On a turning off Peckham Road, halfway between the hustle and bustle of Peckham and the calmer retreat of Camberwell Green, is an intriguing, self-announcing metal arch: 'Lucas Gardens' read the letters.
Through the gate, a half moon-shaped wooden bench takes centre stage, luring visitors in to take a seat. Behind the bench is an ornamental flowerbed, its residents currently wilting, but adding a splash of colour to the greenery nonetheless.
Inviting though the bench is, it faces towards the road rather than the gardens, forcing sitters to face turn their backs on the green delight of the garden and absorb the noise and goodness-knows-what from the traffic pootling past.
Paved steps and a ramp flank each side of the colourful flowerbed, inviting visitors in further.
Beyond the bench is a well manicured rectangular lawn — pleasant to look at, but tidy enough that you feel you'd probably get told off for walking on it. Symmetry is the order of the day, with young trees lining each path, creating an avenue-like effect, and converging on a large tree which bookmarks the end of the garden, the sort of tree that's probably been in situ for hundreds of years and could tell a story or two.
But what’s this? The garden, surprisingly, continues beyond the tree, opening up into a bigger green space — not quite a field but certainly spacious enough for littl'uns to let off steam and casual sunbathers to pitch up on a summer day.
It’s less well manicured than the first part of the garden, flanked on two sides by 10-20ft-high brick walls, creating a sense of privacy without feeling claustrophobic. A quiet road runs down the third side of the park, less busy than the main road, with another entrance to the park. The traffic noise from the main road can still be heard from here, more of a gentle buzz than an intrusive roar.
To the right, a couple of rocking horses are surrounded by rose beds, offering somewhere pleasant for parents to sit while children play. Further ahead, a bigger play area looms, part colourful metal, part rustic wood, both equally as fun judging by the children who were making use of it on our visit.
Round to the left, a fenced off grassy area acts as a dog exercise area, meaning even Fido can get in some exercise before heading back to the main road and going home.
Like this? Why not visit some of London's other little gardens?