A travel guide to Camberwell

Earlier this week I encountered a group of baffled Australian tourists boarding the 343 bus on Southampton Way, and was cheered when a (possibly slightly over) friendly local actually SPOKE to them and welcomed them to London. But what this incident has revealed, other than to ignore that advice about talking to strangers, is that there is a burning need for a proper travel guide to Camberwell.

What incredible luck, then, that this year’s Camberwell Arts Festival, which starts this Saturday (16 June) has, at its heart, the intention to create exactly that! And we’re looking for local writers, photographers and artists – as well as residents who love the area – to get involved. We want the Guide to be a unique and unusual take on Camberwell by the people who know it best – and are looking for the personal, the unexpected and the quirky.

So, how do you get involved? Two ways:

1. Join us for our hands-on workshops, led by Samantha Cook and Greg Ward, travel writers for Rough Guide.

Travel writing workshop
Camberwell Library, Monday 18 June, 19:00

Travel photography workshop
Camberwell Library, Tuesday 19 June, 19:00

Pub and restaurant review workshop
The Crooked Well, Wednesday 20 June, 19:00

2.  Or email your contributions to kelly.​oreilly@​camberwellarts.​org.​uk

We can’t guarantee to include all contributions in the printed version of the Guide, but we will put all family-friendly pieces online.

But please don’t try and write a chip lovers guide to Camberwell- I’ve put many hours in to researching that one myself!

And there are plenty of other artistic happenings going on during the week. Check out www.camberwellarts.org.uk for full listings.

93 thoughts on “A travel guide to Camberwell”

  1. Interesting.
    I am a Blue Badge Tourist Guide and I lead a walk around Denmark Hill and Camberwell. The next time is 15th July.
    I’ll post details on my page nearer the time.

  2. @Kat Sorry for asking the obvious, but did you remove those empty squares from the email address?

  3. I’ll be giving a guided walking tour around Camberwell for the arts festival (though it doesn’t seem to have made it onto the programme — will try to fix that) on Sunday June 24th at 2pm. The idea is to show how Camberwell evolved from a sleepy Surrey village into the present inner city suburb — the perfect follow-up to Wednesday’s BBC piece on Camberwell Grove.

    It’s the final day of the festival and there will be a kind of artistic celebration of the old Camberwell Fayre happening on the Green. But we will nevertheless endeavour to meet under the big plane tree in the middle of the Green — it should be obvious.

    We’ll be walking up Denmark Hill (the old ‘high street’) and then bearing east via Love Walk to the Grove and Church, and then on via Brunswick Park and edgier North Camberwell to the Town Hall. It won’t take more than 2 hours.

    All are welcome. It would be great to see lots of people there!

  4. And to add to Sunday’s festivities, I’ll be on the green at the Tourist Information Bureau from 2pm-5pm showing the photos and asking people to say what they love about the shops.

    You can get ahead of the game, and then maybe go on the walk too by having a look at the photos here. Please feel free to add your comments and say what you love about each place.


  5. @Peter Ha, yes I did, promise!

    @MonkeyCat That would be lovely. I just wanted to say that unfortunately I can’t make the meetings due to Olympics rehearsals, but would love to contribute. I’m a writer anyway & live in Camberwell so could send some samples?

  6. Did everyone watch The Secret History of Camberwell Grove on Wednesday? Spent a bit too much time on the last 30 years and not enough of the more distant past, but that’s due to the availability of archive material, I suppose. Still, very interesting. Still on iPlayer, if you missed it: http://bbc.in/LEm3F3

  7. Missed it. Watched the Germany-Holland game instead. I would’ve been quite interested in the Georgian(?) history of the street. Still, if you recommend it, I’ll be there…

    Monkeycat, did I read that your shop-keeper photos will be exhibited in the Hermits Cave this Saturday? I’m looking forward to the Camberwell Arts Festival. It is most excellent.

  8. Great advert for the area if a bit long.

    I’m not sure anyone who didn’t know the area or at least someone who lives there would have been that interested.

    I also wonder what those at the top made of the fact that their houses are ex-council…

  9. Brilliant programme, superbly filmed. The angles and colours made the Grove look better than it is — and it is. There was even a glimpse of the Lettsom Estate dealer — “Bruv, can you spare me 79 pence?” — him. Trust him to get himself a look in.

    The Camberwell Society came out quite well, one would say, to say the least, after all the flak it gets here and in pubmanland. Far from being posh and exclusive, it is positively revolutionary. Only recently did it block cheapskate plans for the Mary Datchelor development down at the bottom of the hill until St George came up with something half decent.

    Nay-sayers, what dost say now? Consider the ladies who returned to Grove to talk about their childhoods in the tough times. Couldst cut it?

    The old Tudor mansion at the top of the hill — ghosts there, like in the yard of the mediaeval church.

    Many inhabitants may have found it amusing that the encroachment of pooterish dwelling houses around it caused the decline of the Grove. They may have felt a little sheepish, but they would also have felt the house prices rise with every second of the show.

  10. What a strangely introspective, rather boring programme.

    A reflection of The Camberwell Society perhaps.

    Difficult to imagine circumstances where Orhan and the Camberwell Society would be having a tea together discussing local issues.

  11. Oh dear.

    Buffalo at the Farmer’s Market today. We may only have one well, but there’s never a dull moment here, oh ye Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.

  12. IN trying to find the advert to tender for catering in Burgess Park I came across this on Friends of Burgess Park ’ website:

    “Additional works funding by Southwark Council of about £2m will bring the total cost of the Revitalisation up to £8m.”

  13. More fiscal news. The 99p shop in Butterfly Walk has started to hand out brand-new, shiny 1999 1p pieces in their change. Is this a result of quantitive easing specifically for Camberwell? The government may have given a massive stock of 13-year-old pences to the Butterfly Walk store.

    If only the shop sold bottles or even cartons of red wine. Those two-for-a-fiver bottles of Italian wine you see in corner shops have the most floridly written tasting notes on the back label. The cheaper and worse the wine, the more eloquent the screed; like the poorer the country, the longer their national anthem.

    99p wine would excel at this art: “This wine’s purple spume of preternaturally fructitious exhilaration toasts the vintner’s alchemy,” etc. You could collect 99 of the one pees to get a “free” bottle.

    You could party like it’s 1999.

  14. For those of you who use Warwick Gardens, the Friends are having a meeting on Tuesday 19 June- 7pm at The Villa School.

    Hot topics include: lighting in the park; the Green Flag application; and plans for fun and japes in the park this Summer. Council officers will be there to answer any questions.

  15. This will be a quick meeting of 45 minutes, presumably, and thence to the Cadleigh for the England foolball. Warwick Gardens has no beach, so the Green Flag application need take little time. [NB: there is a bloody great railway, but no beach.] The Warwick Gardens summer festival was much missed last year, and is always an absolute hoot, so this brisk meeting is most welcome.

  16. @ J Mark Dodds

    I thought that the Camberwell Grove programme was a good watch…the Deptford one the week before was absolutely heartbreaking…I felt so sad for them — I still recall it as a memorably vibrant market back in the 80’s but of course by then the damage had already been done.

    It did prove that the Camberwell Society do have individuals of expertise, knowledge and the backbone to achieve good positive results. The homes before roads camapign that Ms.Tanner stood for was telling.

    How they can constantly ignore the ex-Gala Bingo hall is really sad and dissapointing — the programme proved that that building wouldn’t be much of a stretch for them if they really wanted to help others improve the urban and social environment outside of the grove.

    p.s I would have really enjoyed a party at The Farm 😉

  17. @ Eusebiovic — if it’s not on their patch — they can’t be bothered. The evidence is glaringly all around SE5.

    Yesterday I heard something dully alarming. The Council is pushing aside (‘sidelining’ as it was put) local vision in Peckham and putting forward their own grand, visionless ideas, in conjunction with the faceless and remote gurus at RailTrack of course, and council Officers probably brought in from South Africa and NZ, currently living in Bromley and Bexleyheath while working up the planning ladder in the inner city. Hello Goodbye; quirky style panache and individuality banished forever. They’ll be looking for covenant and big money. Bye Bye the moment where Frank’s Campari Bar, Bar Story, Bussey Building made an impression. A big welcome Starbucks, Costa and Nero society.

  18. Just because they got involved in something they cared about doesn’t mean they should get involved in something you care about. Entirely up to the individuals involved.

    Thanks for your contribution further contributions would be gratefully received.

  19. @ J Mark Dodds

    Yep, get in some replicants who don’t have the conditioning to question the well worn path of planning policy doffing it’s cap to the negative side-effects of unimaginative, unregulated free market economics. It’s all we have so if you don’t like it tough, we’re going to ram it right up where you don’t want us too, despite all evidence that it is unsustainable and eating itself.

    I hate shareholder coffee shops.

    Long Live Tadim’s, Cafe Bay, Love Walk Cafe, Johnnies Cafe, Jungle Cafe, Sophocles…

    Thank You All

    I drink my tea

  20. Summer Fete this Saturday 23rd of June in Ruskin Park 1pm — 4pm

    Live music with the Cambria Choir, The Umbrella Birds and the Tones.

    Reptiles including come and handle a 13ft Python, Arts and Crafts stalls for children, Face Painting.
    Cake Competition get your cake there for 12.30pm judging at 1.45pm Judged by the amazing Bridie and Rosie’s Cakes.

    Tug O’War and lots of stalls Cake, Plants, Books, Bric‑a Brac, Raffle, Tombola and much much more.

    The Cambria BBQ and Bar.

    Held at the Bandstand

    for more information email


  21. New butchers on Bellenden due to be opened mid September. Next to Andersons I think.

    And he’s Tweeting


  22. Muggins here is competing with the footy to do a workshop on Travel Photography.

    A bit last minute, but come to the library at 7pm.

    See you there.

  23. M’cat, the Grand Union have a big screen. Make your way there. There are enough photographs in the world. Your series in the Hermits are travel pix par exllnce.

  24. Some people have been asking for an easier way to find out who is involved in the loyalty card scheme so here is a map to help.


    Don’t forget, you’ve got until Sunday at 6pm to get a card from any of the participating shops, pubs and restaurants and get it stamped in 5 different places.

    Some stonkingly good prizes, including a meal for two at Angels and Gypsies, £5 vouchers from almost all the shops, breakfast for two at House, and something quite special from the Hermit’s Cave and Stormbird. Really, Get going. Time, and the cards, are running out.

  25. On the subject of cafes, the new “Cool for Cats” cafe on Southampton Way is starting to show signs that it will be ready soon. The scaffolding has come down ready for the front glazing to go in. When I walked past today, it looked like they were having their gas connection sorted.

    The project is behind schedule, I think, but looks like there might not be too much longer to wait.

  26. Hi James J — Cool Cats, where’s that then? I should know I ride down Southampton Way twice a day. Speaking of which, is JJ’s still open as a cafe? And the new Tesco along there looks like it gets well busy. They spotted a gap in the market there for sure.

    Also, whats the latest on Burgess Park re-opening? We went to the new playground and looked over the new hill. The lake is way much bigger.

  27. Ah missed, my edit window. On to Part II…

    We watched the Camberwell Grove thing. Some good bits. If you had a million pound Georgian house with 6‑bedrooms, you’d be a little smug too.

    Overall, though, they helped preserve and restore an incredible street. Kudos for that.

  28. Friends of Warwick Gardens had a good turnout despite the risk of social death entailed by missing the footer. We’re looking for a new Chair come September if anyone wants to put themselves forward.

  29. Are the Fiends looking for help with the summer activities? Non-attendees may be keen — or wish to seem to be keen — to contribute.

    There is no social compulsion to watch the soccer, but you must realise that the player Nigel Rooney is a national icon. All boys follow his every haircut. Women swoon when he spits on the pitch.

  30. I was visiting a work colleague in Nunhead the other day, so I took the opportunity to arrive an hour or so earlier and have a good look and walk around the area close to where I went to school.

    I took a walk through the Linden Grove Estate — a 70’s build experiment which is a textbook lesson in how not to do social architecture and urban street planning. The “This Dirty Old Town” doc on the bbc iplayer could have inspired by it.

    It is bounded by Evelina Road and Linden Grove where Nunhead Cemetery is located.

    This was a road which was once lined with some amazing double fronted Victorian mansions which apart from a couple were completely demolished and decimated by Southwark Council in the 60’s — as well as many cottage terraces a few of which still exist on the periphery of the estate. Which are very well kept indeed.

    It made me think of The Camberwell Society (again) and the programme about the Grove on BBC2 last week. The thought occured to me that if the council had it’s way then the fate the grove suffered would probably be even worse than what has occured in Linden Grove.

    As the programme suggested it seems that 4 miles south was as far as the middle class professionals (who tended to favour north) of the 60’s were prepared to venture — 2 miles further south and that particular part of Nunhead would look vastly different and better from what it does today.

    I know which road I’d rather walk down.

    So for that alone, the Camberwell Society deserve credit.

    Perhaps they DO think the rest of SE5 is a basket-case…and all their energy has been spent over the years fighting the council to keep their little enclave intact.

    But things are starting to change…thanks to the efforts of many.

    The Arts Festival and Loyalty Card is a very good thing indeed — many thanks to the efforts of all involved.

    Goodnight Everyone!

  31. Gabe,

    The Cool for Cats cafe is going to be in the old derelict pub that is being done up at 149 Southampton Way. There’s a website here:


    Burgess Park is having its official reopening on the 21 July, which I think is the first day of the school holidays. There’ll be some sort of event going on. Unfortunately, some quite large areas, including most of the western side of the park, are likely to remain fenced off while the grass reaches a state that it can cope with people playing football etc. This depends on the weather over the next month, but the western side especially still has a lot of growing to do.

    The really nice, re-designed lake area will be open, plus the canal path from Wells Way to Trafalgar Avenue. Hopefully all areas will be re-open by the end of the summer. It’s been a long wait.

    There are details and a link to a map of the areas likely to remain shut here:


  32. Don’t forget Ruskin Park Summer Fete tomorrow Saturday 23rd June.

    At the bandstand 1pm — 4pm

    Loads and loads of things to do including handling a 13ft Python.

  33. And also a little reminder that the loyalty card scheme ends tomorrow. You’ve got until 6.30pm on Sunday to get your cards to the Hermit’s Cave. The prizes are honestly amazing, see the facebook page for more info, but they include meals for two at the Bear, Crooked Well and Angels and Gypsies as well as another 39 other prizes!


    All you have to do is get your card stamped in 5 different places and there is no minimum spend. There really is no catch other than wanting to support local businesses and them saying thank you.

  34. I stopped by Chumleigh Gardens with the kids after school yesterday and met a friend who works in horticulture and garden design. We were able to exchange views on the nasty mess the Council’s presided over there. I should have taken a beta blocker afterwards. This is what Burgess Park boils down to:

    The park has had £8 million quid spent on it AND it’s still shut. Months AFTER it was supposed to reopen. AND when it ‘officially’ reopens on 21st July most of the park will remain, errr, CLOSED.

    The remainder of the park — that is MOST OF THE PARK — will open some day in the future when the planting is well enough established and grown strong to accommodate hoards of people stomping all over it. Planting on ridiculous man made hillsides that break up sightlines, remove large parts of the park from use by isolating the boundaries from access, and aren’t even designed be used by humans. When that day arrives those parts of the park will reopen and the public will be able to see just how super the overall vision really was.

    In the meantime most of the park will remain CLOSED to the public (that being the General Public, the people who actually OWN the park, who cannot use THEIR park because their park remains CLOSED).

    £2million over budget. They couldn’t organise a pissup in a brewerty. THIS IS RUBBISH.

    Does anyone here actually understand just how much money EIGHT MILLION QUID actually IS?

    That park could have been comprehensively overhauled, improved no end, made more practical, more accessible more user friendly and made to look much more brilliant and be more sustainable than the mess that’s been made of it is now — for £2million and the rest of the cash could have been put into things local that continue to be ignored.

    And please for people who just think I’m a carper who moans from the sidelines. I was at the FIRST meeting called by Southwark about the park — maybe five years ago — and it was all about expectation management and the set up of guaranteed failure lines. It all worked. I’m pretty sure I wrote a post about it here all that time ago. I have a background in Landscape and garden building and studied landscape architecture AND Iv’e bumped into lots of local people with much better qualifications than mine and they share my annoyance and dismay about Burgess Park.

    Yet ANOTHER blatant missed opportunity, makes my heart race.

  35. Camberwell is special, yes. Hoping to reach Ruskin before the rain, but if there is rain, sod it. Are we downhearted? No.

  36. On a slightly happier note, I have just put up the almost complete list of all the prizes on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/36ReasonsToLoveCamberwell.

    There are 43 vouchers in total. Way more than I anticipated so there will be some runner up prizes as well. Some people are going to be very happy tomorrow evening. Get your card down to the Hermit’s by 6.30pm tomorrow. It’s going to be fun.

  37. There’s a breathless hush in the close tonight… Who will win the prize draw? The Hermits is crammed with hopefuls, blinking wanly and pale with hope…

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