I have a couple of previous connections with Ladywell Fields. The first is that I used it as the name of a 1930s transvestite in a choose-your-own-adventure-poirot-spoof I wrote for a friend of ours. Along with her friend Victoria Busstation.
The other is that I’d been there before, around 6 years ago. My friend Varnia was working in Lewisham Hospital at the time and I used to go and meet her for lunch. Together, we explored the wonders of hospital cuisine, as well as the very literal pub a few doors down, where a burger in a bun was just that – no sauce, no salad of any kind. Just meat and bread. They probably called a spade a spade as well.
One day, I decided to get the train from Ladywell home instead of jumping on the 436. I walked out of the back of the hospital and was confused to find myself in the middle of a nature reserve. Even more confusingly, there was a train station in the middle of it, which took me to London Bridge in a few minutes. It was like a little bit of countryside in a grotty bit of Lewisham. That’s London for you – full of surprises.
So, my transvestite’s namesake was well overdue for a revisit. It was baby Joshua’s birthday, so we went for a picnic in the North field. We parked on a road that ran parallel to the field on the map, but turned out to be separated by a railway line. Luckily my Google Street View research had shown something green at the end of the road, and yes there was a big bridge which led to the north field:
It was curvy with wide steps but also a tarmac slope that someone had just stuck on top of half the step. It wasn’t the slickest job. But it was accessible by buggy, and that was all that mattered. Incidentally, finding parking was a lot easier than it was on our last trip to see baby Joshua, thanks to the tactic of “checking where you’re going before you leave”. I think it’s really gonna catch on!
So, we found the right field and lost Reuben. There was a large play area with a zipwire in it and apparently it’s physically impossible to walk past one of those. I left him and Nathan there and me and Eva went to find the picnic, up at the station end. Roo came back to join us eventually, but he was drawn to the zipwire again and again.
The rest of us hung out next to the stream, conveniently near the loos and with its own little wooden play area. Reuben did enjoying pretending to be a look out and shouting “ship ahoy!” at passers by.
It was pretty clean water, for South London and there was a kind of beach where you could get in with going through the stinging nettles. If it had been warmer, I would have joined him but it was mostly cold enough to be wearing cardigans and jackets all round.
I did join him in a gentle game of pooh sticks, on this perfect pooh-stick-playing bridge:
It’s a surprisingly tranquil spot for deep South London, especially seeing as it’s sandwiched between a hospital and a railway line. The weather threatened to rain but never convincingly did until we were ready to go and so we made a break for it. And we’d been pre-warned that things might get muddy, so we dressed Eva entirely in mud-pallette boys’ clothes. Her pretty girly things just show the stains…