Earlier today I saw a post from the lovely Suzie Speaks blog about inexpensive things to see or do in London. So I thought I should add information about the beautiful Pergola and Hill Gardens. These gardens are my favourite free thing to visit in London. They are also probably one of North London’s best kept secrets! I assume the lucky locals would like to keep this as a secret treasure, but it is too lovely not to share!
Anyway the Pergola and Hill Gardens are hidden between Hampstead Heath and Golders Hill Park. They are quite simply perfect!
The gardens are right next to Inverforth House, which has been converted into (very posh) private residences. You can see the House from these gardens, but you can’t wander into their gardens. You’ll have to put up with taking a peek through the pergolas.
What is a pergola!?
A pergola is a garden structure that helps support vines, roses or other pretty plants. They are normally made of vertical posts that support beams in some sort of open lattice. Once the structure is complete the plants are trained to grow up and along the structure to create a sweet-smelling shaded pathway. The pergola half of the garden is essentially a long raised walkway, under a long pergola made from wood and stone. It is covered in gorgeous smelling roses and other climbing plants.
Down below the pergolas there are more enclosed gardens where you can look up at all the flowers and down towards the rest of London. I think this is my favourite place as you can look up at all the wisteria. There is also lots of catnip growing in this part of the gardens…maybe that is why they don’t allow dogs in!?
I love walking through all these shady areas to see the sun shine through the green leaves.
The Hill gardens:
The other half of the garden is quite different, but no less lovely. It has a large square pond full of lilies, sculptured hills and nice soft grass to sit on and have a picnic. I have a feeling it could be very busy on nice days. However when we visited it all seemed far quieter than Golders Hill Park – even though it is so, so much nicer.
Between the two Gardens:
The gardens are connected by steps up to the Pergolas, and then a walkway over the paths into Golders Hill park. It is from up here that you can get the best views!!
I can’t believe it took me so long to find this garden. Even my dad had not heard of it before, and he grew up near here. My husband and I first found it on one of our many wanders around Hampstead Heath. At first we just saw the shapes of the pergolas near the top of the hill. We assumed it was a private garden until we found a sign to it! It is quite nice to see the views from here in winter, but is in spring when the gardens really come alive!
Make this into a walk!
When I visit these gorgeous gardens I normally include them as part of a walk around the rest of Hampstead Heath, Golders Hill Park and Kenwood House. There are so, so many options for walking here that I have never done the same route twice. But see below for a possible route:
We normally start at the Gospel Oak side of the Heath and wander upto the Parliament Hill viewpoint. From there you can see the whole of the London skyline spread out in front of you. It is also the busiest part of the Heath as everyone likes to climb to this high-point! From there you can walk down the hill and straight through the woods past the mixed bathing ponds. Then keep going on one of the routes past the Vale of Heath Pond. After this pond, turn left to walk towards Spaniards Road. There are two small paths that take you over to the Pergola and Hill Gardens, but if you can’t find them, just head towards Inverforth House (as the entrance to the gardens is in the woods next to here.)
After you’ve seen the lovely gardens, try popping into Golders Hill Park. There is even a small, free zoo! Stop here for an ice-cream because the hand-made gelato from the stand next to the cafe is delicious. If your legs still have energy left, it is also worth paying a visit to Kenwood House. We normally go back into the main part of the Heath and find a pleasant walk through the trees. Kenwood House is also free, and has some stunning paintings if you look around inside. From Kenwood House, we normally walk back to the Gospel Oak side of the Heath through the North East side of the park, past all the bathing ponds.
– Anyway if you’d like to visit, this google map will help you find it
– If you don’t want to walk; Just take the 210 bus and get off at Inverforth House, you can see the signs to the garden
– It’s free (!)
– The only bad thing about it is that you can’t bring your doggo into these gardens. If you’d like to see lovely dogs, you can explore the rest of the heath.