Hidden gems in Hackney

A round up of the borough's great green escapes

WE all need some down time every now and again, but living in such a busy city can sometimes make taking a breather seem impossible.

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of urban life fool you however, Hackney is home to over 58 parks, gardens and green spaces totalling around 330 hectares.

From secret gardens and vast woodlands, to an industrial 'Stonehenge' and wildlife nature reserves. Here is our A-Z guide of Hackney’s hidden gems for those who want to get away from it all without having to leave the borough.

Allens Gardens

Hidden away behind Bethune Road, in Stoke Newington, Allens Gardens (above) is a true secret garden. The layout consists of a series of garden 'rooms', with a children's playground, fruit trees, mature yew trees, ornamental planting and woodland.

The park dates back to 1870 when it used to be a communal garden – complete with bowling green, tennis courts and wash houses – for residents of Matthew Allen's block of flats.

The park is open from 7.30am all year round and closes at dusk. Allens Gardens, Bethune Road, N16 8SB.

Abney Park Cemetery

The 32-acre graveyard (above) was created in 1840. Some 200,000 souls have been laid to rest in the cemetery, once a landscaped masterwork, now a much-loved wilderness in the heart of urban London.

The beautiful park and cemetery is now a local nature reserve and offers visitors the opportunity to take part in activities which include carving, chiselling stone, guided walks and experiencing the park after dark at unique events.

The park is open from 8am all year round and closes at dusk. Abney Park, Stoke Newington High Street, N16 0LH.

Clapton Pond

A calm oasis in the heart of Clapton, the pond and perfectly manicured gardens (above) provide some much-needed peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of urban living.

The pond is said to have been originally dug in the early 1600s, during the reign of James I, and was later redesigned for public use in the 1800s. Today, it holds a Green Flag award, meaning it’s one of the best parks in the UK.

Various opening times. Clapton Pond, Lower Clapton Road, E5 0QA.

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

Enjoy a bit of peace of mind right in the middle of buzzing Dalston. The Eastern Curve Garden (above) is a beautiful space to relax in or spend time with loved ones, it even has a cafe/bar and free wifi.

The outdoor space, which labels itself as 'a meeting place for people and plants' can also be hired for events.

Various opening times. Located next to the Hackney Peace Carnival Mural. Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, 13 Dalston Lane, E8 3DF.

Geffrye Museum Gardens

This Hoxton musuem is surrounded by green space, made up of an award-winning herb garden, period garden 'rooms' and manicured front gardens.

Inspired by Shoreditch’s history as a centre of horticulture, the gardens (above) are chronologically arranged to explore the links between home interiors and gardens through the ages.

Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm; Bank Holiday Mondays, 10am-5pm. Free entry. Geffrye Museum Gardens, 136 Kingsland Road, E2 8EA.

Hackney City Farm Garden

If you’ve never noticed this hidden beauty on a visit to Hackney City Farm you’re missing out. The garden (above) is divided into various sections including an orchard area, which is made up of apple, plum and pear trees and the bog garden, which is filled with wetland plants.

Located within Hackney City Farm, along with the ‘Frizzante’ cafe, and a farm shop which sells produce grown in the garden.

Open all year round from Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-4.30pm; closed Mondays except Bank Holidays. Hackney City Farm Garden1a Goldsmith's Row, E2 8QA.

Mark Street Gardens

This hidden gem lies just walking distance away from the bustling Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch. The garden (above) consists of small lawns intersected with winding paths, shrubberies, flowerbeds, a pergola and two stone monuments.

Mark Street Gardens was originally laid out alongside St Michael's Church, now closed, which was built in 1863-5, adjacent to which is the former Hospital of St Mary at the Cross. 

Open 24 hours a day. Mark Street Gardens, Mark Street, EC2.

Middlesex Filter Beds

Middlesex Filter Beds is a small nature reserve at the northwestern corner of Hackney Marshes, sandwiched between Hackney Cut and the River Lea itself.

It demonstrates how once industrial areas can become havens for wildlife. Built in the mid 1800s, the filter beds once provided clean water for East London. The site is now a thriving mixture of open water, reed beds and wildlife habitats for different types of birds, amphibians and fish. It even has its own industrial version of Stonehenge (above).

Various opening times. Middlesex Filter BedsLammas Rd, E10 7NU.

Springfield Park

Springfield Park has played host to industrial factories, docks, as well as three magnificent villas, one of which was formerly a Tudor house that was remodelled by celebrated Bank of England architect Sir John Soane.

Today, the 14.7-hectare park is well-known for its beautiful views from the top of Wilson’s Hill where you can see the gentle-flowing waters of the Lea Navigation (above), the wilderness of Walthamstow Marshes on the other side, and the natural beauty of the park itself.

Different summer and winter opening times. Springfield ParkSpringfield, E5 9EF.

St John-at-Hackney Churchyard Garden

This well-loved green space (above) has been used as a park since 1894, before which it was a burial ground for over 500 years.

Located just off the Narrow Way in Hackney Central, it is an ideal spot for a rest or stroll, complete with a children's play area, walled garden and seating areas. The park also holds a Green Flag award. 

Open 24 hours a day. St John-at-Hackney Churchyard Gardens, Clapton Road, E5 0PD.

St Mary’s Secret Garden

This beautiful community garden (above) in Hoxton has been a space for people to get hands-on experience of gardening for over 25 years. It has a small pond, herb and sensory area, herbaceous borders, wildflower meadow and woodland with working beehives.

The garden is also open for school visits and holds a plant sale on weekdays. It is fully accessible for those with mobility problems and holds a Green Flag award.

Open weekdays 9am-5pm, closed on the weekends. St Mary's Secret Garden, 50 Pearson Street, E2 8EL.

West Reservoir

Located in a stunning corner of Stoke Newington, West Reservoir (above) offers tuition in sailing and kayaking for adults, children and young people. It is also one of only three open water-swimming locations in London, with 30 acres of safe, clean water.

The centre has a waterfront cafe, seminar rooms and event space that is available to hire for weddings, birthdays and other special occasions.

Open from 9am-5pm every day. West Reservoir, Green Lanes, N4 2HA.

Wick Woodland

Located next to the Lea Navigation, Wick Woodland (above) is a charming mini forest that is home to native trees including poplar, ash and plane.

A variety of birds and plants have also settled in the woodland over the years. Despite having the appearance of a mature wood, much of Wick Woodland was planted in the late 1990s.

Open 24 hours a day. Wick Woodland, Lee Conservancy Road, E9 5RN.

Woodberry Wetlands

The new Woodberry Wetlands reserve is currently being created around the picturesque East Reservoir (above) in Stoke Newington.

First built in 1833, it was closed to the public and became a wildlife haven for a wide variety of fish, amphibians and birds – such as kingfisher, song thrush, bittern and reed bunting.

After securing £1.5million in funding, the London Wildlife Trust is opening the area up as an urban nature reserve, due to open to the public in May 2016. 

Woodberry Wetlands, 1 Newnton Close, Stoke Newington, N4 2RH.