This triangular plot of a park can be found just off the Old Kent Road, and is the result of housing clearance in the 1970s.
This part of London was developed in the middle of the 19th century from farms owned by the Hill family and was for a while known as Peckham New Town, although that name has long since faded from use. That incidentally is why there’s a Peckham Hill street – it’s named after the former owners of the land. It’s said that Bird in Bush Road, which the park sits alongside is named after one of the fields that used to be in the area.
The specific details of why the block was demolished have not been found, but the area was suffered a severe decline in the 1970s, being one of the most deprived areas in Western Europe. Many houses in the area became run down and many houses were left empty. It seems that the council bought the entire block in the late 1970s with an intention to clear the land for later redevelopment. The whole block minus the pub on the corner was cleared in 1979.
An attempt by the council to then redevelop the land in 1988 was opposed by people living locally, who unsurprisingly liked having a park here, and it’s remained a park ever since.
Today the pocket park can be divided into three zones, a classic open lawn area, a play and nature park, and unusually, a BMX bike arena.
The undulating landscape for bikers to practice on gives the park a curious aspect, as if an unfinished building site is sitting right next to a well-maintained lawn. Although many bikers moved to Burgess Park in 2004, this bike area is still popular, and more recently has become a meeting point for wheelie skill show-offs events, and the legacy of the early Bird in Bush Park tracks can be found in one of the best clubs in the UK.
The nature reserve patch, more of a fenced-off bit of field with trees has a number of tiles painted by local schoolchildren showing some of the birds to be found in Bird in Bush Park.
The metal benches caught my attention, as for all their rather utilitarian appearance, they’re probably better at drying out on a damp day than most park benches, so maybe not such a bad idea after all.