The outdoors beckons
A light breeze on your face, the sound of birds proclaiming their territory, the smell of fresh rain in the air….
Even if the reality is that it is chilly and drizzling, we all know that time spent outside makes us feel better.
In fact, there is now scientific proof that being outside in ‘nature’ shifts the brain towards a calmer and more restorative state.
Being quiet is good for you!
On top of this, many of us find quiet focused activity, such as drawing, gardening, meditating, or simply admiring the view, to be equally restorative.
Indeed, there is an increasing body of research showing that mindful activity and meditation actually change the structure of the brain to reduce anxiety, improve concentration and encourage positive thinking.
So there are considerable benefits to spending time in the open air with no other agenda other than to stay present and enjoy your surroundings.
Places to find peace
As we all know, London life tends to be full and a little frantic and time away from work or other chores is precious. Thankfully, Primrose Hill and its surrounds offers plenty of places for a peaceful stroll, a few moments for reflection, or just to sit, breathe and be.
Here are a few relatively secluded, but safe, suggestions for where to wander when feeling the need for some calm and space. I am sure many readers have their own.
With its paradise of flowers in spring and summer and a patchwork of perennials all year round, the garden surrounding St Mark’s is a wonderful place to spend a few moments alone. An enticing little path weaves its way from the lawn to the canalside with wooden benches from which to enjoy the rainbow-coloured canal boats gliding past.
Should the weather turn wet and windy you can retreat to the impressive interior, and if you get distracted there is a café serving a variety of appetising drinks and snacks at the weekends.
Have you ever noticed that the hall where you go to vote, or to your weekly yoga or art class, is set in its own little leafy courtyard away from the (relative) busy-ness of Fitzroy Road? So next time why not stop a while on one of the convenient wooden benches and enjoy some time for reflection or reading?
If the chattering of children at the nursery or the chink of glasses at the Sunday drinks disturbs your thoughts, why not go inside and take a look at the array of classes, talks and events listed in the foyer?
This small edible garden is tucked away next to a little patch of woodland that sneaks its way up the side of St George’s Terrace. Enter at the top of the terrace through a secret wrought-iron gate and wander into a tiny copse, patiently waiting to burst into bud.
Yes, there is a constant hum of traffic, but see if you can let this blend into the background as you admire the gooseberry, blackcurrant and raspberry bushes, recently planted by Transition Primrose Hill.
St John’s Lodge gardens
This is in Regent’s Park – so a little further afield. St John’s Lodge gardens are included here as they are a must for anyone with a little more time and in need of greater solitude and serenity.
The gardens were designed by Robert Weir Shultz in 1889 to be ‘fit for meditation’, their circular structure ornamented with sculpture and stonework providing a calm central London oasis.
While St John’s Lodge itself is a private residence, you can find the gardens through a small gate along the Inner Circle, near the park office.
Find your own!
I am sure readers have their own spaces and places to suggest! Of course both Chalcot Square and the hill itself offer excellent, though more popular, places for peace. So as the daylight lengthens, and the spring flowers wake up from their winter sleep, it is time to make the very most of the beautiful area in which we are so fortunate to live. It won’t take long to feel the benefits. Caroline Shaw
Caroline teaches a weekly flowing yoga class at PHCC every Thursday at 5.30pm -all welcome!
She is also teaching a special yoga workshop, ‘Making Space for Spring!’ at Primrose Hill Community Centre on Sunday 2 April 2017. This flowing yoga practice will create space throughout the whole body by releasing the spine, opening the shoulders, freeing up the hips, expanding the breath and creating clarity in the mind. All before a nourishing relaxation and healthy treats.
Photos by Richard Barraclough except St. Mark’s Church photo which is by Caroline Shaw.