Ruskin Park

It was, astonishingly, sunny and pleasant on Sunday so the wife and I decided to make the most of it with a walk to Dulwich, visiting the park and the village. That’s not Camberwell so I won’t bore you with that, but on the way back we decided to take a little trip around Ruskin Park.

The park was named in honour of the Victorian poet/painter/artist/critic John Ruskin who lived nearby until the expansion of the railways spoiled his view and he left in a huff. The site of his old house is where the Champion Hill Estate now sits.

I think he would probably be a little disappointed with his tribute; when it was opened in 1907 I’m sure it was lovely, but in the years since it’s become a little… let’s say, scruffy. We entered via the upper gate on Denmark Hill and first impressions were good; well-kept grass, lots of flowers, a few random architectural remains. But the further we walked, the more run down it became. There’s an overgrown bowling green, the bandstand is surrounded by aluminium fencing, the ground alternates between overgrown grass and patches of scrub. Unimpressive.

There were facilities which may have been impressive 15 years ago; a large football pitch (gravel, unfortunately, which explains why a large group preferred to play on the park with jumpers for goalposts), a few tennis courts and a childrens play area — a small square of overgrown grass with a tree stump in the middle. The entrance board also claimed there was a pond, but either we didn’t pass it or it was so covered in algae that it just looked like grass.

It’s a shame that it’s been left to run down, because the park is a good size and had a big crowd of people in it. A little investment would go a long way there. There were a couple of posters up for a group called Friends of Ruskin Park [Update: That’s what I thought they were called, but seems I was mistaken] who are campaigning for improvements. Good luck to them.

On the way home we dropped into The Phoenix so I could have a Leffe. The Sunday roast in there looks great, but I’ve been stung by their food before. Maybe I’ll try it, in the spirit of scientific adventure.

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

66 thoughts on “Ruskin Park”

  1. I agree it is a shame it is not being improved. This is the closest Camberwell has to a nice open space really, which every area needs.

    The only other ‘open spaces‘ i can think of are the Green, er, would you hang out there?, Burgess Park (ditto!) and the 2 small parks of Brunswick and Myatts Fields. Both lovely places too, but quite small.

    As you mention, it is a very popular park too. The pond is overgrown but is in the area near the bandstand.

    Maybe pressure to Southwark council is the way to improve all of our green spaces?

  2. Burgess Park is fine as it goes, but it’s a bit featureless. Chumleigh Gardens in nice in summer, though.

    Ruskin Park is Lambeth Council controlled, which is odd as it appears to be inside the Southwark boundary.

  3. Ruskin Park is OK but suffers from being on the outer edge of Lambeth (the boundary runs down the middle of Denmark Hill). Why bother to spend money on bandstands and ponds that would be enjoyed mostly by Southwark residents?

    The facilities in Southwark-run Dulwich Park are great — but then I suppose they would be. Brunswick Park is my local, and it’s fine. There’s a budding Venus/Serena who is out practising on the tennis courts there morning, noon and night. She’s awesome.

  4. The pond in Ruskin Park has actually just had a bit of a makeover but it does appear to have been a half-hearted effort. They have cleared away a lot of rubbish (I saw a rat there in broad daylight not do long ago) and shored up the sides and I think done some dredging. They do seem to have forgotten to put some water back in it — though to be fair they may have been expecting more rain!! Compared to the lovely pond in Sunray Gardens, where there’s always a variety of birds especially very cute ducklings, moorchicks and cootlings at the moment, and even a pair of terrapins, Ruskin Park pond is always a real disappointment.

    One more small park to add — the lovely Lucas Gardens.

  5. Ben, indeed i have seen the young tennis player in Brunswick Park — i agree, pretty impressive for a 5(?) year old!

    Burgess Park worries me as there are frequently Yellow Police boards around there.

    Talking of Ponds, the Burgess one is pretty nice too…

  6. Rachel: Cheers for pointing that out; I guess I must have got the name wrong.

    MarkB: I think Ruskin Park has the yellow Police boards because a lot of stolen cars get dumped there.

  7. Whenever I go to Burgess park — not that often — I think to myself, “They should plant about 10,000 trees here, and in 50 years’ time it’ll be a great park.” It was the last of the GLC parks, put together out of bits of derelict industrial land when the Surrey Canal closed. Hence that strange lime kiln in the middle of the park. Did you know there used to be a canal basin where the park entrance on Camberwell Road is now?

  8. Re Friends of RP — I think you have got the name right — but our lot are obviously not as well organised as the ones up north!

  9. One of my earlier posts was about Burgess Park. You can still see where the canal used to be, there is a long straight path — with an unnecessary bridge over it, at one point. I saw photos of it when there used to be factories there, and you can’t reconcile it with the park it is now.

    As well as trees, they need to put a decent fence around it to stop the joyriders.

  10. I have seen the mini williams at brunswick, isn’t her dad scary? If I see them there I can’t stay cos he just screams at her and is horrible, sometimes she cries and I don’t know what to do with myself…

  11. just a message for people living around the north camberwell area, i was assaulted and robbed last night about 1am near elmington road. 9 times out of 10 i would get a cab back at that time in the morning, but for some reason i didn’t last night. got a bit blase i think.

    anyway, not trying to scare anyone but wanted to let those people who often walk home early in the morning that there are some desperate people around.

    and apologies to you Cheeks, this probably isn’t the sort of comment that you want on your blog, but i wanted to let everyone know.

  12. The white shelter on the Denmark Hill side of Ruskin Park has been boarded up by the Lambeth Council. Upon enquiring as to why — I was told that the structure is Grade II Listed and is all that remains of 170 Denmark Hill bulit in 1799. Apparently the council are planning to carrying out a major refurbishment of the shelter. Let’s hope it does not take them too long to get it back open again. For more information contact Zoe Scanlon (Lambeth Council Parks) on 020 7926 6219.

  13. i like ruskin park house and the 30s flats in the area. is it pretty safe around here, i’m thinking of moving.

  14. Ruskin Park Estate is nice and the flats there are cheaper compared to surrounding areas. If you are thinking of moving there, try and get a top floor flat: they have stunning views over the London skyline which you never tire of. 2 beds are about 185K

  15. What a lot of nonsense about Ruskin Park! The pond is very well kept having been fully refurbished last year, there is a large childrens’ play area with all manner of equipment and the grass, trees and flowers are beautifully tended. Yes the bandstand is scaffolded but that’s because it’s being renovated. We should count ourselves lucky to have such a wonderful greeen space on our doorsteps, not whine about it.

  16. hello. just looked at a flat on the champion hill estate, right at the back near the shortcut through to sainsburys. i used to live on the aylesbury estate so i’m not worried about living on an estate, but wondered if anyone had any views on this one. is it rough, particularly? quiet?


  17. There is indeed an association called “Friends Of Ruskin Park” Membership is £5 a year and this pays for all administration costs and special events — On the 24th June 2006 there will be a party in the park raising funds for the improvement of the children’s facilities which are hugely popular with young families during the summer months — Camberwell College Of Arts are having an exibition there and there will be Ecology Trails and also Art and Crafts activities for children — Restoration of the park is currently being undertaken and the Bandstand,Cricket Pavillion,Children’s Toilets,Shelter and Pond have all been restored. (All that’s left is the derelict bowling green which is overgrown) — Also in partnership with King’s College Hospital they are now focussing their own CCTV Cameras to cover the park as well as the southern boundary of the hospital grounds. The only minus point is some rather unessessary green railings have been installed running down the centre of the park which really don’t need to be there — The centenary of Ruskin Park is in 2007 so hopefully everything will be beautiful for next year!!! — It’s well worth visiting for those of you who live nearer North Camberwell as it’s turning into a very lovely place to spend an afternoon once again

    Friends Of Ruskin Park:

    Chair: Mary Kidd 020 7274 4756

    Membership: Louisa Fawcett 020 7737 5561

  18. sean — you’ll be fine on Champion Hill it’s more than okay — I used to live on Aylesbury a few years ago so I think I can pass judgement!

  19. sean — The Yellow Brick Flats on the south side of Champion/Dog Kennel Hill (behind Sainsbury’s) have a good reputation,very quiet and they have had a long-standing tenants association for years there now — The red brick ones on the north side across the road have had a dodgy reputation in the past but they are soon to be refurbished and there is a tenants committee with social & youth club on Allbrighton Road so things are looking up there too now…

  20. I think Ruskin park is lovely and quite well kept very pretty in the springtime. I have seen a heron fishing at the pond there so it cant be too bad. We have been living in Ruskin park house for the last two years and are very happy, amazingly quiet for Camberwell.

  21. I live by Ruskin Park and I can tell the park has never looked as nice as it does now since I first moved to the area in 2002. I think the ‘Friends of Ruskin Park’ are doing a good job. Congratulations!

    Some things need further improvement though: the football pitch and tennis courts are very dated, the area by the railway just doesn’t look right, I think some small trees and shrubs would block the railway and will make that area more secluded. It would also be nice to do ‘something’ with the bowling green.

    I think the park would also benefit with a place to catch up with friends and neighbours. Parks are not just a space to walk the dog or doing sport, but a meeting point. The projected changing room (is ever going to be used as a proper changing room? mmh…) would be a perfect place to have a small coffee shop with some tables ovelooking the green.
    This is only an idea.

  22. Dahbeed — Totally agree with your comment about planting some trees to hide the railway line and the hospital outbuildings too (I’ve always thought that) — I have heard that the football and tennis courts are to be updated when they have the funds which probably means it may get put off until the next budget year — I don’t play Bowls but agree that it would be great if the bowling green was restored as this would encourage more people to use the park which is looking as good as I can remember recently — no doubt when the bandstand is finished we might get to hear a Latin Orchestra or two perform there maybe even an African one…

  23. How fascinating to read all your comments. I say ‘fascinating’ as I know Ruskin Park and Ruskin Park House so well — I lived there for 14 years back in the fifties and sixties. The flats housed a number of celebrities: ie Kelvyn McKenzie (currently ex-editor of the Sun), Gary Miller (singer of ‘Robin Hood’ and Acqua Marina’), Marcia Falkender (Wilson’s sec), Bert Logan the wrestler, Derek Jamieson (later editor of the Daily Express), and so and so forth. The flats are tiny but beautifully designed. I’d recommend the area to anyone.

  24. If Ruskin Park House provided a roof over the heads of both Kelvin McKenzie AND Derek Jamieson, I say it should be razed to the ground with flamethrowers quick-sharpish.

    Wouldn’t it be great to start a bowls team? We could get that guy Allcock to be our ringer. He had a curly perm, and is the only bowler I can remember, for some strange reason.

  25. The irony of it all McKenzie and Jamieson living in the middle of Marxist Camberwell — Who’d of thunk it?

  26. I spent many a happy day playing in Ruskin park as a child, and unless nostalgia has blinded me to reality, the park was lovely then, with lots of picnic areas, a duck pond, pretty flowers, and a fantastic playground and shallow paddling pool.
    My school Dog Kennel Hill often had sports days there.
    It was also a great place for conkering in the autumn and feeding the squirrels.
    Sadly I haven’t visited the park for over 11 years as I now reside in North Yorkshire, so its a shame to learn that the once lovely park has become run down. Lambeth council should be ashamed!

  27. I used to have a friend who lived at 140 Ruskin Park House and I wondered how far is the apartment complex from where John Ruskin’s house was? I remember as kids that there was some sort of an old beautiful house or estate nearby that we used to play near. Anyone who used to live there and who could tell me more I’d be very grateful to.


  28. Blimey! I spent the first eighteen years of my life in a one-bedroom flat in Ruskin Park House and often played in Ruskin Park. Back then I thought the flats and the park were among the most drab and miserable places on earth — but perhaps that was just adolescent angst. The flats were among the very fist council properties to be sold off — from the mid-seventies and were always supposed to be for a “higher” class of tenant. My mother had arrived there in the fifties and thought it was paradise compared with the slummy digs in Randolph Crescent( now million pound flats) where she had been…
    I do remember meeting the wrestler Steve Logan — but the most famous resident was Jack Jones, the union leader ‚who was then one of the most powerful men in Britain as leader of the TGWU.
    Interesting to hear of other people’s affection for the area — but I’m not moving back!

  29. Glenn and I lived in Ruskin Park House for twenty years, 1984 — 1994 at 91 and 1994 — 2004 at 143. We moved in 2004 to Winchester, but it took us a long while to settle after the friendliness of RPH. Really like Winchester now, but miss our old friends. The lovely, and very special, Jack Jones is still there as are some other characters. Living there was a huge privilege and we met so many interesting characters who became very good friends. We used to hear the stories of life there in the 50’s and 60’s, all of the characters mentioned in the earlier blogs used to meet for drinks on Christmas morning — some high jinks were had!

    The flats are very reasonable for the area, Denmark Hill station is a huge bonus, as is the 68 bus route. But in terms of local facilities and shopping I found myself more and more bypassing Camberwell. Fond memories of a time in our lives we will never forget.

  30. We were one of the first families to move into Ruskin Park House in 1951 when only A block had been completed.There were indeed some very interesting people there at the time because they were classed as luxury flats for professional people. Some of them not previouslt mentioned were Stanley Van Beers (actor), Ray Davies (musician/trumpeteer) his son Rhett who is a record producer, Dr Peter Sainsbury (emminent psychiatrist, Lesley Duff (actress) and others whose names escape me.Most of the families were indeed good friends for many years and some great parties were had there. We had a great childhood there with the caretaker of porter chasing us off the grass when we played ball games. We did have a good playground round the back but that is now a car park. There were so many children there you were never lonely.We spent many hours over the years in Ruskin Park either feeding the ducks or in the playground which used to have excellent rides. The bowling green used to be immaculate and at the end of it was a refreshment hut (but sadly this has now gone).The bandstand regularly had bands playing in it as well.I have been back there recently after many years away and sadly it has declined (but at least they haven’t sold pockets of it off and built boxes on it).Where is the brass sundial that was always at the top entrance on Denmark Hill, only the base remains.

  31. I think you’ll agree Ruskin Park is looking pretty good at the moment. There has recently been a huge investment in repairing and updating the structures within the Park. Also 2007 is the Centenary year. Come to the Friends of Rusklin Park meeting on Wednesday 24th of January at St. Saviours Church to find out more.….

  32. I think Ruskin Park is great. The pond mentioned earlier is actually very beautiful (although small) and is home to a lot of wildlife.

    The sporting facilties are great for London (tennis courts and football goals are not often seen).

    In addition, there are many little nooks and crannies to investigate and a number of walkways.

    Also, if you walk along the very top of the park — opposite the tennis courts and along — you get a fantastic panormaic view of London (Houses of Parliament, London Eye, London Bridge, the lot) especially breathtaking at night.

  33. i lived in brunswick park and after that albany road, loved it and miss it, live in rochester kent now, i remember the canal in burgess park, and the crypt in the old church, and when all the kids robbed the skeletons from the crypt and drag them along the path of burgess park then the old canal
    i could tell you some stories but im going to watch a film now so until next time

  34. I used to live in Finsen Rd.….1958 to 1980, till moving to France…was born there in fact,and spent all my childhood in that park. It was great then„,lovely gardens full of squirrels, crocus sprinkled lawns, ice creams from near the bowling green in summer, where the “cluck-chuck” of the bowls would be punctuated by the shrill cries of kids playing on the nearby fields. Autumn dawns with the musty smell of conkers mixed with wood-fire smoke from the gardeners’ work-place.
    I know,the park got all run-down in the Eighties, and I know it is having a re-birth now.
    Glad to hear of the existence of The Friends of Ruskin Park.
    I, am one of those friends..even thouh I’m miles away.……
    Sylvia Trigs-Rizzolio

  35. Ruskin Park is one of the places in Camberwell that still really works, Sylvia. The kids’ paddling pool is great in the hot summers we now share with you in France. You’ll see every kind of face and person in Ruskin.

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