With more of us looking for open green spaces to spend a socially-distant weekend, it’s of little surprise that the UK’s 15 national parks are seeing a boom this 2020. Fortunately, with the New Forest to the south and the Peak District to the north, London is never too far from Britain’s great outdoors.
Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-fuelled escape kayaking ancient waterways or just need to swap the bright city lights for rolling green hills, these five-weekend getaways from London offer fairytale villages, wind-swept coastal hikes, and enough home-brewed ale and farmhouse cheese to keep you fuelled for a lifetime of adventure.
Tracing almost the entire county border between Suffolk and Essex is the River Stour, one of England’s oldest trading waterways and the subject of John Constable’s most famous paintings. The calm, willow tree-lined river flows past dozens of quaint English villages most famous for their thatched-roofed Tudor mansions, medieval churches, and miles of rolling green hills dotted with grazing cows. Around 40km of the 72km River Stour is navigable by kayak, canoe and SUP, or you can explore the valley by foot on one of the numerous self-guided trails, including the 96km-long Stour Valley Path. In the evening, bed down in a luxury riverside cottage or feast on refined British cuisine such as fillet of beef served in a Madeira jus and battered cod with samphire and smoked salmon foam.
Getting there: Trains from London Liverpool Street to Colchester take one hour. From Colchester station, it’s a 30-minute drive to the Dedham Vale Area.
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1966, the Cotswolds is 800 square miles of thatched 16th-century houses, honey-coloured stone walls, and rolling green farmland. The region, which spans across the English counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire, has more than 3,000 miles of pubic bridleways and ancient woodland to explore, making it the perfect place to go hiking, biking or horse riding. The Cotswolds is also at the heart of British produce, with locally-produced cheeses, meats, spirits and ales available at weekly farmers markets and specialist farm shops, as well as served in old inns, gastro pubs and fine dining restaurants. As for accommodation, choose from luxury manor house rentals and boutique bed and breakfasts, or pitch up a tent at one of