15 unique outdoor activities in and around London this summer

London offers more for summer fun-seekers than might meet the eye: whether with a refreshing kayaking session along the Thames, a day out in fragrant lavender fields, or even a tan top-up on a snazzy urban beach, here is how to fill your days and nights in the city with away-from-it-all experiences under the open sky.

Mayfield Lavender Farm, Banstead. Image: iStock/CharliePhotox

Stroll through fragrant lavender fields

Find a slice of Provencal charm at Mayfield Lavender Farm in Banstead, south of central London and directly accessible from London Victoria station. Open seasonally from June to September, these fragrant, organic and pesticide-free fields on the Surrey Downs make for a family- and dog-friendly day out. Tractor rides, massages, afternoon tea and even bee safari experiences are all on hand, should you be in the mood for more than a leisurely wander. Sample lavender-infused teas, shortbread and fudge at the café, and pop to the plant nursery and gift shop to pick up garden accessories, essential oils, soaps and more to take home with you.

Enjoy a refreshing dip in Hampstead Heath’s Bathing Ponds

From its enchanting woodland to its fairy-tale pergola, its panoramic city views from Parliament Hill to the art collection on display at Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath really is a grade above the rest where London parks are concerned – and we’ve not even gotten to the best part: the Bathing Ponds. Open year-round, they’re a chilly delight in the summertime and comprise three pools open to ladies, men and mixed groups. Bring the kids and a picnic hamper along for a day of food-fuelled fun.

Get your fill of food and booze at Street Feast’s latest venue

From the hugely successful Dinerama to Lewisham’s chilled-out Model Market, Street Feast are known for bringing the hottest foodie venues to the capital’s most intriguing and disused locations, and their latest venture in North London’s Wood Green is guaranteed to liven up your evenings. The music-infused Hawker Union is set to be a stunner, with White Men Can’t Jerk’s much-loved jerk chicken, Black Bear Burger’s indulgent menu, Chin Chin Labs’ crazy-good ice creams and a handful of hip bars all topping the list of culinary offerings.

Street Feast’s Hawker Union in Wood Green, London. Image courtesy of Street Feast

Walk an abandoned railway line

Discover London’s longest Local Nature Reserve with a four-and-a-half-mile walk along an abandoned railway track that once connected Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace. Home to a plethora of flora and fauna, from butterflies and birds to muntjac deer and hedgehogs, Haringey’s Parkland Walk offers a true escape into nature in a North London location. Along the way, expect to cross the remains of disused platforms, former tunnels-turned-bat caves and, of course, the most rewarding views of London’s skyline from Alexandra Park.

Try your hand at trapezing in Ruskin Park

If you think you’ve tried pretty much everything London has to offer, sign yourself up for something a little different and daring at the newly-launched TLCC Trapeze School, whose flying trapeze lessons in Southeast London cater for all ages and levels. Located on the scenic grounds of Ruskin Park, between buzzing Brixton and Camberwell, the two-hour classes are intimate and will have you going from the basic ‘knee hang’ trick to mid-air ‘catches’ in no time – private sessions can be booked too, for a day of fun with friends and family.

Catch a flick under the stars with a roaming cinema

It’s no mystery to clued-in film fanatics: London has its fair share of outdoor cinemas, catering for lovers of both the big screen and the great outdoors. Topping our list of such venues is The Nomad Cinema, a roaming pop-up that donates its profits to charity, on top of screening all-time classics and the latest big-hitters in sought-after locations – from the atmospheric Brompton Cemetery to the idyllic Hyde Park Lido. A selection of street food delights and fizz come as standard, so you can chow down on a burger or slow-sip a glass of wine as you kick back and enjoy your new favourite flick.

An outdoor screening by St Paul’s Cathedral. Image courtesy of The Nomad Cinema

Taste your way across famous neighbourhoods with a walking food tour

Thanks to the experts at Eating London Tours, foodies could explore the city’s classic attractions and dig into its most flavourful fare on a walking tour of its most iconic neighbourhoods, whose demographics and history have influenced their diverse foodie offerings – from the graffiti-clad East End to the bustling maze-like streets of Soho. Offering an intimate experience and a host of carefully curated itineraries, it’s little wonder this service was rave-reviewed by The Huffington Post, TripAdvisor and Forbes.

Pick your own fresh produce with the family

Hop on a train from London Waterloo to Surrey for a wholesome at Crockford Bridge Farm, a family- and pet-friendly pick-your-own farm whose grounds grow an abundance of fresh berries, beans, rhubarb, courgettes, carrots, corn and much more – all complete with a farm shop, an ice-cream parlour and a café. While typically open as early as May, you might prefer to visit a little later in the summer for ample produce, and call ahead to make sure your fruit or veg of choice is still available.

Grab your binoculars to birdwatch in the city’s wetlands

London is quite the big-hitter amongst avid birdwatchers, having recorded more than 365 species within a 20-mile radius of St Paul’s Cathedral. Sprawled across 105 acres of prime wetland habitat near Hammersmith, the famous WWT London Wetland Centre is a no-brainer, as the home of 180 recorded bird species. The Lee Valley’s Walthamstow Marshes provide an escape into nature a little further afield, with a chance to see impressive grey herons, little egrets and cormorants. Elsewhere, African birds can be spotted in the Woodberry Wetlands near Finsbury Park, and Brent Reservoir in the northwest is home to wetland birds such as the great crested grebe, pochard and common tern.

Neverland London in Fulham, London. Image courtesy of Neverland London

Soak up the sun on an urban beach by the Thames

Combine your beach break cravings with chic city style at Fulham Beach Club’s Neverland London, a wow-factor beach venue that certainly delivers on the entertainment front. There’s something to please all leisure-seekers here – whether you’re looking to join a fancy dress party, cocktail masterclass or yoga session, tuck into bottomless brunch, dance to electric DJ sets or catch a big-screen film – or perhaps even do nothing more than lounge on a day bed. Jimmy’s BBQ Club and a pizza shed are on hand here for flavourful street food, should all the excitement help you work up an appetite.

Watch a live concert at Kenwood House

You may already know Kenwood House for its fine art collection, sublime architecture and idyllic location on the fringes of Hampstead Heath – but return here in the summer months to find a handful of classic music performances as part of its Heritage Live Concerts Series, alongside a clutch of open-air cinema screenings and lively music festivals. Nab yourself a ticket and a spot on the grass for an evening of musical wonder and panoramas over both incredible parkland and central London.

Meet friendly animals at an urban city farm

Without doubt one of the capital’s most impressive natural spaces, Mudchute Park & Farm is a community-based charity sprawled over 32 acres of countryside. Head here for a day in biodiverse surroundings, and pop by the city farm to say hi to its wide range of animals both big and small – from donkeys and ducks to llamas and alpacas. You’ll also find the refurbished Mudchute Kitchen on hand for indoor and al fresco dining, as well as a small shop selling home-made wool and an equestrian centre offering horseriding lessons.

Mudchute Farm. Image: Flickr/Al King

Suit up for sports activities on London’s waterways

If you’re an experienced water baby or an adventure-seeking beginner, combine leisurely fun with incredible London locations on a canoeing, paddleboarding or kayaking excursion – Moo Canoes are great for exploring East London’s waterways, Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre is ideal for the kids, while The London Kayak Company is your go-to for both classic and bespoke itineraries in a more central location. You’ll find yourself discovering the city from a particularly unique vantage point, whether you’re cruising your way down boat-lined locks in Hackney Wick or surrounding yourself with Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge and other distinctive landmarks along the River Thames.

Flex your creative muscles with a wildlife drawing class

With London-based Wild Life Drawing, swap human models for the most adorable real animals and experience a drawing class with a difference. Working alongside sanctuaries, charities and the capital’s farms and nature reserves, this innovative concept puts animal welfare at its heart, by donating part of its ticket sales and raising awareness for worldwide issues – so no matter your skill, you’ll both enjoy a creative class and help contribute to a worthy cause. Depending on the workshop’s theme, classes are held across both indoor and outdoor venues – from aquariums to botanical gardens – all carefully selected for a unique experience.

Gear up for a tailored cycling tour of the city

There is perhaps no better way to see another side to London than with a cycling tour – offered by the likes of Tally Ho, whose guided vintage bike experiences are fun-spirited, indulgent and informative. London’s classic landmarks, historic Old City and food markets are all part of the diverse three-and-a-half-hour itineraries, whether you’re looking to watch the Changing of the Guard, uncover Roman ruins or spend your time sampling gin and artisan food. Private hen party, stag party or family tours are available, for a meticulously organised day that suits your every need. Best of all, you could enjoy a 10% discount when using the code SECRETESCAPES with your direct online booking.

Tally Ho city cycling tours. Image courtesy of Tally Ho

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