Walking into Brockwell Park is a little like walking into the set of a Jane Austen period piece. The late Georgian Brockwell Hall is a perfect foil for a contemporary Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot or Marianne Dashwood. So go ahead and imagine yourself wandering in the grounds of Longbourn/ Kellynch/ Norland Park (though this may be a challenge with a truculent toddler). You will be brought down to earth with a bit of a bump if you walk into the cafe at the hall, so instead head for the community garden and its greenhouses, or the quiet walled garden behind (formerly the estate’s kitchen garden).
Its sweeping, bucolic landscape makes Brockwell Park one of the best green spaces in London. It’s a great place for a walk and a picnic (try Blackbird Bakery in Herne Hill for provisions). For the possibly more pressing issue of entertaining your small fry (more pressing I mean than looking around to see if Mr Darcy is emerging from a nearby pond) there’s an adventure playground and a recently upgraded water play and sandpit area. There’s also a community garden with greenhouses and weekly kids’ activities. To round it all off, there’s an annual fair, the Lambeth Country Show, held in July.
If you need food and drink, Brockwell Hall has an austere but kid-friendly cafe. If you want the fleshpots, there’s a modern British restaurant at Brockwell Lido, the Lido Cafe, with high chairs and a children’s menu.
Brockwell Lido, a complex situated on the Herne Hill side of the park, has yoga classes for mums and babies or toddlers and preschool music classes. The Lido Cafe is a popular meeting place for groups of new mums. Swimming in very cold water isn’t recommended for small children (and there are some adults who aren’t that keen either), so the lido itself may best be sampled as an attractive visual from within the synonymous cafe.
On Sundays there’s a ride-on miniature train (£1; Sun 11am-4pm). After you’ve had a ride on the train and a wander in the grass, cross Dulwich Rd to Herne Hill Farmers Market (Railton Rd, SE24 0JN, Sun 10am-4pm), a lively Sunday street market in front of the station.