More stations

A varied 2-mile route which includes Keats House Museum and Hampstead Ponds as well as Parliament Hill with its amazing views over London.

From Belsize Tube station turn right past a parade of shops - and restaurants (there are a great number in this area). After these comes a stretch of Edwardian residential buildings. On the other side of the road is the imposing bulk of Hampstead Town Hall (originally the Vestry Hall, 1878). Further along, you will pass yet more restaurants. At Hampstead Green the main road becomes Rosslyn Hill. The Royal Free Hospital is on the right and ahead you will see the mighty sort-of-Gothic-Revival style St. Stephen's church (1869-73, S.S.Teulon).  Continue past Pond Street and Hampstead Hill until the former police station (a handsome building) on the corner of Downshire Hill. Turn right here to discover a world of beautiful early nineteenth century houses and cottages. Look out for the Regency verandahs on the west side of the road. In complete contrast, at No. 49a there is a high-tech tinted glass construction; the upper storey level with the road (1970's, Michael and Patty Hopkins).  Further down the hill, at the fork where Keats Grove splits off to the right, is  St. John's Church with distinctive cupola 

Proceed down the Grove to get to Keats House museum at No.10. There is an admission charge for the museum, but you are welcome to sit and read peacefully in the garden on open days without payment.  Almost opposite is a large private house with a knot-garden. Well worth a discreet peep through the wrought iron gate.  When you reach the end of Keats Grove go left into South End Road and follow the curved brick wall to find another collection of houses and cottages snugly set back from the road with lots of greenery. Note the reptile carved on the gate of No. 95. At the junction with Downshire Hill turn right and go over to the car park on Hampstead Heath (via the crossing - this road is busier than you might think). 

To the right is a pond. This is No.1 of the 'Hampstead Ponds' situated in the southwest corner of the Heath. Walk alongside the water, a pleasant path with many trees, including scented poplars which in spring have a delicious sweet perfume. Soon you will come to a turning to the right. Ignore this, but take a second path which runs between Pond No 2 and the Mixed Bathing Pond which is on the left.You can now either ramble through the woodland or follow the path that leads straight ahead up Parliament Hill. From here you get a great view of London. (Allow at least half an hour for this section of the route.) When you have pottered around the woods, flown your kite, used your binoculars to spot birds or just sat on a bench and enjoyed the view, return to Downshire Hill. This time turn almost immediately right to Willow Road. Here is a modernist building of some importance, though not of great beauty, No. 2 Willow Road.The house is one of a group of three built by Erno Goldfinger in 1938. The block was constructed on the site of some old cottages that were knocked down to make room for Goldfinger's project. This incensed local residents, among them Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books. He got his own back by naming one of his most notorious villains Goldfinger! No 2, the only one of the block open to the public, has been managed by the National Trust since 1995.          

The Heath continues along much of the east side of Willow Road. Most of the late nineteenth-century dwellings are not particularly noteworthy, but the detailing on some is worth a look. In particular, Nos. 12 and 14. Both have examples of pargetting (decorative plasterwork) and No.14 has the RAF insignia on a circular window.  If you glance down Willoughby Road you will catch sight of a somewhat perplexing building - a studio house designed by Mark Guard Architects (2012). It has been open to the public on previous Open House London days, so it might be worth checking if it is listed this year. Further up Willow Road you will find Willow Cottages, a pretty terrace with round-arched windows (c 1840). Opposite is a set of houses with intricate ironwork on their porches. At the top of the road, on the right hand side, are some striking ex-local authority blocks of flats (Willow Hall). When you reach Well Walk, go left into Flask Walk. You are now entering Hampstead Village. At the end of Flask Walk turn right to find the Tube station. Hampstead is an intriguing area and has its own (long) entry here.

*Those interested in the Deep Level Shelters built during WW2 might like to turn left and walk a couple of minutes to see the entrance to one at the corner of Downside Crescent. 

Note: The trail as far as Hampstead Heath is negotiable by buggies etc. On the Heath itself it is easy to choose a path that will take you past the ponds and into the woods avoiding the more uneven tracks. I even met one enterprising gentleman in an electric buggy who had reached the top of Parliament Hill. He assured me that it was safe to go up and down the quite steep slope, but I'm not sure I would recommend it. 

Photos (to enlarge image click on photo)
Cottages, Keats Grove/House, South End Road
St. John's Church/Keats' House
No. 1 Pond, Hampstead Heath/No. 2 Willow Road
Views from Parliament Hill Fields
Nos. 14&16 Willow Road/
44 Willoughby Road

This is just one walk from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings to be found in the area covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries  are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to click on the link above and see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!