Hampstead Heath, public open space in North London, south-eastern England. The heath occupies some 320 hectares (792 acres), including Kenwood, within the London boroughs of Camden and Barnet. The heath has been managed by the Corporation of London since 1989, when the Greater London Council was abolished; Kenwood House, the Georgian mansion in the north of the park, and its surrounding estate covering some 45 hectares (112 acres), is managed by English Heritage. In 1993-1994 the cost of running the heath amounted to more than £4.25 million. Of this some £1.35 million was met from a special trust fund, with the remainder coming from the Corporation’s own private income known as city’s cash, and so the heath is maintained at no cost to the public purse.
A survivor of the historic Middlesex Forest, Hampstead Heath contains a variety of habitats, including ancient woodland, grassland, bog, and 25 main ponds. English Nature has designated areas of the heath as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of their outstanding natural history or geological interest. The heath is London’s highest open space; kite flying is popular from Parliament Hill, with its fine elevated view of central London. The heath also supports facilities for bowls, cricket, football, rugby, tennis, golf practice, model boating, orienteering, horse riding, and swimming in the Parliament Hill Lido or the three bathing ponds. In addition to these facilities, there is an open-air theatre at Kenwood used for summertime lakeside concerts, an animal enclosure in Golders Hill Park, and six sites particularly meeting the needs of children.