10 of the best parks in the south

10 of the best parks and gardens in the south

The level of greenery in the south west can’t be understated – it is a seriously green part of the country. Even London – one of the most built-up parts of the UK – could be counted as a forest under one UN measure! So it’s no surprise there are plenty of places to while away a sunny day in one of the region’s grassy spots – whether it’s petal-filled patches for a picnic or a beachside spot in the city, there’s something for everyone.

Love Parks Week

This year Love Parks Week runs from 23 July to 1 August – and following the extra pressure our local parks have braved over the course of the pandemic it’s more important than ever to show your love for our green spaces and make sure you leave them green and tidy.

Eastrop Park

This pretty little park just 10 minutes’ walk from Basingstoke station comes complete with boating lake where you can hire a paddle boat (or sail a remote control one!), minigolf and paddling pool. The summer café offers plenty of drinks and snacks, making a perfect spot for an afternoon break after shopping at nearby Festival Place.

Eastrop Park Fountains
Eastrop Park's fountains offer a great way to cool off in the summer!

It’s also a wildlife haven – with the River Loddon flowing through the park, you’ll spy resident kingfishers, house martins and egrets flying around. Under the water you may even spot local brown trout!

Farley Mount Country Park

This beautiful downland country park offers incredible views over central Hampshire. Named after the monument to famed racehorse “Beware Chalk Pit”, who carried its rider to victory after (perhaps unsurprisingly) falling into a chalk pit the previous year, it’s one of the highest points in the county.

It’s a perfect spot for walkers, cyclists and dog walkers – with some truly beautiful ancient woods that’re home to some classic British wildlife – from woodpeckers to red squirrels. Located just a few miles from Winchester, it’s also a great spot for walkers and picnickers – like nearby St Catherine’s Hill.

Itchen Valley Country Park

Eastleigh is home to Itchen Valley Country Park, 440 acres of Green Flag-awarded water meadows, woodland and meadows lying alongside the River Itchen. It’s ideal for taking a picnic along, with spots throughout the park where you can stop for a bite – or head to the café for a slice of delicious cake.

Go Ape at Itchen Valley Country Park
Like a little more adrenaline in your days out? Go Ape! takes you into the treetops for a forest walk with a difference!

For fans of a more adventurous life there are two orienteering courses to try here, or try one of the self-led trails. Good with heights? Itchen Valley hosts an expansive Go Ape! Venue – with two to three hours of fun way above the forest floor.

Lightwater Country Park

Just across the M3 from Bagshot station is Lightwater Country Park – part of the once vast Bagshot Heath that stretched as far as Bracknell and Windsor. Next to the village sharing its name, it’s 100 acres is filled with wildlife including a local deer population, and you’ll also find livestock regularly grazing.

Head to High Curley for views of Surrey Heath, or head down into the heathland during the summer to discover the fragrant heather blooms and the walking trails to explore.

Painshill Park

Described as being one of the finest remaining eighteenth-century landscaped parks anywhere in the UK, walking around Painshill Park is to walk through a work of art itself. A foremost example of the English Landscape Movement, it was designed in the 1700s by Charles Hamilton as a living painting – and with its numerous follies, stunning views and calming waters, it’s easy to see why.

Painshill Garden Grotto
Painshill Park's remarkable man-made crystal grotto

Now Grade I listed, Painshill offers some remarkable sights – from the crystal grotto to the Turkish Tent, the Ruined Abbey, and a Gothic Temple – as well as a hermitage hidden in the woods. We recommend downloading the audio tour to make the most of this remarkable slice of England. Perfect for families as well as part of a romantic break away - it’s even featured in Netflix hit drama Bridgerton!

Farnham Park

Heading into the town centre from Farnham Centre might make you think you’re heading into a typical bustling Surrey town – but that belies the remarkable hidden gem that is Farnham Park. Hidden behind Castle Street is 320 acres of 600-year-old medieval deer park that lies unchanged since its creation.

The rolling grassland and veteran forest hide hidden dells, tree-lined avenues, ponds and streams to discover, and fans of woodland will enjoy the traditional park management methods to help keep the landscape healthy – all of which have contributed to the Green Flag Award given to the Park.

Bournemouth Lower Gardens

Not just a beach, Bournemouth’s Lower Gardens are an all-year-round delight. Voted one of the UK’s top parks, they’re just five minutes from the beach and pier – making it an ideal break from a dip in the sea.

Bournemouth Lower Gardens
Bournemouth's Lower Gardens are perfect for an early-morning walk

Beautiful floral displays mean year-round colour, and you’ll find regular music at the Pine Walk bandstand. There’s also an aviary full of birds from finches to budgies, mini golf course, and regular summer art exhibitions add a welcome touch of high culture. Or visit at Christmas to discover the stunning Christmas Tree Wonderland, which attracts thousands every year.

Lodmoor Country Park

Lodmoor is just a 15 minute walk from Weymouth station, with plenty to do for grown-ups and little ones! One of the smaller parks on our list, it’s nonetheless packed with things to do, from genteel games on the nine hole golf course to pirate ship play parks and bird’s nest swing.

For keen walkers, the nearby RSPB nature reserve hosts nationally rare bird species, migratory waders and insects – and the Sea Life Centre in the park adds even more to do with the world’s smallest penguins, night-time ocean experiences, and splash zone!

Chiswick Gardens

300 years of discovery, inspiration and insight await you at the remarkable Chiswick Gardens. A blueprint for the English Landscape Movement, these natural-looking landscapes are free from clipped hedges and instead feature rustic waterfalls and serpentine lakes – as well as stunning Cedar of Lebanon trees that have looked over Chiswick House for generations.

Chiswick House Gardens
Chiswick House gardens offer an insight to world-famous classical English garden design

Home to one of the oldest Camellia collections in Europe, the glasshouse is a forerunner to the iconic Crystal Palace and Kew. Perfect for lovers of all things English, the classical villa is also open to be explored – ideal if clouds start to form!

Bishops Park

Hammersmith is an unlikely spot for a beach, but Bishop’s Park delivers with this feature unique to a London park! Seasonal splash pad and an interactive water play area mean it’s a great spot to stop off with little ones when you’re exploring the local area, and grown-ups will enjoy the meadow strolls, 1940s sculptures, river walks and rose gardens – which adds up to a lot for this little riverside green space.

Tempted to discover some of these great green spaces? Then book your train ticket – or plan ahead and sign up for a cheap ticket alert.

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