Tag Archives: Brockwell Park

Sporty delights for the cold weather in south London

In August, Joe Coulson wrote us a post on summer sports in Brixton.  Now he shares his tips for keeping moving in the cold winter weather

(Photo: Matthew Bluett)

As any cliché-loving sports coach will tell you, winter is the season in which champions are made, and that’s not the only reason to keep running & cycling through the cold weather.

There are surely few more simple pleasures than spinning through the city on a crisp clear night, with your tyres humming frostily beneath you.

So here are some Brixton-bespoke ideas for enjoying your running and cycling until the spring.

Cunning running. A bit of inventiveness is all you need to keep running once the ice arrives. Last year, I found that outside Olive Morris House on Brixton Hill, with its overhanging shelter, made a great ice-free spot for the odd interval session. Better still, ask Father Christmas for a set of snow-cleats for your trainers and then when everyone else is fighting to stay upright, you’ll be granted exclusive use of a pristine white running wonderland.

Circuits in the park. If you’d prefer a bit of company, why not head down to the park for some circuit training? You’ll get the benefit of a good hour’s cardio work while improving your speed and core stability. A cheap pair of football boots is a wise investment when it gets muddy though. One Element run sessions on Streatham Common and across London, and Community Circuits run sessions in Brockwell Park.

Winter swim. You can swim outdoors through the winter at the Serpentine or Tooting Bec if you join and — whether you’re indoors or outdoors — getting involved in something like winterswim is a great way to stay motivated.

Weatherproof your ride. Never mind mudguards and waterproofs, the secret to happy winter cycling starts with a good base layer. One well-known brand claims to have been worn continuously for 40 days at sea during a round-the-world record attempt, so a few chilly early morning commutes through London shouldn’t be a problem. To keep your bike ship-shape, Brixton Cycles will sort you out with the essential degreaser and lube you need.   

Eat like an explorer. There’s a reason why the diet of choice for the high-altitude, sub-zero explorer includes soup, stew and hot tea: you get warmth, much-needed fluid, and food all in one go. I reckon Kaosarn is a hard-to-beat bet in Brixton for a warming winter meal, but — further afield – why not try Galapagos Foods in Battersea for a bowl of hearty homemade soup?

 What are your top winter exercise tips?

Joe Coulson blogs here

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Brockwell Park playground and building plans

Anja Stobbart reports on the renovation of the Brockwell Park playground and the broader changes taking place in the park

I’d known for ages about the work planned on the playground in Brockwell Park, but it was still a shock to turn the corner with my two children, heading for their beloved playground, only to come face to face with the earthquake like devastation.

They stood for a while looking at the places we once played.

My two year old described the scene: ‘Broken, Mummy’.

Brockwell Park dates back to 1892 as a public park, though the Brockwell Park Hall Estate was created 200 years ago in 1811.

Land Use Consultants (LUC) has been working on the rejuvenation of the Park since 2005 (with Lambeth Council and Brockwell Park MAC), originally securing £3.5million of Heritage Lottery Fund / BIG Lottery funding in 2008. Lambeth brought the total up to £5 million.

The new and improved Brockwell includes the ‘natural’ children’s playground (already completed) – better known as the sandpit and paddling pool – along with the re-building of the main playground, the restoration of the lakes and improvements to the paths, and plans for new trees and planting, new railings and gates. There will be a new centre for the Community Greenhouses and Gardens Project, plus restoration of the Walled Garden and Temple Building.

The paddling pool was the first part of Brockwell Park’s planned transformation. And, after the usual moans from some, including myself, it has proved a huge success (and no one seems to have knocked themselves out on one of the architect’s sculpted boulder[s] yet).

The paths around the park are also being dug up for new sewer runs – all of which appear to be going to plan too (and mostly finished). It looks like Brixton Water Lane will be the last one to be completed – running from the gate up to the fork of the road near the BMX track (still very much near BWL entrance at present, and a long way from the BMX track).

The end of October sees the closure of the Temple and toilets, as well as the Walled Garden. Winter is, obviously, the best time to close all these areas – but they will be missed. No secret winter garden this year.

The new playground is due for completion by the end of March 2012. Although there have been conflicting rumours, with some mums gossiping that it might be earlier, in February 2012. The various changes are all ahead of schedule at the moment – lets hope the snowy depths of winter don’t strike with such venom this year.

Paul Carter, the park manager, has been writing a regular report about the progress of the work – see here

The equipment has all gone now. But, in the age of recycling, it will be reused if it is in good condition. The ageing roundabout had probably seen it’s last spin – believe me, the sound of dragging metal had got rather grating.

I have had many conversations starting, ‘Why spend money on a new playground when it is fine as it is?!”

Well, the plans certainly look amazing. One report said the old children’s playground was poorly integrated in the park with little tree cover. The new playground and equipment has been designed to sit better within the park landscape, and provide that much needed cover – something come summer we will all appreciate.

The plans show how the playground will increase in size (reaching out to the new curved path ‘above’ the old playground area).

The toddler area will boast a platform playhouse and hut, a small platform hut and wide slide. A snake sandpit and wobble dish are bound to be popular along with the obligatory toddler swings of course.

Junior play may well tempt a few daring toddlers that way as they behold the suspension bridge, sand building site with chutes and wheel, along with a sand transport system, slide and fireman’s pole. And the list goes on.

Senior play has the big money entertainment with a large cableway – which may entice the odd embarrassing parent, along with the whirlwind roundabout. Playhouses and walkways beneath tree level, with huts, bridges, slides and ladders make the new playground sound like a true adventure for all.

Leaving to go home may become more of an issue, but there’s always the Chocolate Box round the corner for a carrot to dangle. Once in a while at least!

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Brixton Bank Holiday Weekend


A perfect, active start to the weekend – get your fingernails dirty at the Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses (tip from @BrixtonBugle).

And then, if a month of rioting, rain and recession have got too much for you, lose yourself in the 1990s at The Windmill’s first annual ‘Retrospectacular‘. Bands will be performing their favourite albums from the year 1991 only (next year it’ll be 1992). That means covers of both Nirvana and Madonna…  The Windmill, Brixton, 4pm onwards, £5


John Brown and Friends are performing live folk music by Brockwell Hall in Brockwell Park from 2-6pm (tip from @Emmanusquelle). Or spend the day out west at Notting Hill Carnival (Sunday is usually the quieter day to go) and then come back to Brixton all fired up for the Deadly Rhythm Carnival After Party at Plan B. David Rodigan is heading the bill. Plan B Brixton, 10pm onwards, £10 


There are four showings of Almodovar’s ‘The Skin I Live In‘ at The Ritzy today – try to catch one. And you could even grab a quick pint afterwards at the newly refurbished Trinity Arms (tip from @loveiseveryone).


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Brixton’s best for running, swimming and cycling

Brockwell Park – a playground for runners. Photo by the author

Brixton is home to some top exercise opportunities. SW2 resident and keen triathlete Joe Coulson brings us his pick of the bunch.

Forget the Côte d’Azur. Whether you are a dedicated multi-sporter or a gentle Sunday stroller, Brixton has everything the athletic heart could desire.

Where else could you take a dip in one of the city’s best lidos, launch a mammoth ride into the Surrey Hills, or knock out a few laps around South London’s prettiest park, all in the course of a weekend?

The options are indeed endless. My list can only scratch the surface so do add your favorites below.

Brockwell parkrun. Parkrun believes that everyone should be able to run a free, timed 5K every week, anywhere in the world. Like all parkruns, the Brockwell Park edition is entirely volunteer-led and open to all. Saturdays, 9am.

Swimming at the Brixton Rec. There’s something special about a pool on the second floor of a building. Combine that with the gigantic windows and you’ve got an experience that feels as if it owes as much to flying as it does to swimming. And when you’ve finished, why not nip into one of Brixton Station Road’s cafes for the de rigueur flat white? The exoergic properties of caffeine are – after all – well-documented.

Laps of Dulwich Park. The perimeter path of Dulwich Park measures exactly one mile so if you want to tune your pace or easily keep track of distance, this is the place to do it. Coots and moorhens add an ornithological dimension to any run here, and it is one of the only places where you can still see tributaries of the River Effra above ground (editor: the Brockwell Park ponds are also tributaries of the Effra). The 2-mile jog from Brixton makes a great warm-up.

Brockwell Lido. A classic haunt for triathletes, the pool is open from April to October, climate-permitting. The Windrush Triathlon Club provide coached sessions throughout the season.

Cycling in Surrey and Kent. If you want to get your teeth into some big bike miles, Brixton is the perfect place from which to roll out. Plot a course via Crystal Palace and you’ll soon be out of the city. Box Hill and the surrounding area offer unlimited permutations route-wise; a loop via Westerham is another great alternative. Crystal Palace Triathletes organise Sunday club runs for a variety of paces and distances.


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Brixton Bank Holiday Weekend

How to spend your entire bank holiday weekend in Brixton:

Friday 27 and Saturday 28: Two of the world’s top hip-hop producers, Just Blaze and The Alchemist, go head to head at Plan B for two nights running. Just Blaze vs The Alchemist Soundclash, £12 advance tickets, 10pm-4am, Plan B.

And over at Coldharbour Lane, Living Bar is re-opening with a launch night that includes new resident DJs Maxi Jazz of Faithless and Rob Birch from Stereo MCs.

Saturday 28: After a night’s partying, try a more relaxing workout at the new ‘Tai Chi in the Park‘ classes from 11am-12pm. Strength-building and energy-giving tai chi for all abilities – outside in Brockwell Park AND for free.  Classes will be taking place May 28th, June 4th, June 11th, June 18th and June 25th. Map and details on the website.

Sunday 29: Levi Roots is hosting the Lazy Sunday festival in Brockwell Park. Expect Caribbean music, steel bands and cookery demonstrations. And Reggae Reggae Sauce.

Monday 30: I love bank holidays because it means another day to spend wandering around Brixton Market – see here for top food shop tips. If you’re feeling daring later on, show off your singing, dancing or joke-telling skills at the Ritzy’s monthly Open Mic Night.

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Brixton Elderflowers

Rachel Manley, our resident food blogger and brunch hostess, gives a guide to finding elderflowers in Brixton – and tells us what to do with them once we’ve got them

Where to find elderflowers in Brixton

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been getting excited about elderflower season since about February and the unseasonably good weather has only spurred me on. After an ill-fated trip to find some on Hampstead Heath (I knew I shouldn’t have ventured north of the river), I feel like I can’t move now for spotting the fuzzy white flowers all over Brixton.

If you’re planning on knocking up a batch, here’s where I’ve spotted some prime elderflowers (NB: some of them are in people’s front gardens, so it’s only polite to knock and ask permission before plundering their trees).


Brixton Rd, roughly opposite the petrol station

St Matthew’s Rd, Effra Rd side

Chaucer Rd, Dulwich Rd side

Brockwell Park – I spotted them at the Brixton Water Lane entrance and then behind the Lido. I’m sure there are plenty more in the park.

Wyck Gardens, off Loughborough Road (a recommendation from @northsouthfood)

Spotted more? Share the knowledge in the comments.

What to do with the elderflowers?

You’ll need about 20-30 ‘heads’ to make cordial, plenty of sugar, lemons and some citric acid (I bought mine in Nour Cash and Carry, but you can probably find it with the spices in most of the shops in Brixton Market).  Oh, and you can get muslin (to strain the cordial through) in one of the many fabric shops in Brixton for next to nothing.

I like this recipe but I leave it to steep for a good 48 hours.  The finished cordial will keep for 3-4 months in the fridge.

You can also try making elderflower champagne, but I prefer to add the cordial to cheap fizz for a yummy cocktail. It’s also deliciously refreshing mixed with sparkling water, slices of cucumber and mint, maybe with a splash of gin too?


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The Royal Wedding

The nation is well and truly in the grip of royal wedding fever. From a royal wedding knitting kit to a commemorative pizza, there are hundreds of ways to mark the occasion as the big day approaches. Joanna Hughes heads to Brockwell Park to find out what people in south London will be doing

Joseph, 48

“I’ll be going into the City. I’m meeting a couple of friends in Green Park. We’re going to enjoy the atmosphere. I’m having a traditional African costume, normally worn by kings, sent from Ghana for the occasion. I would like to see the wedding procession. I like Kate and Will as a couple and this is an occasion that comes once in a lifetime. I just want to be part of it.”

Sophie Rix, 28

“I’ve got the day off work but I’m avoiding the closed roads and heading out into the countryside for the day with my boyfriend if it’s sunny. We haven’t decided where yet, but it will be somewhere just outside London.”

Ursula, 24

”I booked my holiday to Sri Lanka before the royal wedding had been announced. I feel a bit disappointed now that I won’t be in the country to join in the celebrations and get together with my friends and family. I will try to catch it on the television at a beach side hut and will try to find some Pimms too! I guess watching it on the telly means I’ll get a great view at least.”

Tim Oakley, 31

“I’ll be on my stag do in Devon. It’s a good weekend because it’s a long one. That’s why I picked it.”



“I’m going on the ‘Not The Royal Wedding Cycle Tour’ organised by Bromley Cyclists and Pollard’s Hill Cyclists Group. I’ll be hoping for a nice day and avoiding the TV. Yesterday in Carphone Warehouse I saw there is even a royal wedding mobile phone.

Natalie, 28

“I’m so excited about the Royal Wedding! I’ve got a full on day. I’ll be starting out early at 10am to attend a street party organised by Battersea restaurant, Chez Manny, where we will be served with a traditional full English breakfast. By midday I’ll be popping in on a friend who is hosting a garden party in Herne Hill. Then for the afternoon I’ll be heading to a pub in Clapham to watch the afternoon processions on a large screen TV in a beer garden. In the evening close friends and I, are going to grab some fish and chips to round the celebrations off.”

Joanna, 32

“I’m a civil servant and work in Victoria so I’m thinking of going into work that day. There will be lots going on in Victoria. Where I live there is no community focal point so there won’t be a big street party.”

Kate, 32

“I’ve got an exciting day planned. I’m going to my in-laws who are having a street party in Weybridge. There will be bunting, barbecues and plenty of wine and beer. All the houses on the street are involved and inviting friends. Then in the evening we’re going to a wedding.”

Magali, 32 and Kerry, 36

“We’ll be driving to Cornwall to spend the weekend surfing for three days with twenty mates. It’s an annual event. It’s always the bank holiday weekend, but this year it’s great because we get a free day. Usually it’s grey and cold, but this year it looks like it could be quite enticing. Two of our friends are leaving at 7am so they arrive in time to watch the wedding on TV.”

John, 65

“I’ll be watching the wedding on the telly. I like the tradition. It’s a part of our cultural heritage. We might have some tea and scones in the garden after the wedding coverage if it’s a sunny day.”

Jenny, 29

“I’m looking forward to the royal wedding but mainly for the extra bank holiday. I’m taking the opportunity to be on holiday that week down by the sea catching up with friends and family. I imagine I’ll spend the day sailing and then out for dinner and drinks with friends in the evening.”


“I’ll be out of the country. I’m going to Grenada in Spain.”

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The Elm Park Tavern re-opens

Brixton photographer Neil Young reports on the return of the Elm Park Tavern

Like a battered pugilist making a comeback after a long and inglorious decline, Elm Park Tavern is back on its feet and looking sprightly.  Previously notable for its state of dilapidated splendour, the three hundred-year-old pub on the west side of Brockwell Park has been given some much-needed love since changing hands earlier this year. New landlord Gary has had the exterior repainted and the first stage of an internal refurbishment was completed late last week. Ravaged black vinyl has been sanded back to reveal handsome floorboards. A number of leather armchairs and a couch have taken up residence. The quizzical, faintly disgruntled mien of the place’s patron, a nameless “playwright, cad and actor” circa 1700 or so, still looks down from its familiar place on the wall. The pub is now open for business again. “It’s always going to be a traditional pub,” says Gary — “a nice place to come and have a drink.” More works are planned for later in the year, which will see the rear bar extended and the addition of a pool table, as well as seating and a barbecue for the beer garden. And Thursday night is quiz night, FYI.

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Sporty Spring


Spring is here! And so, to embrace the good weather and blooming of nature, here are some tips for outdoor sport in Brockwell Park:

Tai Chi in the Park: Starting in May, Brixton resident Pete Blake will be leading Tai Chi classes in Brockwell Park.  He already leads Tai Chi for Beginners at Yoga Haven in Clapham – as well as teaching tai chi in Brixton primary schools – and is expanding to London parks in time for the good weather. Joyful. See here for more details and here for his tai chi tweets.

Brockwell Park Run: Fed up of aimlessly jogging around Brockwell Park for a paltry half hour? Well here’s something to give a bit more motivation to a morning run. The Park Run is a free 5k timed run every Saturday at 9am – simply register here before 6pm on a Friday. If you don’t fancy the exercise, you can help out by volunteering.

Tennis: Courts in the park cost £4/hr and can be booked through GLL on 0845 130 8998

Bowls: The bowling green at Brockwell is free to use and no booking is required. A nice game of bowls and a cup of tea at Brockwell Hall – what could be nicer?

The Lido: The swimming season has been extended and will start on 2 April with a free open weekend – no payment for swimming and taster classes in the studios. Here’s hoping this season won’t be plagued by the same problems that caused multiple closures last year.



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The dogs of Brockwell

Ashleigh Young delves into the world of dog walking in Brockwell Park. With photographs by Neil Young.

A park festooning with dogs is a good park. The greyhounds-in-coats, the dishevelled spaniels, the labs with lolling tongues, an occasional rhino-sized Rhodesian ridgeback – dogs give a park drama.

Brockwell Park is Brixton’s finest location for dog spotting. My brother Neil and I set out with a camera and notebook one bleary Sunday morning to meet some of the regulars.

1. Oscar and his owner Pippa (above)

Pippa: He comes from a litter of eight. He was born in Dorset and so he’s had to become a city dog, an urbanite. He found it a little bit difficult at first, coming to the city. This park is a haven; it’s indispensable to us. We come here every day.

You start to develop this really strange association with your dog, whereby they are like your child.


2. Jack and his owner Jilly

Jilly: He has unlimited, unlimited energy. It’s quite a challenge. I’m trying to tire him out right now – I’m terribly hungover.

3. Barney and his owner Neil

Neil: He’s a miniature schnauzer. More people round the park know his name than mine. “Morning, Barney!” I’m like, “He’s not walkin’ himself.”

He always makes me smile. No matter how bad a day I’ve had, he’s always glad to see me. He comes to work with me, cos I don’t like to leave him by himself.

4. Mimi and her owner Simon

Simon: How long is this going to take? I’ve only got a minute. Sit, Mimi. Sit for the photo.

5. Maryanne, Neil, and Milo (15 weeks)

Neil: He’s a very local dog. We’re here every day, sometimes twice a day. We live just round the corner, and his brothers and sisters are often in the park too. He’ll walk for a couple of hours, then sleep, then walk, then sleep. That’s the way to do it.

6. Callum (2) and [Alsation, name unknown] (10)

Ann, dog’s owner: She’s always been good with children. She’s very gentle. When she was a puppy the kids used to get in the crate with her and cuddle up, so she’s always been used to having them around. We’re here in the park every day, absolutely every day. I’ve never had to buy a tennis ball. She just finds them here in the park. I don’t know how she finds them.

Normally we’d go around a few times, but I can’t go quite as far with this one tagging along.

7. Jack and his owner Jeff

Jeff: He’s a retired racer. Most of his racing was down in Sittenbourne. I got him from a rehoming charity down in Kent. I think there’s a greater awareness of the need for the charities. Because once they’re about four, the body starts breaking down. They’ve had a whole career, and then they’re out on their ear. Look at the camera, Jack.

He’s really good company. Very easy. He sleeps most of the time. In the racing world they’re used to being the centre of attention, especially when they win a race. Roughly, I would say he has done around 100 races. Won about twenty. He went to the dog show last year here in the park. He won the Golden Oldies category.


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