Blogging for InDulwich, I like to wander around our beat from time to time. It’s not so much marking out our territory, lamppost by lamppost, as revisiting areas I don’t know well and treading streets I haven’t trod before. My last stroll took a winding path through West Dulwich, Gipsy Hill, Crystal Palace and Norwood. Through a chain link fence I saw a motorcycle helmet and couldn't help wondering whether it had a head in it.
South London’s patches of green provide markers. The first, Long Meadow, looked a little forlorn on a dull, damp morning. A couple of women with dogs walked a few circuits. Nothing else stirred. This little patch of green space isn’t the most uplifting but it has a history of dairy pasture, gypsies and just possibly, a plague pit gives it something.
Leaving Long Meadow on the Dulwich Wood Avenue side, I came to Dulwich Upper Wood. I hadn’t been in this little patch of woodland before, as I tend to head up Gipsy Hill instead. Most striking was an enormous, Mega City One of a bug hotel; high density housing indeed.
Crystal Palace Park has been undergoing some restoration of late. The sphinxes are in a far better condition than they were, though the new red paintjob takes a bit of getting used to, even if it the original colouring. It would be wonderful if the balustrades and walls could be repaired too, so they didn’t have to be fenced off. These ruins prompted a memory of a conversation with a woman on the No.3 bus some years ago. She recalled being woken to see the flow of the fire that destroyed the Crystal Palace back in 1936.
I find it hard to visit the park and not see the dinosaurs (and other extinct creatures). On a quiet school day morning, it’s lovely to hear the excited voices of the young kids. “Mummy, there’s another dinosaur!” It’s also lovely to see the progress of the restoration of the Victorian saurians, as the posters have it. The plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs and teleosaurs are looking particularly good. Seeing these Victorian wonders reminded me of another chat I had a few years ago. This one was with a woman who told me that as a kid, she and her friends had been able to climb inside one of creatures. That would have been in the 1970s I guess. My first view of them briefly made me a Crystal Palace supporter until it was explained to me that dinosaurs didn’t actually play for the club. Around this time I was told that ‘my news’ at school had to be true and so couldn’t involve dinosaurs.
Perhaps the greatest piece of restoration work is the subway that connected the now-vanished High Level station to Crystal Palace’s central transept. Looking for it, I wandered past the nicely photogenic remains of some water tanks. Walking back along Crystal Palace parade, I saw three people with leaf-blowing machines at work and as the gate open. I asked if I could pop in to take a photo. They said no of course. It’s not the 1970s anymore.
The return to my home patch included drop ins to Upper Norwood and West Norwood libraries, the latter in its temporary home. Seeing any library makes me wish Lambeth Council had not been so intransigent and unimaginative with the fate of the wonderful Carnegie. Between the two libraries, my way led Norwood Park. The sun had popped out and this and the view made it too enticing to pass.