London and the South East is often associated with congestion and urban sprawl – but if you know where to look, wild adventures are available.
Wild Guide London & South East (www.wildthingspublishing.com), written by Daniel Start, Lucy Grewcock and Elsa Hammond, is an intriguing and highly useful compendium of 1,000s of them.
It lists secret beaches, rivers and lakes that are perfect for swimming, ancient and enchanting woods filled with gnarled trees (even one with a door), strange ruins and follies and hillsides where you can catch magical sunrises and sunsets.
The authors say: ‘The Wild Guide is a celebration of the most beautiful places that lie hidden, just off the beaten path. It’s your guide to a lifetime of joyful exploration and simple pleasures.
‘We wanted to show how many simple and amazing adventures can be found close to big cities. [The book] is packed full with memories of wild campsites, night-walks, foraging missions, sunset hilltop hikes, canoe trips at dawn and countless dips into chalky streams and still lakes. We hope this book inspires many more wild and wonderful escapades.’
Scroll down for MailOnline Travel’s selection of top spots listed in the tome.
WADENHOE, RIVER NENE, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE: Wild Guide says that this idyllic spot is ‘a wonderful place for messing about in the water’. For bonus points, there’s a ‘lovely riverside pub – the Kings Head – and a ‘pretty church’
GREAT OUSE RIVER AT OLNEY, BOROUGH OF MILTON KEYNES: At this point in the river, says Wild Guide, there’s a shingle beach and ‘beautiful views back to Olney’. The beach is just five minutes by foot from St Peter and Paul church
SEGENHOE RUINED CHURCH, BEDFORDSHIRE: Enter through the north porch, says the book, to appreciate the elaborate columns and arches. It adds that there are lots of nooks and crannies to explore
WINDSOR GREAT PARK: This 4,800-acre park is home to Europe’s largest collection of ancient oaks, the book reveals – and several of them are over 1,000 years old
DONNINGTON CASTLE, NEWBURY: This twin-towered gatehouse, Wild Guide says, was once part of a medieval castle. But it was demolished in 1646 after a Civil War siege
WIMPOLE FOLLY AT WIMPOLE HALL, CAMBRIDGESHIRE: Wimpole Folly is, bizarrely, designed to resemble the ruins of a medieval castle. Wild Guide says that the 18th-century sham structure is set in ‘beautiful parkland’ with a lake that’s great for a dip
THE ORCHARD TEA GARDEN, GRANTCHESTER, CAMBRIDGESHIRE: A truly lovely spots for tea and scones. And river swimming is available nearby
KINGSGATE BAY, EAST KENT: This beach with ‘perfect sand, caves and even a sea arch’ can be found just below the Captain Digby pub, between Joss and Botany
FREDVILLE PARK, EAST KENT: Some say this tree – the ginormous Majesty Oak – is England’s most beautiful tree, according to the book. It sits in parkland peppered with several ancient gnarled chestnuts and oaks
FIRLE BEACON, EAST SUSSEX DOWNS: Wild Guide recommends coming here to ‘watch the sunset over the distant sea’. And walking to The Ram Inn, three miles away
ULTING CHURCH BY THE RIVER CHELMER, ESSEX COAST: ‘Lovely clean swimming and canoeing’ is possible at this beauty spot, but watch out for boats
LAKE WOOD AND GROTTO, UCKFIELD, EAST SUSSEX: A great swimming spot, says Wild Guide, with rocky crags and an ‘amazing carved out cave and grotto complex’
HALNAKER WINDMILL AND ‘TUNNEL’, WEST SUSSEX: This landmark, says Wild Guide, is reached through a ‘magical tree tunnel along a section of the ancient Roman Stane Street’
SS VINA, BRANCASTER, NORTH NORFOLK: This former merchant-navy vessel became stranded on a sandbank in 1944, explains Wild Guide, and is now visible at low tide. The wreck can be reached, but fast tides mean extreme care must be taken, the book warns
THE THICKS, STAVERTON PARK, SUFFOLK COAST: Behold a beguiling slice of primaeval woodland, populated with ‘gnarled, twisted and ivy-clad trees’. The book reveals that the park is home to more than 4,000 pollarded oaks, some of Britain’s largest holly trees and the oldest oaks in East Anglia’
THOMAS A BECKET CHURCH, FAIRFIELD, ROMNEY MARSH: Come here for a tranquil fairy-tale landscape – a little 13th-century church, a river, meadows and grazing sheep. ‘Only the sound of the wind across the marches disturbs the peace,’ the book says
FRITHSDEN BEECHES, ASHRIDGE, NORTH CHILTERNS: Magical, eh? It’s little wonder that scenes for Harry Potter and Sleepy Hollow were shot here
IVINGHOE BEACON, NORTH CHILTERNS: Come here for ‘panoramic views over the Vale of Aylesbury and Ashridge Estate’
EDBURTON HILL, MID SUSSEX DOWNS: Make your way to this spot for ‘striking views as the sun dips below the horizon’, suggests the book. Reach it by way of a ‘beautiful two-mile ridge walk from Devil’s Dyke’
SISLAND CARR, NORFOLK BROADS: If you want to see one of the UK’s most magnificent bluebell displays, this is the place to visit, says the book
DEVIL’S KNEADING TROUGH, KENT DOWNS: This ‘dramatic valley’ affords walkers views across Romney Marsh and out to the Channel
MOOR WOOD SUNKEN LANE, HIGH WEALD: A wonderful ancient holloway with walls formed from rocks and roots
THE CROWHURST YEW, HIGH WEALD: Ever seen a tree with a door? Now you have. This ancient yew has a ‘mysterious’ history, the book says, and is reputed to be 4,000 years old
OLD KNOBBLEY, FURZE HILL WOOD, ESSEX: Behold one of England’s oldest oaks. In the past, according to the book, hunted witches used to hide inside. Today excited children clamber over the 800-year-old tree’s contorted limbs
ST MARY’S CHURCH, EASTWELL, KENT: This intriguing ruined church is home to the tombstone of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York. The inventory also includes an ivy-clad tower, a lake and an ancient yew tree
HAMPSTEAD PONDS, THE HEATH, LONDON: These superb woodland swimming lakes are easily reached by public transport – and are watched over by lifeguards
WAXHAM AND SEA PALLING, NORFOLK BROADS: An amazing beach, as this image shows. Keep your eyes peeled for seals
ST BENET’S ABBEY, RIVER BURE, NORFOLK BROADS: Wild Guide says that this ‘impressive ruin’ – an abandoned 16th-century monastery – is ‘hidden away in the depths of Broadland, away from roads, towns and phone reception’
ST CROSS WINCHESTER, RIVER ITCHEN: This image shows the water meadows and ‘deepish pools’ behind the ‘wonderful and ancient’ Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty
PRIORY BAY, ST HELENS, ISLE OF WIGHT: These ‘quiet, golden sands’ are set beneath woods and can be accessed directly from the Priory Bay Hotel restaurant