North London Food & Culture

What Hampstead Heath looks like right now

The snow is deepening, and the wind is howling. This is as atmospheric as it gets


now, eh? What a cliché. And yet, there’s something about it. On the rare occasions I wake up to a proper snowfall, I’m always drawn to Hampstead Heath; an almost primal need to see such a familiar landscape with fresh eyes.

Snow-covered: the mixed bathing ponds, 930am. Photos: SE

So I walked up there twice today. The first time, 9am, was eerily still, the sky blue. While the mixed bathing ponds were frozen solid under a thin blanket, there was less of the white stuff than expected, especially on the summit of Parliament Hill.

Dazzling: Parliament Hill this morning. Photo: SE

Nonetheless, the sun was bright, the air clear, with jacketed hounds amiably darting about, barking, and rosy-cheeked locals hidden beneath hoods, scarves and – of course – mobile phones. It’s fair to say that selfies were taking place.

Narnian scenes in the woods. Photo: SE

Then came the whirling blizzard, which swept in at midday – as many of you will have witnessed – and clung on for several hours.


Thus a second excursion to the top of Parliament Hill this afternoon resulted in a very different scene: a much deeper covering, dozens of tobogganing enthusiasts, and a howling wind that whipped the flakes into the air so vigorously you could taste the snow on your tongue.

And the cold – which feels like -9, said my smartphone – was so extreme that surely a risk of frostbite prevailed removing gloves, even for a second, to take pictures.

Queues on the summit. Photo: SE

But it’s fair to say it’s an excursion to remember up there in the capital’s most rural park at the moment: and with more snow on the way, it should remain so all weekend – before the #beastoftheeast, inevitably, returns to where it came from.

On the way back home: braving the -9 wind chill. Photo: SE
Fancy a dip? Of course you don’t. Read why one pair of tough guys were persuaded to dive into the Men’s Ponds in sub-zero temperatures

If you see a homeless person sleeping rough in the cold, please contact streetlink

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The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.