A place of triumphs and disasters, this green space may no longer boast a regal glasshouse but retains an eccentric charm
Last summer, a competition was launched called the World Cup of South London Parks. The format was knockout, pitting 32 of south London’s finest green spaces against each other (voted for in Twitter polls) until only one remained standing. Perhaps because there was so little actual sport on, this World Cup proved to be tribal and unexpectedly gripping. There were the big beasts: Wimbledon Common with its Wombles; Greenwich Park, a world heritage site no less; and Richmond Park with its rutting stags. Also, plucky underdogs: Peckham Rye and Archbishop’s Park, with its terrifying 225-metre zip wire.
Crystal Palace Park, though, destroyed this formidable field. First-time visitors to the 200 acres of rolling parkland between Sydenham and Penge might be a little bemused by this result. Go on a Sunday and the loudest noise will not be birdsong, but the droning buzz of the radio-controlled model-car racing club, which occupies prime real estate in the centre.