A family walk around a cemetery may seem like a little odd thing to do but Highgate is no ordinary Cemetery, it’s quirkiness and the nature that surrounds it makes it one of the most beautiful resting places in the country. It is one of the earliest private garden cemeteries in England.
Highgate Cemetery is split into two, with a road dividing both. You can wander around the east side by yourselves but access to the west side is by tour only.
A visit here has been on my list of places to visit for a while now and last weekend the boys and I managed a trip over there. We didn’t get to access the West side but we did get to go into the East side and have a wander about. The East cemetery is home to some of the illustrious figures of the nineteenth century, you will find many famous names, along with some interesting graves. It’s a place to remember the people have passed but also for us to celebrate their achievements.
The most famous person who resides in the East side is Karl Marx; the German philosopher, economist, sociologist, political theorist and socialist revolutionary.
Entry into Highgate East Cemetery is via a booth, where you pay adult entry fee only and pick up a map. The map has all of the notable graves marked on along with a list and what they were famous for, it’s clear and easy to follow. This means that you can walk around at your own pace.
As soon as you enter you get that feeling of calm and peacefulness. It’s a place that you can escape the noise pollution from beyond the gates and quickly immerse yourself within the tranquil surroundings.
We walked around admiring the memorials; not seeing a graveyard but looking at the art and the beauty of it all. Highgate Cemetery is a quintessential piece of victorian architecture.
There are many residents from all walks of life here; from political activists, designers, Tv stars and novelists. These include the author Douglas Adams, the Tv presenter Jeremy Beadle, Pop artist Patrick Caulfield and novelist George Elliot.
Although the Cemetery is a famous popular tourist attraction it is still a living Cemetery and are open for new burials. Known as one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’, a series of victorian burial grounds within the inner city, Highgate is, without a doubt, a secret London attraction.
Highgate Cemetery West is now on my next place to visit, although this time I shall return with just the eldest and myself. This part of Highgate can only be viewed by tour guides and is where you can see the Egyptian Avenue, Lebanon Circle and Terrace Catacombs.
This is definitely a place that we will be visiting again in the warmer months and not on a wet, drizzly February day.
We found a little haven within the suburbs of London, a new favourite place for the boys and I to visit. Lee Valley Regional Park is a 10,000-acre, 26 miles long park, much of it green spaces, running through the northeast of Greater London, Essex and Hertfordshire. It is made up of a diverse mix of countryside areas, urban green spaces, heritage sites, country parks, nature reserves and lakes and riverside trails, as well as leading sports centres and camping sites.
We have visited Lee valley before but I never knew it was as beautiful as it is. We fell in love with the pure nature of it, the river lea runs through the whole length of the Valley. Starting at Stratford, heading north through Enfield, Waltham Abbey and up towards Stanstead Abbotts. There is a heavy emphasis of wildlife and natural habitats. We loved cycling along the river watching out for otters and birds.
The park has beautiful scenery and is so peaceful.
Not only does the regional park have rivers, lakes, green spaces and 2012 sporting venues but it is also home to a few camp sites.
We booked into the Lee Valley Campsite based in Ponders End. We wasn’t sure what to expect as you couldn’t get more urban than Enfield. As we arrived we looked around and listened. It was hard to believe that this little campsite was on the edge of the A10, North Circular and within a short distance of the M25. It was quiet. It was beautiful. The site has a shower and wc block, outdoor play area, and lots of pitches for caravans and tents. Next door is a cinema and an athletics centre. We had booked to stay in one of the campsites wooden cabins.
How beautiful and mystical is the cabin? We felt like we had walked into a Lord of the Rings/ Harry Potter film set.
The cabin came equipped with a fridge, electric, a couple of chairs, table, beds, kettle and even some tea and coffee to refresh you after your journey. There is also wifi throughout the campsite.
The shower and toilet blocks need a code to get in so only holiday makers can enter, it gives you that little piece of mind that if your children go off to the toilet and they will be safe inside from random passers by. The wood cabins are ideal for a family of 4, there is double bunk red and a small camp bed. They are situated under trees at the back of the campsite and just behind the trees is a golf course.
As soon as had arrived the boys were off exploring the site, playing in the park and running around on the grass, exploring the edge of the golf course (looking for pokemon) and just generally enjoying the little freedom that they get when on holiday. They loved going off to the tap to collect water and didn’t even grumble when asked to take the rubbish over to the bins. One thing that was missing was a little BBQ. As we travelled by bicycle, we had limited space to carry one. It would have been nice to sit on the veranda cooking up a few veggie burgers and some vegetable kebabs in the early evening, watching the children run around. The site is clean and the staff are very helpful.
The River Lea was about 10 minute walk away. We decided to take a walk and look around.
After an early evening walk we took to our camp beds and chatted away, enjoying each others company.
The next morning we was up and ready for a fun day by the river. With our back packs on, full of food and water we was ready to go off and explore the area. The boys were looking forward to cycling along the river.
The river bank is wide enough for two bicycles to be alongside each other but when others passed by we had to go into single file. I told the younger boys to cycle as close as they can to the bushes so that they was not near the river.
There were plenty of places along the river that you can sit down and enjoy the peace and nature around you. We found a cute little park near Enfield Lock where we sat down and had a snack.
We made our way through a country park towards Waltham Abbey. What a beautiful town. Here we explored the Abbey Gardens and the White Water Centre
We had been out for a good few hours and was beginning to get a little tired so we headed back towards the campsite along the River Lea Navigation. But not before stopping for a little cool down by the river eating an ice cream
We had booked for two nights. So another night under the stars in our little cabin. The boys were full of excitement and had so much fun sleeping in the cabin. It was hard to get them to sleep as they were full of energy, even after there long cycle ride that day.
The boys were up early ready for another day by the river. First though, they wanted to try out the athletics track. For just £3 children under 16 can enjoy the indoor and outdoor track all day long. My eldest was in his element. The boys love to run and being so close to this activity was amazing. They spent about an hour and a half running around the track and getting agood training session in before they were ready to get back onto their bikes and explore the regional park again.
This time we went a little further than the day before, heading past the white water centre, pass Cheshunt and onto the Lee Valley Farms. Even though it was a very active day it was ever so relaxing. With so much peaceful water around it was hard not to feel relaxed.
We cycled, we looked, we listened, we rested, we enjoyed the surroundings and each others company.
We found a perfect place to sit and rest, whilst the children played. Just near to Cheshunt station is a little park called Pindar. A place where children can explore the natural play area. The boys enjoyed climbing the natural wooden areas and playing football in the wide open space. There is even a dog agility course nearby so our four little legged family members don’t miss out on the fun.
We had so much fun. I thought that it would be hard to cycle through the park alongside the river with the boys but it was perfect. I made sure that I run through the dangers of the river first and dropped some cycling rules too. The boys listened and behaved well.
We managed to cycle about 30 miles over a couple of days. We laughed, we rested, we enjoyed.
We even managed to find two geocaches and we would have found more if I had a back up charger for the phone. There are tons of geo caches hidden along the river and surrounding areas, mostly at the locks.
We have definitely found our little favourite place in London. We have even gone back for a day out after we came back. This time we went in the car and drove to Broxbourne to take to the water this time. We hired out a motor boat for the hour and steered our way along the river, the sun was shining , it was perfect.
Without a doubt we would absolutley recomend a visit to the River Lee Regional Park but also beyond any doubt a stay in the camp site. We have made some magical memories as a family.