The Peckham branch of the Grand surrey canal was completed in 1826, linking Peckham through Surrey quays to the river Thames. It was drained and filled in 1972, to “eliminate the danger of people falling in and drowning” according to the blurb on the information board by Peckham square. This is as amusing as digging up roads to “eliminate” the danger of people being run over. These days the biggest danger that requires elimination is when one walks the park path of the former canal and is confronted by persons with dangerous looking dogs they seem barley able to control, or being nearly run over by speeding cyclists that haven’t worked out how to use their bell and breaks. The only solace to the abused walker being when occasionally a cyclist is ensnared and entangled in the lead of a dog walker and all manner of amusing blame game “discussions” occur.
To eliminate such dangers I propose the reinstating of the Peckham branch of the Grand Surrey canal. This would not only shift the dog and cycle danger but also add another public transport hub since the tram and south London line seem to have been shelved. It would also provide an effective link between the “regeneration” of Peckham square and the north of Peckham “regeneration” which has seen the transformation of the main estates but nothing of any great excitement and inspiration in terms of the physical environment. I have stated previously of Southwark council’s obsession with Peckham square as the heartland of all the arts and entertainment as exemplified by the Peckham space development due in November. One of the partners of that scheme is Camberwell college of arts who closed down their annex on sumner road neighboring the North Peckham estate, which I believe is a missed opportunity. Why on earth was Peckham Space not placed on that site? I can think of two pubs that have lost business from the staff and students of that annex. At a time when the arts need to engage more with places like the North Peckham and Gloucester grove estates it’s a shame Camberwell college has decided to barricade its self in an “arts ghetto” in Peckahm square. Enough of the mini rant for now, the canal can link Peckham square with north Peckham through the commercial way and willowbrook bridges, then to Burgess Park and beyond. We could have a touch more imagination in shelter as house boats and barges come into play.
Below, the former Camberwell College of Arts annex on sumner road neighboring the North Peckham estate (shown in the background). It has been demolished, making way for a housing scheme I believe.