As spring gives way to summer in the nation’s capital, the good people of London are emerging from their homes, offices and underground man-caves in order to soak up some much-needed vitamin D.
All the major parks are ideal for relaxation and outdoor fun, but before you toddle off in search of the ideal picnicking spot, it’s worth considering the more oddball pursuits that London’s green open spaces play host to.
This ancient Chinese exercise routine may look like synchronised signing for deaf pandas to the uninitiated and you might feel a bit silly when you first join a group, but you’ll soon notice the positive effects that regular sessions in the beautiful setting of Holland Park have on your energy levels and general well-being. You don’t have to be ancient or, indeed, even Chinese to take part as very few words are spoken with everyone just copying what the instructor does. There’s no complicated instructions barked out through a headset mic and mercifully no pumping techno beats. It’s just you, nature and the sound of your body (and mind) being eased gently into shape. Kung Fu slippers are optional.
However, if you do want to be brusquely ordered about and pummelled into hard-bodied buffness, then British Military Fitness or BMF for short may be the outdoor activity for you. Set up and run by real army types with the tattoos and cropped hair to prove it (and that’s just the girls), BMF helps you to set goals, stay motivated and kick ass by training you just as if you were in the armed forces i.e by half killing you. In Battersea Park, you’ll be forced marched several kilometres before being put through a punishing assault course. Times will be measured and physical condition noted with an eye to improving the next time round. If, when that dreaded day arrives, you find that your instructor has been replaced, don’t worry. They’ve probably just popped over to Afghanistan in order to resume their day job.
Bat walking may sound like the inspiration behind the latest viral dance video but in reality it involves creeping around various parks at dusk looking for winged insectivores. Bats, you see, roost in the tree lines next to open spaces so that when they leave their perches to go on their nightly feed, they do so without having to dodge round obstacles. As the sun goes down around Hyde Park, these fascinating creatures gather in groups of thousands before swarming out into the night. If you’re with an experienced group, then you might get to use an echolocation device in order to detect the high pitched noise of the bats. Barring that, just download an “Addams Family” playlist onto your smartphone.
Softball is a less intense version of America’s favourite pastime, baseball which in the past, we Brits tended to regard as a needlessly over complicated type of rounders. One good thing about U.S. sporting franchises, though, is that the teams get to wear really cool shirts that can double as hip daywear. They also tend to call themselves some pretty groovy names. Compare Charlton Athletic (don’t make me laugh; my granny could run faster) to the Oakland Raiders or Miami Heat; I mean there’s just no comparison! Softball games are being held in Regents Park. Go along, swing a bat, eat a hotdog, shout stuff like “You’re outta here!!” and “Fuggedaboutit!”. By the end of the day, you might be in a team and playing in a league.
We are not suggesting that anyone reading this should actually get up and start expounding their latest theory on how we are all being watched by aliens disguised as Boris bikes. The weird and wonderful crew of rabble rousers that regularly air their views at this 150 year old collection of soap boxes have skins as thick as armour plated rhinos and voices to match. The fun of Speakers Corner which occupies a space near the Marble Arch side of the park, is in the audience interaction. Can you imagine Members of Parliament left out in the sun too long before being fed on nothing but ha llucinogens and conspiracy theories? Yes, well we know that that’s how they sound sometimes but the regulars at Speakers Corner take heckling to another level entirely which is, generally, a healthy, democratic and very London-like thing to do.
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