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Deep Country on London’s Doorstep

London is famous for its historic parks and gardens and one of the most exciting legacies of the 2012 Olympics has been the development of the Lee Valley and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on the city’s eastern edge.  Lee Valley Regional Park is the largest of London’s parks, extending in a 26 mile long 1,000 acre strip from the city boundaries into the neighbouring counties of Essex and Hertfordshire. It follows the course of the River Lea, and with its many reservoirs, riverside walks and nature reserves offers endless free outings to the Londoner not wanting to travel too far from home.

A Walk in the Park

For a great day’s trip and an opportunity for a relaxed stroll and a picnic beside the river or – for the more active – a strenuous hike, the Park’s riverside trails provide numerous choices.  Starting from the heart of London’s east end, the Walthamstow Marshes offer the chance to see wildlife close to the city, with buzzards and falcons soaring overhead and in the summer glimpses of rare butterflies and dragonflies swooping over the water.  Explore the Marshes on foot or on two wheels – there are plenty of excellent bike trails that cross the Marshes.  For the really keen, there are opportunities to join up with one of London’s longer trails that orbit the city or to follow the Thames Path – there’s a great description of walking the Richmond stretch on the Choice Hotels blog.

Walthamstow Marshes courtesy of Diamond Geezer

Ride the White Water

For the more adventurous, the Lee Valley White Water Centre offers plenty of excitement, from white water rafting to kayaking and canoeing, with one of the latest activities being hydro-speeding – a helter-skelter ride on a body board down the 160 metre length of the white water course.  A great family day out is to take a ‘hot dog’, a team steered inflatable kayak, down the rapids.

Lee Valley White Water Rafting courtesy of Diamond Geezer

Boating on the River

For a more tranquil day out on the water, the Lee Valley Boat Centre also has canoes and electric boats for hire that allow the visitor to explore the waterways and lakes of the Park, and spend a lazy day enjoying the river, stopping off to have a picnic on the banks or to visit one of the nearby pubs for lunch.  The Lee Valley website has a guide to the top five picnic sites in the Park.

On the path to Holyfield Hall Farm, Lee Valley courtesy of Ivan Lian

Exploring with the Family

Orienteering is a great way to enjoy a day out with the kids and to explore the Park.  All you need to get going is a map, descriptions of the orienteering posts and a score card to build some competition into your day’s outing.  You can obtain all these for just £1.75 from one of the three starting points in the Park.

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