A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK


It served as an inspiration to the young JRR Tolkien, who would later draw on his childhood memories of Moseley Bog in Birmingham when creating the Middle Earth setting of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Now the ancient forest, dating back to the Bronze Age, is the first of 50 sites said to be the UK’s most inspiring “hidden city spots”.

Brutalism mixes with natural beauty in a list sure to fuel debate over certain urban gems that are said to rarely gain the appreciation of locals. London’s Trellick Tower, the grade II listed 31-storey brutalist-style block of flats in north Kensington, designed by architect Ernő Goldfinger and which has appeared in music videos by Blur, the Verve and Hard-Fi comes second in the list.

Already well known spots such as the Royal Observatory and Glasgow’s Royal Exchange Square along with well publicised new buildings, Manchester’s Media City for example, stretch the meaning of "hidden" somewhat.

The results were compiled following a survey carried out by American Express in partnership with bloggers in five cities – Glasgow and Leeds the other two – in an attempt to “reconnect people with their home cities and discover new places of inspiration”.

The poll found 87 per cent of people admitting to not taking advantage of what’s around them in their city, with a further 43 per cent acknowledging they are missing out on what their cities have to offer.

The redeveloped site of the Bird’s Custard factory in Digbeth, also in Birmingham, makes the list now it is home to a community of artistic and media businesses.


Areas of natural beauty also appearing included Japanese gardens in both Birmingham and London, the latter’s Kyoto Garden in Holland Park having been donated by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in 1991.

Leeds secured eight spots on the list – including Holbeck Cemetery, which contains the oldest surviving secular building in Leeds, Cad Beeston Manor and The Tetley, site of the former Brewery which is now a centre for contemporary art and learning.

Melissa Weber from American Express said: “The cities we live in are brimming with potential, but we only appreciate a fraction of what they have to offer. That’s why we’ve called on people to share their personal places, hideaways and havens in the city to create maps of the UK's most inspirational spaces, so that everyone can discover something new to love about their city.”

50 of the UK’s best hidden gems

Moseley Bog, Birmingham An often forgotten nature reserve in the Moseley area of the city, it is said to have inspired J R Tolkien’s vision for the Lord of the Rings trilogy

Trellick Tower, London A grade II listed brutalist-style block of flats designed by architect Ernő Goldfinger

Holbeck Cemetery, Leeds Contains the oldest surviving secular building in Leeds, Cad Beeston Manor

Hockley Flyover, Birmingham an outstanding example of brutalist modernist architecture, the open space underneath plays host to creatives who gather to share street art, dance and artistic expression

The Greenway, London A footpath and cycleway constructed on the embankment containing the Northern Outfall Sewer

Media City, Manchester Waterfront centre for digital creativity, learning and leisure, overlooking the Manchester Ship Canal

Millennium Point Science Garden, Birmingham An enlightening park full of giant exhibits themes around the areas of ‘Energise’, ‘Mechanise’ and ‘Mobilse’

Broomielaw, Mitchell Street and Ingram Street, Glasgow Locations for Glasgow’s quirky street art

The Tetley, Leeds The new centre for contemporary art and learning, situated in the art deco headquarters of the former Tetley Brewery

Lee Valley Regional Park, London A long linear green space in London with a number of major reservoirs and rivers and canals

Trinity Bridge, Manchester A sinuous bridge designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava

Severndroog Castle, London A triangular-shaped eighteenth century Gothic-style castle folly in the woodland in the borough of Greenwich

Little Venice, London An area of the canal system in Maida Vale, famed for the bustling shops and restaurants, and narrowboats on the canal

Thomas Street, Manchester Situated in the city’s centre of alternative and bohemian culture, the Northern Quarter

Kensington Palace Gardens, London Adjoining Kensington Palace, the gardens are one of the Royal Parks of London

Alfred Waterhouse university precinct, Manchester Victorian Gothic-revival in style, the courtyard also contains a piece of ice-age rock which travelled from the Lakes District to Manchester by a glacier

Royal Victoria Dock, London The largest of three docks in the Royal Docks in the east of London, credited with significant shipping heritage

University Edible Garden, Leeds A sustainability garden in the centre of the university, passers-by can help themselves to the home-grown produce

Camberwell New Cemetery, London Established in 1901, the cemetery also contains a listed crematorium, noted for its stained glass window

Postman’s Park, London Opened in 1880, the park contains memorials to ordinary people who died whilst saving the lives of others

Warstone Cemetery Catacombs, Birmingham An eerie two tiers of catacombs located in a now closed cemetery in the city’s Jewellery Quarter.

Holbeck Viaducts, Leeds Home to the Slung Low alternative theatre company

St Mary’s Secret Garden, London A horticultural project in Hackney containing natural woodland, food growing area, herb and sensory garden and an area of herbaceous borders

Trinity Church, Leeds Home to a community arts centre which hosts live bands

Kentish Town City Farm, London An inner city farm since the 1970s

Denmark Street, London Also known as ‘Tin Pan Alley’ after the street’s association with popular music

St Nicholas Garden at Provand's Lordship, Glasgow A unique 15th Century garden space

Hillhead, Glasgow The heart of Glasgow’s fashionable West End

St George’s Field, Leeds A former cemetery which is now within the campus of the University of Leeds

Angel Meadows, Manchester A tranquil green space which has a history linked to the industrial revolution, the area saw a huge regeneration in the early 2000s

Japanese Garden, Birmingham A courtyard garden containing elements of several styles, it forms part of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Peckham Library, London A library and community building which won the Stirling Prize for Architecture in 2000

Oxford Road Station, Manchester Built in 1960, the laminated wood structure is grade II listed

Temple Works, Leeds The only Glade I listed building in Holbeck, the former flax mill is now an arts centre

Stevenson Square, Manchester Situated in a conservation area, the square hosts an officially sanctioned changing street art exhibition by some of the best street artists in the North

Custard Factory, Birmingham Home to a community of artistic and media businesses situated on the redeveloped site of the Bird’s Custard factory in the Digbeth area of the city

Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow A public square in the city, and home to the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art and the humours Duke of Wellington statue, often spotted with a traffic cone on his head

The Guinea Gardens, Edgbaston A collection of Victorian gardens which are over a hundred years old

The Square and Oasis Market, Birmingham A Camden-inspired mecca of unique ships, entertainment and atmosphere

Victoria Gardens, Leeds Home to the city’s Speakers’ Corner, the gardens are next to the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds City Art Gallery

Sackville Gardens, Manchester A small and peaceful green space in the city which contains a life-size statue of inventor of the computer Alan Turing

Royal Observatory, London An important site in the history of astronomy and navigation, situated on a hill in Greenwick Park, London 

St John’s Lodge Gardens, London A quiet, almost secret garden tucked away in a corner of Regent’s Park

Harbour on the River Clyde, Glasgow A lively and bustling harbour, where the Search and Rescue teams can often be spotted in action

Horsenden Hill, London Ancient woodland, hills and open spaces in the London Borough of Ealing, dating back to the Iron Age

Kyoto Garden, London A Japanese garden set within Holland Park, donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991

Godlee Observatory, Manchester An old astronomical observatory, it was gifted to the city in 1902 and offers exceptional views of Manchester

Hungerford and Golden Jubilee Bridges, London A railway bridge flanked by pedestrian bridges which connect Waterloo and Embankment, and offers some of the best views over the Thames

Isabella Plantation, London An ornamental woodland garden full of exotic plants, tucked away in Richmond Park

Parliament Hill, London An area of open parkland in the south-east corner of Hampstead Heath, London

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