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…
➊ TAKE A DIP AT BROCKWELL LIDO | 10:30am
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…
➋ BROCKWELL PARK | 11am
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.
➌ TIME FOR A PICK-ME-UP | 11:30am
After so much activity you’ll inevitably be parched: time to head… Elsewhere. A favourite in SE4, this café now has two outposts in the area, plus a Roastery in Deptford, where every sustainably-sourced bean you taste in your cappuccino is toasted to optimum deliciousness. Aside from excellent coffee, Elsewhere also serves up some very good eggs, served scrambled and cloudlike with sourdough or poached with a kimchi kick. For the egg-averse, there’s oozing toasties and piles of pastries. Choose to sit in or grab a pastry to go, there’s still a lot more to see…
➍ HERNE HILL MARKET | 11:45am
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 pastries, you’re primed for some retail therapy. Here, 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.
➎ CAST YOUR EYES OVER BEAUTIFUL ARTWORK | 12:30pm
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).
➏ ROCCA DI PAPA | 2pm
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 Elsewhere Coffee | 1A Half Moon Ln, London SE24 9JU
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
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