#70 Climb One Tree Hill

In South London on January 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Unexpectedly finding myself at 9am on what began as a sunny Sunday with three free hours, and a red wine hangover trying to attract my attention, there was nothing for it but to go for a walk. As I was already out of the house when I received this temporal windfall (otherwise I’d have just stayed in bed, obviously), I just kept walking.

It took a while for my brain to catch up with my feet enough to actually formulate a plan of where to walk to, by which time I’d already been once round Peckham Rye, where at that early hour runners outnumber walkers by 5 to 1.

As runners like to assume the moral high ground in the runner:walker relationship, they think nothing of elbowing innocent walkers off the path as they puff past in a cloud of annoying healthiness and iPod-ensconced oblivion. Personally I’m happy to concede the moral high ground and claim instead for walkers the cerebral/ intellectual high ground, inhabited by great writers such as Dickens, Virginia Wolfe, Baudelaire, Iain Sinclair, Thomas Hardy, Andrew Motion, and too many more to list. I’ve just come across a book by Geoff Nicholson called The Lost Art of Walking, which I’m assuming will back up my argument.

[Science fact: Apparently walking is good for thinking because it increases the oxygen and glucose flow to your brain, without them being diverted to other muscles as they would in, say, running.]

Escaping the lawless joggers of Peckham Rye, I head for the literal high ground, in this case One Tree Hill, the tiny spot of woodland overlooking Honor Oak that is presumably all that is left the original ‘Forest Hill’ (now spacious Victorian conversion flats), once home to one of my favourite local signs:  ‘beware of the trees’. (This is second only to the legend outside the stables on the South Circular: ‘Free Poo Today’. I challenge anyone to resist photographing that and using it as their Facebook profile pic.)

The views from the top (or rather from the old WW1 anti-zeppelin gun emplacement) are spectacular. Unfortunately my photos of the view aren’t, so you’d be better off looking at those on the website of the Friends of One Tree Hill.

There’s also the eponymous ‘One Tree’, though it’s actually surrounded by lots of other trees, which slightly ruins the name. Its tenuous claim to fame is that Elizabeth I is said to have rested under its boughs on Mayday 1602, after which it became known as ‘The Oak of Honor’. However, this isn’t the actual oak, it’s a replacement planted in 1907, somewhere near where the original one may or may not have been. I’m still impressed: 1602 was just year before Elizabeth I died (aged 70) and this is a steep hill – she did well to make it to the top. Even I had to use the handrail.

One Tree Hill is also part of the South London Green Chain Walk, a 16-and-a-half mile route from Thamesmead to Crystal Palace park almost exclusively through green space. This is on my personal ‘bucket list’, a less ambitious equivalent of visiting Machu Picchu or swimming with dolphins, but one that will nevertheless need more forward planning than an impromptu couple of spare hours on a Sunday morning.

Here’s that sign. I actually know someone who has an after school job there who does a lot of the free poo sack filing. Occasionally, she even gets to write the sign.

  1. I’ve just been told about the South London Seven Peaks Challenge – Denmark , Dog Kennel, Forest, One Tree, Gypsy, Sydenham and Salters hills. A pint in every pub at the foot and summit of each peak. Can get quite messy if attempted in one weekend.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Midlife Manual. The Midlife Manual said: RT @jctblog: #70 Climb One Tree Hill: http://wp.me/pF383-g1 […]

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