A place of refuge from the Great Fire of London 1666, Hampstead Heath is still providing a country retreat for Londoners - just four miles from the centre of the city. With woodland and meadows, it is the largest single area of Common Land within the boundary of Greater London - a rambling and hilly location which can be explored endlessly and there is always something different to find.
There are many different ways to get on to the heath and away from urban life. One of the best ways to enter this countryside in the city is the avenue that leads away from Hampstead Heath Train Station. With its magnificent giant trees the people walking along the path seem to shrink as though they have entered a portal into a magical world.
Giant trees dwarf people in the distance
Soon it is time to decide which way to go - along one of the wide carriageways lined with Victorian style lamp posts, a country lane, a footpath - or one of the trails that lead to one of the out-of-the-way places where you may come across some odd sights - like a little round brick building.
A muddy footpath
A country lane
The round brick building
Walking on the heath gives us a real sense of history with stories about its past. And the present is a fleeting moment - walking along the avenue of young trees which were planted just a few decades ago we can imagine people in future seeing them grow tall and strong.
A younger avenue of trees
And even in the gloom of a grey January day there are many shades of green to be found - glistening holly leaves, softly spreading moss and the most determined ferns, sprouting in the shadiest, driest places.
Shades of green
There are eerie scenes of dead trees, crumbling and rotting and appearing as monsters that creep across the ground.
Dead tree monsters
Out of the woods the open space across the fields to the south of heath gives views of open countryside and the city below.
Up and over the hill
A view from the top
In front there are wide open grasslands and behind a sandy ridge - a mountain of dry crumbling material spread on top of London Clay by the forces of climate and nature, gifting us heathland which must be preserved forever.
Hampstead Heath Station, Gospel Oak Station, Hampstead Station
North London map