Part of my Making the Most of London series
It’s been dawning on me recently that I’m not so young any more.
It’s not the wrinkles and increasing number of grey hairs that are the biggest giveaway. Nope, it’s the way I choose to spend my spare time that is the real telltale sign.
Not so long ago (okay, quite long ago) (okay, probably a decade ago, in fact) a sunny bank holiday weekend would be the perfect time to sit outside a bar in Brick Lane, music blaring, cider in hand, the afternoon whiled away drinking with friends.
Nowadays, however, I can think of nothing more pleasant than taking a good walk through some beautifully maintained gardens, and boring my poor partner with the Latin names of all the nice plants and some “interesting facts” about their sexual reproductive systems (a sentence I say without even the tiniest smirk at the words “sexual” or “reproductive”…)
Luckily, quite one of the loveliest London park gardens is just at the end of my road and – provided your idea of a fun leisure activity is as middle-aged as mine – I heartily recommend a visit.
Peckham Rye is a large, flat, somewhat uninspiring expanse of green in Southeast London. But tucked away at the southern end is Peckham Rye Park; a series of beautifully planted and faultlessly maintained public gardens.
At its heart – and my favourite spot – is the Sexby Garden. The layout dating back to 1906, this is the secret garden of my dreams: pergolas dripping in wisteria lead to a central fountain, at each corner arbours provide shaded resting places, benches are tucked away in yew hedges, there’s a gentle buzzing as bees hum from plant to plant, the smell of the air takes me back to childhood in my Granny’s garden (it’s the fragrant Daphnes that are so heavenly) and the flower beds are planted in a formal(ish) way with clusters of vibrant tulips…
Most days, I push the pram over the cobbles and daydream that I’m back in Victorian times, about to come across a boy in a wheelchair… (Okay, if you haven’t read The Secret Garden that sentence might sound a bit wrong.)
The rest of the park is perhaps slightly less impressive to me, but still highly pleasing. I’m planning on frequenting the dog-free picnic area in the arboretum many times over the course of the Summer.
The “Japanese garden” looks like the sort of thing that would be described as an “English garden” anywhere else, but the stream through the middle always makes me stop and dawdle, looking for fish.
And the bowling green is as prim and proper as you could wish a bowling green to look.
It’s all looking particularly beautiful at the moment, with all the plants in blossom or close to it. The perfect place to wander and spend a few hours with my co-explorer…
If you’re in the neighbourhood (the SE15 / SE22 borders) then I do recommend popping in…