Norwood Park

Photo: Steve Keiretsu

Norwood Park is a low key place, only used by people who live nearby and unidentifiable to most. The distinctions between Norbury and the several Norwoods, all adjacent, are a mystery to most of those outside the relevant postcodes, and the difference can be hard to distinguish even if you live in the territory. The park is in Norwood, but it is not clear which: West Norwood or Norwood New Town, depending on your point of view. It occupies one side of the steep River Effra valley. The buried river roars, in the mind, past Fidelis Convent School and sweeps down the hill to inundate West Norwood, Herne Hill and Kennington.  

Norwood Park is also a spectacular place, with a heart-stopping vista of the full London skyline, from Wembley Stadium to the Olympic Park and all that lies in between. The top of the hilly park is ideal for reclaiming the city, affirming ownership of everything that has ever happened in the 30,000 streets, and everything that ever will. We spent several New Year’s Eve nights on the hill, watching for the eruption of light from points across the horizon as the clock struck. With 15 minutes to go there was rarely anyone there, but then people would emerge from the darkness and gather, some with their own fireworks, possibly home-made, some with radios and bottles. It was never organised, but it happened anyway through an unspoken, collective agreement that this was the place to mark the changing year. We stood there with people we knew and people we did not, some we will see again and some we will not. Once it snowed.