Not Greenwich Park, number 3: Manor House Gardens
Run by: Lewisham Council/Glendale Services
Distance from Greenwich Park? 1.6 miles on foot – cross Blackheath and walk via Heath Lane (map)
Manor House Gardens in a sentence: Secret haven in the back streets of Lee.
It took me until 2010 to discover Manor House Gardens. Why would you if you don’t live in the immediate area? Tucked away off the Lee High Road, and hidden on three sides, it’s easy to miss. I came across it by accident while on an early cycle ride – I wheeled myself in, and found myself gawping at a fountain in the middle of a beautiful lake. How had I missed out on this place?
So my knowledge of Manor House Gardens is limited. But I do know it was restored in 2000, bringing nature back to what had been a dead lake and breathing life back into the park. It’s dominated by the manor house itself, once owned by the Barings banking family but sold to the London County Council in 1901. The following year the house became a library and the grounds became a park, and things have stayed that way since.
Just below the manor house is an ice house, recently restored and opened to the public occasionally. But that’s not the main attraction these days – that honour goes to the first Pistachios in the Park cafe, a favourite with local families.
Come during the week and you’ll find a secluded getaway, with kids playing and mums chatting – but at weekends Manor House Gardens is buzzing with local families. Once inside, it’s deceptively large, but it’s only when you walk around the streets surrounding the park that you realise how small it is.
The revival of Manor House Gardens has provided a template for revamping green spaces all over London; followed even more closely in East Greenwich Pleasaunce and Hilly Fields, Brockley, which have both gained their own Pistachios branches.
If you’ve never been, it’s worth a look. You’ll wonder why you’ll never been before – but be grateful that this part of London can still offer such pleasant surprises, even to those who thought they knew it all.