Opportunities for far-flung exploration have been curtailed during the coronavirus lockdown and you probably don’t want to read about a three-mile walk to Waitrose in Beckenham. So I will focus on a destination that is only partly foreign: Blythe Hill Fields, which straddles the border of SE23 and SE6.
Firstly, as anyone familiar with the topography of SE23 knows, the word ‘hill’ in a local place name indicates a substantial incline not suited to a gentle stroll. Blythe Hill Fields is no exception. Sitting on the summit of Blythe Hill, the park is reached by a determined walk up one of the many surrounding access roads. However, it is less strenuous than walking up to Horniman Gardens and the views are just as good, if not better.
Blythe Hill Fields has panoramic views of central London to the north, from Canary Wharf to the Shard and the City of London. To the south are glimpses of a far-reaching treescape, hinting at what the Great North Wood might have looked like.
The park has a lovely mood on summer evenings. The light from the setting sun casts a warm glow over the city skyline — a warmth that extends over the park itself, creating a magical atmosphere over the small clusters of park visitors. The midsummer magic wasn’t confined to this correspondent, as a member of a group of youngsters doing cartwheels was overheard to exclaim “We came here to drink and ended up doing gymnastics!”.
A visit to Blythe Hill Fields is further rewarded by including a walk up or down nearby Lowther Hill (warning: steep hill alert). Looking west to the Sydenham Hill Ridge reveals a wonderful view of Forest Hill and the top of Horniman Museum’s clock tower nestled among the trees.
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