If I could travel back in time to visit the me of ten years ago, when I started writing this blog, to tell myself that he/I would still be doing it a decade later, I doubt I would have been believed. That I would be writing this anniversary piece under the shadow of a global coronavirus pandemic, as the UK entered its third national lockdown in a year, would have been a greater surprise than the fact Richly Evocative was still going – but only slightly.
I like to start at the western end, off Finch Avenue. To get there, I walk over a railway bridge that looks nothing like a railway bridge, then before reaching the corner, hop up the low wall between a hawthorn and a young oak, and then like many others, cut across the desire path worn into the grass.
The shared notion of the long-vanished tree-scape of the Great North Wood is a vital framing device…As Sam from the Wildlife Trust notes: “We’ve encountered lots of people who are hugely enthused by the Great North Wood…The ‘vast ghost-wood’ which overlays and interleaves with the modern built environment is a great source of inspiration for many.”
Nationally, many, if not quite all, orchards have vanished; having been abandoned or grubbed up because there’s no longer any money in them.
Yet, in Lambeth one inspired and dedicated group of people have set out to plant a series of new orchards, filling South London with saplings of hope.
Norwood is yawning but awake: shopping, grabbing coffee, heading for breakfast, haircuts, workouts, dates. Watching Saturday unfold beyond the cemetery gates, it’s a little difficult to picture a time when almost none of this was there.
In 1837 London was growing rapidly and expanding at the edges. The city had an urgent need for space and not just for its living. Traditional city centre churchyards and dissenters’ burial grounds were full to bursting – the metropolitan dead also needed somewhere to go.
An ordinary looking grassy field, at the foot of Gipsy Hill in South London, turns out to be anything but…
Crystal Palace, geographically at least, is defined by its height: Palace = Hills.
But, hidden beneath busy Crystal Palace Parade, there is something else, a stunningly beautiful place that is usually inaccessible to the public.
You can tell a lot about a place from the local shops.
Especially on Norwood Road.
Often its an image, or sense, of the physical presence of a place that draws me to it, but in the case of One Tree Hill, it was the name that attracted me.
A name that seemed so impossibly resonant that I had to see for myself whether the actual hill could ever live up to it.
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.