Manor House Gardens is situated on the borders of Hither Green and Lee Green and is an excellent choice for families and a very popular location, especially when the sun is shining.
MUMMY’S GIN FUND SAYS
This is a really fantastic and very family/child-friendly park. The children’s playground is always guaranteed to busy on a sunny day, but equally has regular visitors even when the sun’s not out.
If you fancy a picnic, there is a huge grassy area to spread out a blanket on, but make sure you watch out for the duck and fox poo, that you can sometimes encounter (even more so now the park keepers hours have been cut!), especially closer to the lake.
On hot days, the ice creams, which are sold at the café, are a very popular choice, with queues often trailing out of the door. But be patient, as the staff are generally lovely and normally make the queue go down in not too much time. If you don’t fancy queuing, there is a local corner shop (Manor Lane/Handen Road) a few minutes walk away from the Manor Lane entrance, which has drinks and ice creams and food. If you fancy more of a range of food, for perhaps an impromptu picnic, there is a Sainsbury’s (www.sainsburys.com) at Lee Green, a five-minute walk away from the Taunton Road entrance and a Marks and Spencers in the petrol station on Lee High Road.
Food for the ducks
A very popular activity in the park or children, as with many parks, is feeding the ducks. However, there have been problems with over feeding (not to mention attracting unwanted wildlife…), with some visitors chucking whole baguettes into the lake. The advice is actually not to feed bread to the ducks, but instead defrosted corn and peas from home.
Still on the subject of food… Pistachios in the Park – the café – provides a good range of sandwiches, hot and cold, breakfasts, teas and coffees, cakes, snacks, crepes and has a kids’ menu. Their ‘Pistachio Club’ and ‘Tuna Priest’ sandwiches are recommended. The café also sells duck and squirrel food and local produce and wares. There is both inside and outside seating. Outside the café there are the dreaded kids’ toy vending machines. Don’t get caught out – the ones that cost 20p are generally just as good as the ones that cost a pound.
Ahem… not quite. The park does have its own toilet facilities, one male and one female (although, don’t be surprised if you sometimes find that these are interchangeable when there is heavy traffic!), which are wheelchair accessible, but these are fairly basic and can get quite messy, especially if it’s a busy hot day. There are also toilets available in Manor House Library – usually a much cleaner alternative and not everybody uses them.
The free festival
The Manor House Gardens Festival, held in June, is a firm family favourite. There are a variety of food and drink stalls, or you can save some money and pack your own picnic. There are also stalls selling arts and crafts and fair rides, but be warned about the queues! There is music, generally from local bands and choirs, and if the weather is good it’s set to be a fun packed day. The festival is currently free to visitors, but you are encouraged to show your support through buying raffle tickets, etc.
Did I mention the food?
The park has a weekly farmers’ market, which supplies you with a range of locally sourced delicacies, such as honey, cheese, pickles and meats.
A firm family favourite
Whether you are planning a visit on your own to meet a friend for coffee, a game of tennis, a jog round the park or to read a book in the sun, or with children to the playground, to have a picnic or for a run around with a ball, Manor House Gardens is serious contender for one of the most popular parks around (by Lucy Bosher).
A sanctuary for cream-crackered parents at 8am on a Saturday, who sleepily line it’s playground benches, fresh coffee in hand, having unleashed their little treasures to run riot across the various climbing frames. It’s pretty busy in the week too; a popular meeting spot for new mums on maternity leave who push their teeny bundles around the park en masse, gulping with trepidation at the chaos of the toddler play area and wondering what they’ve got themselves into. Yoga classes happen out on the grass some week day mornings, and there’s plenty of space to kick a ball around. Dog’s are restricted to a specific area and this makes the grass nice and clean for picnics and babies who like to eat off the floor. In springtime it’s not uncommon to find some ducklings, which locals enjoy watching as they grow up, fed by eager pre-schoolers every day. One tip though… don’t get on the wrong side of Mummy Duck. She’s a fierce one. What makes this park such a hit is that there’s also a library on site with a children’s room and some free singing classes that happen in the week, so it’s also a safe bet for a rainy day. The cafe does a decent coffee, and while the food is nothing to write home about, they’re fully stocked on food for the ducks and appear to be sponsored by Ella’s Kitchen and Pom Bears (by Esther Smith).
Address: Old Road Entrance, London SE13 5TA. Alternative entrances on nearby Manor Lane and Effingham Road.
Website: www.lewisham.gov.uk/inmyarea/openspaces/parks/Pages/manor-house-gardens. Friends of Manor House Gardens: www.facebook.com/FriendsOfManorHouseGardens.
Playground: Yes, aimed mainly at under 8s with all the usual equipment: swings, slide, climbing frame etc.
Cafe: Yes, ‘Pistachios In The Park’ serving hot and cold meals and drinks with plenty of kids options. They also host events and special dinner parties, check out their website for details: www.pistachiosinthepark.org.uk/category/manorhousegardens.
Toilets: Yes, see MGF Says, above.
Pram / wheelchair / mobility friendly: Yes, plenty of wide, smooth paths and step free access into cafe.
Parking: Limited pay and display on surrounding roads (9am-7pm) and free at weekends.
Train: Hither Green or Lee. Also walkable from Blackheath (20 mins).
DLR: Lewisham and then bus.
Bus: 273 will take you the closest, but you can also get any bus to Lee Green and walk for 5 minutes down Effingham Road.
Phone: Parks Office – 020 8314 7171.
Email: [email protected].
What’s on offer?
The park has a number of facilities for visitors, including a children’s playground (which could do with a bit of TLC), a large grassy area for picnics and games, ball courts, tennis courts, an area for dog walking, a lake, which is home to ducks, geese and cranes, amongst other birds and wildlife, flower gardens, a café and even has an ice house, which is available to explore at certain times of year. The park is also home to Manor House Library, which sits near the park entrance on Old Road.
Accessing the park
The park can be accessed via several entrances – Old Road, Manor Lane (x3) Brighfield Road and Taunton Road. There is limited pay and display parking on Old Road (Lewisham CPZ B) and Manor Lane (Lewisham CPZ P) during the week. Parking is free on Taunton Road and Manor Lane at the weekends, but only on Sunday on Old Road. As well as driving to the park, you can also access it from its nearest train stations, Hither Green and Lee, and also reach it by bus via route 202, and on nearby Burnt Ash Road and routes 122, 178, 261 and 321, which run along Lee High Road.
Events and activities
The park hosts a number of events through the year, including a very popular family festival in June – the Manor House Gardens Festival, an open-air, pop-up cinema in August, a weekly farmers’ market and sports activities for children during the school holidays, as well as other family-friendly events. You can find out more and keep updated about things happening in the park by liking the Friends of Manor House Gardens Facebook page: www.facebook.com/FriendsOfManorHouseGardens. The cafe is run by Pistachios in the Park and offers a range of hot and cold drinks and food, and most importantly a good range of ice creams, which are always a very popular choice. The café also runs its own events, such as special dinners on Valentines Day and fundraising evenings.
Review by: Lucy Bosher