All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown) And the sky is grey (and the sky is grey) I went for a walk…
Ahem… Sorry. Got a bit carried away there. While it may be tempting to indulge in a little ‘California Dreaming’, you’d be doing the great city of London a huge disservice.
What do we know about London? It’s in England. What’s one of the most popular irrefutable facts about England? It has bad weather. So, London is a city that is designed, nay thrives, on the post summer shortening of days.
But while the city’s activities may change quicker than a chameleon on a Jackson Pollock under a strobe light, often leaving you stranded in the cold and wet, I’m here to give you London’s Top 5 Autumnal Date Activities.
1) The Markets
As new produce is harvested and green fingered gurus breathe a collective sigh of relief that drought has passed, there are myriad markets that pop up all over town. Perhaps the best known and a great one for dates is Borough Market. Ranging from the poshest overpriced produce to some cracking mid-range treats, a stroll around the market really is an afternoon well spent. And there are some cracking pubs, bars and restaurants within spitting distance.
2) Richmond Park
If you haven’t been to Richmond Park, you’re in for a treat. Take a stroll, step off the beaten track and you’ll soon find yourself in what feels like the middle of the countryside. It’s very easy to escape the crowds and once you do you may find yourselves with an exclusive view of herds of deer lazing around, feeding at one of the many watering holes, or being bossed around by one of the huge stag. Just be careful this time of year – it’s rutting season. Fascinating viewing, just make sure you keep your distance. Fenton anyone? At one point there’s also a direct view through the trees – it’s illegal to grow or build anything to block this - to St Paul’s 10 miles away.
And Richmond town with its cracking riverside pubs and bars is only a few minutes walk away.
3) Ghost Tour
I was initially reticent to recommend a ghost tour. Do people really want to spend hours traipsing around back alleys in the cold and rain while being patronised by a failed actor? Then I went on one. Awesome.
Do your research of course but they are amazing. Really. The hosts are great fun, most stops are undercover, and the genuine fear factor means you may just leap into each others arms for comfort.
My only advice would be to choose one that is pub focussed. Luckily, given the age of most London pubs, this isn’t hard. Treat it as a personalised theatre pub tour and you’re guaranteed not only a great value couple of hours, you also discover a few back lane gems and have sufficient conversation to see you through the remainder of the date.
4) Afternoon Tea
Normally the preserve of the pre-hen hen party, afternoon tea has finally escaped the over-priced posh hotel vibe and is embracing the self-aware vintage feel that London does so well.
Indulge in 40’s style courting rituals, find yourself a nice classic trilby or vintage tea dress, and feast (delicately) on finger sandwiches, classic cakes and of course tea. Seriously, pretend you’re in a Graham Green novel.
If you’re worried about your masculinity there are plenty of slightly less delicate options. And you don’t need to break the bank. A classic afternoon tea without champagne in a great venue shouldn’t cost more than £18 pp.
A personal favourite is The Modern Pantry in St John’s Square (www.themodernpantry.co.uk) but other notables are Orange Pekoe in Barnes (www.orangepekoeteas.com), and La Chandelier in East Dulwich (www.lechandelier.co.uk).
5) The Classic Riverside Pub Walk
Greying skies, the rustle and smell of damp leaves, a low mist and huddling close as the evening draws in. Just make sure you wear sensible footwear.
The old classic is from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge but it’s crowded this time of year and if it’s pub based comfort you’re looking for head a little further out.
Further east there is a whole host of historically significant pubs. Try starting from Tower Bridge heading toward Rotherhithe. Spend a bit of time in the Mayflower, the setting off point for the famous ship of the same name, then continue around to Greenwich.
Out to the West there is the Richmond, Kingston, Hampton Court walk replete with great pubs and a sense of dipping into the late 1800’s. Or closer in, from Kew, through Barnes, past the Wetlands Centre and on to Putney.
So there you have it. The sun may be going but it’s simply more reason to explore.
WORDS BY JOHN DAVIS
But if you're still on the lookout to meet someone special to spend the day with we have the answer in the form of London's best dating events right here.