It’s a good bet that somewhere will be fairly lush and green when it’s got “woods” in its name.
Elmstead Woods is only 15 minutes from my house on the train but I’d never even heard of it before a couple of weeks ago.
Right from when you get off the train, you can tell you’re somewhere with a lot more trees per square metre than most of the city. It actually feels like Kent more than London- the air smells fresher and cleaner.
Even the station has greenery- there are ornamental gardens on the platforms which are maintained by a community group.
Access to the woodland itself is up the hill- turn left out of the station and keep walking until you get to a turnstile into the trees.
It stretches for longer on the map than in reality; the lower part that borders onto the outskirts of Bromley town is now (unfortunately for most people) a golf course.
The accessible area of the woods is beautiful, and there are multiple trails you can follow- it also makes up part of the Green Chain walk, like so many of the other places I’ve explored so far (one day I might even try and do the whole thing if I’m feeling particularly ambitious!)
Because of the time of year there was an added element of danger to this exploration- conkers! I nearly got whacked on the head countless times- the whole walk was punctuated by them thumping to the ground around me (I tried not to stop too often, especially not under big trees…)
It’s easy to immerse yourself in the woodland here- although there are trails to follow, there are no designated footpaths as such, and in most areas, not much undergrowth; so you can kind of wander in any direction you want. This time I ended up coming out the other side of the woods and getting the train back from Grove Park, the next station along the line.
My only advice for this one is maybe wear a hat if you’re here in the autumn. More adventures to come soon!
This is the first post in a bit, but I’ve been exploring wild spaces in South London again!
Ladywell Fields is spread across a fairly wide area, sprawling out between Lewisham Hospital and Ladywell Station. It was opened as a public park in the 1890s, although there are records in the Domesday Book of it being water meadows. “Ladywell” is a reference to a well in the area containing water that was supposed to have medicinal qualities (it was called “Our Lady’s Well”). The park is such a strange shape because areas of land were gradually bought up at the end of the Victorian era to make a public green space.
The Ravensbourne River runs through the whole park, which is an expanse of lush green meadows and trees. Although it’s lovely to ramble around, I mainly like it because it’s so calming to sit on the bench that faces onto the River just the other side of the train tracks. The sound of trickling water is really relaxing.
It’s great to have such a huge expanse of green so near to the centre of Lewisham. You’d never guess it’s so close to a busy town centre, other than the trains occasionally rushing past as they come through Ladywell.
Popular with cyclists and dogwalkers, the park also makes up part of the Waterlink Way, a South London cycle route that follows various rivers and streams throughout Lewisham, Bromley and Southwark.
More exploring to come soon!
Yes, it’s really called that. (Said tree pictured above!)
It’s pretty easy to miss One Tree Hill, even though the one tree is the namesake for a whole area (Honor Oak Park). It’s called this because Queen Elizabeth I allegedly once picnicked under the tree. It’s fairly hidden from both sides
You can get to the hill from both Brenchley Gardens in Brockley (keep going past Camberwell New Cemetery and you’ll find a small path leading up into the park on the left), and from Honor Oak Park itself. It’s got one of, if not the, best view of the city in South London. (In fact, John Betjeman once said the view is “better than that from Parliament Hill”.)
There are various paths that run around the hill. My favourite route is to start off from Brenchley Gardens and explore the wilder side of the park (on the other side is St Augustine Church and Honor Oak Park Station- the best station to reach the park from if you’re coming from further afield; it’s on the eastern Overground line). It’s probably one of the quietest wild bits South London has to offer; this time I bumped into literally one guy and his dog the whole time I was there. Having said that, the top viewpoint is super popular as it’s a gorgeous place to watch the sunset from.
If you continue up the hill, you reach a grassy plateau area, which you can see the church from- up ahead is a signpost; continue past it and you’ll reach the main viewpoint which is by far the most popular bit of the park.
Another interesting point about the hill is the gun platform at the top, left over from the First World War; One Tree Hill was an important lookout post due to its amazing view over the city.
Next time I’ll be back for more exploring in the same area; Ladywell Fields, which is the other side of Honor Oak Park.
As I’ve been at my parents’ house in north Suffolk this week, I thought I’d go off-course and take advantage of some of the beautiful countryside I grew up around, and talk a bit about the history of it. One of my favourite places ever is Dunwich Forest (and Dunwich itself, due to the slightly spooky story behind the place). Me and mum went for a lovely walk through it.
Dunwich used to be (a very very long time ago) one of the biggest port cities in the UK- until it started slipping into the sea. As early as the 11th century, the city started to fall into the sea. By the 17th century it was a quarter of its original size. In the early 1900s, All Saints church went over the cliff, and today the final gravestone from the churchyard is at the edge.
Various objects and relics have washed up on Dunwich’s shore (among them have been a piano, a wardrobe and human skulls from the old graveyard).
The village still has the ruins of Greyfriars Abbey; although they’re getting perilously close to the edge now too.
As I say, my favourite part is the forest. It’s mainly coniferous woodland, and is currently undergoing “rewilding”; trying to re-establish elements of the environment that have declined. This has previously involved bringing konik and exmoor ponies in to keep the undergrowth under control (sadly we didn’t see any this time so no pictures…).
The part of the forest me & mum walked through was also full of dens… (the one below was probably the most impressive!)
I’ve always found Dunwich Forest to be super atmospheric and a bit spooky… at some point I very much want to come and get lost in the forest with a notebook and just write all day!
Later this week I’ll be back exploring Southeast London’s wild areas (although there’ll definitely be more Suffolk stuff to come in future… watch this space! :3 )
Hey! This week I’ve newly discovered Brookmill Park in Deptford (despite it being about ten minutes from my house!) It’s one of those hidden gems that you could easily walk past without noticing. Located somewhere in the nether between Lewisham and Deptford, you reach it if you follow the DLR line on foot towards Lewisham from Deptford Bridge station. The line runs directly along the edge of the whole park, which is very long and quite thin- the reason for this is that it used to be the reservoir that supplied Deptford and Greenwich with drinking water; in the 1920s it was filled in and turned into a park.
Alongside the DLR runs Deptford Creek (along which you can do Low Tide Walks, run by the Creekside Discovery Centre; these encourage knowledge of the history and wildlife of Deptford Creek and the River Ravensbourne).
As well as a footpath that snakes alongside the creek all the way down the park, there’s also a lake in the middle of the park which serves as a nesting ground for moorhens (there were a lot of them about, although sadly I didn’t see any chicks). Kingfishers and grey herons are also commonly sighted apparently!
Although Brookmill Park isn’t such a great starting point for a long walk as the previous instalments have been, it’s a gorgeous place to sit amongst the trees for a bit (as well as having a rare wildlife-endowed body of water!) However the path that runs through the park is part of the Waterlink Way, a cycle path that runs throughout Lewisham and Bromley.
As well as having places to lose yourself in what could easily be countryside, it’s always great to have nearby and accessible escape routes from the city too- although the closeness of the DLR is a fairly regular reminder of where you are, it’s good to remember you don’t have to go too far to see some greenery.
Hey again! This week I’ve been exploring Maryon Park and Charlton Park in near Woolwich. The two pretty much link up to each other, so you can do a pretty lovely uninterrupted walk starting from either end.
I started in Maryon Park (the best way to get there is from Charlton train station; it’s a five-minute walk and trains run from Cannon Street/ Charing Cross every ten minutes or so). The main part of Maryon Park has tennis courts, basketball courts and a kids’ play area- it’s pretty well used and not particularly wild; the more interesting bits in this regard are the paths that wind up either side of the main park and lead to elsewhere. (Interesting-ish fact: a couple of scenes from the 1960s cult film “Blow Up” were filmed here, one on a staircase up at one side of the park, the other in the tennis courts in the centre.) If you’re coming in from the entrance on the A206 (I did), turn right up the path that leads up into the woodland just before you reach the tennis courts. If you follow the fence on the right and go up the steps at the end, you come out into a wonderful little wild patch. (This whole walk is part of the Green Chain walk, as was the walk through Bostall Woods last week- eventually it all links up.)
Following the path across a road, you’ll then come to the other side of Maryon Park, which contains an animal park (actually only discovered this last week- it seems to be mainly peacocks and sheep, which to my mind is a great combo). You can follow pretty much any path that branches off through this part of the park and it’ll be lovely. I chose to keep going towards Charlton Park.
The landscape here is beautiful. This is what I love about this kind of walk. One moment you can be on a busy industrial road (although I do love a bit of brutalism so this isn’t bad either!) and the next you can be in lush woodland.
Next week I’ll be exploring Brookmill Park in St John’s!
Hey again! This week I’ve been to another one of my favourite places in the Southeast. Lesnes Abbey is easy to get to from Abbey Wood station, about a ten minute walk. (Trains run every 10 minutes or so from Deptford/ Lewisham, or if you’re from up North then Charing Cross/ Cannon Street.) Coming up on it from the footbridge that leads out of the Abbey Wood estate, you can see the ruins of the Abbey.
However you feel about Brutalist architecture, the contrast between the blocks of Thamesmead and the Abbey is pretty impressive (and, I think, a bit magical). When the Abbey was founded in 1178, this entire area would have been marshland- and in fact a lot of it was until the 1970s, when the Thamesmead estate you can see in the background was built (mildly interesting fact: the estate is a popular filming location; scenes from A Clockwork Orange and Misfits are set there, amongst others).
A Green Chain Walk runs through the Abbey grounds and into the woods behind (this woodland eventually turns into Bostall Woods, which is pretty much the closest you can get to being in the countryside within the bounds of London). If you take the gravel path leading up behind the Abbey into the woodland, you end up somewhere a bit like this:
Follow the Green Chain walk signs until you come to a road, then cross it and you’re in Bostall Woods. This time when I went, the weather was pretty grey and humid, so it was all very vivid green and slightly drippy. Keep going up the hill into the woods and you’ll see a fence ahead of you. This is the perimeter of a small lake; lots of waterfowl nesting and, when I was there, a very enthusiastic spaniel… I find it super peaceful to just sit and watch the lake for a bit.
The walk itself extends pretty much forever, judging by the sign (Crystal Palace Park 15.6 miles!) If you keep going through Bostall Woods, and fancy a longer walk, Oxlea Woods is just beyond. The walk continues around the lake.
Next week I’ll be in Maryon Park in Charlton! 🙂