Nunhead Station is served by Thameslink services to Sevenoaks and by Southeastern services from Victoria on the Dartford via Bexleyheath line. Peckham Rye Station is served by the East London (Overground) Line, Thameslink and Sutton & Mole Valley services; trains go to Dartford, London Bridge, Victoria, Highbury & Islington, Blackfriars, Sevenoaks, West Croydon, Beckenham Junction and Clapham Junction. Both stations are in Travelcard Zone 2.
This south east London route links up several noteworthy green open spaces. It starts by meandering through the atmospheric Nunhead Cemetery, one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries of Victorian London and now, after having been resurrected from decades of neglect, a Local Nature Reserve.
You then walk along residential streets to Camberwell New Cemetery and the Honor Oak Crematorium in Honor Oak, and on up to One Tree Hill, the most northerly part of what was the Great North Wood and is now a wooded Local Nature Reserve with a magnificent viewpoint.
Walk through the linear Brenchley Gardens park and past Camberwell Old Cemetery and on to the large green spaces of Peckham Rye Park and Common. From there it is just a short walk past a cluster of cafés and modish restaurants and then along Rye Lane, one of the most aesthetically varied, culturally mixed and unique streets in London, to Peckham Rye station, with a plethora of food and drink options nearby.
Note: All cemeteries en route close at 19.00 hours (and earlier in winter). But while it would be a strange choice to not walk through the magnificent Nunhead Cemetery, an alternative route past Camberwell New Cemetery is described, to enable doing the walk with an early evening start.
The Ivy House (London’s first co-operatively owned pub), Watson’s General Telegraph, The Rye, The White Horse, The Nag’s Head, Four Quarters, John the Unicorn.
The Peckham Refreshment Rooms Unit 3 & 4, 12-16 Blenheim Grove, London SE15 4QL (020 7639 1106). Lunch served 12.00-15.00 Mon-Fri and 11.30-15.30 Sat-Sun. Dinner served from 18.00 Mon-Sat.
The Brick Brewery Tap Room/Slow Richie's (burger joint) Arch 209, Blenheim Grove, London SE15 4QL (020 3583 9640). Open Tue-Thu 17.00-22.00, Fri 17.00-24.00, Sat 12.00-24.00 and Sun 12.00-20.00.
The Coal Rooms 11a Station Way, Peckham Rye Station, London, SE15 4RX. Housed in the former Peckham Rye train station ticket office. Open all day (Sun to 18.00 only). Lunch served Sat 11.00-15.00 and Sun 12.00-17.00. Dinner served Mon-Sat 18.00-22.00.
Plus several other options in:
The Bussey Building (best: CLF Art Café), Copeland Park and Peckham Levels (best: Frank’s Café).
Green Chain Walk
The Green Chain Walk, also known as the South East London Green Chain, is linking 300 open spaces between the Thames and Nunhead Cemetery. In 1977 four London Boroughs (Bexley, Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich) and the GLC created it to protect the open spaces from building activity. Since then it has been extended to include sections in Southwark. https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/green-chain-walk
Nunhead (All Saints) Cemetery/Magnificent Seven Cemeteries
Nunhead Cemetery, originally known as All Saints' Cemetery, is the second largest of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries although perhaps the least famous and celebrated of them. The Magnificent Seven Victorian cemeteries were established in a ring around what were then the outskirts of London, but only two of them are south of the river. It was consecrated in 1840 and opened by the London Cemetery Company and contains examples of the imposing monuments to the most eminent citizens of the day. By the middle of the 20th century the cemetery was nearly full, and so was abandoned. With the ensuing neglect, the cemetery gradually changed from lawn to meadow and eventually to woodland. In the early 1980s the ‘Friends of Nunhead Cemetery’ were formed to renovate and protect the cemetery.
It was reopened in May 2001 after an extensive restoration project and is now a Local Nature Reserve. https://www.fonc.org.uk/ Open daily 08.30-19.00 (Apr-Sep), -17.00 (Mar and Oct) and -16.00 (Nov-Feb).
Camberwell New & Old Cemetery
Camberwell Old Cemetery, located on Forest Hill Road. It is part of the second wave of mid-19th century cemeteries that were established to solve the problem of overcrowding in churchyards. [The first wave of cemeteries is commonly known as the Magnificent Seven.]
The Gothic Revival lodge and two chapels (one CofE and one Non-Conformist) were designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott's architectural firm. Both chapels were subsequently demolished in the 1960s.
Camberwell New Cemetery is located on Brenchley Gardens, a short distance from the old cemetery. Following its acquisition in 1901, much of the land was rented out for other uses, including a golf club and there are large portions that still remain unused for burials. Some of it is now a recreation ground and there is strong local opposition to this land being used for its original purpose of burials.
Both are open to 19.00 Apr-Sep and to 17.00 Oct -Mar.
One Tree Hill, Honor Oak/The Oak of Honor
One Tree Hill is a public park, Local Nature Reserve and Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation, Grade 1, which is owned and managed by Southwark Council. It was once a part of a larger landscape called The Great North Wood, a natural oak woodland which ranged from Croydon to Camberwell.
Before the end of the18th century, the East India Company built a semaphore station on the top of the hill to signal when ships were sighted in the Channel, and it was used as a beacon point by the Admiralty during the Napoleonic Wars.
Its name, and that of the Honor Oak area, derive from the Oak of Honor, a tree on the hill which marked the southern boundary of the Norman Barony of Gloucester’s Camberwell estate.
According to legend, QE I rested with Sir Richard Bulkeley of Beaumaris under an oak at the summit on her way to Lewisham on 1st of May 1602. The current oak is the third on the site, planted in 1905.
The hill is reputed by a long-standing rumour to also have been the site of the final defeat of Queen Boudica by the Romans in AD61, while Dick Turpin is also said to have used it as a look-out post.
During WW I a gun emplacement was erected on the hill to counter the threat of Zeppelin airships.
Adjacent to the hill is the Honor Oak Reservoir, the largest underground brick reservoir in the world when finished in 1909. It remains the largest in Europe.
Peckham/The River Peck/Peckham Rye/Peckham Rye Common/Peckham Rye Park
“Peckham" is a Saxon place name meaning the village of the River Peck, a small stream that ran through the district until it was enclosed in 1823 (parts of it can still be seen in Peckham Rye Park). Archaeological evidence indicates earlier Roman occupation in the area, although the name of this settlement is lost. Peckham became popular as a wealthy residential area by the 16th century. By the 18th century the area was a commercial centre and attracted industrialists who wanted to avoid expensive rents in central London. It boasted extensive market gardens and orchards growing produce for London.
Peckham was the setting of the television sitcom Only Fools and Horses.
Peckham Rye is an open space and road. The roughly triangular open space consists of two congruent areas, with Peckham Rye Common to the north and Peckham Rye Park to the south. The road Peckham Rye forms the western and eastern perimeter of the open space. With the arrival of the railway, most of the Peckham fields were built over with housing, but in 1868 the vestry of Camberwell St. Giles bought the Rye to keep it as common land. Concerned about the dangerous overcrowding of it on holidays the LCC bought the adjacent last remaining farm in the area in 1894 and opened it as Peckham Rye Park.