Like any public open space and parkland, Hampstead Heath boasts its fair share of benches.
All are strategically placed to take in seclusion, to enjoy a view or just as a resting place for the Heath visitor wishing to pause awhile and reflect or chat.
There is a limit to the numbers that are existent at any one time and City of London has a large waiting list for those wishing to place a bench on The Heath.
With an approximate life span of ten years or more and the choice for donators to request maintenance of their purchase, it can be a long time indeed before the waiting list moves and an expensive dedication (a thousand pounds, on average!)
Benches are purchased by Heath lovers for a variety of reasons as the inscribed epitaphs and narratives reveal...
Some are “in memorial” and pay homage to dear souls “who loved this place” or simply “in loving memory of”, from a son, wife, relative or friend and the words implying a long and fruitful life, emphasised by the dates that describe.
Sadly, though, there are inscriptions for those who barely reached their teenage years and a few not even their first year so tragically.
Some are placed as a gift to those still living, such as a favourite friend’s or colleague’s retirement or in a place where the dedication tells us of one “who loves to sit here”.
Others have a message for we who pause in front of them and we can absorb a line or two of worldly advice or precious moments that can cause us thought and some reflection…
“…TAKE ONE DAY, REST AWHILE, AND PRETEND THE WORLD IS JUST FOR YOU…” or...
“…I was born tomorrow, today I live, yesterday killed me…” or even
“'Now in years astride my eighties, this Elysian seat I have vacated, but gentle neighbour sigh not yet, I've only moved to Somerset”.
More than anything else, we who walk and talk and ponder and admire this wondrous Heath can sit or lean and see enthroned in awe those beautiful vistas and skies.
Our thoughts, maybe, have the same melancholic or inspirational tinge as those, for whom that bench was dedicated, felt so deeply in another time.
We can see and learn so much about how The Heath is in continual change, not only in the seasons but in its epochs as we chance upon an aged and weather worn bench hidden in the brambles or overgrown shrubbery, long neglected, on an almost forgotten trodden ground.
Hampstead Heath benches feature in major narratives and films.
For example, one of the more prominent benches at the top of Parliament Hill not only commands a magnificent view of The City of London but has seated Judi Dench, in a scene from “Notes on a Scandal” and also a large piece from “Scenes of a Sexual Nature” features the same bench.
Today, the author usually makes this bench the final destination of all his varied Heath walks, where he sits and views The Shard and St. Paul’s and The Post Office Tower and imagines that he is “King of all he surveys”!
In this brief article, the author has put together just a few pictures of Hampstead Heath benches and the view that a particular bench commands over The Heath.
If you click on any bench picture , the particular vista that can be seen from it will be revealed.