Nothing beats a leisurely walk surrounded by nature for an enjoyable and inexpensive day out.
There are plenty of great places in Ruislip and Harrow to take elderly loved ones to stretch their legs and soak in the ambiance. Still, if you’re pressed for ideas, these suggestions should help get you moving.
The Boroughs of Hillingdon and Harrow are a buzzing and metropolitan part of London with its thriving shopping centres, eclectic range of restaurants, new businesses, and open spaces. However, within their boundaries, their open spaces have much to offer for the nature lover, with several parks, woods, and walks open to the public.
Within Harrow’s residential areas, we have several commons and parks for the public to enjoy. The beautiful Pinner Park, hidden away from the main roads, houses a vast pond, a bowling green, play areas, an aviary, and the popular Daisy’s Cafe.
Pinner Park has existed since the 13th century when it was part of a large area around Harrow placed under the control of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The woodland was then used as pannage for pigs, but by the 15th century, most of the trees had been cut down for timber and charcoal, and the cleared areas were used mainly for pasture. Once home to Lady Hamilton, the park features a beautiful and ornamental Peace Garden for quiet reflection away from the bustle of everyday life.
Once described by John Betjeman as ‘A rocky island’ in his poem, ‘Harrow On The Hill,’ the borough of Harrow is also a green and pleasant Land with many areas of outstanding natural beauty and places to explore.
Central Harrow offers several relaxing walks for all ages and all abilities, most of which are signposted for easy reference. The popular Harrow Home Round Walk, at just 2.8 miles, takes in the majestic Harrow School and Harrow Cemetery and is a relatively easy walk that can even be completed during a lunch break.
Harrow, Pinner and its environs – Pinner Green, Hatch End, North Harrow, and Rayners Lane were once part of Pinner’s parish – have an unexpectedly complex and rich past.
The Harrow Walkers Group runs informative weekly guided walks, which anybody can join free of charge – http://www.harrowhealthwalks.org/. The five-mile Willow Tree Wander, which begins in North Harrow, takes in the exotic trees of Yeading Brook Open Space, The Ickenham Marsh, and The Hillingdon Trail
Just a stroll away from the center of Harrow Weald, you’ll find Harrow Weald Common and Weald Wood. With 18 hectares of woodland and heath to explore, you can follow the common to Gilberts Lake and Gilberts Orchard and the ancient three-mile earthwork of Grims Dyke.
From the highest points, visitors can enjoy views of Central London and the Chilterns while relaxing amongst the magnificent redwoods and unusual plant life.
Harrow Weald Common is a remnant of the once-extensive Forest of Middlesex. After the Enclosure Acts, one of the rights given to the commoners was gravel extraction, which took place on a considerable scale. There was an attempt to get the government to agree to sell the Common in the 1880s. Still, a successful campaign to counter this was backed by W. S. Gilbert, who lived locally at Grim’s Dyke. The Metropolitan Commons Supplemental Act revoked most commoners’ rights in 1899. A board of Conservators was placed to manage the Common.
Harrow Weald Common is Common Land not owned by anyone. In 1965 it was placed under the safeguard of Harrow Council. The Harrow Weald Common Conservators are now a Friends Group that manages the site.
The equally historic Ruislip Woods is less than half an hour from Harrow Weald Common.
The first national nature reserve in an urban area of England covers four woods: Park Wood, Mad Bess Wood, Copse Wood, and Bayhurst Wood. Open to the public and very popular with dog walkers, the woods are alive with assorted flora and fauna, including hornbeam, oaks, wild cherry, honeysuckle, and aspens which are home to cuckoos, woodpeckers, owls, and many more species of bird, mink, badgers, weasels, foxes, and squirrels.
Ruislip Woods national nature reserve is ‘ancient semi-natural woodland,’ Some parts are a remnant of the wildwood that once wholly covered England after the first ice age roughly 8,000 years ago. When the Land was first cleared for agriculture, some woodland was left to provide timber and firewood. In the case of Ruislip Woods, the native trees are oaks and hornbeams. Coppicing of hornbeams is known to have occurred for over five centuries up to the 1930s. Still, it steadily reduced after that and ceased by the 1950s. Coppicing restarted in 1982, and the woods are again actively managed.
The Ruislip Lido, created in 1933, offers cool respite to families on hot summer days. Perched on the edge of Ruislip Woods, Ruislip Lido boasts a 60-acre lake and artificial sandy beaches set amongst peaceful paths and grassy picnic areas. The Lido features Britain’s longest 12-inch narrow gauge railway open to the public, a cafe selling drinks and ice cream for the children, and a handy pub for the adults!
What we presently know as Ruislip Lido started life in 1811 as a Reservoir and was created as a feeder for the Grand Junction Canal. Later, in 1933, it became the Grand Union Canal, and thus our nearest canal is known by the name it has today.
The area chosen was originally a shallow valley flanked by Park Wood to the south and currently a non-existent hamlet of Park Herne to the “north,” which was demolished to create room for the reservoir as it was built. The whole area of the “lido” covers slightly over 150 acres.