Historically, London's heaths and commons were managed as an agricultural resource for local citizens. Today they offer a great opportunity to escape the fast pace of the big smoke. They are typically less formal than purpose-made parks and their natural beauty provides a haven for all manner of wildlife.
Just four miles (6.4km) from central London, Hampstead Heath is a huge area of grass and woodland, covering 791 acres across two boroughs. As well as being one of the city's best areas for wildlife, it is also home to a range of leisure facilities.
Perfect for lazy afternoons and picnics, the heath also has plenty to offer the more active! From tennis and athletics to outdoor swimming and cricket it's a great place for sport. And, if you have any energy left, a climb to the top of Parliament Hill is recommended for its magnificent views across the city.
Near Greenwich Park, Blackheath is former common land. Its name probably derives from the colour of the soil, rather than any association with the plague, as was the common belief for many years.
The nearby village is home to many shops, pubs and restaurants. The heath itself is a large, flat grassy area very popular with kite flyers.
Tube: North Greenwich then bus
One of London's largest dedicated Local Nature Reserves, Hounslow Heath is a large area of open heath and scrub woodland. A wide variety of habitats attracts a range of flora and fauna, including over 132 bird species and many rare plants and insects.
The site is notorious for having been one of the most dangerous places in Britain during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a haunt for highwaymen who preyed on the rich visitors travelling between London and the West Country. Legendary highwaymen such as Dick Turpin are said to have stayed in many old pubs in the Hounslow area.
Tube: Hounslow West
The 89 hectares (220 acres) of Clapham Common make up one of the most popular open spaces in south London. Packed with joggers, cyclists, kite flyers and children, the common is also home to a number of festivals and major events, especially in summer.
The common is surrounded by a great range of stylish bars, pubs and restaurants to keep you entertained once the sun goes down!
Tube: Clapham Common
Wimbledon and Putney Common
These two commons comprise about 460 hectares (1140 acres) of open land with heath, woodland streams and ponds. They are kept in a natural state with plenty of footpaths and cycle paths to explore.
There are also plenty of opportunities for sport on the commons. These include an 18-hole golf course, cricket pitches, riding and 48 acres of playing fields, including football and rugby pitches.
Tube: Wimbledon Park then bus
The landscape of Tooting Common encompasses not only natural areas of wood and grassland but also more formally landscaped areas for recreation and sport. It is perhaps best known for its lido, one of the largest open-air pools in Europe.
You can also take advantage of a number of sports pitches, an athletics track and tennis courts. And don't miss the fossil tree stump at the northern end of the wildlife area, said to date from the age of the dinosaurs.
Tube: Tooting Bec