Immy Smith 15/11/22
Itinerary Location: Herne Hill | Duration: 5 Hours
There’s a decidedly bucolic feel to Herne Hill. Perhaps it’s the green expanse of Brockwell Park, its close proximity to villagey Dulwich or its wide streets that feel comfortable and breezy like a pair of elasticated trousers.
For these reasons alone, Herne Hill makes a prime spot for spending a Sunday morning with no hard-and-fast agenda aside from following your nose, sipping on great coffee, soaking up some culture and picking up some obligatory snacks along the way.
We start our morning amble at Herne Hill station; a quaint looking train stop complete with scalloped-edged signage. Look both ways for cyclists as you cross the road, manoeuvre around the market stallholders, follow the curve of Railton Road, hang a left then it’s a hop and a skip to…
This Olympic-sized, unheated, outdoor swimming pool is open all year round, so if you’re crazy enough to dive in even in the depths of winter, we’ll take no responsibility for such renegade behaviour. If you’d prefer not to take the plunge, walk through the lido car park and beyond to…
Sprawling and undulating, Brockwell Park has it all. Genuinely. Aside from sweeping views across London’s skyline, here you’ll also find a walled garden, tennis courts, football pitches, a café, a BMX track and not just one but three ponds. Get in! It’s the kind of leafy expanse where you could spend hours exploring overgrown corners, spectating sporting antics or looking pensively over one of the lakes, channelling the vibe of a Georges Seurat painting, only perhaps without a parasol.
After so much activity you’ll inevitably be peckish: time for some Utter Waffle. A brunch favourite in SE4, this café started out as an award-winning street food truck and has now put down proper roots in Herne Hill. The menu spans savoury and sweet options: sample the dippy eggs with marmite & cheddar-stuffed waffle soldiers; the Club Waffle with smoky bacon, fried chicken Bloody Mary relish and aioli; or the glorious sweet waffle topped with berry compote, caramelised banana and peanut butter cremeux. There’s plenty of coffee to wash it down with – or bottomless bubbles, all day, every day, should you be so inclined – and it’s also one of the few places to have restored Nesquik to its rightful place on the drinks menu.
After brunch, head left along Dulwich Road and back towards the station to hit:
You’ll have already seen the market stalls setting up as you arrived at the station (that is, if you were brave enough to navigate Southeastern rail before 10am on a Sunday morning). Having had your fill of coffee and waffle, you’re primed for some retail therapy. At Herne Hill Market you’ll find over 50 traders selling everything from fresh veg and French pastries to award-winning hot sauce and artisanal crafts. Not to be missed is edgy veg from Wild Country Organics and Mercanti di Calabria, where you can pick up a bottle of zippy extra virgin olive oil and raw honey. If you can, tear yourself away from the market – so you’re not laden with enough condiments to cater for an apocalypse – and walk ever so slightly south towards Dulwich, and a dose of culture.
Take a leisurely 20 minute stroll from Herne Hill Market to Dulwich Picture Gallery. The building itself has a colourful history; it was set up in 1811 as London’s first purpose-built gallery, with art amassed by the collector Sir Francis Bourgeois (yes, really). After his death, it was left in the solid hands of architect Sir John Soane (he of quirky Holborn museum fame) to design the building, which still houses the original collection of over 600 Old Masters paintings.
It’s hard not to be swept up in the gold-framed paintings of brooding skies, porcelain-white nudes and heavily-ruffed nobility, and elsewhere in the gallery, you’ll find works by contemporary artists and a regularly-changing roster of temporary exhibitions. On at the moment is a show of works by Lithuania’s most famous artist, M.K. Čiurlionis (until 12th March 2023).
From the gallery, there’s only one thing left to do. Lunch.
Walk a mere 4 minutes down the road into the heart of Dulwich Village and follow the scent of garlic to Rocca Di Papa. Something of a neighbourhood favourite, with a second site in South Ken, this Italian restaurant delivers on all the classics. There are stone-baked pizzas charred in all the right places and generously topped, pastas cooked with just the right amount of al-dente bite and styled al forno, al pesto, al pomodoro, plus dishes fresh from the grill and herb-flecked salads dressed with olive oil.
Find a table, order something spritzy along with some arancini and an orb-like burrata to start, and after a sip or two, bucolic South-East London will start to feel more like Sicily.
➊ Brockwell Lido | Brockwell Park, Dulwich Rd, London SE24 0PA
➋ Brockwell Park | Brockwell Park, Brockwell Park Gardens, London SE24 0NG
➌ Utter Waffle | 119 Dulwich Rd, London SE24 0NG
➍ Herne Hill Market | Railton Rd, London SE24 0JN
➎ Dulwich Picture Gallery | Gallery Rd, London SE21 7AD
➏ Rocca Di Papa | 75-79 Dulwich Village, London SE21 7BJ
Enjoyed your jaunt around Herne Hill? Check out more Nudge Itineraries
Start at Herne Hill Station, Railton Road, Herne Hill, SE24 0JW
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