A lovely welcome to you and it’s my pleasure to be able to take you on my next walking adventure of our wonderful capital. Today’s journey will take me across South London as I begin in Norbury Park. From there I’ll stroll to the sublime Streatham Common and its picturesque Rookery Gardens, before ending my walk in Tooting Commons.
I begin my walk in the quaint Norbury Park, which is located between Croydon and Streatham. In 1935, the site was purchased by Croydon Corporation from a local builder, with the land formerly used as the North Surrey Golf Course, which dated back to 1920.
The site used to be purely fields, as documented on the Thomas Bainbridge map of 1800. It also indicated that the fields were owned by Pembroke College – however on 25 December 1934 the college’s lease to the golf course expired. In 1955, a school was developed right next to the park, which would become Norbury Manor Girls – opening in 1958. The site today is occupied by Norbury Park Business & Enterprise College of Girls.
The Ordnance Survey in 1955 indicated that on the east end of the park there were 11.5 acres allocated to allotments. There are still allotments there today, which really add a touch of distinction to the park’s surroundings. There’s something really interesting about an allotment, perfect for your own little bit of garden oasis if you don’t have the space for it at home. It’s also quite a personal thing I find, as you spend plenty of time, care and effort trying to grow your vegetables or look after plants. Beside the park you’ll find the Norbury Brook, which is a tributary of the River Wandle, and it’s ever so peaceful hearing its trickles of water. You’re never too far away from a river when you’re in a London park!
It wasn’t until 1956 that the park was officially named Norbury Park when the pavilion was constructed, with a play area being added to the park in 1969. The park nicely provides a mix of the natural wonders and recreational use. A quirky and unique feature is its BMX track, which definitely makes it one of the coolest parks in London!
I’m now going to make my way out of Norbury Park and stroll to my next destination, Streatham Common. An ancient common, it used to be the land of the Manor of South Streatham on which the manorial tenants had the right to graze their cattle and gather fuel. In 1362, Edward of Woodstock, known in history as the Black Prince, granted the Manor of South Streatham the Common.
In 1884, the Metropolitan Board of Works paid £5 to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the Lords of the Manor of South Streatham, for the 66 acres (26.7 hectares) of common land in order to preserve it as a public open space. The eastern part of the Common was allowed to grow into a wonderful woodland area. The Board also planted trees to maintain the rural aspects of the Common, so there were huge benefits of them owning the area. The ownership of the Common would be relinquished by The Board with control being taken over by the London County Council in 1896 – with control passing to the Greater London Council in 1965 and finally the London Borough of Lambeth in 1971.
Right at the top of the common there is a formal garden known as The Rookery, which was formerly part of the grounds of the large manor that housed visitors to one of Streatham’s historic mineral wells. In the 18th Century crowds would visit Streatham to take the waters, as they were believed to have healing powers. The Rookery’s name derives from the large house that stood close to the wells. The house was demolished after the surrounding grounds were purchased by the London County Council, which resulted in it being landscaped with the gardens created – eventually being opened to the public in 1913. The area is now managed by the Streatham Common Community Garden which encourages community food growing as one of its many initiatives.
Whilst walking through the area it’s so tranquil, and reminds me so much of Holland Park, which has a similar garden in it. You can also immediately tell that a grand estate was on this site and that there were a large area of grounds. One thing I’ve noticed on all my walks, is that even though London has parks, woods, rivers, green spaces and natural beauty, there aren’t too many gardens like this, which does surprise me, given the history of the capital having many estates and Royal status. One thing I need to try and do is track down more of these secret gardens as they’re so pretty!
Taking a walk outside The Rookery, you enter a lovely open green space, and whilst you head towards the top of the hill you get to a real marvellous sight as you come across the Common’s breath-taking and enchanting woodland. With all of its trees, plants and cute pathways that lead you to hidden wonders, it reminds me of many of the woods I’ve explored before, such as Highgate Wood, Russia Dock Woodland and Dulwich Wood. You feel like you’re in the countryside and when the sun is shining (which it was on the day I explored it!), it really lightens and brightens up the scenic areas, bringing out all the golden colours. There aren’t too many places that perfectly combine a Common of open space, recreational areas, a glorious garden and a woodland like Streatham Common. Whatever your nature needs, Streatham Common has them sorted for you!
My final destination on my walking adventure today as a leave Streatham Common is Tooting Commons, which consist of two adjacent areas of common land lying between Balham, Streatham and Tooting – these are known as Tooting Bec Common and Tooting Graveney Common. Tooting Bec Common is in the parish of Streatham, whereas Tooting Graveney Common is in the parish of Tooting. Did you know Tooting Bec Common was also known as Tooting Heath?! The boundary between the two commons followed a watercourse called the York Ditch, which was a tributary of the Falcon Brook.
Up until the late 19th Century the neighbouring areas were predominately rural land, with the Commons mainly agricultural rather than recreational. The areas had animals grazing out on them from the local farms as well as wild fruit being grown there. As the years progressed and London’s metropolis began to get more populated, the agricultural grounds gave way to recreational facilities, such as a tennis court, bowling green, football pitch, a sailing boat pond and a tearoom.
Tooting Bec Common comprises of nearly 152 acres (62 hectares) and was one of the first commons owned by The Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW), which they purchased in 1875. Likewise Tooting Graveney Common was acquired by The MBW in 1875 – and is smaller than Tooting Bec, with a size of 66 acres (27 hectares). The Commons were transferred to the London County Council (later the Greater London Council) and then from the GLC to Wandsworth Borough Council in 1971.
The Commons are another fine example of the glorious open green space that we enjoy in London, and it’s quite a distinctive feature of South London these Commons, as we also enjoy others including Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common too.
Well that’s all from me folks on this walk discovering South London’s finest, including Norbury Park, Streatham Common and its picturesque Rookery, and finishing at the tremendous Tooting Commons. It’s a walk which has seen me be lucky enough to stroll through parks, commons, woodland and gardens!
Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
Sources: (not the food sauces)