One thing I just love about London is that so many diverse areas are so close to each other, for example you can explore the popular neighbourhoods of Southeast London, from One Tree Hill and Honor Oak to Peckham and Dulwich Village easily in one afternoon!
Whether you’re looking for your next neighbourhood to call home, or you simply want to have an afternoon out exploring some different London suburbs, come with me on a journey and discover some of South East London’s most up-and-coming areas, as well as the quaintest village in London!
Honor Oak Park
Honor Oak Park has charming period houses as well as a variety of independent cafes and restaurants and boutique shops. It has a friendly, community vibe and has become an up-and-coming area for first time buyers (both working professionals and young families) to get on the property market due to it’s easy transport links, leafy surrounds and slightly more affordable housing than in other London suburbs. Many of the houses have also been converted into flats.
Honor Oak Park is named so because of the oak tree at the top of the hill in nearby One Tree Hill. It is said Elizabeth I picnicked under this oak tree on 1st May 1602. The tree then became known as the Oak of Honor.
Places to eat in Honor Oak Park:
The main high street in Honor Oak Park also bears the same name: Honor Oak Park. It is home to several high quality and popular restaurants such as Mamma Dough – a hip pizzeria with bare-brick walls that uses locally sourced ingredients where possible, and serves great home-made artisan pizzas.
Grounds and Grapes is a popular place to visit for a morning coffee, lunch or a nice glass of wine in the evening. The patio out front (pictured below) is really beautiful.
How to reach Honor Oak Park:
Honor Oak Park is located in the London borough of Lewisham and has good transport links into Central London. It can be reached on the London Overground (on the East London line) as well as on the train (Southern Railway). Trains to London Bridge station take less than 15 minutes, and to get to Shoreditch High Street on the London overground takes 20 minutes.
One Tree Hill
Just the other side of Honor Oak Park railway station is One Tree Hill. This is a famous hill not only for it’s fabulous views over London, but also because of one special oak tree here: The Oak of Honor. The hill does not bear only one tree, as you may think from it’s name, but rather it has hundreds of trees. But you’ll be able to spot the special tree as you reach the summit as it is the only one surrounded by metal railings and stands apart from the other trees.
The Oak of Honor that stands here now was planted in 1905, as a successor to not only the previous historic one that died, but also the second one planted in honour here, which was struck by lightning, leaving only a stump. It is here where it is said Elizabeth I picnicked under on Mayday 1602.
How to find The Oak of Honor at One Tree Hill
It only takes a couple of minutes to walk up to the top of the hill (you’ll go past the Church below on your way up). When you get to the top of the hill, the famous Oak Tree will be on the right. If you carry on walking straight and slightly to the left once you have climbed the hill, you can enjoy some of the best views of London’s skyline. You can see The Shard, The Gherkin, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, even as far as Alexandra Palace and Hampstead Heath from here on a clear day!
It is also often said that One Tree Hill was the site of the last battle between the Romans and Queen Boudicca is 61AD. The summit was also said to be frequented by Dick Turpin to look out for potential targets.
Exiting One Tree Hill and continuing your journey right, you’ll come almost instantly to Brenchley Gardens. These gorgeous flower gardens are free to visit and you’ll even be able to find an old disused railway track here. There is also the Sunken Garden built into stone, plus you can even find parakeets and woodpeckers here! Brenchley Gardens also offers a good view over London.
Peckham Rye Common
Peckham Rye Park & Common is just a short walk from Honor Oak Park and Brenchley Gardens, just up Forest Hill Road. Whilst yes Peckham did used to be a rough crime-ridden area, the area has reinvented itself and is now a hipster area full of trendy cafes and some of London’s best rooftop bars! It still retains a nice village charm, and like Honor Oak Park, many young middle-class families and working professionals have now moved into the area as other surrounding area house prices are too high. Peckham is pretty safe these days, just take caution at night and don’t visit the park after dark.
Peckham Rye Common is a great place to spend a sunny afternoon. The very large park has several football fields and some beautiful landscaped gardens and ponds surrounded by willow trees. Just take a look at the pictures below of the beautiful Sexy Gardens, right next to the Japanese Garden.
From Peckham Rye it is a short stroll to yummy-mummy area East Dulwich along East Dulwich Road. You’ll pass the Dulwich Public Baths on your walk and shortly come to a roundabout. Going right here will take you to East Dulwich Station where you can get trains to London Bridge Station in 15 minutes, or if you turn left you’ll find yourself on Lordship Lane, which is the lively Main Street that runs through East Dulwich.
There are lots of great places to eat and drink on Lordship Lane and many independent boutique stores – it still retains a very distinct village feel. You’ll see bookshops, local cheesemongers, the East Dulwich Picturehouse cinema, and if you head off the main thoroughfare onto the side streets you’ll also find some nice places!
There’s lots of impressive street art and wall murals on the sides of properties here in East Dulwich – take for example our Queenie walking her corgis (located on the corner of Colwell Road and Lordship Lane directly opposite The Lordship Pub), or the two stick people on the side of a shop.
You can tell from the smart Victorian houses in East Dulwich that this is an upmarket neighbourhood. Keep strolling up Lordship Lane until you reach Dulwich Library, then make a right turn towards Dulwich Village.
Nestled between East and West Dulwich is affluent Dulwich Village. This is one of the quaintest villages in England and one of London’s only neighbourhoods that has managed to retain it’s unique and genuine village charm. It is really hard to believe you are just a few miles from Central London here: it feels like a world away! Dulwich Village is renowned for the world-class 400 year-old prestigious Dulwich College and Dulwich Picture Gallery built by Sir John Soane. Dulwich Picture Gallery is the world’s first and oldest purpose-built public art gallery, built in 1811. It features over 600 paintings, including those by Rembrandt, Canaletto, Reubens and others.
Dulwich Picture Gallery
This is an exclusive and upmarket neighbourhood full of upper-class families residing in it’s many stunning mansions and cottages surrounded by white picket fences. Many buildings in Dulwich Village are Grade II listed, including the local pub. There are lots of independent boutique stores and cafes with outdoor seating when the weather permits – this leafy suburb is the perfect place to spend a couple of hours on a sunny day.
There are also lots of green spaces here for families to enjoy, such as Dulwich Wood and Dulwich Park. Being here really gives you the feeling that you’ve stepped back in time. There is a distinct community feel here and the architecture is very elegant – check out the Dulwich Estate and Edward Alleyn House below, located between Gallery Road and College Road, next to the Picture Gallery.
Dulwich is home to the only remaining London Tollgate, located just past Dulwich College. It survived as it was built on a private section of College Road. To cross the tollgate now costs £1.20 per vehicle for a single journey – this is to control the volume of traffic here. It is free for cyclists or pedestrians to go through though. From the tollgate you’ll be able to see the famous Crystal Palace mast looming in the near distance.
How to get to Dulwich Village
The easiest way to reach Dulwich Village from Central London is to take the National Rail train from either London Bridge (arrives at North Dulwich station) or London Victoria (arrives at West Dulwich station). Dulwich Village is located in between the two stations and both journeys take roughly 15 minutes.
Brixton is the nearest Underground Station but it is almost 2 miles away, so take the P4 bus from Brixton to Dulwich Village once you get off the tube.
There are several other ways to reach Dulwich Village depending on your location, so the best thing to do is to check the Citymapper app. This will show you the fastest and cheapest way to reach any destination in London from your current location.
If you go through the tollgate and walk for a good kilometre or so, going past Sydenham Hill train station, you will reach Crystal Palace and the famous Crystal Palace Transmitting Station, which can be seen for miles across London.
If you are looking for some inspiration on where to stay in the East London area, check out my guide here!