Words and pictures by Georgina Cook
Dulwich & Sydenham Woods have become my new favourite hangout – they’re walking distance from where I live and offer what sometimes feels like a jungle, framed by acres of Eden like allotments. South London’s Parakeets fly around the outskirts while inside, somewhat shy creatures, scurry around its dark mass of old twisted branches and roots. My partner and I sometimes go up to the woods with the sole reason to liberate pent up energy, stomping the ground and lashing dead branches around, safely contained by the towering oaks and Hornbeam.
While it’s easy to get lost in the overgrowth, we nearly always end up at the point where Dulwich Woods and their neighbouring council owned Sydenham Hill Wood meet. Considering that one of these woods is privately owned (Dulwich Estate) and another council owned (Southwark), it’s a pleasant suprise that there’s no grand border separating the two. There is however, an old railway bridge casually joining them.
Thanks to a sign on the bridge showing Pisarro’s painting of what would have been the view in 1871, it’s clear that the Ash trees with seed pods and all manner of shrubs that surround the bridge, while big and impressive, have been there for less than 150 years. It’s nothing in tree life, but to us, their magnificence makes it difficult to imagine that the railway tracks in Pisarro’s painting ever existed.