I needed to get out and about and Dog wanted a walk. These days he’s good for four miles but more than that and his arthritis can leave him limping for a few days. So when I came across this circular walk around my home village of Dulwich – 8 miles – I thought I’d break it into two sections, for his sake, natch.
A couple of hundred yards from the front door we joined our circle. Of course it was more a disturbing inkblot in shape but let’s be charitable to the designer. The start was College Road, its name deriving from this pile of Victorian gothic, Dulwich College, a private boys school charging eye watering fees and recently the alma mater to Mr Abramovitch’s boys (his less that well-gotten gains didn’t just pay for 20 years of Chelsea football club’s multiple trophies). He paid for the new science block. It’s dull and I’m not photographing it on principle.
Dulwich is largely a construct of one man. Edward Alleyn an actor manager from Shakespeare’s time who owned the land hereabouts and left his estate to create a foundation to fund the said college.
So valuable did the land become that the village is dotted with large piles, a public art gallery that is reputedly the oldest public art gallery in the world and various other establishments (including, now three private schools, all founded on the income from his original lands.
Whatever one may think of private education and the perpetuation of elites the coherence of having one landed trust in charge of a large chunk of south London has created the a delightful villagy feel to the place and significant features that make it the most delightful place to spend time.
the neat white post/chain fences
Even Dickens appreciated it, having Mr Pickwick retire here, so much so that there are numerous refences to him and his most famous character dotted about.
Having reached the alms houses, the original school building and Christ Church of God’s Gift we paused by the village orchard and headed into Dulwich Park.
Our path took us in a straight(ish) line across the park, past the boating lake, the bowl’s club with its graffito and the American Garden which will look amazing in the next month when all its many rhododendrons flower .
We did have to pause once or twice…
We left by the curiously named Fireman’s Alley. This odd little path ends by one of those anonymously derelict buildings that dot our city.
These were once the grand telephone exchanges for British Telecom when the switchboards were peopled and even with the advent of automation, rooms and rooms were needed for all the switch gear. Now the same can be done by a cloud and some clown who knows the joke’s on us. Heaven knows what these drab constructions will become.
Onwards we trod, up to the oddly named small square of green called Ladlands. This is usually a grand place with vistas over the London bowl that are to die for.
Today… not so much.
Soon enough, a further disappointment. Our route should have taken us through one of London’s old cemeteries, Camberwell Old Cemetery but the access gate was shut will landscaping works were finished. Since this is where we departed from the circle to head home, we may be able to access it when we finish the walk. It said it was due to open in ‘Spring 2022’. Hopefully sooner than later.
Our route home saw us use the bed of a disused railway, the High Level Railway that serviced Crystal Palace and gave us that extraordinary fan vaulted access to the park I referenced a while back.
These days the old railbed is a nature walk – the Horniman Nature Walk – for its first part and then the division between Sydenham Hill Woods and Dulwich Woods which are both remnants of the Great North Wood that once covered great swathes of Southern England. It’s lovely to have an ancient wild bit of wood right in my doorstep, even alongside one of those dreadful walk-spoilers, viz a golf course. We emerged a few yards from St Stephens Church that we took over for the family wedding last August.
It remains a cheery prospect and meant we were within ten minutes of coffee (for me) and a biscuit (for him)…