Ladywell Fields

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!

Rhi x


One Tree Hill

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.

Rhi x

 


A Brief Interlude: Dunwich Forest (Suffolk)

Hey again!

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 )

Rhi x


Maryon Park & Charlton Park

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!

Rhi x


THE OTHER SIDE (#2: Lesnes Abbey & Bostall Woods)

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! 🙂

Rhi x

 


THE OTHER SIDE (#1: Greenwich Park & Blackheath)

Hey there!

This is the first of a series of mini guides to beautiful nature spots/ walks in South London (the under-appreciated side of the river!)

So originally for the first of these posts I was going to focus only on Blackheath- but the quickest way to get there from my house is through Greenwich Park, so I couldn’t resist taking a few snaps of my favourite spots on the way.

Greenwich Park is probably the most well-known nature spot in the whole of South London (except maybe Wimbledon Common.) Having said that, there are bits of it (my favourites) that are less well-trodden. It’s always best to offroad it if you want a quiet walk.

In my humble opinion, the best gate to leave through for Blackheath if you’re starting from the main gate at the end of King William’s Walk is the Croom’s Hill gate (if you take the main road through the park until you reach a pavement curving off up a hill to the right, then take the dirt path on the left, you’ll be on the way).

On exiting the gate, you could well be in a small village in Kent (which you would have been, 200 years ago.)

Cross one road and straight ahead there’s a gap between two railings, and a dirt path leading down into a lovely copse, beautiful for a quick ramble.

Blackheath itself is just to the left up that same road- a huge expanse of green with the rolling hills of Kent visible in the distance.

I’d say this area’s perfect for picnics or just enjoying the rare open expanse of sky Blackheath offers up.

Coming out here always makes me want to hop on a train down to Shoreham (one of my favourite walks is in the countryside surrounding this Kent village- next time I go down there I’ll post about it!)

As to the history of this area, the fact that one road through it is named after Wat Tyler gives away a pretty big part of it; during the Peasants’ Revolt of the 1380s he gathered rebels here to march into the City; in fact Blackheath has always been a pretty popular rallying place! Jack Cade’s rebellion in 1450 and the Battle of Blackheath Field in 1497 are two other notable examples.

During the 1600s and 1700s the area was also an extremely popular ambush point for highwaymen…

Next week I’ll be exploring Lesnes Abbey, in Abbey Wood (even further southeast!!)

Rhi x


Robin’s Rambles: Gillespie Park

It’s easy to feel trapped in the city when you live in London, especially for those of us who in past lives spent the majority of their time outdoors. Finding escape can be tricky. In response I am going to share some spots around my home in North London where I regularly retreat from life in the smoke. As soon as the rains stop and clouds part it’s time to get outdoors and luckily with 33% of London being vegetated green space there’s loads of little pockets of weird and wonderful nature to head to. First up Gillespie Park.

1-1

Wedged on a strip of land between Finsbury Park Station and the old Arsenal Stadium at Highbury is Gillespie Park Nature Reserve and Ecology Centre. Having a peaceful oasis 20 metres from one of Zone 2’s busiest transport intersections is an under appreciated blessing. Especially an oasis that seemingly condenses a broad array of British wilderness environments into a tiny space, which up until its re-appropriation in 1980 was warehouses and coal yards left abandoned since the 1960s.

Gillespie Park’s entrance on Seven Sisters Road makes understated sound extravagant. For the first two years of living in the area and regularly passing the steps up to the park I dismissed them entirely. Then one day, looking for a shortcut, I ventured up and in and found the wonderful wild escape inside. This lesson seems to be the key to discovering London’s little gems of green space; ignore innocuous inconspicuous entrances and go in regardless, you’ll often be lead to the more interesting and underused of urban wilderness retreats.

in&path2

With a whole world of meadows, copses, ponds and gardens inside Gillespie Park represents a real microcosm of the British Countryside, in the bizarre way that only a city centre nature reserve can. There’s an alarming array of life in the small repurposed space, tallying 244 species of plant, 94 birds and even 24 species of butterfly.

At most times of year the park seems grossly underused, most visitors just taking advantage of the shortcut from Highbury to the station at Finsbury Park or using the meadows as a convenient spot for dogs to relieve themselves. So even on the crispest and brightest of winter days it’s very easy to find peace and solitude waiting here.

My two favourite spots are Astor Meadow and Highbury Copse. The former sits at the top of the park and has a couple of well placed benches. The best of these is positioned perfectly so you can feel the subterranean rumble of trains as they tear along the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines on their way to Highbury & Islington or Kings Cross. Combined with the perpetual chirp of the local bird population and the fluttering shadow cast by Islington Council’s lone wind turbine, the sensation of the Tube trains below creates a very particular and surreal sensorial experience. Occasionally one of British Rail’s finest hurtles down the rail tracks running alongside the meadow, just to remind you that you are in one of the most populous urban areas in Europe, which staring into a glorious mess trees, bramble and wildflowers you might be liable to forget.

3

For a more ensconced uninterrupted escape from the hubbub of the capital Highbury Copse and Ambler Wood are the real deal, small tracts of dense woodland. Inside Highbury Copse you are completely cocooned against the usually inescapable throb of traffic on Seven Sisters Road. The sensation of being isolated by nature and the outdoors is prevalent here despite being slap bang in the middle of North London.

If I ever lack the time, energy or money to head out of the city in search of respite then I come and wander about and sit in Gillespie Park. The great outdoors are a magnificent thing but so can be their miniaturised equivalents offered by London’s multitude of green spaces.