Plus ça change

Green Chain diversion at corner of Keats and Dryden Roads
Green Chain diversion at corner of Keats and Dryden Roads

Some things never change, and it seems that includes disputes over footpaths at Woodlands Farm and farm problems with trespassing motorcyclists. An intriguing card in a filing drawer at the Greenwich Heritage Centre led me to an article from The Mercury 21 years ago on 13th February 1992:

Tracks Trouble

Two councils are hoping to settle a long-running dispute with landowners over public access to tracks in Woodlands Farm.

Bexley and Greenwich councils have already been to the High Court, seeking to force landowners to admit that the tracks which criss-cross farmland between Edison and Glenmore Roads, in Welling and Shooters Hill, are public footpaths – ‘even though they’re not listed on’ rights of way maps.

The boroughs quizzed 11,000 locals to gain evidence supporting their claims and obtained High Court writs against the landowners who have fenced off the tracks.

But over a year later agreement has still to be reached with the George Wimpey Company and the RACS Co-op, joint owners of the land at Woodlands Farm.

A report to the last meeting of Bexley Council development committee said draft public path agreements had been drawn up and were expected to be agreed with Wimpeys. But negotiations were still going on with the Co-op who were ‘determined to fight the action.’

A Co-op spokesman said opening up the path would re-expose the farm to problems with motorcyclists and trespassers which had stopped when the fences went up.

He said that the society disputed that the paths had been public footpaths in the first place.

The councils are anxious to secure the footpaths in order to link up with a footbridge across the southern approach road to the East London River Crossing.

Green Chain Walk signpost in Woodlands Farm
Green Chain Walk signpost in Woodlands Farm

The current dispute, about the Green Chain Walk path across the farm has seen some progress recently. The April-July newsletter of ramblers’ Blackheath Group had an article about the blocked path, and supported the farm proposals to re-route it:

I came away with a view that common sense needs to prevail & that the GCW needs to amend its route. I have since discussed the matter with the Blackheath Ramblers Group committee & the committee fully supports this approach.

I have also spoken to the footpath officer for NW Kent Ramblers who commend the trustees of the farm in their efforts to find a sensible solution for all concerned & support the proposed alteration.

So, in summary, the two Ramblers Groups which cover the farm area are in support of the proposal made by the trustees & we feel that Ramblers should be working with the GCW committee to get this alteration accepted.

That sounds good, and so does the the update on the Green Chain Walk in the Farm’s Summer Newsletter, which mentioned that:

Board members have been working with Green Chain officers and the Bexley access officer and significant progress has been made on resolving the problem of the Green Chain Route across the farm. A temporary diversion is at present in place and it is hoped that a diversion around the perimeter of the farm which would provide an acceptable, enjoyable alternative walk will be agreed on by all parties.

There are diversions in place: the photo at the top shows the changed sign at the Keats/Dryden Road end of the path. At the Oxleas Wood end it’s not quite so clear and the signpost in the farm itself is unchanged and points to the blocked path. I could only find one other changed sign post, at the junction of the eastern-most path in Oxleas Wood and Shooters Hill, and that had been crudely adjusted to point in the new direction and only has the words on one side of the pointer – not so good if you are approaching from Shooters Hill.

At the Dryden Road end the diversion sign posts point prospective Green Chain walkers down Chaucer Road and Wickham Street, past Shoulder of Mutton Green to Bellegrove Road, and then to Oxleas Wood. Quite a lot of road walking, and I wonder why they didn’t take the greener route via Footpath 245 near the Green Man pub and then along Hill View Drive to Bellegrove Road. The proposed re-routed Green Chain Walk would also include part of Route 245.

It sounds like the long-running battle over the Green Chain path through the farm is drawing to a sensible conclusion. Meanwhile, on the other side of Shooters Hill, the path down the side of the former Castlewood Day Hospital is still blocked, despite the intervention of local MP Clive Efford.

Changed Green Chain sign post on Shooters Hill
Changed Green Chain sign post on Shooters Hill

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