Ladywell Fields in SE London is another of the wonderful public parks in the Borough of Lewisham. Lewisham is a busy transport hub and a densely populated area, and this means that the history of the area, and the preservation of historical green areas, can be overlooked, or disregarded. This park, Ladywell Fields, is one such area which may take visitors by surprise, and I am going to explore the park in two posts. Do follow!
Southend Park in SE London hides away behind housing in Lewisham where it is another of the surprising green spaces. It could be truly magical if the River Pool is opened up again, and the water feature restored. And perhaps the wild south east corner could be incorporated into the park too?
Home Park in Sydenham is a grassy park on a busy main road which still manages to offer a calming open area with exercise facilities for adults and children. Add to that some magnificent trees and you have another lovely green space in South East London
The history of Home Park
Home Park Lodge was a large property on Sydenham Road. In 1900 Lewisham Borough Council bought 7 acres of the grounds for £5,600 and opened a public park in 1901.
Sydenham Public Library
A small public library stands on the edge of the park. It is an attractive building but looks rather neglected. The interior sounds interesting, but sadly the library was closed when I visited. This was one of the 660 libraries in the UK for which Andrew Carnegie paid. Interestingly, volunteers and the Friends of Home Park ‘man’ the library, which I think is impressive.
Albert Lewis Guy designed the library and Perry Brothers of Whitecross Street in the City built it for a total cost of £4,500. Mr Guy had a practice for forty years at 195 High Street in Lewisham and also designed a library at Crofton Park, amongst other public buildings in South East London.
‘… Above the portico of the original entrance is the L.B.C. coat of arms. Built 1904, in red brick. Interior with arcades and three domes for top-lighting…’.Edith’s Streets
Home Park in 2012
‘…Along the main road the park is tree lined. It was originally laid out with formal gardens of which only a Lebanon cedar, two mature London planes and a straight walk remain. It is screened from playing fields to the south by privet hedge and shrubs. There is one notable oak in the playing fields area and the park has perimeter planting of London planes…’.London Gardens Online, April 2012
The library website mentions grants of £75,000 in 2013 for improvements to the Park. These included cutting back : overgrown shrubs, new plants and new seating. Pathways would be rebuilt and a new cycle path made, amongst other improvements and aims. I don’t know what the area looked like in 2013 but I feel that the ‘garden’ aspect of the Park is not quite right.
However, I am reading about formal gardens laid out over a century ago. Perhaps the park was used differently at that time and formal gardens are no longer sustainable. Nevertheless I wonder if a more cheerful planting would be possible under the trees in the
Home Park today
There is a low brick wall along the main road and a row of trees immediately behind it, with a tarred path, as LGO describes. However today, eight years later, the privet hedge is ragged, and I could not see a ’shrubbery’. This line of ragged green separates the front strip of the park from the open playing fields behind and the whole strip looks rather unloved.
The Cedar tree is distorted which is a shame. It can be such a glorious sight, such as the Cedar tree in Mayow Park. I assume the tree is this shape because of pruning to allow buses and lorries to pass safely. An extremely large oak tree crowds it from the other side. I can’t find a photograph or description of the brick structure – was it a drinking fountain? or perhaps a statue?
Play and exercise facilities
The play and exercise facilities looked good to me and seem to be generous. Youth First, an organisation which aims to help the younger generation in appropriate and varied ways, manages the Adventure Playground.
The avenue and grassland
The central, open grassland with some magnificent oak trees and the avenue of London Plane trees is the real glory of this park.
Home Park in Sydenham is quite a small park but also quite an elegant park, with magnificent oak trees and a wonderful avenue of London Plane trees. It is another of the many surprises which I have enjoyed while exploring the green spaces in Lewisham.
Blythe Hill Fields in SE London in is a large grassy park on top of a steep hill in Brockley. There are wide views towards the City, One Tree Hill (!), and over leafy suburbs between Brockley and the River Thames. These are perhaps surprising views to those who regard London as consisting of streets of dull houses and tall office blocks!
Ravensbourne Park in SE London is a small green space in Lewisham which isn’t actually on the Ravensbourne River! The Ravensbourne Park Estate os high-class housing started developing in the early 19C. At the same time land for a park was set aside on the development. Today the park continues to provide an open space for the surrounding homes. With parking restrictions all round the park it certainly maintains a feeling of exclusivity for the neighbourhood!
The Horniman Museum & gardens in south east London is an interesting and popular small museum. It stands on a hill with good views over London, surrounded by parklands. The Museum and its cafe are very popular and well-used by local people and offer many varied experiences to the curious visitor.
You can easily pass by St Bartholomew’s Churchyard in Sydenham. It looks like another church on another busy road. But do visit, and linger. As soon as you step inside the walls, or pass through the Lych Gate you are in another world – quiet, somewhat derelict, but peaceful. Yet again the churchyard walls seem to create and protect another level of being.
St Mary’s Churchyard in Lewisham lies on the busy main road between Lewisham and Catford and it is easy to ignore the site. But this is an interesting churchyard, and a very old one which today covers 0.9 hectares. It is one of several interesting churchyards in Lewisham, more accessible and ‘complete’ than Christ Church in Forest Hill, and smaller than St Paul’s in Deptford.
The Green Chain Walk runs through the Hillcrest Estate Woodland in Upper Sydenham on a path which is easy to follow. The path is in two sections, on either side of the blocks of flats in the middle of the woodlands. This is ancient woodland, a small part of what was once The Great North Wood.
Cox’s Walk in SE London is a former 18C public path which used to link a public house in Dulwich, The Green Man, with the spa at Sydenham Wells. It was a ‘path with a purpose’, a practical path. The path delivered you to the spa, or perhaps offered something stronger to those who had already recovered in the spa. Today it is a pleasant and well-used stroll in ancient woodland, between Dulwich and Sydenham Hill. It is interesting to see the continuity of purposes as it seems to enjoy a similar practical aim, only now it delivers people into the woods for exercise and enjoyment.