Green London Way : Forest Hill to Streatham
On the morning of the day of the walk it was dull and rainy, the buses were full of excited back-to-school children and commuters on their way to work after the summer break, the Northern Line was victim to signal failure, and Forest Hill seemed a long way from stationary trains in Whitechapel and Shadwell … so it was a relief finally to gather at the bandstand in Horniman Gardens, for this stage of the Green London Way, although there was just enough time to admire Mr Horniman’s magnificent conservatory.
For north Londoners, the variety of woodland, parks and views of the city in south London continues to delight. Taking a narrow path skirting Horniman Gardens to a nature reserve – claimed to be the oldest in
London – we walked over Cox’s Walk ornamental footbridge, which once crossed a railway line south of the site of Lordship Lane station. The path led to the beautiful Dulwich Woods, once home to the Hermit of Dulwich, murdered in this very wood. Emerging from the wood opposite the Grade II listed Dulwich Wood House (too early to stop for a drink!), our next green space was Sydenham Wells Park, offering splendid water features, formal gardens and an array of mature trees and shrubs.
Our need for refreshment was satisfied at the cafe on the edge of Crystal Palace Park, after which we explored the area further: unfortunately the path to the dinosaurs was barred. We stopped for lunch on the steps of the terraces on the site of the Crystal Palace, guarded by a pair of recently restored red sphinxes.
Resuming our walk through the streets of Norwood, we took a detour to a home once occupied by social reformer and campaigner Annie Besant, perhaps best known for her involvement in the Bryant and May female workers’ strike in 1888.
After unsuccessfully avoiding of the attentions of an over-enthusiastic large dog in Long Meadow, we next entered Norwood Park, where we played the now familiar but generally unproductive game of attempting to spot Alexandra Palace from a south London viewpoint (trees in the way, this time!).
Then, on to another green space, familiar to those who had walked the Capital Ring, Norwood Grove, the principal feature of which is the 19th century white-stuccoed mansion, once the home of Arthur Anderson, who co-founded the shipping line that eventually became P&O, and later of the Unitarian ironmonger and industrialist Frederick Nettlefold.
We were now nearing our destination – our final green space was Streatham Common, then along a long narrow footpath – Russell’s Footpath – crossing several roads to Streatham Station, where we took the train home, wondering just how many London boroughs we had walked through.