Hampstead Heath and the Story of Parliament Hill
One of my aims as a photographer is uncover beauty where you would not necessarily expect to find it. If you take a few moments to look over the art photograph above, where would you say it had been taken? If you haven’t cheated and already looked up the name of the print, that is!
You might think you were looking at an alpine village, maybe somewhere in Bavaria, Germany, or maybe Switzerland. Those look like white-painted, bricked-top chalets ahead, and the impression is completed by the church spire thrusting up through the trees.
Of course, this flight of fancy comes crashing down once you see the taller buildings to the right of the art print, and then there’s the complete lack of mountains to have to explain away as well.
A little closer to home
For those not already in the know, this picturesque landscape art photograph has been taken from Parliament Hill, which is an area of open parkland in the south-eastern corner of Hampstead Heath, which in turn is in my home town London. This particular view is the less familiar one. I was standing on the top of Parliament Hill looking North. Another of my favourite views looks South down Parliament Hill over the City of London and the Thames and on a clear day you can see many of London’s famous buildings. I’ll post a photograph of that view too – stay tuned.
I know people in foreign realms still believe that England is a “green and pleasant land” as described in the poem (and later hymn) “Jerusalem” by William Blake – and for the most part it is however much of the country is now covered in drab, urban sprawls. Thankfully, most English people are protective of their country’s natural heritage, and there are lots of people and many organizations who work hard to preserve this. It’s great to know that no matter how urbanised England becomes, there will always be areas of natural beauty just a few minutes drive or a short train trip away for us to enjoy.
The history bit
Parliament Hill used to be called Traitors’ Hill, but after the English Civil War in the 1600s it was renamed Parliament Hill as troops loyal to the English Parliament (who were known as “Roundheads”) defended it from Royalist soldiers. Just in case you didn’t know, England was not a monarchy between 1649 and 1660, as the ruling House of Stuart had been overthrown during the Civil War, and the monarch, Charles I, executed. Thankfully the people of the United Kingdom treat the Royal Family with a little more respect these days!
The Houses of Parliament (the seat of the UK’s government) could be seen from the top of Parliament Hill until more modern, taller buildings were constructed around it. Legend tells that Guy Fawkes, the man behind the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, had planned to watch the bombs he had planted in the Houses of Parliament explode from Parliament Hill. Fortunately the plot was foiled and Fawkes was captured, tried and eventually executed.
Whenever I go back home to visit family in England, I always head to Hampstead Heath and climb up Parliament Hill (which is a pretty steep hill), armed with my camera, of course. The vista over London is breathtaking and well worth the climb. I love the urban sprawl and hectic pace of life in London, but I also love the chance for a little peace and tranquillity and escape from all that hustle and bustle. I hope you can really appreciate the peace and tranquillity of Hampstead Heath by the way I have captured it in my art composition.