An engaging and supremely well-observed portrait of Hampstead Heath – a place rich not just in natural wonders but in history and monuments, emotions and memories, people and places.
The eight hundred acres of Hampstead Heath lie just four miles from central London; and yet unlike the manicured inner-city parks, it feels like the countryside: it has hills and lakes, wild spots and tame spots. You can spend hours walking around it – and only ever cross one road.
Hunter Davies has lived within a stone's throw of Hampstead Heath for more than sixty years and has walked on it nearly every day of his London life. For him, it is not just a place of recreation and relaxation – as rich in history and monuments as it is in natural wonders – but also a treasure-house of memories and emotions. In The Heath, he visits all parts of this, the largest area of common land in Britain's capital city: from Kenwood House to the Vale of Health, from Parliament Hill to Boudicca's Mound, and from the Ladies Bathing Pond to the fabulous pergola – wonder of the remote West Heath. As he walks, Davies talks to the diverse array of individuals who frequent the Heath: regulars; visitors; dog walkers; stallholders at the weekly farmer's market; famous faces having their morning stroll; twenty-first-century hippies spreading peace, love and happiness.
Engaging, informative and supremely well-observed, The Heath is an affectionate portrait of one of London's – and the world's – iconic urban green spaces.
Hunter Davies is a prolific author, journalist and broadcaster who has written for Punch, the New Statesman, Guardian and Sunday Times. He is the author of more than 100 books, including the only authorized biography of The Beatles and biographies of Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and Alfred Wainwright. He spent every summer in the Lake District for nearly half a century and his Lakeland: A Personal Journey was published by Head of Zeus in 2016. He now divides his time between north London and the Isle of Wight.
"I enjoyed every inch of the way, from Parliament Hill to the Pergola [...] I particularly liked the way [he] gently but remorselessly undermines everyone's preconceptions [...] A late-life little masterpiece"
– Ferdinand Mount
"An affectionate book which blends personal anecdote, history and interviews with key players from The Heath and Hampstead Society and City of London Corporation, to swimmers and dog walkers"
– Ham & High
"A love letter, both to the Heath and to his late wife [...] Hunter's portrait of the Heath zips by, as a warm reminder of the familiar, but introducing you to new territory"
– Islington Tribune
"Just like taking a walk on the Heath, most of the book is familiar before pointing out something you had not noticed before"
– Camden New Journal