Crystal Palace Park to Dulwich Wood: The Natural Wonders of South-East London

A warm Wlogger welcome to you and thanks for joining me on my next walking adventure of the capital! My expedition today will see me explore South-East London as I begin at Crystal Palace Park and explore its stadium, lakes, green areas… and dinosaurs! I’ll then take a detour to Sydenham Wells Park go through Sydenham Hill Wood and to Dulwich Wood. I’ll end my journey at Dulwich & Sydenham Golf Club, which might seem like an odd place to end a walk… but all will be revealed later on! So let’s discover some of the lesser-known natural sights of London!

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Crystal Palace Park to Dulwich Wood:

Located in South-East London, Crystal Palace Park is a Victorian pleasure ground used for cultural and sporting events.

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Crystal Palace Park

The park was built by Sir Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace Company between 1852 and 1854. It was created as the magnificent setting for the relocated and enlarged Crystal Palace structure, which had been designed for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.

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The breathtaking Crystal Palace (Source: Crystal Palace Museum)

The area was designed to impress, educate, entertain and inspire, eventually becoming an international attraction with its educational themes for the park covering discovery and invention. The Crystal Palace was a large glass and iron structure that was situated on the Sydenham Ridge and provided stunning views across London with the palace viewable from many location across the city. One of the main aims of the park and palaces creation was to display Victorian grandeur and innovation, and was financed when people paid to visit it.

After the park was officially opened on the 10th June 1854 by Queen Victoria, a number of displays, events and sporting activities were introduced as a way to increase visitor numbers. To coincide with the 1911 Festival of the Empire, the park was transformed with a railway being installed and buildings to represent the Empire which would remain there up until the 1940s.

However, on the 30th November 1936 The Crystal Palace was destroyed in a fire, after musicians waiting to play a concert noticed smoke coming from the floorboards, which reportedly began in the women’s cloakroom and spread to the central transept. The fire quickly spread through the dry wooden boards and the nature of The Crystal Palace – a huge open space with no fire breaks – meant that within a short time the fire was wildly out of control. The flames rose to 800 feet in the air with London sending 61 pumps and 381 firefighters to help tackle the fire. The cause of the fire was never discovered, but theories have included old and faulty wiring as well as a discarded cigarette falling between the floorboards.

It would’ve been amazing to have seen The Crystal Palace in all its stunning glory, as it looked simply magnificent. You can imagine had it been around today, it would’ve attracted the same number of tourists that landmarks such as The London Eye, The Shard, Buckingham Palace and more do. Something our Instagram feeds would be full of!

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The destroyed Crystal Palace (Source: London Fire Brigade)

After the fire the park began a period of decline. There were plans talked about to recreate the palace, although these never materialised. During the Second World War the park became a place for military vehicle dismantling and later a site for bomb damage rubble.

When you enter Crystal Palace Park, one of the first sights you see is its renowned and spectacular National Sports Centre. Opened in 1964, the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre was designed by the LCC Architects Department under Sir Leslie Martin between 1953-1954 and is a Grade II listed building. Over the years the stadium has hosted football, cricket, rugby, basketball, American Football, and even Motor Racing. The main sport to be hosted there today is athletics with a capacity of 15,500, and 24,000 with temporary seating.

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National Sports Centre

The site of the athletics stadium is on the same land as a football ground which hosted the FA Cup Final from 1895 to 1914. The owners of the ground wanted their own football club to play at their own venue, so this lead to the formation of Crystal Palace F.C. The South Londoners were forced to leave the stadium in 1915 by the military, and as a result played at the ground they play at today, Selhurst Park.  The largest attendance for a domestic match there was between Aston Villa and Sunderland in the 1913 FA Cup Final, when 121,919 spectators went there.

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National Sports Centre
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National Sports Centre
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National Sports Centre

A short walk down a hill from the National Sports Centre, you come to the picturesque lake area with beautiful trees and plants.

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Crystal Palace Park near the Lakes and Ponds

One of the most iconic features of the park are the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs which are a collection of over 30 statues created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807-1894) around 1854. The array of statues also includes the first ever attempt anywhere in the world to model dinosaurs as full-scale, three-dimensional active creatures.

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

The set also includes models of other prehistoric creatures, including plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs discovered by Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, and a South American Megatherium brought back to Britain by Charles Darwin on his voyage on HMS Beagle

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

Known as the Dinosaur Court, the models represent 15 genera of extinct animals, not all dinosaurs. They are from a wide range of geological ages, and include dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and plesiosaurs mainly from the Mesozoic era, and some mammals from the more recent Cenozoic era.

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 
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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

The dinosaurs have been listed on the Historic Heritage List of England as Grade 1 monuments which is one of the highest and most important ratings. Many of the dinosaurs you see when you visit the National History Museum, the Oxford Museum of Natural History and other history museums in the UK are based on these specimens.

This was the first time I’d ever been to Crystal Palace Park and thus seen the dinosaurs, and they are incredible statues, and so critical to both the park’s identity as well as what they demonstrate for the world of natural history and science. One thing I’ve also thought is that it was very random having these in a London park, but knowing the story behind them makes sense!

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 
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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

Surrounded by the dinosaurs and as you weave your way around the park, there are some really lovely trees and woods, as well as a lake. Like with many of the parks I’ve explored across London, this one is full of splendour and tranquility.

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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park Lake

I’ll now take a walk outside the lake area and walk across the park where once again you stroll through all the prettiness of the park which illustrates what a vast area of marvellous sights it is.

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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park

A distinctive part of the park you always see no matter where you stand and which can be seen from many vantage points in the capital is The Crystal Palace Transmitter tower which is a broadcasting and telecommunications station that serves Greater London and the Home Counties. Built in 1956, it’s the 5th tallest structure in London standing at 219 metres (719 ft). In terms of coverage it’s the most important transmitting station in the country, with nearly 12 million people receiving output from it.

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Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower
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Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower

I’ll now leave the park and head to my next destination today, Sydenham Wells Park! This cute little green area is named after the medicinal springs which were found in Sydenham in the 17th Century, when Sydenham was still in Kent. In 1901 the park was opened to the public and is one of nine parks in the borough to have a Green flag award, which is the benchmark national standard for publicly accessible parks and green spaces in the UK.

The park is right near many houses and you do get that community feel that this park is at the centre point of the area which is popular with families and people looking for a place to relax with their thoughts.

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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park

My journey will now take me from Sydenham Wells Park onto both Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood, which are located right next to one another. Together they are the largest part of the old Great North Wood, which was an ancient landscape of woodland and wooded commons which once covered the high ground between Deptford and Selhurst

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Sydenham Hill Wood

With both of the woods adjacent to one another, I first visited Sydenham Hill Wood which is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. In 1732 an oak-lined formal avenue, known as the Cox’s Walk, which leads from the junction of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane was formed by Francis Cox.  It connected his Green Man Tavern and Dulwich Wells with Sydenham Wells Park.

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Sydenham Hill Wood

The old Nunhead to Crystal Palace railway once passed through the wood and you can tell where part of the line used to be, especially the footbridge which goes over the woods and used to have the tracks underneath it.

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Sydenham Hill Wood Footbridge
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The Old Train Line Would’ve Passed Under the Footbridge
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View from the Footbridge

The woodland is home to more than 200 species of trees and plants, as well as rare fungi, butterflies, scarce bees, woodpeckers, wasps, stag beetles, other insects, hedgehogs, birds and woodland mammals.

Walking through the woodlands reminds me a lot of my walk through Highgate Wood as you feel like you’re nowhere near London’s hustle and bustle. It’s a very magical place to explore as with every corner of the woods you find something new which amazes and pleasantly surprises you, whether it’s a pretty species of tree, or a cute stairway, there’s an abundance of beauty.

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Sydenham Hill Wood
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Sydenham Hill Wood
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Sydenham Hill Wood
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Sydenham Hill Wood
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Sydenham Hill Wood

Right next to Sydenham Hill Wood is Dulwich Wood, which is privately owned by the Dulwich Estate. Back in the Middle Ages, the Manor of Dulwich belonged to Bermondsey Abbey having been given to the Abbey in 1127 by King Henry I. The Dulwich Estate was surveyed in 1542 after Henry VII dissolved the monasteries.  The wealthy Edward Alleyn in 1605 bought the Manor of Dulwich from the Calton family who had owned it since the dissolving of the monasteries.

Weaving your way between the trees and plants adds quite a bit of mystery when you walk through the woods, which is quite small, though there are many different pathways you could take, each taking you to a different woodland wonder.

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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood

Once you come out of Dulwich Wood, you’re able to get a glimpse of the London skyline, but to truly appreciate and see it, you need to take a stroll to the neighbouring Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club. A walk to the top of the balcony of the clubhouse provides a breathtaking panoramic view of London!

From across the golf course you get to see all the well-known and iconic London skyline landmarks including The Shard, The London Eye, Canary Wharf, The Walkie Talkie, The Gherkin, St Paul’s and more. One amazing aspect of my walks is that I’ve seen this exact same view of the London skyline from so many different perspectives, from Stave Hill, to Alexander Palace, to Hampstead Heath, and it’s always awe-inspiring and glorious. It really is a fitting and perfect place to end my walking adventure today!

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View from Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club
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View from Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club
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Zoomed-in View from Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club
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Zoomed-in View from Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club

Well that’s all from me on my walking adventure which has seen me discover some of the natural gems of South-East London from Crystal Palace Park, to Sydenham Wells Park and Sydenham Hill Wood, to Dulwich Wood, with the stunning London skyline view to finish with!

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!

Victoria to Green Park

Marble Arch to Mayfair

The Shard to Monument

King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath

Leadenhall Market to Old Spitalfields Market

Waterloo to The London Eye

St Paul’s Cathedral to Moorgate

Mile End Park to London Fields

Hyde Park Corner to Italian Gardens

Little Venice to Abbey Road

Regent’s Park to Soho Square

Clapham Common to The Albert Bridge

Grosvenor Gardens to Knightsbridge

Holland Park to Meanwhile Gardens

Hackney Downs to Springfield Park

Tower Bridge to Stave Hill

Shoreditch to Islington Green

Highgate to Finsbury Park

Ravenscourt Park to Wormwood Scrubs

Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge

Putney Bridge to Barnes Common

Westminster Abbey to Vauxhall Bridge

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger unless referenced © Copyright 2019

Information about Crystal Palace Park: Crystal Palace Park

Information about The Crystal Palace: The Crystal Palace Museum

Information about the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs: Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs

Information about The Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower: The Big Tower

Information about Sydenham Wells Park: Lewisham.Gov

Information about Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood: Wild London

 

Little Venice to Abbey Road: Sporting and Musical Landmarks

Welcome one and all 🙂 Last week my walk ended in Italian Gardens, and the theme of Italy continues as this week I start in Venice, well Little Venice! No Italian adventures just yet! I’ll then go along my favourite stretch of water, the Regent’s Canal, before going past The Liberal Jewish Synagogue and St John’s Wood Church. In between that I’ll be passing by Lord’s Cricket Ground and ending at a musical landmark, Abbey Road. So, let’s begin the journey!

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Little Venice to Abbey Road

Located near Paddington and Maida Vale, Little Venice is a scenic and very picturesque riverside area. Its history can be traced back to the 1810s when a pool was created where the Regent’s Canal and the Paddington arm of the Grand Junction Canal met. Back then it was known as the Paddington Broadwater.

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There are a couple of accounts as to where the name ‘Little Venice’ was coined. One of which was from poet Lord Byron who compared this area of Paddington to Venice. An alternative origin came from another poet Robert Browning. He referenced it while living in nearby Warwick Crescent between 1862 and 1887. This lead to the island in the middle christened Browning’s Island. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that it became Venice, and the 1950s until it was known as Little Venice.

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The surrounding affluent area has large houses with notable residents including entrepreneur Richard Branson and singer Robbie Williams. Around Little Venice you can find riverside cafes and restaurants whist enjoying venues such as the Canal Cafe Theatre and the Puppet Theatre Barge.

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The Canal and River Trust Offices

By the bridge in Little Venice sits the offices of the Canal & River Trust who’re a charity that’s responsible for taking care of 2,000 miles of waterways across England and Wales. And who we have to provide great appreciation to for the wonderful canal walks we have within London!

From peaceful Little Venice I take a walk along the Regent’s Canal past the boats and bridges of London’s loveliest riverside views.

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Walking along this stretch of water you could easily feel like you’re in Amsterdam, with the picturesque plants and pathways. This is the kind of walk that you can enjoy on either a cold winter’s day, when I went on it, or just as much on a warm summer’s day. I think every great walk, not just in London, has to have some form of river or canal in it. Over the weeks and months that I’ve been walking, there have been, and will be, walks that form a lot of the Regent’s Canal. These have so far included King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath and Mile End Park to London Fields!

It’s time to say goodbye (not to the walk, don’t worry..!), but to my canal walk as I continue my journey to Abbey Road.  As I do this, I passed this beautiful estate in Maida Vale! Imagine living in or even opposite it!

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My walk takes me past this rather lovely and distinct building which is The Liberal Jewish Synagogue. Founded in 1911, it’s the oldest and largest Liberal Synagogue in the UK.

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Opposite it is probably the most famous cricket ground and well-known sporting venues in the world, Lord’s Cricket Ground! Now being a fan of cricket, this stop on my walk is extra special!

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Photo credit: London Town

Known as the ‘Home of Cricket’, Lord’s Cricket Ground’s history can be traced back to 1787 when the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was founded. Before a ground was built aristocrats and nobleman would play cricket in White Conduit Fields in Islington. However, as London’s population grew and the need for more space so crowds could watch them play, they approached White Conduit CC’s bowler, Thomas Lord. They asked him to create a new private ground.

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Photo credit: London Town

Lord was an ambitious entrepreneur and leased a ground on Dorset Fields in Marylebone. It staged its first match between Middlesex and Essex on the 31st May 1787, and the Marylebone Cricket Club was formed. A year later the Laws of the Game were laid down, which notably referenced the size of the pitch (22 yards), and how players could be given out. Even today the MCC still remains in charge of the Laws of the Game across the entire world.

The MCC located to Marylebone Bank near Regent’s Park between 1811 and 1813, before moving to the ground we see today in St John’s Wood in 1814. Today, the ground is home to Middlesex County Cricket Club and hosts England national matches. It also hosts many corporate events as well as the game of Real Tennis.

Walking past the ground you see the W. G. Grace Memorial Gates which were erected in 1923, and gained Grade II listed status in 1996. Designed by architect Sir Herbert Baker they were a tribute to W.G. Grace, who is widely regarded as the pioneer of the game and one of the greatest ever players.

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W.G. Grace Memorial Gates

Along the outside of the ground you come to the Bicentenary Gates which were presented by the Duke of Westminster in memory of Viscount Cobham in 1987.

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Bicentenary Gates
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Lovely Wall Display Outside the Ground

From cricket to churches, as my walk takes me to St John’s Wood Church which was designed by architect Thomas Hardwick and completed in 1814. When the Church opened the celebrations were held within the new Pavilion at Lord’s Cricket Ground!

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Within the roundabout opposite the church sits the St Mary-le-Bone War Memorial which is a tribute to the men and women who sacrificed their lives in both World War One (1914-1918) and World War Two (1939-1945). The bronze statue is of St George in full armour on horseback slaying a dragon and was dedicated in 1936.

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Saint Mary-le-Bone War Memorial

It’s now time to move onto my final destination today, and quite possibly the world’s most famous crossing, Abbey Road! The Abbey Road Studios began their life as a sixteen-room house and were bought by EMI in 1929. They opened in 1931 with many different studios to accommodate all the varieties of musicians that used them, from orchestras, to string quarters, to soloists.

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Abbey Road Studios

The Beatles were signed by EMI’s Parlophone label in 1962, and made their first recording in the studios in the same year. Ninety percent of their recordings were done in the Abbey Road Studios. Other notable artists who recorded there were Pink Floyd, Cliff Richard, The Hollies, and even scores for four Star Wars films!

However, the studio only gained fame when The Beatles named their second-to-last album Abbey Road which was released in 1969. Its cover has become one of the world’s most recognisable images. This iconic image sees  John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr walking across the zebra crossing outside the studio.

Originally, the plan for the album cover was to charter a private jet to the Himalayas and shoot it at foothills of Mount Everest. However, EMI were so desperate to get the product out they went for a simple option of doing the image outside the studios. The photo was taken by Iain Macmillan on a ladder in the middle of the street whilst a policeman stopped traffic.

It was photographed at 11.30AM on the 8th August 1969, taking 10 minutes to do! Far more cheaper and simpler than their original plan! Did you know that six photos were taken, and it was the fifth one that was used. Also the guy in the background by the car was an American tourist called Paul Cole, who didn’t even know it was The Beatles!

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The Famous Cover (Photo Credit: The Beatles)

In 2010, however, the cash-strapped EMI were considering selling the studios, but a few days later it was awarded Grade II historical status to help preserve it. Today, the crossing is a huge tourist attraction with many taking photos of themselves walking across it like the Fab Four did. And whilst I was there taking my pics, many frustrated drivers went past with people standing in the middle of the road! It’s a strange feeling when you’re there as you don’t really feel like you’re next to a historical landmark, but its musical significance is massive.

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The Abbey Road Zebra Crossing
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The Wall Outside the Studios
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The Abbey Road Street Sign near the Studios

It has been a walk where I’ve seen the beauty of Little Venice and stopped by landmarks of the sporting and music world’s! I hope you had a great time joining me on my walk, and please let me know your thoughts below, I’d love to hear them! For more of the London Wlogger you can give me a follow on TwitterInstagram and Facebook, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too 🙂

Stay tuned for another walk through London next week!