pissarro's london

When the weather's a bit iffy and you don't fancy getting wet but have to walk, it makes sense to head to the nearest woods don't you think? The trouble with living in London is that, while there are plenty of fantastic parks to stroll around, its not exactly known for woodland.

Aah, but look where we found over the weekend ...

This wooded area could easily be missed because it's just a narrow and unassuming entrance off a very busy main road called Lordship Lane in Dulwich, SE London. However, once inside it would be so easy to forget that you were in the Country's largest city.

Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Woods is one of the closest ancient woods to central London and is the largest remnant of the historic Great North Wood. It is home to a wide variety of birds, butterflies and other insects, and also several types of wild flower, moss and fungi. Bats are also encouraged to breed here, although this particular box was inhabited by blue tits!

Oak and Hornbeam are the dominant trees which is a sign of the wood's ancient origins. Apparently Hornbeam was used by the charcoal-making industry in the area, which provided fuel for London until the 1780s. Its hard wood was also used for machinery and tools and is still used today for chopping boards.

In the middle of the woods is the remains of a folly that was built in a Victorian garden as a talking point for visitors.

But not only is the Sydenham Hill part of it a nature reserve, (the Dulwich part is owned by the prosperous Dulwich Estates), the woods are also steeped in a very different sort of history.

There was once a railway station at Lordship Lane and a certain French impressionist, Camille Pissarro, used to stand at this very footbridge ...

and did an extremely fine and famous painting ...

{Lordship Lane Station, 1871}

Sadly the station is no longer but take a look at how its disused railway track looks today ...

It's hard to believe isn't it? But one thing's for sure. I bet Pissarro didn't do this in between brush strokes ...

Pissarro lived for a time in nearby Crystal Palace and painted some beautiful paintings of not only CP but the surrounding areas too. You can see some of those paintings here, here and here.

I hope you're enjoying the Bank Holiday.

Kate x


  1. Amazing, to find such a gem in London. You could be in the deepest countryside. Lovely photographs.

  2. What a wonderful spot, and thanks for sharing its history - lovely photos especially the bridge.

  3. I really have so enjoyed this post! Many of my family were born, and brought up in this area, and I know for sure my Great-Grandad was born in Dulwich in the 1890s. To know that this is how he would have seen the area is just so interesting, so it's great to have the link to the Pissarro impressions. I love the comparison with the current photo to the bend in the railtrack, to how it has been portrayed in the painting. I hope I can get to visit this lovely gem of a place one day? x

  4. What a wonderful discovery! It is such a pleasure to find a bit of wooded beauty in the city, looks like a lovely time.

  5. Hi Kate,

    I'm having a catch up after being away from blogging for a while.

    I love this post! I lived for many years in this part of London; through my childhood and teens and your wonderful photos have brought back memories of how green and leafy it actually is.

    Before I moved to Suffolk I lived for a few years in a wonderful flat in a converted Edwardian house just a stone's throw from CP in Upper Norwood!! I loved it there.

    It's always such a joy to find a haven of peace in a busy city. Have you been to the picture gallery at Dulwich and the Horniman Museum?



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