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Still as halcyon as ever:  The view from Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath (photo: Garry Knight)

On the last day of the summer term, every year in the later 1990s, a fleet of coaches drove from my primary school in Camden to a car park above Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath. Ninety-two children in grey shorts, white shirts and navy-grey-stripe ties — the boys — and white socks and navy-white-stripe dresses — the girls — were dropped off on the pavement on Hampstead Lane. At teatime, the bus drivers appeared after lunch at the Spaniard’s Inn and drove 92 sunburnt children with grass-stained socks, lolly-marked shirts and lost ties back to Camden and the start of the summer holidays.

I cannot think of a last day of term when the sun did not shine over Kenwood. It must have rained at least one year (sports day was certainly once rained off — rapture!) but I remember those Kenwood days as halcyon, cloudless, ecstatic. The sun on the lake, a serpentine special from the red notebooks of garden designer Humphry Repton. The temple front of the Robert Adam house, icing-sugar white in bright light. The steep lawn, so suited to rolling down. Grass-stains on uniforms we’d have grown out of by September. Cheddar cheese sandwiches, Panda Pop lemonade and ice-lollies from a coolbox.

The last last-day-of-term was in 1999. After that I went up to secondary school where there were no trips to Kenwood and no picnics and where I was not happy. There was a gap of ten years before I went to Kenwood again, during a university long vacation with a special subject in 18th-century architecture to prepare for. The sun shone.

The view has changed since 1999. Then there was no Gherkin, no Walkie-Talkie, no Shard, no Cheesegrater. The London Eye was still in sections in offsite warehouses. The BT (formerly Post Office) tower and Centre Point were there. Big Ben, of course, and Guy’s Hospital. And the immutable St Paul’s Cathedral.

The city panorama on a clear, fine summer afternoon is — if you do not mind the odd kitchen-utensil skyscraper — as fine as in Repton and Adam’s day. We have the London View Management Framework to thank for that. This stolid-sounding committee, whose offices are in City Hall (the Armadillo), is responsible for the protection of sightlines across the city from 13 crow’s nests.

Stand on the terrace of Alexandra Palace in north London and you must have an uninterrupted view of St Paul’s. No developer is allowed to build a glass tower of improbable shape or nickname in front of Wren’s dome. From the summits of Parliament and Primrose Hills, an out-of-breath walker must be able see St Paul’s and the Palace of Westminster. From Greenwich, Blackheath and Westminster pier you still see St Paul’s and from the centre of the bridge over the Serpentine in Hyde Park, the Palace of Westminster. At Kenwood the London View Management Framework is particular. From the Kenwood gazebo — not the bridge, not the gravel walk, not the library windows, specifically the gazebo — you must have an uninterrupted view of St Paul’s. And what a view.

London in the summer is best from one of these crow’s nests, above the teeming decks of pavements and zebra crossings, above the sails and rigging of traffic lights and buildings. You need not confine yourself to one of the 13 designated by the London View Management Framework. There are plenty of other breezy crow’s nest baskets, some folded into courtyards and squares, others repaying a train ticket.

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