I love my neighborhood. From Hampstead Heath to Hampstead High Street, Hampstead Butcher and Providore to Hampstead Antique Market, I am smitten.

Fence in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London

But for as long as I’ve lived in Hampstead, there was still one area of the neighborhood that I hadn’t visited until the other day: Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Hidden door in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London

Lying just north of Hampstead village next to a quiet extension of Hampstead Heath, the garden suburb is a historic planned community that came about in the early 20th century. It was a social experiment by a group of locals that wanted to allow citizens of all social classes to have a beautiful and healthy place to live in London.

House covered in ivy in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London

And a beautiful and healthy place it is. I took a walk up to the Hampstead Garden Suburb over the weekend in an effort to explore this secluded part of my neighborhood. From the time I turned onto Hampstead Way, I felt like I had entered some kind of virtual world.

Housing block in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London

Like every pleasant thing in the UK, this community was based on an extensive set of rules. Rules for homes, rules for plot acreage, rules for road widths, even rules for the trees that lined the streets. Every building was made of the same uniform red brick, every road lined with the same thick green hedges, and every large house squeezed onto a much-too-small lot.

Brick wall in London's Hampstead Garden Suburb

Add to that the eerie silence that was part of the original community plan (no church bells for this suburb) and the serenity of the verdant heath, and I almost felt like I was intruding on private property. Maybe it was because every single home and every single street had a large “Private Property” sign on it. (Rule #504: no unwanted foreigners).

Green door in Hampstead Garden Suburb

Undeterred, I found a tiny shaded alley that ran along the back of a long row of houses. Walking down the mossy corridor, I found myself in one of the few un-manicured parts of the Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Moss covered wooden fence in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London

In the cool lane I was met with old rusty doors, green metal gates, and overgrown hedges. The wild weeds and lichen-covered fences were the foils of their counterparts on the too-clean streets, and I felt as if I had discovered a part of the neighborhood that the locals didn’t want anyone to know about.

Door knocker in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London

Coming out on the other end, I found myself on the wrong side of a fence that enclosed a beautiful rose garden. Curious, I walked along a small flower-lined street called Wild Hatch and made my way to the large red brick building in front. It was a crematorium.

Barbed wire fence outside a crematorium in Hampstead Garden Suburb

Trying to ignore the purpose of the building, I walked through the archway into the garden. It was massive. And gorgeous. Completely adhering to the suburb’s well-trimmed rule, the grounds featured expansive green lawns, neat rows of rose bushes, and even a Japanese garden with a pond and a small bridge. If it hadn’t been a crematorium, I would have wanted a picnic.  In fact, I still did want a picnic.

Pond and garden in a crematorium in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London

I spent some time exploring the garden, taking a minute to say hello to a friendly duck and a beautiful gray heron that were as oblivious to the garden’s purpose as I was trying to be. I walked along rows of memorial plaques and stones, through quiet groves of rhododendrons, and along beds of flowers dedicated to the departed. When I finally emerged from the arch onto the street, I felt the small sense of relief and renewed appreciation for living that I always feel after visiting such places.

Grave with yellow roses in a crematorium in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London

Moving on, I made my way up to a massive brick church on a freshly mowed lawn. Next to it was a beautiful school building and across the green lay another church-like building of equally megalithic proportions. The only thing that seemed out of place was the group of yellow-vested slavic-speaking workers on their lunch break. (Rule #722: no tradesmen in the gardens).

Church in Hampstead Garden Suburb

After walking by the church again, I started making my way back to Hampstead village. The massive overcrowded mansions gave way once again to normal homes, and the Heath Extension ceded to Golders Hill Park and the Pergola Garden. I could almost feel my ears popping as I walked back home, where, for the first time in hours, I heard more than the ringing in my own ears.

Bench on the sidewalk in Hampstead Garden Suburb in London

Hampstead Garden Suburb was a lovely place and may even be the beautiful and healthy place to live that the founders envisioned. But I’ll stick with Hamsptead village and leave the rules of the social experiment to the planned community.

6 Comments on Lady Walks in Hampstead Garden Suburb

  1. What a lovely blog you have! So well written with a wealth of London and travel info. How do you manage to travel so much?! What part of California to you come from. I grew up near Yosemite, but lived in San Diego before moving to London four years ago. Cheers!

  2. Thanks Jennifer! I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area originally. I love Yosemite, though, and am jealous you grew up so close!

  3. I absolutely love Hampstead Village and Hampstead Heath. When I lived in London, it were two of the places I would visit if I had enough of the hustle and bustle of the big city. Only a few minutes by Tube, and you’re in the middle of peace and quietness. Absolutely perfect. I never visited Hampstead Garden suburb though, but after reading your post, I’m definitely adding it to my (every-growing) places-to-visit list!

  4. I love Hampstead Garden Suburb and stayed in a B and B there every time I came to London for over 10 years. No signs of course – just the name of the house!! All very discreet! My room was opposite the extension and I would awaken to dogs barking in the park. Lovely!! I now stay in Streatham so one extreme to the other! I go back there to look at the area from time to time. I miss it! Thanks for bringing back some great memories.

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