Telegraph Hill Lower Park is a gorgeously quaint green space in Lewisham, and it sure does pack a lot in. From the weekly Saturday food and crafts market to the skatepark, it attracts a wide variety of people who experience its natural beauty in different ways. We spent a day in the park to see what goes on inside those gates from 8am until dusk.
8am: the day begins with the gates opening
Sunlight breaks through the trees, dew is still settled on the grass, and a group of pigeons provide a soundtrack to the morning.
While most people are starting their weekend with a well-deserved lie in, those with young children and an early morning exercise habit may have to kiss that luxury goodbye. Walking over to the sports area reveals a couple of extremely enthusiastic young boys playing football with their slightly less enthusiastic dads.
One dad says he loves the father-son bonding time of having a kickabout in the park, despite the early wakeup call. “I’ll miss this sort of thing when he’s older and doesn’t want to be seen in the park with his dad,” he says. “And it gets him out my wife’s hair so she can have a lie in.”
10am: market trading begins
There’s a fierce chill in the air, but that hasn’t put off the crowd of eager local families looking for an artisanal sourdough or natural dog treats. This is Britain after all; a little bit of cold never put anybody off.
Negotiating a muddy patch of the market, but not without a beaming smile, is Sabrina Smith, owner of Bri’s Kitchen Spot. Smith had a full circle moment while selling her homemade juices and cocktails in the park, the same one she brought her son to when he was younger. “I used to take my son to the play club in the park,” she says. “Back then I didn’t have the confidence to set up a business, but it had always been a dream of mine. I started Bri’s Kitchen Spot four years ago and I feel thrilled that I get to work at this market.”
1pm: a quiet period falls over the park
Since the morning, the sky has transformed from blue to grey. While the sun makes an attempt to break through the clouds, the park is decidedly quieter. The hustle and bustle of the market has faded to a faint background hum as people begin to swap the crisp outdoor air for the kitchen table this lunch time.
But two people who are making the most of the peace and quiet are friends Matt Holloway and Eve Rhodes, catching up while on a walk together. Holloway and Rhodes are both students living in the local area and feel lucky to be able to visit the park regularly.
Holloway, who’s lived most of his life in the countryside, values the slow-living the park gives him. “Coming here feels like home,” he says. “I lived on the South Downs, so I was always close to nature, and when I come here every week it brings back that feeling.”
Rhodes, on the other hand, is a Londoner born and bred, so has known nothing but the big city. “Where I grew up in North London there were a few really nice parks, so it’s great that exists here too,” she says. “It’s interesting not having known anything else, not knowing what countryside living is like. But I love being in nature in this park, especially by the pond with all the overhanging trees.”
3pm: the market comes to a close for another week
The sun has made a triumphant return, giving the park a glow and bringing it back to life. With most of the clouds now banished, families return after lunch to let the kids blow off some steam, and the afternoon strollers hit the paths.
The market that was alive with customers hours prior is now being packed away until next week, and the last few stragglers are fishing for end-of-day bargains.
One person watching this unfold as she surveys the park from bench in the sun is Huraea Bergen-Deryesh who moved to London from Turkey a year ago. Bergen-Deryesh uses the park every single day as a place to exercise. “I usually run very early in the morning, every morning, but now I can’t,” she says. “I’m fasting because I’m Muslim and it’s Ramadan, so I can’t do too much.”
Swapping the early morning for the early afternoon, Huraea has come today for a walk and to relax in the sunshine. “I love it here because the air is so clear,” she says. “All my life working out has been important to me, so I need to be in the clean air to keep my body fit. Every area of this park is so different; there’s the play area, people walking, the basketball area. Turkey is not at all like this.
6pm – darkness descends
Silence except from the sound of foxes screaming. The only light that remains is coming from the playgroup, and the park is almost deserted.
Among the few locals braving the unlit paths is barmaid Babita Sharma, who is using the park as a shortcut to get to work. “I feel uncomfortable walking through here in the dark, but it means I get to work quicker so I do it,” she says. “I’m very conscious of my surroundings which is something I think every woman can relate to. It’s a shame because people could get much more use out of the park if there were some lights.”
A pensive-looking man sits on the bench by the gate. You can just about make out his silhouette from the glow of his phone screen.
Dusk: the gates close for another night
It’s kicking out time and at this hour, without a single scrap of light, there isn’t a soul about. It’s peaceful, if not slightly scary, to experience somewhere that’s bustling with life during the day so deserted in the cold and dark.
Just 12 hours after it opened, Telegraph Hill Lower Park is locked up again for the night, ready to do it all again tomorrow. Will it be seeing you this time?
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For the rest of our series on green spaces, click here.