Once upon a time, in deepest, darkest central London, there was a wonderful little place called Bloomsbury Square. As night fell – and the tourists have finally retreated to their hotels – something truly beautiful would happen: lots of little fairies with big, wavy wands would, as if by magic, appear and play for hours amongst the ancient oaks and wild bushes.
There was, it seemed, no end to their joy and vigour in this paradise on earth where everyone was so, so happy - well, everyone except for the neighbours who were furious about all the condoms littering the pavements. And that’s basically where this fable ends: sometime in the early 2000s the council placed nasty, big padlocks on the gates and all the fairies vanished in a puff of smoke.
It would be years before they were seen again - and then only as shadows of their past glory: headless torsos on gleaming smartphones. Who needs to brave the harsh elements for jollies when you can tap an app?
The demise of outdoor cruising was perhaps best summed up when we asked the biggest slut we know which locations he frequented in London for a bit of hot, male-on-male action, and he replied: “Not sure. I don’t indulge because I like beds and slings”.
That being said, onwards with our guide...
This vast open space is situated in south London, between Greenwich and Lewisham. The action takes place in a wooded area (of course!) bordered by Greenwich Park Wall. Head down into a little valley on the edge of Blackheath and rummage around with your big stick.
One of London’s oldest and most infamous gay cruising grounds is to be found on the vast stretch of open common land at the end of Clapham High Street, south London. The shenanigans occur on the west side of the common, in the wooded area close to the south circular road. It’s busiest all through the night and is just a short stumble from the nearby Two Brewers if you haven’t pulled. Be warned though: the Clapham Common frequently hit the headlines with robberies and violence, and for many is forever associated with the 2005 murder of Jody Dobrowski. As ever with cruising, known the risks and watch your back – in more ways than one.
Even cottages (or tea rooms), it seems, aren’t exempt from the march of gentrification in London. This north London park used to be full of public conveniences where men could stop off for a bit of importuning in their lunch hour – now the main one is an art gallery! Still, do not despair: a nature trail quite aptly provides the setting for some daytime antics, while you can catch some rampant, nocturnal action by sauntering through the Manor House gates and turning to your right. On a good night, it can be a case of ‘form an orderly queue, boys…’
This is, without a doubt, London’s most notorious cruising ground – if not the UK’s. In fact, thanks to the late George Michael, who was very open about who rummaged through his Greek bush in these bushes, the area is, it’s fair to say, probably internationally renowned. We can’t promise you’re going to drill a celeb (more likely a middle-aged, closeted MP), but in the summer all shapes and sizes flock to Hampstead’s men’s pond. However, year-round – day and night - cruising goes on in the area behind the former pub, Jack Straw’s Castle, on North End Way. Take a picnic and burrow deeper into those dark spots.
It’s no wonder so many gays live in south London with all these opportunities to grab some fresh air and meat. Just past Balham, lies another little enclave of depravity. Head up Bedford Hill and leap into the woodland on the left-hand side before you reach the railway bridge. If you get lost, just look out for the guy stapled to his smartphone – who knows, he may be ditching Grindr and seeking directions for some real-time, no messing, hardcore fun – just like in the old days…
Know of any cruising areas? List them on Gays.com.
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