Hampstead Heath is a large, ancient park that covers about 790 acres in north London. According to Wikipedia, it “first entered the history books in 986 when Ethelred the Unready granted one of his servants five hides of land at ‘Hemstede’.” It was later recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as being owned by Westminster Abbey, and then during Henry II’s reign it became privately owned by the king’s butler, Alexander de Barentyn. By the 1800s it had been sold off in pieces and was mostly common land eventually maintained by the city.

Some of the highlights of the park include three open-air public swimming pools, playgrounds, a physical training ground, and a stately home from the 1600s called Kenwood House. It’s quite hilly compared to Hyde Park in central London, and Parliament Hill is supposed to have one of the best views over the city. Although I didn’t think it was much different from the view from Primrose Hill in Regent’s Park.

Last Sunday was a gorgeous and warm sunny day with a cool breeze, so we popped over to check out the playground. Surprisingly our son only spent about 15 minutes there and then wanted to run up the hill and into the woods, which really does emphasize the fact that the kid doesn’t need more toys, he needs more nature! So I spent about three hours following him around while he climbed trees, rolled down hills, picked wildflowers, chased kites shaped like pterodactyls and was chased by enthusiastic dogs in return.

Somehow we managed to not get lost or fall into any of the large patches of stinging nettle, which were blooming with surprisingly delicate little blue flowers. But we did get sunburned, so I now have a lovely heat rash around my neck. But we also had ice cream, which makes everything better. So I guess summer has arrived!

Ice cream van in front of the playground.

Ice cream van in front of the playground.

Heading into the hills.

Heading into the hills.

The beautiful path to the top of Parliament Hill.

The beautiful path to the top of Parliament Hill.

Pterodactyl kite!

Pterodactyl kite!

The northeast side of Parliament Hill with a view toward St. Michael's church and Highgate Cemetery.

The northeast side of Parliament Hill with a view toward St. Michael’s church and Highgate Cemetery.

Some lovely tall grass.

Some lovely tall grass.

A patch of buttercups.

A patch of buttercups.

Stinging nettle in bloom.

Stinging nettle in bloom.

One of the bathing pools.

One of the bathing pools.

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