Walk out of my house in Brixton and down the leafy road and you will get to Brockwell Park. Cross through the park, alongside a minature railway and past Brockwell Lido and it's well reputed café, and you will reach Herne Hill, a quaint village-like community somewhat at odds with the hustle and bustle of this country's capital.
For somewhere so tranquil Herne Hill has a lot going for it. Its station faces onto a square enclosed by cafés, homely pubs, a flower shop, an independent book shop and an old fashioned butcher's, greengrocer's and bakery. Just around the corner you will find the Half Moon, a gastro pub come music, comedy and theatre venue. Peppered further along the road are delis, cafés, a tapas restaurant, a children's toy store and bookshop and several independent gift shops.
With all this on your doorstop, Herne Hill seems the kind of place you could live quite contently without ever needing to head into the city centre. The first time I visited I found myself imagining myself doing just that; living in a flat overlooking the square, popping to the greengrocer's to buy some food for dinner then heading out to the pub opposite for a drink later in the evening. No Oyster card needed. What could be better?
The walk back from Herne Hill takes me through Brockwell Park, where the naked trees and cold sunset spell winter.
Places to visit in Herne Hill:
Herne Hill Books is a small bookshop on Railton Road opposite the station. Although something of a cubby hole of a shop this bookshop proves that sometimes less is more; everything on the shelves is wonderful.
The Commercial, also on Railton Road is a cosy pub with an open fire. I am yet to trial it myself but have pressed my nose enviously to the window and look forward to a pint there soon.
The Poet is a cocktail and wine bar next door. Did anyone say bar crawl?
Tales on Moon Lane Even if you are not in the market for picture books, this bookshop (unsurprisingly situated on Moon Lane) is worth a visit just for its window display and because it reminds me of Meg Ryan's bookshop in You've got Mail (the best thing about that film). Oh and it also won Walker Children's independent bookshop of the year.