Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington
Laid out in 1840, Stoke Newington’s Abney Park is one of the “Magnificent Seven” private cemeteries (of which Highgate and Bromptonwent on to greater fame) created when parish graveyards could not cope with Londoners’ propensity to pop their clogs. Now kept as a woodland memorial park and nature reserve, it’s one of the city’s most peaceful spots. Don’t miss the chapel, built in a “dissenting Gothic” style, and the Egyptian Revival entrance.
• Stoke Newington High Street, N16, abney-park.org.uk, open daily 8am-7pm in summer
Walbrook Gardens, City
Formerly St Swithin’s Church Garden, this tiny formal garden among the huge monoliths of the City is so hard to find there’s a good chance you’ll have it from the madness all to yourself. Welsh exiles will be particularly heartened to see the memorial to Catrin Glyndwr (daughter of freedom-fighter Owain), who died in the Tower of London and is buried here.
• Entrance at Entrance on Salters’ Hall Court, Cannon Street, just to the west of St Swithin’s Lane, EC4
Although you wouldn’t know it right now, there is life east of the maelstrom that is Stratford – stay on the Central Line for another seven stops to Loughton and you’re just a 10-minute stroll away from a 6,000-acre ancient forest. A mixture of woodland, grassy slopes, heathland and ponds, the area has been forested since Neolithic times and has been calming the frayed nerves of locals ever since. At the top of leafy York Hill on the edge of Loughton is the lovely weatherboarded Gardeners Arms, with panoramic views from its front terrace, well-kept real ales and an excellent Sunday lunch.
• IG10, cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/epping-forest
Back in 1977, The Floaters counselled us to “Float, float on,” and it’s obvious that our failure to heed this advice has got us into the state we’re in now. Banish images of Edina in Ab Fab and make amends for your own personal floating deficit by spending an hour of total bliss in a flotation tank. You’ll defy gravity in a warmed super-saturated Epsom-salt solution, and aside from calming you, the treatment is claimed to help with insomnia, arthritis, high blood pressure and more.
• 1 Thrale Street, SE1, 020-7357 0111, floatworks.com, one-hour session ?45
Grand Union Canal, west London
The paranoiacs at Locog may have put paid temporarily to the eastern escape route from London along the Lee towpath, but that still leaves the wonderful car-free exit out west. Starting from Syon Park in Brentford, cycle or walk north along the Grand Union Canal and if you want to flee London completely, just keep going (whizzing past the spot where Dick Whittington turned back). Or, near Southall, turn right along the canal’s Paddington branch and tootle back into town.