Q♣ Lambeth The Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth was a skinny beast, much thinner than its post-1965 equivalent, and almost as long. The Herbert Commission eventually decided to add Clapham and Streatham, but for today's post I've restricted myself to the narrow original. One thing modern Lambeth does damned well is maintaining its parkland... and spring has broken, so I set out to visit all nine Green Flag parks, in order, from north to south. And I had a lovely time. [9 photos]
9 Lambeth Green Flag parks
St. John’s Churchyard, Waterloo(opened 1824)
Oasis around an inner city church; Greek-style columns, a row of laurel garlands atop; ALL MAY HAVE IF THEY TRY A GLORIOUS LIFE OR GRACE; beds of tulips and lilies; a hummock of lawn; a pigeon pecks at a bottletop; mosaic statues, mosaic benches, mosaic fungi, mosaic planters, mosaic thimbles, mysterious mosaic bumpy thing; Southwark Mosaics run public courses; rear archway access; a man sits with Metro and coffee; a woman sits in solo contemplation; a homeless man checks through his worldly possessions; a blind man enters with his guide dog and lets her tug and snuffle, the best he can offer for exercise rather than let her off the leash; Street Food @St John's, four tents, the morning's meat sizzles, lunchtime's lettuce is being chopped, pad thai, falafel, student discount available on coffee, busy soon.
Archbishop’s Park(opened 1901)
Formerly Lambeth Palace Field, cheers to the Archbishop of Canterbury; community orchard of apples and pears; one gate's locked while redevelopment overruns, reopening 31st March 2017, all sporting facilities sealed off, vivid lines across pristine astroturf; rings and ladders and a slide, a crocodile of hi-vis toddlers are let loose across the playground; serpentine benches, a floral corner; astonishing wooden shelter in the shape of a beetle, gnarled legs as seats; toilets, No Loitering; twitchy man with recyclable cup asks "Have you got the time?"; the Lambeth Millennium Pathway, two dozen stepping stone plaques from Hardicanute to Tradescant, from Blake to the Windrush; picnic tables; overflowing planters; a terrier waiting patiently for his owner to stop grinning and stir herself.
Kennington Park(opened 1854)
Lambeth's first dedicated public open space, formerly Kennington Common, where the Chartists assembled; Slade Fountain; Prince Consort's Lodge, a Great Exhibition showcase; topping up the early tan; filling a hayfever handkerchief; Stan spent many happy hours in this park; impromptu church service singing on the lawn; row of assorted bee hives; table tennis, Adidas hoops; 50p to use the cafe toilet for non-customers; a terrier trots by with a spare Tesco poo bag tied to its collar; the walled Flower Garden opened in 1931, major lottery respruce 2015, and it's gorgeous; circular sunken pond, benches encircle the sundial, wisteria drips from the pergola, the whiff of weed; bird feeders in the timberwork, telephoto poised for fledgling action, girl with smartphone snapping butterflies; pure relaxation.
Vauxhall Park(opened 1890)
Created by Act of Parliament, laid out by landscape artist Fanny Rollo Wilkinson; blossom in bunches of pink and white; overlooked by a towering liftshaft with 31 numbered floors... and climbing; a Jack Russell noses a relatively-enormous football across the grass; a portly man cycles through in bowler hat and shorts; the pergola has not yet burst forth, the lavender garden has not yet sprung; St Stephen's Children's Centre; Vauxhall Park Needs You; workmen taking a break for beers; commemorative benches for Rita, Georgie, Father Paul and Queen Elizabeth; April's first bee buzzes my ear; sound of birdsong, sound of helicopters; OMG there is an actual model village here, a dozen gnome-like cottages in the border by the fountain, some of the tulips come up to roof height.
Myatt’s Fields Park(opened 1889)
Former market garden donated by the Minet family, another of Fanny's designs; Grade II listed, 'a strangely beautiful place' wrote Betjeman; iron gates; join the Over 60s gardening club; You Can Book This Tennis Court; summerhouse; colourful chalk games arrayed around the bandstand, a toddler explores within; man with a stringed African instrument crouched on a bench in the dog exercise zone; tentative young cyclist riding the paths and arm-signalling to nobody in particular; The Little Cat Cafe, £1 for a croissant, 30p extra for Marmite or jam; council truck from Lambeth Landscapes, ride-on lawnmower in action, freshly-cut alternating stripes of green; wildlife area with trees and roped-off pond, cowslips and butterflies, all the park's visitors are elsewhere; cones, two hurdles; Bee Urban; new loos.
Ruskin Park(opened 1907)
John Ruskin lived nearby before the park opened; created from six villas and their gardens, the oval fishpond survives; geese preen; the National Pool Company have turned up to sweep down the paddling pool and drain the winter's sludge; a small cafe kiosk with the Overground running behind; tennis courts in football season mode, goalposts standing; giggly girls sitting on the highest platform in the skateboard park; A Booking Is Required To Use This Facility; another bandstand; the south London air ambulance takes off from behind the building site nextdoor; the Portico Shelter is being restored with Historic England money; views across inner London; horse chestnut candles now half-extinguished; bluebell glade; a squirrel in the rhododendrons; one hospital worker per hedged alcove around the walled garden.
Milkwood Community Park(upgraded 2006)
Small square of mixed facilities, the Residents' Association keeps an eye; a 21st century rejuvenation worked wonders, Lambeth's first Green Flag park; lamps lit by large solar panels; this park is oddly silent, nobody on the climbing frame, nobody on the teen-friendly cluster of metal benches, even the aircraft-shaped apparatus is empty; the Seventh Day Adventist church disputes the border where the lavender and rosemary grow; the park's name in individually-cut green letters on the fence; trees and rabbits on the official mural; table tennis tables; a chubby boy on a bike wheels in; a mother jogs in with her young son, "Good running! Come on, round we go!"; a tiny drone buzzes overhead, controlled by a hoodie on the basketball court; daisies, dandelions, the bin from number 59.
Brockwell Park(opened 1892)
First farmland, then a large private estate, now Lambeth's flagship park; 125 diverse hillside acres; Trim Trail; Lido love; a large ring of logs around two dozen trees; man taking six dogs for a walk on leashes intertwined like a maypole; picknicking toddlers assembled round Mummys' tablecloth; tiny buffers on the miniature railway, with planning application for 50% longer tracks; a 7- and a 37-year old scootering downslope; humpy BMX dell; bowling green; four girls running headlong for the playground throng; duckpond, swanpond, Beware Deep Water; a gardener removes his gloves to check his phone, another hoses down the tulips by the clock tower; hide and seek in the walled garden, forget-me-nots, hyacinths, irises, wisteria, watering can action; kickabout, rideabout, loungeabout.
West Norwood Cemetery(opened 1836)
One of the Magnificent Seven, graves a-plenty, the latest Lambeth space to earn its Green Flag; sepulchral monuments, stones at all angles; decorated with bouquets or dandelions, gravel-topped or grass; spinning plastic windmills; In Loving Memory; Uriah, Agatha, Gertrude, Reg, Kieron, Joan Iris Dennis known as Bunny; family vaults, broken slabs, Greek Orthodox necropolis; a helium balloon printed with 'I Love You' bobs from a litter bin, its string tied round a thorny stalk; a man asleep on a bench with his socks off; graves of grandparents who weren't dead the first time I visited; the Rose Garden not yet in bloom; mowing the lawn outside the Columbarium where the crematorium flowers rest, MUM, GRANDMA, KEVY; peace interrupted by birdsong, shoots and flowers bursting forth between the bodies; new life in death.