When you think of parks in south London, the first names that come into your head are probably Greenwich Park, Richmond Park and Battersea Park. Dulwich Park is one you're unlikely to be familiar with unless you live in Dulwich or a surrounding area, such as Sydenham Hill, Streatham and Crystal Palace. However, at almost 30 acres, Dulwich Park is the third largest park in the borough of Southwark, after Burgess Park and Peckham Rye Park and Common.
Created in the late 1800s, Dulwich Park was originally farmland and a group of meadows known as "five fields". In 1885 Parliament agreed that the land would be turned into a public park. Initially, the park was going to be based on a concept by Charles Berry Junior, who also designed Dulwich College. His plan included a central pavillion, lake, curved paths and expanses of grass. However, it was decided that the park would be designed by Colonel J.J. Sexby, who was also responsible for other parks across the city, such as Golders Hill Park, Brockwell Park, Wandsworth Park and Ravenscourt Park. Dulwich Park was opened by Lord Rosebery on 26th June 1890 and featured a lake, tennis courts, bandstand, carriage drive, horse ride, 5 aviaries, and an open-air theatre: the tennis courts, carriage drive and lake still stand today.
Regardless of your age and interests, Dulwich Park has plenty of amenities to keep you occupied for at least a few hours. Read on to find out 5 things to do in Dulwich Park:
Dulwich Park is a great place for getting some exercise and participating in sporting activities. From a simple game of Frisbee to running, the park has loads of sports facilities to make use of. Perhaps you might want to challenge your friends to a game of tennis. There are 4 courts to choose from: Courts 1 and 2 are on the north side of the park near the Francis Peek Centre, while Courts 3 and 4 are in the south of the park, across the path from the lake. You can find more info on how to book a court over at ClubSpark.
Football is another sport that's popular in Dulwich Park. There are three 11-a-side football pitches on a grass surface, and they're available on a pay as you play basis.
You'll find outdoor gym equipment near the playground. Choose from a hip twister, pull down challenger, push up/dip station, seated chest press, air skier and more.
One of the major features of Dulwich Park is the lake, which is home to many different breeds of duck, including moorhen, coot, mallard, tufted duck, pochard and grey heron. The lake was the main focus point of the park when it was laid out in 1887, and was very popular for boating. Over a century later, visitors to the park can still enjoy renting paddle boats and rowboats, particularly in the summer. Hiring a boat costs £12 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children), £4 for an adult, and £3 for children - fairly cheap by London standards.
3. Hire a bike
If you want to try something different, why not explore the park by bike? As the terrain in Dulwich Park is mostly flat, and the paths are broad, it's the perfect place for hopping on a bike. Bring your own or hire one from London Recumbents, right by the pedestrian exit from the car park. Tandems, recumbent bikes and banana bikes are available at Dulwich Park. Make sure you're wearing appropriate footwear for cycling and be mindful of pedestrians while you're pedalling in the park.
A little way on from the orchard you'll see a trio of sculptures. These are called "Three Perpetual Chords) and were created by London artist Conrad Shawcross. The idea emerged from the artist's study of the mathematical patterns found in music, and the sculptures represent The Octave, The Fifth and The Fourth. The sculptures were constructed using spheroidal cast iron and Conrad Shawcross hoped that they would "invite approach, play and physical interaction".
5. Make use of the playground
If you have kids, be sure to take them to the playground. It's split into two sections - one for toddlers and one for older kids - and has a selection of slides, climbing structures, swings and a roundabout. There are also plenty of benches and picnic tables, as well as four ping pong tables (bring your own rackets and balls).
Dulwich Park is a true beauty, especially in spring and summer, when the sun is shining and colourful flowers are in bloom. Head down to Dulwich Park if it's a nice day and you want to discover somewhere new.
Getting to Dulwich Park:
Unfortunately, Dulwich Park is not yet accessible via the London Underground, unless you want to get out at Clapham Common and take two buses. The easiest way to get to Dulwich Park (or Dulwich in general) is to hop on the southeastern train, which takes you from Victoria Station to West Dulwich. The park is about 15 minutes from the station by foot. Alternatively, you could get the overground to Forest Hill and walk from there (roughly 25 minutes). Buses that stop near Dulwich Park are the P4 from Brixton to Lewisham; 185 from Victoria to Lewisham; 40 from Clerkenwell Road to Dulwich / The Plough; 42 from Appold Street near Liverpool Street Station to East Dulwich Sainsbury's; 176 from Tottenham Court Road Station to Penge / Pawleyne Arms; 484 from Lewisham Station to Denmark Hill / Camberwell Green; and P13 from New Cross to Streatham.
Coming by car? There are several spots near the main entrance and parking costs £2 per hour.