photo by wikimedia
Think of Hampstead and most likely images of the vast heath, beautiful houses, busy high street and cobbled laneswith bijou cafes and boutiques come to mind. But like many other areas of London, Hampstead wasn't always as fashionable as it is today.
photo by hampsteadtheatre
The Vale of Health, which borders Hampstead Heath, is a wonderfully picturesque mini village within Hampstead, with narrow passages running between the large villas and cute cottages. In the 1700s however, the Vale of Health was a marshy bog, originally known as Gangmoor and then Hatches Bottom.
photo by howtoacademy.com
The marshlands were drained to make way for a pond in 1777 and this allowed a few cottages to be built, although the area continued to be seen as a blight on the heath. In an attempt to shed its old image, in the early 1800s enterprising locals renamed Hatches Bottom as Vale of Health. New houses were built and leading literary figures of the time, including Leigh Hunt, Byron and Shelley, moved in or visited the area.
photo by saunders1865.com
On the edge of the heath, this was a perfect spot for poets, artists and writers, 'village life half an hour from Piccadilly Circus' as described by Sir Compton Mackenzie. Two hundred years later, the Vale of Health has grown from those first few cottages but it still retains a village feel and provides the perfect setting for exploring the heath. Make a loop from the Vale through the heath and finish in Hampstead at our favourite cafe Ginger & White for a coffee and cake.
photo by foodforthink.com