In London it’s easy to visit the famous parks and gardens and neglect some lesser known green gems that are a little bit off the beaten track and spot on for kids.
As we have relatives in the Elephant & Castle I was assured there was a great park nearby – if I’m honest I didn’t believe my mother in law as we pushed the buggy through a highly built up area past a dual carriageway. But she was right.
She’d taken us to Burgess Park in the south east of London. At over 50 acres it’s Southwark’s largest park. It was a highly populated area full of factories and buzz but was badly bombed in WW2 so a park has slowly been built by reclaiming land over the years. It was in part funded by the Abercrombie Plan, an optimistic post war goal to regenerate London, and it recently received a makeover and reopened in 2012 after £8 million pounds worth of restoration and investment so it’s worth a visit.
When we arrived we walked past the lakes with large 30ft water fountains spraying jets into the sky as joggers and roller booters whizzed past the buggy and we soon reached the walled Chumleigh Gardens, one of three listed buildings in the park. The gardens are said to reflect traditional English, Islamic, Caribbean, Oriental and Mediterranean planting but to me it just looked colourful, lush and rich.
The other listed buildings include a lime kiln, where coal and limestone were brought along the Grand Surrey canal and burnt to create quicklime, and the old library, baths and wash house which are currently used by the church and amateur boxing clubs. There’s a fab online heritage trail you can explore making this park a rich find for social history buffs as well as hyper active toddlers.
We visited one of the three new playgrounds available, one for under 5s, one for over 5s and an area for 8-16 year olds including BMX ramps and slightly cooler stuff for the long suffering teenager. Handily situated right next to the play parks is the Park Life Cafe with lots of outdoor seating if you get a cracking day like we did.
There’s also toilet facilities, free parking, a tennis centre, sports centre, Bar B Q zones and fishing on the lake.
On the walk back to the Elephant & Castle there are lots of independently owned small international shops so I ended up trotting home clutching bagfuls of ridiculously indulgent Polish cakes for after lunch. Now that’s how you wrap up a walk to the park.
Additional Info – the nearest tube is the Elephant & Castle and the park is a 20-25 minute walk from there.
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