The Streatham Common amphitheatre is a natural depression in the south facing slope of the hill that takes the park up towards the high point where a ridge carries the main road to South Norwood. It is actually in Norwood Grove, invisibly separated from Streatham Common by the borough boundary between Lambeth and Croydon. Once part of the grounds of the Norwood Grove mansion, known as the White House, the amphitheatre is framed by trees on either side, but the view south is open. Often used for outdoor performances, during the spring and summer of 2020 it was occupied by household groups who took their permitted exercise, staying well apart while their dogs chased each other over the grass banks in elaborate games of attack and submission.
As a picnic spot, the amphitheatre has no equal, at least in Streatham. The view south covers the towers of Croydon with a sample of every tall building type of the past 60 years. This includes Saffron Tower, clad in computer-generated pink and purple patterning, and the double towers at 101 George Street, clad in the opposite – a dark green faience that looks black in views from any distance. Closer, the houses of Norbury ride a low hill, and on the horizon beyond the city is an unbroken line of green. These are the North Downs, forming the end point to all views south out of London. During lockdown we gazed at these hills which formed the limits of our visible world, but were out of reach like a land across a sea. Later in the summer, when travel was allowed, we walked the full line of the ridge and stood on the North Downs Way above Caterham. A view opened up of the central London skyline, the furthest point from which it can be seen, and we looked back trying to spot a patch of grass too small to be visible to the human eye.