There are few places in or around London, as good as Dulwich, for a pleasant, almost rural walk. Try one of these strolls over Dulwich's southern hills, to clear the head and exercise the limbs after too much indulgence over Christmas or New Year.
Starting in Dulwich Village, follow College Road past Christ's Chapel and the Old College.
The Chapel was built between 1613-16 on the site of the village green. The College of God's Gift was founded by the Elizabethan actor Edward Alleyn three years later.
The adjacentt building is the Dulwich Picture Gallery, opened in 1814 and containing a world-famous collection of picture; and the mausoleum of the three original benefactors
Keeping to the gravel path on the left, pass two mid-Georgian houses, and weather-boarded Bell Cottage and impressive Bell House. Continue across Dulwich Common, passing the Millpond to Pond Cottages, a delightful row of weather-boarded Georgian cottages.
Pond Cottages were originally occupied by workers at the tile kiln that stood on the site of the College's P.E. Centre from the 16th century. When the kiln closed (it later manufactured bricks) in the late 18th century the cottages were largely occupied by farm workers from local farms. However around the beginning of the nineteenth century, the artist David Cox resided with his wife and family in one of the cottages. He painted a number of pictures of local scenes including the cottages, the pond and the windmill. Some of these are in the Tate Britain Collection
Opposite Pond Cottages is Dulwich College, built by Charles Barry Jnr in Northern Italian Gothic style and opened in 1870.
Continue up College Road to the Toll Gate, notice the tariff board displayed beside the old Toll House. Retrace a few steps and turn up Grange Lane. This pretty country lane ascends gradually to reach the entrance to the Dulwich and Sydenham Golf Club on the left, and on the right, Dulwich Woods. Enter the woods through the metal swing gate and continue ahead, uphill for a couple of hundred yards to a clearing with a seat, turn left and follow this path, ignoring all side paths. The path gradually bears left around pond and the golf course comes into sight on the left. The path now bears right uphill to reach the bridge of the old High Level railway line to the Crystal Palace. Exit through a metal swing gate next to the bridge. For the shorter walk keep ahead, downhill on a made-up wide path. For the longer walk cross the bridge to a metal gate on the left.
Dulwich Woods are a remaining but extensive fragment of the Great North Wood, an ancient forest that stretched from the Croydon Hills as far as New Cross. They are predominantly Oak with some Hornbeams. During Tudor times, timber from the Great North Wood was used to built warships and other vessels at the Royal Dockyards at Deptford.
At the foot of this metalled path (Cox's Walk), turn left along Dulwich Common, passing The Harvester opposite to enter Dulwich Park and retrace your steps to the Village.
The Harvester (formerly The Grove) stands on the site of The Green Man Inn, itself the site of Dulwich Wells. An early,18th century owner, John Cox cut the avenue down which you have just walked.
Dulwich Park covers the lands that once belonged to Dulwich Court Farm and other fields and was opened in 1890.
Go through the gate on the left over the old railway bridge, and continue down a narrow path enclosed by a wire fence. When this path ends, continue down a grassy slope to a metalled path between houses (Lapsewood Walk). On reaching Lordship Lane (London Road), cross into Horniman Gardens and follow the path uphill, past the ornamental garden to the exit in Horniman Drive.
Horniman Gardens and Museum were the gift to the public of the Victorian tea magnate, Frederick J. Horniman. Horniman was an ardent collector and the eclectic collection is the fruits of this passion. Originally, Horniman displayed his collection in his house which once stood on the site of the gardens but when this was twice outgrown by the enlargement of the collection he built the museum in 1898.
Continue along Horniman Drive (notice some interesting architecture, especially the Art Deco house on the corner of Ringmore Rise). When the road forks, bear right downhill into Honor Oak Road. Turn left and continue to the junction of Honor Oak Park, turn right past the Convent and in a few yards, enter a wooded path on the left with steps running steeply uphill. Continue along the level open clearing at the summit, along the metalled path with splendid views on the left over London and on the right towards Kent.
Honor Oak or One Tree Hill marks the boundary between the old parishes of Camberwell and Lewisham. The hill is the site of several historic events. Queen Elizabeth is reputed to have rested under the shade of an oak tree when on a visit to Sir Richard Buckley of Lewisham. In commemoration of this visit the tree was called the Oak of Honor and a later replacement tree on the spot is now railed off.
The Beacon on the left was erected to commemorate the Coronation of the present Queen but is a reminder of the beacon that was once placed here to give warning of invasion by the Spanish and later the French.
The Hill was also the site of Watson's General Telegraph, a relay system established in 1841 linking London with shipping in the English Channel
Follow the path down steps on the left; through trees, to a road. Turn left in this road (Brenchley Gardens) and continue to reach Forest Hill Road. Cross this road and walking downhill, turn left along Wood Vale beside Camberwell Old Cemetery. Follow Wood Vale, with its interesting and varied architecture to Lordship Lane. Here, turn right, downhill to reach the Harvester. Now follow the instructions as for the shorter walk
Approximate timings. Shorter walk stroll - One hour to One hour fifteen minutes. Longer walk Two hours. Power walkers and joggers deduct 30 minutes!