The three square miles of Hampstead Heath offer scores of walks. This one is for garden enthusiasts. Golders Hill Park, the start, is not part of the heath but is also administered by the Corporation of London. Go through the main gate and in front of the cafe (Egon Ronay commended), and keep right to reach a formal flower garden.

'Municipal planting' has a bad name among garden buffs, conjuring images of regi-

mented salvias, garish marigolds and boring geraniums.

Golders Hill provides a lesson in how to do it properly, with a range of stunning beds - with daturas, agaves, heliotropes, tall yuccas, and many more.

Further on are mixed borders with acanthus and honey-scented phlox, and roses. On Saturday and Sunday from 2pm-4pm you can visit the greenhouse. Leave the formal garden by an arch over iron gates and cross the stone bridge over the lily pond.

A gunnera dominates a small island to your right. Go ahead on a path edged with

rustic rails and winding next to a wooded stream, crossing it twice. Emerging on the lawn with its hollow sculpture, turn right, then go straight ahead with hedge and stream on your right.

Keep to the right of the cage where blackbucks stare disdainfully. Ahead is the water garden; enter its gate and cross the wooden bridge, leaving by the gate on the far side. Turn left and follow the path as it curves left with the park's edge. At the slope's top turn right through gates on to the heath, then left on a broad grit path between trees. After about 300 yards, near the top of a hill and

opposite a garden waste dump, take a right fork on to a

narrower uphill path. You will pass a fallen tree before reaching the Hill Garden entrance.

It is part of a larger garden created in the Edwardian era for Lord Leverhulme, who owned the big house beyond. The steep hill forms a marvellous setting for restful displays of shrubs and herbaceous borders - quite unlike the bright colours of Golders Hill. Turn left after the entrance to reach the terrace that overlooks the lily pond, down steps to the main garden level and up more steps to the stone pergola.

You are too late for the wisteria but there are climbing roses and ceanothus to enjoy as you turn left and follow the pergola until the way is barred. Here you can see the empty house. Retrace your steps and walk to the belvedere for distant views of the Harrow hills.

Go down the steps and

complete a circuit of the garden, leaving by the same gate. Turn right past houses, then sharp right beyond White Lodge, down the path beside a brick wall. Where the wall goes left, keep straight ahead.

There are many paths through this lightly wooded area: keep parallel with North End Way on your left until, at the corner near Jack Straw's Castle, you turn right and walk parallel to West Heath Road. At the heath's south-west corner, this leads to a wide metalled track where you turn right to pass Leg of Mutton Pond and, just beyond it, re-enter Golders Hill Park.

Look at fallow deer, pygmy goats and flamingoes, then return to the park entrance past the bandstand where, Sundays, 3pm-5pm, you will catch a

concert. For the next five weeks there are children's shows - Tuesday to Thursday at 3pm

but make your youngsters do the walk first.

(Photograph omitted)

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