a deer enclosure, tennis courts, landscaped formal gardens and a duck pond with both black and white swans as well as ducks. There's also a river that runs through it down from some bathing pools, which puts on a waterfall show on its way.

The zoo is pretty small, but it's free, and has some quite unusual, yet friendly looking, mammals inhabiting its 16 or so enclosures, along with a number of birds. The deer have more space and there's quite a herd of them building up every spring there seems to be a lot more of them!

If you got interested at the mention of bathing pools those are tucked away amongst the trees of the heath proper, and there are three of them, a mens, a ladies and a mixed pool. The mens and ladies pools are open all year round. There are something like 22 other ponds and pools on Hampstead Heath, so that's plenty of opportunities for wild birds and animals to bathe as well. And there are a lot of creatures living in the woods, bogs, meadows, heathland and other Heath environs. Both in numbers and variety.

Apart from the caged animals in Golders Hill Park, some of the most accessible critters are the newts in the pond of the Hill Garden, which is a beautiful section of gardens surrounded by a covered walk topped wall dressed with statues.

From Golders Hill Park it's up hill to the Hill Garden, so in your second hour or so keep walking up hill though what's known as Sandy Heath (here's a map). Once you get to The Elms veer left if you're interested in history and spend a bit of time at Kenwood House. If you're more interested in The Great Outdoors veer right for the bathing ponds, fishing lakes and Parliament Hill Fields, which is one of London's highest points and offers panoramic views over the city to St. Pauls, past the gherkin and on to Canary Wharf. And is an excellent place to fly a kite. Before you get there you'll pass the model boating pond, which you'll definitely want to spend a bit of time appreciating if there's mini boating action taking place.

Just down from Parliament Hill is Dartmouth Park, which also has a bandstand. So that's easily an itinerary for a whole days entertainment all of it free. Unless you buy an ice cream of course. But we're not on rations yet, so make the most of it!

There are performances in both bandstands from about 3 most Sundays, but in the summer there are events in the evenings as well. You can see the full schedule on the website, but there's everything from big band to salsa to string quartets.
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Why? Inexpensive and cheerful entertainment
When: Sundays are best.
Where: Hampstead Heath, nearest tube station, Hampstead
Cost: Free - well, maybe 2 for an ice cream
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