A Walk around The Rookery

From where I live, you can walk for 10 or 20 or 30 minutes and reach some of the nicest parks in South London. It’s one of the reasons I like it here so much and a reason why I chose to move here.

There is one particular green space, though, that has a special place in my heart, because I saw it first the same day I viewed my house for the first time. It was January 2008, and my house-hunting mission in South London had rather haphazardly landed me with two viewings a couple of streets apart, but also several hours apart.

I had the prospect of nothing to do for those hours except sit in a cafe, but with my A to Z to hand, I determined to explore the local area more and headed for the nearest open space on the map. My curiosity paid off and I found myself on a green slope overlooking south-west London and beyond to the Downs.

It was Streatham Common I had been fortunate enough to spot on the map, and when a flock of parakeets flew over my head I pretty much decided then and there that a house 10 minutes walk from such a lovely place had to be worth buying.

I didn’t even discover the best bit of the Common on that first visit – right in the heart of it is a walled garden, The Rookery, formerly the grounds of a long-gone mansion, which has been a favourite spot of mine ever since, and a big influence on my own garden planning.

It’s the kind of garden you might dream of in your best ever dream – stately trees in every imaginable shade of green march down a lawn, beyond that is a formal flower garden with bowers, trellises, a covered walk and wishing well, and even further beyond is a white garden inspired by the famous one at Sissinghurst, complete with cute white wooden benches.

Taking advantage of a brief sunny interlude on Saturday, we went down to the Rookery for a morning stroll, and I was pleased to see the April downpours had left it looking rather splendid. In the formal planted area, wedge-shaped beds were full of the brightest blue forget-me-nots I’ve ever seen (the ones in my garden are anaemic compared to this electric shade of blue) – and to contrast, a couple of beds were planted with pink forget-me-nots instead. I normally sneer at the pink strain as inferior to the classic native blue shade, but here the effect of the block colours en masse was striking.

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Apart from the gorgeous forget-me-not display, I was thrilled to find one of my favourite flowers hidden in a corner – London Pride. A variety of saxifrage, I grew it in my first flowerbed at my parents’ house, and have been looking for it ever since (I have a couple of other saxifrage in my garden now, but would still love to have this too).

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The flower came by its common name supposedly because it grew easily on Blitz bomb sites during the war – a charming story, but I’ve never yet seen London Pride growing on waste ground in London – usually it’s the rampant buddleia, bindweed or rosebay willowherb which sprawls everywhere given the chance. Either way, I was glad to see London Pride had found a foothold somewhere in the city which gave it its name.

That only gives you a tiny flavour of all the delights of Streatham Common – I haven’t even mentioned the Kite Day, the time I saw a fox cub in the woods, the cafe, or the gardens of Norwood Grove. It just goes to show, buying a house on a whim because you like the fact there is a common nearby can sometimes, whatever sensible estate agents may advise you, be a good idea.

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2 thoughts on “A Walk around The Rookery

  1. Pingback: Return to the Rookery | ladymissalbertine

  2. Pingback: Springtime snooping, 2015 style | ladymissalbertine

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