Unlocking Crystal Palace’s Magical Sprite Village

Guest post by Abi Gilbert

When I were a lass – growing up alongside the North Yorkshire moors – my daily life was infused with the magical stories which my Dad told me about sprites and fairies.

No trip into Ilkley, tramp up Hebers Ghyll, or mere visit to the shops was left uninhabited by these mythical beings. I was reliably told, and believed absolutely, that they were hiding behind walls and trees and under bridges. I built homes for these friendly folk, and they sometimes visited in the night to collect the food that I left for them, but I never, ever saw them.

Wind-whirled in West Dulwich

Yesterday, the St Jude storm sent me on something of a dérive within a small area of Lambeth. There were no trains due to the winds, so instead of standing on Tulse Hill’s platform 1, I made for Brixton, but wanting to avoid the main roads, headed up a road I’d never walked along before.

In between Norwood

The pervading spirit of some places hangs quite obviously in the air. Even if you’re only passing through and not looking very hard, the distinctive atmosphere will soon make itself apparent.

West Norwood isn’t one of those places.

The oasis round the back of the station

Every area of urban green space has it’s own particular history. However, in a general sense, it’s probably true to say that the reason for a specific site’s continued existence will be one of three: it’s a cherished survivor, it’s hung on by chance, or it’s been deliberately created in a spot that was previously home to something else.

The not so secret garden

Grand plans and remodelling on a citywide scale never seem to have worked in London. It doesn’t possess the triumphant avenues, boulevards and grid layouts of other major world cities.

This means that some of its most interesting spaces: old churches, museums, wonderful little shops, pubs, statues, gardens and even whole streets sometimes take a little finding.

Still raucously Ridley: Dalston’s Street Market

In the last half century, visions of Dalston have been refracted in many different ways, from cult 1950s novels, 90s Yardie tales, angst-ridden millennial films to the clean windows of hip coffee shops. But for me, as an ex-resident, its pulsing, vital heart remains the stalls and sounds and crush of Ridley Road Market.

Catching the last bus home

I’ve always found bus drivers to be rather surly to say the least. But conductors were always a little different. There was a fascinating Arena documentary on TV the other night, all about five different, famous – in their way – conductors on the much missed London Routemasters. One of them – Duke Bassie –…

Along the Regent’s Canal – North London’s side entrance

The best way to approach London, according to Jonathan Raban at least, is from the north. You should drive down via Archway to take in the fabled Dick Whittington hillside view of the city and descend deeper within, until you reach the river Thames, where London’s full glory will hit you.

My own arrival was rather prosaic by comparison: a dull coach journey up the M4 from Bristol, which ended up amid the traffic at Hyde Park Corner