First laid out in 1683, this garden square is one of the oldest in London and has a history synonymous with freedom of ideas. Samuel Pike offered non-conformist theological teachings there in the 17th century, and today hipsters hand out fanzines or practice tightrope walking between the trees.
Fill your basket with raw food goodies from nearby whole food emporium As Nature Intended or blow the calorie allowance with a greasy but delicious takeout Cuban sandwich from Red Dog Saloon. Pick up some free local Wi-Fi from the comfort of your picnic blanket and order one online to collect at the counter, then maybe share one of their key lime pies afterwards, too.
Home to 56 types of birds, an abundance of flora (including impressive seasonal bluebells) and some actual springs, due to its unique geology dating back to the Ice Age, Springfield Park is a leafy green space a short walk from Clapton overground station. Work up an appetite with a game of outdoor chess or take in an exhibition at the gallery in the park café. The Princess of Wales, set on the nearby River Lea, is a cozy pub five minutes’ walk away and provides a fantastic vantage point for watching narrowboats, rowers and moorhens go past.
Originally known to East End children as ‘The People’s Park.’ Victoria Park benefited from a huge lottery funded redevelopment in 2010, including landscaping its lake. Take a row boat or pedallo out to the island or settle down beside one of the regular cricket matches throughout the summer (the park has three all-weather wickets) and dine to the gentle sound of willow on leather. The family-run Deli Downstairs nearby has a great selection of ginger beer and stocks award-winning gourmet Tom’s Pies plus artisan breads, small-batch chutneys and local honey.
Famously featured in the film Closer, Postman’s Park is a tranquil space close to St Paul’s and the former site of the Greater London GPO. It is home to William Frederic Watt’s Memorial to Heroic Sacrifice and was a former burial ground before it was laid to lawns and flowerbeds. It’s great for a lunchtime meet up and there are plenty of benches to sit on. If the park’s gothic architecture turns you to the dark side, stroll up to the former debtors’ prison and Victorian gin palace The Viaduct Tavern to enjoy a sundowner from their decadent ‘toasties and gin’ menu.
Although seemingly the current hotspot for London’s new parents, Wanstead Flats is a huge expanse of open space. It is so expansive that there is always a gust of strong wind that will lift even the most amateur kite flier’s kite in the air. So pack one, and stock up on cheese and cured meats from the Saturday afternoon Farmers’ Market opposite Forest Gate station. If you fancy some vintage china to eat from there’s a treasure trove of a shop called Number 8 there, too. Don’t miss the daily selection of organic cakes and gigantic salted caramels at popular café Coffee 7.