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Racing at Parliament Hill Fields athletics track Hampstead Heath

​Andy Vernon racing at Parliament Hill Fields athletics track Hampstead Heath

Diversity is the name of the game when it comes to the range of outdoor pursuits, pastimes and sport that happens in the City of London Corporation's green spaces. Everything from walking the dog to elite athletes pursuing their next gold medal.

Community sports facilities at Hampstead Heath

    Athletics meeting at Parliament Hill Fields track
    ​Athletics meeting at Parliament Hill Fields track

​Parliament Hill is the home of cross country running, with the English National Cross Country Championships being held there regularly since the 1950s. These days the Men’s race attracts over 1,000 competitors, each eager to tackle the tough 9 mile course, a distance unique in championship racing. It is encouraging that entry numbers for the younger age groups in these and the Southern Counties Cross Country Championships are increasing.

The relatively new Night of the 10,000m Personal Bests, hosted by the City and organised by Highgate Harriers has quickly established itself as an innovative and much talked-about event, identified by UK Athletics as the ‘missing link’ in the national racing calendar. Multiple Olympians have been attracted and the event has doubled up as national championships and as qualification races for international championships. In only its second year it provided the springboard for a European champion, Jo Pavey taking gold in Zurich in August 2014!

In addition to elite competitions, Hampstead Heath provides many facilities for all to enjoy, with four swimming facilities, athletics track, football, rugby and cricket pitches, bowls, croquet, tennis, golf putting, petanque and the world’s first T3 Triples table tennis table.

The annual Give it a Go! Festival is part of our London Olympic legacy and encourages people to enjoy sport on Hampstead Heath. It showcases many different sports, dance and wellbeing activities and attracts up to 10,000 visitors.

Football stars of the future at Wanstead Flats Playing Fields

    Football at Wanstead Flats
    ​Football at Wanstead Flats

​Wanstead Flats Playing Fields is home to five leagues, over 50 clubs and 125 teams including both ladies and disability teams. There is a large variety of pitches, from mini soccer right the way through to adult 11-a-side, so there is something for players of all ages and abilities.

An enormous range of different groups use the fields, including community focused projects, coach education courses and leadership opportunities, helping to develop the next generation of players, referees and coaches. This is where Ray Wilkins, David Beckham, John Terry, Ledley King, and Jermain Defoe began their footballing careers.

And football is not the only sport on offer: other activities include rounders, archery and cross country.

Popular play facilities at Highgate Wood

    Play time in the trees at Highgate Wood
    ​Play time in the trees at Highgate Wood

​Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park provide state-of-the-art formal playgrounds as well as informal opportunities for outdoor play in natural surroundings.

The Highgate Wood play area is a hub of the community and attracts over 50,000 children each year. We recently invested £20,000 in installing a new rubberised bark safety surface. As the popular chain-saw sculpture starts to decay, it is being gradually dismantled and sections are being set out on the ground, allowing children to get closer a close look.

Each June and July the local primary schools hold their summer sports days in the idyllic woodland glade setting of the sports field. In the summer holiday period there are regular kids activity days run by our education team. The Heritage Day, held every year at the end of August or beginning of September, includes a special woodland play installation run by ‘Monkey Do’, consisting of tiers of cargo nets and ropes arranged between the trees.

We are excited to be developing the potential of the woodland itself as a natural play resource and have several licenced activities taking place regularly on the site, including a group called ‘Into the Woods’, a private nursery school that brings groups of up to 16 children into Highgate Wood twice a week.

Queen's Park play area a focus for the community

    Queens Park Day
    ​Queens Park Day

A phased redevelopment of the Queen’s Park playground is in process, with new spinning disk, hexagonal swing and cradle swing being the most recent additions. Towers with walkways, a slide and swings and a sensory path are soon to be added. The local community has been at the heart of the redesign and Queen’s Park Area Residents Association (QPARA) has part-funded some of the work. New planting in the playground along with a picnic lawn has softened the edges and improved biodiversity. Fundraising continues, to secure the funds needed to complete the work which is very much welcomed by the 200,000 visitors each year.

We are always looking to offer new ways for visitors of all ages to enjoy the park. In recent years outdoor cinema has proved exceedingly popular. This is organised by ‘Where is the Nomad’, a sister company of a local independent cinema, The Lexi. 100% of the Lexi’s profits go towards improving the quality of life of the residents of Lynedoch Village in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Queen’s Park Day, held in September, is the centrepiece of our leisure year and attracts an average of around 14,000 people.