With Nunhead Art Trail on the horizon, The Resident takes a look at the changing face of Nunhead, one of south east London’s best kept secret villages sandwiched between Peckham and East Dulwich
Words: Trish Lesslie
Snuggled between the hipster-heartland of Peckham and the yummy-mummy central that is East Dulwich, Nunhead has an identity all of its own. From the double-fronted houses of Tresco Road to the fine, flat-fronted Regency villas on St Mary’s Road, the neighbourhood is a much in-demand enclave of period properties with a great sense of community.
As you might expect, Nunhead has seen a recent influx of young families priced out of East Dulwich who have been snapping up properties in the roads close to Ivydale Primary School. Limesford Road, Hichisson Road, Cheltenham Road and Surrey Road are also popular with new arrivals, who include plenty of defectors from hip east London hotspots, drawn in by Peckham’s thriving nightlife and art scene, and easy access to Shoreditch and its neighbours courtesy of the Overground.
The open spaces of Peckham Rye Park and Common comprise both a restored Victorian Park and a historic common that provide peaceful refuge. Featuring ornamental gardens, flowing streams, woodland and a lake, there’s also a popular café, skatepark, playground, outdoor gym and bookable football pitches, making this a community hub all year round.
Legend has it that Nunhead got its name from a feisty abbess who refused to agree to the disbandment of her nunnery by Henry VIII’s henchmen and was beheaded for her insubordination. The truth may have been lost in the midst of time, but today Nunhead life revolves around its tucked-away high street, Evelina Road, home to one of the capital’s best fishmongers, the family-run F.C. Soper, and traditional butcher, H.A. Smith & Son, which has been a local fixture since 1955 – the same year nearby Ayres Bakery opened up. Papa Bear, which sells mid-century furniture, is among the other high street highlights.
Legend has it that Nunhead got its name from a feisty abbess who refused to agree to the disbandment of her nunnery by Henry VIII’s henchmen and was beheaded for her insubordination
Adding to its unique flavour, the area even has its own, rather unusual golf club – the volunteer-run Aquarius Golf Club in Marmora Road, which has a nine-hole course laid out around and on the roof of the covered Beechcroft Reservoir.
The pubs are pretty exceptional too. The mock Tudor Old Nun’s Head on Nunhead Green hosts regular music events and serves a variety of street food including burgers from top pattie makers Burger Bear and a delicious selection of scotch eggs from Pig & Hay in Camberwell.
The refurbished Waverley Arms on Ivydale Road has a cosy patio garden and serves up a decent Sunday lunch, while The Ivy House on Stuart Road made history when it was listed as an asset of community under the provisions of the Localism Act and became the first co-operatively owned pub in the land.
A swathe of pop-up cocktail bars, art events and regular film screenings have injected new life into an area once best known for its historic cemetery (home to romantic, crumbling monuments). Among the most established cultural events is the Nunhead Art Trail, now in its fourth year, which takes place on 24-25 September.
An opportunity for local artists and craftspeople to show their work in their own homes, studios or public venues in the area, visitors can buy everything from ceramics, collage, sculpture and textiles to jewellery, glassware and handmade furniture, as well as original artworks direct from their creators.
There will be 82 exhibitors across 50 venues including the chapel ruin in Nunhead Cemetery. Hundreds of visitors are expected over the course of the weekend, so check the website to plan your trip and bag yourself something unique from this special corner of south London.
Artists to see at Nunhead Art Trail
Find out more about the artists involved at nunheadarttrail.co.uk