Just north of Sydenham and in Perry Vale off Mayow Road and south of Forest Hill, this seven hectare park was opened in 1875 when the area was being first developed. It still has a fair number of field hedgerow oak. The land was purchased by a group of local philanthropists, including F.J.Horniman (of Horniman Museum fame) and the first Mayor of Lewisham. The park was opened as Sydenham and Lewisham Recreation Ground and consisted of a circuit path, around a cricket pitch (which is still in use), a tea house, and drinking fountain.
Over the past ten years the park has undergone a renaissance, the tea house has been rescued from dereliction (and now houses a Green and Brown coffee café, a local chain), that means there are decent toilets (with Dyson dryers). An area has been given over to meadow grass (though the cuttings are left in situ, which is not the best way to increase biodiversity) and a trim trail and fitness exercise equipment has been added. There is also a volunteer run vegetable garden which is a real asset. The tennis court continues though sadly the bowling green, though intact, is out-of-use. This is despite the £50,000 given by the London Marathon Trust, for new facilities in 2009-10, designed by Groundwork.
Maintenance is by Glendale, (sadly the resident park keeper who was appointed on 1 March 2010 was got rid of in March 2015, Lewisham cut their 12 strong team in half) and that means management is only contactable during working hours on weekdays, not much use at the weekend or on bank holidays. But the grass is short and the park looks fine, litter is collected and the park is well used by locals.
The park has benefitted from the Mayor of London’s Capital Growth food growing scheme and from Pocket Park funding. A Masterplan was produced in 2010 by Groundwork London and Sue Morgan of Around the Block Ltd. Envirowork Lewisham which is a social enterprise providing horticultural employment and training for unemployed local people has done a lot of work on the community garden near the pavilion,. The improvements in this park have been confirmed by the Green Flag Award, 2014-15.
This is a park which benefitted by the community funding during the 2005-2010 government and this has continued during the subsequent coalition government and also thanks to the Mayor of London. Not everything has worked perfectly, the bowling green lies out of use, the hay meadow is being enriched by grass cuttings left insitu, and the footpaths are in variable condition. It remains to be seen what effect the loss of the resident park keeper will be. But overall the past ten years have seen much improvement, this a good example of park management in difficult times financially for local authorities.
Refs. (all accessed 23.8.2015)