London Haunts | Hill Garden and Pergola, Hampstead Heath

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My favourite places in London are almost without exception those that do not feel at home in the city at all. One such place, finally discovered after months of longing, is Hampstead Heath’s Hill Garden and Pergola on the western edge of the park. I’d been dreaming up this afternoon for a while after seeing a photograph of the pergola and its crumbling columns and neo-classical facades. In pictures, it looked like the sort of place the great Romantic poets of London might have strolled for inspiration, where the Bloomsbury group might have hosted flamboyant summer soirees. So off we went.

These photographs really don’t do it justice. It’s romantic and faded and beautiful and sad – a shadow of its former opulence, I’m sure, but perhaps all the better for it. Hop off the tube at Hampstead (Northern line) and walk the mile to the western edge of the Heath. Cut through a tiny lane by Jack Straw’s Castle (the large white pub by the pond) and soon enough you’ll find yourself in this magical dreamland, the Hill Garden and Pergola – one of the Heath’s secret gems. Right now it’s all tumbling roses and late summer lilacs but I imagine it’s beautiful in every season. Handsome arbours, redbrick arches and spiral staircases abound. If you’re even one per cent hopeless romantic, you surely won’t be disappointed.

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Photographs on 35mm ISO 200 film, Canon EOS 650.