Wide Horizons, the Eltham-based adventure learning charity are looking for volunteers to help to transform the overgrown 5 acre woodlands on Constitution Rise into an outdoor learning centre. Jack Gower, their Senior Adventure Learning Tutor, wrote with details:
The staff at Wide Horizons Woodland Centre (Shooters Hill) are pleased to announce the launch of our new Volunteer Group. The group will meet every other Sunday from 10am until 1pm and complete work such as clearing brambles, maintaining paths and developing the site. The first meeting will be on Sunday 15th November.
The group will be led by Volunteer Coordinator Jo Hadland. If you are interested in attending or know somebody that might be, or if you would like some more information please contact Jo directly at email@example.com or by calling 07958523936.
We will be opening our gates to the public in March/April next year for another open day. More details will be sent out nearer the time.
Wide Horizons seem to have made a lot of progress on reclaiming the area which was once the site of a large house called The Rookery. It’ll be interesting to see what changes have been made, especially to the pond at the bottom of the site.
Wide Horizons have been making progress on their project to turn the 5-acre woodland site on Constitution Rise into an outdoor learning centre. Their Director of Operations Hamish Cherrett recently e-mailed local residents with an update:
Since my last communication we have been working hard on various fundraising bids to secure essential funding to improve the access and ensure basic amenities such as water supply and toilets are installed along with works including remediation of the ponds at the north of the site.
We have also been talking with some local primary schools about long term partnerships to assist with regeneration and conservation work as well as using the site as an education base, any partnerships are still to be confirmed however we hope that classes from at least two schools will start to use the site regularly from October. Over the coming weeks we will have groups of young people undertaking conservation and ground clearance work so you will likely see activity around the entrance at various times. All activities will be structured and are being led by Wide Horizons tutors, any activity will take place between 10am-4pm.
Wide Horizons are planning to hold an open evening at their centre in Eltham where they will present their proposals for the woods over the next 2 years. They also hope to have the Head Teacher of at least one of their partner schools present to share their thoughts about the woods project. The date for the open evening hasn’t been announced yet.
As can be seen on the snippet above from Alan Godfrey’s 1866 OS map, above, the woodland on Constitution Rise used to be part of the grounds of a large house called The Rookery. According to Bagnold it was once called The Grove and in 1802 it was leased by Henry Lidgbird to a G.T. Goodenough who lived there until 1819. After that it was the summer residence of Edward Strachey, the second son ofSir Henry Strachey, and his wife Julia. They called the property Goodenough House, and it was referred to as such by the philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle who visited the Stracheys in Shooters Hill a number of times. Carlyle, in his Reminiscences, described the house and its gardens as follows
They lived in Fitzroy Square, a fine-enough house, and had a very pleasant country establishment at Shooter’s Hill ; where, in summer time, they were all commonly to be found. I have seldom seen a pleasanter place ; a panorama of green, flowery, clear, and decorated country all round ; an umbrageous little park, with roses, gardens ; a modestly excellent house ; from the drawing-room window a continual view of ships, multiform and multitudinous, sailing up or down the river (about a mile off) ; smoky London as background ; the clear sky overhead ; and within doors honesty, good sense, and smiling seriousness the rule, and not the exception.
Edward Strachey was an employee of the East India Company and worked in India for many years in various posts culminating in his appointment as a judge of the provincial court of appeal at Dacca. On his return to London he held a post at East India House where his colleagues included James Mill, his son John Stuart Mill and Thomas Love Peacock. The Stracheys were also well acquainted with Edward Irving. Edward Strachey died at Shooter’s Hill on 3 January 1832 and his wife on 20 November 1847.
The house was occupied, again according to Bagnold, between 1845 and 1847 by Henry Alwin Soames, and its name had changed back to The Grove. It appears on the 1866 OS map as The Rookery, and has that name in a local directory of 1874. There were a number of other occupants, mainly military men, until it was demolished to make way for the Wimpey Estate around the time that Bagnold was writing in 1936-38.
I doubt that anything remains of the house, and its gardens, while still umbrageous (perhaps too umbrageous), are very overgrown. It’ll be interesting to hear more about what Wide Horizons plan for the future of the Rookery’s gardens.
Eltham based adventure learning charity WideHorizons plans to create an outdoor learning centre at a 5-acre woodland site on Constitution Rise, and has written to local residents to get their views on the idea. WideHorizons has a history that goes back to 1929, but was set up as a charity by Greenwich and Lewisham councils in 2004 to manage their outdoor centres. Subsequently Walsall council also became involved. They are now responsible for 6 outdoor centres, including their Environment Centre at 77 Bexley Road Eltham, and they provide adventure education experiences for over 30,000 children and young people a year.
WideHorizons staff and volunteers will be at the woods on Saturday 15th February between 10am and 2pm if anyone would like to go and talk to them about their plans. The Google Map snippet at the bottom of this post shows the location of the woods in Shooters Hill.
Their letter to local residents says:
I am writing to you as a local resident to let you know about a recent change in management of a 5 acre woodland that is in your local area (see plan overleaf for reference).
Widehorizons Outdoor Education Trust is a local charity based in Eltham that provides outdoor and adventure activities for over 32,000 children and young people each year. We currently run 7 outdoor education centres including a day centre in Eltham, as well as providing professional teacher training and outdoor learning support services to schools, local authorities and youth services across London.
As part of our working partnership with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, who own the woodland, we have been granted a lease to manage and develop it for educational use. We would like to use the woodland site to ensure that local schools and young people can access inspirational adventure and outdoor learning activities to support their learning and personal development, as well as other activities to support their curriculum studies including science, geography and the environment.
We intend on providing opportunities for young people from schools and youth groups to get involved with the woodland management and learn skills including practical conservation, woodland management and project management.
We would also be keen to work with local people from the community who would like to get involved with the woods management, development and to be kept informed of the various woods activities.
Please be assured that the activities we propose are planned to be low impact on the woods and we aim to have as little impact on local residents and the surrounding environment. We want to ensure that there is community support for our plans and will welcome any suggestions, concerns or general questions. We are currently surveying the woods to establish what remedial measures are required and there are no planned activities to use the woods until the site is deemed safe and fit for use.
If you would be interested in meeting us, and knowing more about what Widehorizons do and our proposals, a number of our staff and volunteers will be at the woods on Saturday 15th February between 10am and 2pm. Access to the woods itself is through a set of blue gates on the corner of Constitution Rise and Moordown.
In the meantime, if you would like to contact us directly to discuss any aspects of the woodland management, or if you have any specific concerns related to our proposed activities, then please do so using the above address.
The woodlands on Constitution Rise are shown on the 1866 ordnance survey map when they were part of the grounds of a large house called The Rookery, which was still there on the 1914 map. I shall have to do some digging in the archives to find out more about it.