Although part of the charm stems from its supposed secrecy, anyone in south London probably has a mate who’s been to Nunhead Reservoir - if they haven't already been themselves. The clandestine waterworks are submerged below a grassy hill near the area’s famous cemetery, about a 10 minute stroll east of Peckham Rye.
After you squeezed through a hole in the fence and scrambled up the slope, the rez treated you to some of the best views in London. When you cast your eyes from west to east, they’d take in everything from Battersea power station to the Olympic park, with the Gherkin, Walkie-Talkie and all the other monoliths of the city shimmering in between. In high summer, I’d swear you could feel the heat reflecting back at you off those windows.
As word gets around that a place like this exists, it naturally becomes a choice spot to hang out. One time when I was unemployed my mate had a Wednesday off from work, so we thought we’d treat ourselves to a trip to the reservoir. He had some MD left over from a previous trip to his parents’ house, so we ate all of it then washed it down with grape KA. We both came up while sitting on the top of that hill, just as the 1 o’clock light flooded the view before us. Everything was perfect and London never looked more glorious.
I’m not exaggerating when I say it was probably one of the best days of my life.
Earlier today, a friend uploaded a photo of Nunhead Reservoir. The normal fence was gone, replaced by one more suited to a border detention center. It looks as if there'll be no returning to the best view in London.
It’s easy to criticize the powers that be for stripping this forbidden amenity from us. We always think that we're not doing any harm. But if you've ever been, think back to the state of it once you had finished your cans and were walking out to leave? Every time I went, the ground was littered with empty tins, broken glass, nos canisters and all sorts of rubbish. I guess Thames Water thought it would be cheaper to erect a Gitmo fence than to pay to clean it repeatedly.
This city takes a lot from us, but this is one thing where we only have ourselves to blame.
I’m just glad we have the memories south-east London.
Is this melodramatic piece totally bloody wrong? Is the reservoir still easy to access despite my mate's forlorn Facebook post of a new fence? Let me know.