Peckham Rye is a public green space in South London made up of a 49-acre park and a common area covering a further 64 acres. The Rye has a long and fascinating history – first being recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. Several hundred years later, the poet William Blake walked from the City of London to Peckham Rye in 1767 and saw a cloud of angels in a great oak tree on the common. By the early 1860s, there were concerns that the Rye was becoming privately owned and misused. The tipping point was the day the Wombells Wild Beast show arrived causing the local community to take action. In 1868 it was purchased for the public by the Camberwell Vestry.
Nowadays the Rye is a green oasis in the centre of Peckham that is used by all aspects of the community for a whole range of uses. Alongside the people, the woods, wildflower meadows, and ponds of Peckham Rye support a surprisingly varied and interesting range of wildlife. With highlights including jays, woodpeckers, parakeets, herons, cormorants, and kestrels. You can find out more on the Friends of Peckham Rye Park website – a volunteer community group dedicated to preserving and maintaining the park.
Average rating: 3.0 (good)
Average cost: free!
Best time to visit: you can visit the park year-round. Our favourite times are cold, bright mornings in Spring and Autumn, or long, lazy Summer evenings.
How to get there: it’s easy to get to the park from one of the many buses that stop nearby, or its a 15-20 min walk from Peckham Rye, East Dulwich, Nunhead, or Honor Oak Park train stations. Accessibility is great with lots of paths and benches, as well as a children’s play area, skatepark, cafe, and loads of other amenities. Peckham Rye is part of the Green Chain Walk which links up to other green spaces in South London including Sydenham Hill Wood and One Tree Hill.
Typical activities: bird watching, dog walking, jogging, picnics, running, sports
Number of reports: 12
WILDLIFE IN Peckham Rye
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:
Eurasian Jay – 17% OF WILDSIDE USERS (2/12) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Jays are beautifully coloured members of the crow family. They are easily recognised by the brilliant blue feathers on their wings. You can find them on the Rye year-round, although for much of the year they can be hard to spot. Unlike crows and magpies, they are shy birds. So look out for a flash of white and blue and a screaming call as they fly between the trees. The best time to spot them is Autumn when they move about the trees looking for food. During this time they are easy to spot hunting for acorns which they store in their favourite hiding places to provide a source of food for the winter.
Great Cormorant – 25% of WildSide Users (3/12) reported sightings
Surprisingly for a park in the middle of bustling Peckham, the pond in the centre of the Rye provides a home to great cormorants. They appear to be occasional visitors to the area, with members of the Friends of Peckham Rye reporting that there used to be up to five cormorants living on the pond a number of years ago. Today you can occasionally catch a glimpse of these unique visitors to the area. Cormorants stand out unmistakably from the other water birds found in the Rye. Look out for a black bird with a slender neck spreading their wings and clearing their feathers.
Great spotted woodpecker – 8% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/12) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Great spotted woodpeckers are beautiful black and white birds with a shock of red on their bellies. The males also have bright red necks. They can occasionally be seen on the trunks of large, old trees on the Rye looking for grubs. Despite their striking colours, woodpeckers can be difficult to spot among the leaves. One way to find them is to stand still and listen out for their distinctive call – a loud ‘click’ or ‘tchick’ sound. You can also listen out for the incredible drumming sound which they make as they peck holes in trees.
Ring Necked Parakeet – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (12/12) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Another bird that you’re likely to hear before you see is the ring necked parakeet. These are noisy, raucous, squawking creatures. And they aren’t shy! It’s pretty much impossible to visit the Rye without seeing or hearing these colourful characters. They are called ‘ring necks’ as the adults have a dark circle around the backs of their necks. They are perfectly at home on the Rye as there are lots of old trees with holes to nest in. There are various stories about how they ended up in England, but they seem to quite like it here, even though their native range is tropical!
Photo Credit: WildSide team member Lizzie Hyatt