Balham, just round the corner from Wandsworth Common. I lived in Pimlico for four years but recently moved south of the river and it already feels like home. It’s green, I bump into friends on my way to the supermarket and there’s a young buzz about the place that almost reminds me of university (a good thing 90% of the time).
Wandsworth Little Common – the wonderful wildness of the main common, minus the crowds. Also: the sweet potato fritters from Brother Marcus. An iced coffee through the window at Full Fat next door. And the Anzac biscuits from Milk.
Richmond – the riverside, the park, the hilltop looking out over the Thames and surrounding countryside. I went paddle-boarding from there to Teddington recently and felt a million miles from the madness of central London.
Morden Hall Park. The Wandle Trail. Epping Forest (ideally in autumn, when it looks its most beautiful). Walking with friends was one of the joys of lockdown and something I hope will stay on long past the pandemic – you don’t need to go for an expensive brunch to have a good catch up.
Walking or cycling! Like most cyclists, I’m a sucker for Richmond Park and anywhere along the river – the stretch between Kingston and Hampton Court is particularly special, and Battersea will always be my go-to on the park-front thanks to its magical mix of river and green. Take a picnic to the mounds overlooking the river there and watch the sunset – totally free, and it beats any restaurant.
Being photographed in a floating hot tub on Regent’s Canal in my first week was definitely a suitably-bonkers entry to writing features at the Evening Standard. Since then I’ve been sent to LA for 48 hours, Amsterdam for 12 hours, trained with Olympic cyclist Jason Kenny, soaked in a bathtub of red wine, been turned into a hologram, dressed as Melania Trump, shivered through an ice-cold cryotherapy treatment at minus 130 degrees, joined a Zoom choir, danced with Oti Mabuse over video call and been photographed in unflattering eating and exercising poses in more places than I care to remember. London is mad, creative, ever-changing and could never, ever get boring.
Le Pot Lyonnaise – an unassuming but charming French restaurant on Queenstown Road in Battersea. Something funny seems to happen every time we’re there, in a good way. Also Kaosarn in Brixton Village. Bring your own booze and order a Pad Thai. My friends and I have spent many a balmy summer evening there making new acquaintances and putting the world to rights over too many beers and it feels almost like we’re on holiday, when you stumble across a little place that’s not on Lonely Planet but serves food that tastes like heaven from those who know it best (and aren’t fussed if you hear them shouting in the kitchen).
Say what you like about lockdown but after a year of rules and rigid planning, this is what I found myself craving when London opened up again: a bit of messiness; a bit of awkwardness-turned-amusement when another group is plonked at end of your table; a bit of fun.
That you have to get the tube everywhere. I managed months without getting on public transport over lockdown and realised cycling to friends’ neighbourhoods was faster, more pleasant – and much less scary – than I’d spent years thinking it was. Now we just need more cycle lanes and more drivers to be conscious of flinging open their car doors without looking!
Barbecues with friends. Tennis, if I can get a court. My local choir, when we’re allowed to sing together again. And running with other people! I can’t wait to get back to Parkrun on Saturday mornings and my old running club Midnight Runners – I haven’t been in over a year and I desperately miss that electric feeling of charging along the Thames with 100 other runners to a great playlist. Squatting on Southbank with a bunch of strangers is the best kind of workout and feels like proper London.
Tube-travel without Citymapper.
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Francesca Specter is the writer of The Shoulds newsletter, author of Alonement and host of an award-nominated podcast of the same name. She has lived in Primrose Hill as a household-of-one for four years.
Sydney-born Saff Williams, a Maida Vale resident and art enthusiast, is the curatorial director at Brookfield Properties.
Personal development expert Alice ter Haar is the founder of Badass Unicorn, a personal development consultancy that helps individuals to thrive through greater self-awareness.