Winter Wander with a bonus

View from Cox's Mount, Maryon Park
View from Cox’s Mount, Maryon Park

There are some very interesting sounding walks in Walk London’s Winter Wanders this weekend – “Secret Diaries and Public Spaces – The Legacy of Pepys and Wren and Hidden Alleyways” and “Courtyards; Printing, Priories and Prisons – St Pauls to Chancery Lane” both sound fascinating. But the one that really caught my eye was the walk led by our old friend Ian Bull: “The best landscape and views in London – Charlton to Plumstead via Shooters Hill“. This is a great walk with an added bonus: an opportunity for an exclusive guided tour of Severndroog Castle (costing  a very reasonable £2.50) and a chance to see the amazing views from the top.

The Walk London web site describes the walk:

This special walk, historically Walk London’s most popular, was first devised to demonstrate that you can walk through London without realising that you are in a city. It still does, but this time there’s a bonus that turns an excellent walk into an unforgettable experience that you’ll want to return to.
The walk takes us through wonderful parkland, heathland, and dense woodland to a very special place that offers stupendous views rivalled only by the Shard. Yes, after years of tireless fund-raising and painstaking restoration Severndroog Castle can at last accept visitors. The walk will feature an exclusive guided tour of this perfectly formed historic building which has an important and intriguing past. The building also has views over London ‘to die for’ and some visitors really do gasp at their first sight of the breathtaking vista. The ‘Castle’ is usually closed at this time of year and is being opened specially for Walk London.
We start by traversing a most pleasant complex of parks which include a principle location from the cult 1960s film ‘Blow up’. Shortly afterwards we’ll pass some comfortably large animal enclosures, one housing a small Deer Herd which has been present for over a Century. Gentle climbing via Charlton Common takes us up onto the openness of Woolwich Common with distant views of Essex farmland, it’s wildness then giving way to the dense woodland of the flanks of Shooters Hill. We climb a little more steeply now for Shooters Hill is very nearly as high as the highest part of Hampstead Heath. Suddenly, in Castle Wood, the trees part and before us is the well proportioned tower of Severndroog Castle and our private visit.
After visiting Severndroog Castle those who have done enough in their day, just over 4 miles, may wish to retire to the nearby bus stops. Those wishing for more wonderfully dense woodland and wide vistas are welcome to continue around Shooters Hill for views over huge swathes of Kent, Surrey, Essex and the Thames Estuary. We’ll then drop down steeply to Plumstead Common for buses into central London and finish at Plumstead railway station for trains.
PLEASE NOTE. Severndroog Castle has been saved by a small charity with limited resources and they cannot be expected to open and guide us around the building without some recompense. The usual admittance charge of £2.50 will have to apply. If ever there was a bargain this is it, for you can see seven Counties at a tenth of the price of a visit to the Shard.
The route is steep in parts, contains many steps, and depending on weather conditions it may be muddy. We will be very high up by London standards and warm, windproof, clothing and gloves are most strongly recommended. A packed lunch is essential and, if you have them, binoculars are a must.
There’s no need to book but feel free to ask the Walk Leader, Ian Bull, for more details. Email,  Phone, 020 7223 3572.

The weather forecast for Sunday looks good for walking and viewing, so it should be a great experience. And if it’s done by 2.00pm there’s a members’ meeting down the hill at Woodlands Farm to go to.


The restored Severndroog Castle
The restored Severndroog Castle

Castlewood footpath open again

Castlewood footpath looking towards Eltham Common
Castlewood footpath looking towards Eltham Common

The footpath next to the former Cottage Hospital on Shooters Hill has re-opened, nearly two years after it was closed “permanently” by the MoD. Clive Barbour, who has been campaigning for the footpath to be reopened e-mailed:

On 21 September 2013 you kindly posted some pictures and details of my attempts to get the Royal Borough of Greenwich to reopen the footpath between Shooters Hill Road and Academy Place.
Since then I have been emailing the relevant official on a bi-monthly basis.
The official told me in September this year that he would be getting legal advice on my contention that the path should be reopened in the basis that it had been used for 30 years by myself and others.
Although I have yet to hear back from him I am delighted to see that the path has been reopened and cleared of growing vegetation and perhaps more significantly, the two “this is not a right of way” signs that had gone up in Academy Place have been taken down.
I am still pressing the council to have the footpath and the adjoining lane from Academy Place to Bagshot Court adopted under the Highways Act to prevent their future closure.
But the reopening of the footpath means that it is possible to walk again from Shooters Hill to Red Lion Lane via Bagshot Court and Prince Imperial Way as  marked in red below.

Map showing route from Shooters Hill to Red Lion Lane
Route from Shooters Hill to Red Lion Lane

I hope this means the path is now open permanently. It had been open for a while last year, but was then re-closed. I suspect that was because the barriers had been broken down by vandals. The route from Shooters Hill down to the bottom of Red Lion Lane is a pleasant path through open fields, passing by what may have once been a sports field – the 1914 OS map shows a pavilion at the South end of the field. The old map also shows a miniature rifle range and formal rows of trees, both features are still evident though the only reminder of the rifle range is an embankment.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Hill, the problem of the route of the Green Chain Walk near Woodlands Farm still hasn’t reached a conclusion. While the Woodland Farm Trust, Ramblers and Green Chain officers have all agreed that Woodland’s proposal for re-routing the path to go along the edge of the farm is acceptable, the owners of the land between the farm and the corner of Keats and Dryden Roads are now blocking progress. At the last Woodlands Farm AGM it was mentioned that this route is a permissive path and that the owners Bellway have refused permission for the Green Chain Walk to cross their land. In the meantime the Walk is still diverted along residential roads round to Oxleas Wood.

Update 23rd January 2015. Steve e-mailed to let me know that new signs have been erected on the Castlewood footpath, presumably by the MoD. There’s a picture of one of them below.

One of the new signs on the Castlewood footpath
One of the new signs on the Castlewood footpath

Green Chain Mega-amble this weekend

Green Chain Megawalkers gather at Crystal Palace Station
Green Chain Megawalkers gather at Crystal Palace Station

Walk London‘s series of free guided walks this weekend – their Autumn Ambles – includes one of the longest but most rewarding “ambles” in London: the Green Chain Megawalk. The 22 mile amble actually moves along at a steady average walking speed, and will be led once again by Ian Bull, our favourite leader of walks in South-East London and a bit of an expert on the Green Chain, not to mention a part-time restorer of steam locomotives. The walk starts at Crystal Palace railway station at 9.15am on Saturday, 27th September and finishes more than 9 hours later down at the Thames near Erith railway station. The Walk London web site has the details:

The Green Chain Megawalk is by a considerable margin the longest established long-distance guided walk in London and many hundreds have participated. Some thought they wouldn’t complete such a distance, yet the camaraderie and expert guidance have seen all but a handful achieve an on-time finish. Every one of the participants has taken wonderful memories from the day. Here’s your chance to join the institution!
We’ll gently climb to some of the highest points in the city, suburbia giving way to outstanding views and miles of London’s best woodland, some established for 8,000 years. For lengthy sections you won’t know you are in a town, let alone the Metropolis as well over half the route is off-road. Despite travelling around an entire quartile of London we’ll cross just 40 surfaced thoroughfares.
The route is steep in its latter parts, a packed lunch is essential, and of course you must be reasonably fit. You must also be able to sustain three miles per hour for most of a day and if you think you can, this particularly friendly event is the one Walk London walk that you should do. There is no need to book, just turn up and go, a remarkable day awaits you.

One of the good things about the walk is that if 22 miles proves too much then it is possible to drop out along the way and get a bus or train home, and for those living in Shooters Hill the late lunchtime stop at the Oxleas Café can be an early finishing point if the legs are ready to give up after 16 miles.

There’s an interactive map of the route of the Green Chain Walk on the Green Chain web site here. For further information about the walk contact Ian by phone,  020 7223 3572 or  email – ianbull at btinternet dot com.

The Green Chain Megawalk is by far the longest of the Autumn Ambles; most of them are just a couple of miles, and there are walks taking in Soho, St. Paul’s and the City of London. Looks like a good weekend for a walk.

Ian Bull leads Green Chain walkers cross Eaglesfield Park
Ian Bull leads Green Chain walkers cross Eaglesfield Park


Midnight Megawalk on Friday

Ian Bull's photograph of sunrise on the Green Chain Midnight Megawalk
Ian Bull’s photograph of sunrise on the Green Chain Midnight Megawalk

There’s another opportunity for an overnight ramble along the 22 miles of the Green Chain Walk from Crystal Palace to Erith on Friday, 5th September. As before the walk will be led by Ian Bull, who regularly leads walks near Shooters Hill, such as the Best Landscape and Views in London,  the Thames Path Super Walk and London’s best woodland and views – without doubt. He e-mailed to say:


At last… There’s finally a strong chance of clear skies on Friday/Saturday 5th/6th September. No rain is forecast and it’s going to be nice and warm as well. There hasn’t been a clear Friday/Saturday  since late May – not one!
This is your chance to experience a very pleasant walk in remarkable  conditions. There are miles of dense woodland on our route and in them it will be jet-black. Barely a photon will disturb us when we stand still for a moment and listen to the nocturnal wildlife quietly scurrying through the undergrowth. As first light begins to show at  about 04.00 the sky will gently become turquoise from the North  leaving black to the South and from our best vantage points, London’s  streetlights gleaming gold beneath us. The views are glorious, the darkness delicious, and the landscape is London’s best.

There’s no need to book and no charge, just turn up, but feel very  free to ask me in advance for further information.

What we’re going to do…
* We meet outside Crystal Palace railway station at 23.30 on Friday 5th September.
* The pace will be leisurely, we don’t even have to make average  walking speed.
* The aim is to see the Sun rising over East Anglia and the Lower Thames from Shooters Hill, very nearly London’s highest point, at 06.21 and we will achieve this.
* The overall distance is 21.5 miles but a 1.5 mile diversion through excellent woodland will be offered to see the Gothicky (spooky?) Severndroog Castle. There are benches for a nap for those who don’t want to do this.
* After sunrise we’ll traverse Bostall Woods and Lesnes Abbey Woods.  About four miles of these, and the latter has been there for 8,000  years, London’s finest ancient woodland.
* Finish at Erith about 08.30 for a train home. No engineering works – 33 minutes to London Bridge.
* Some participants traditionally have a breakfast together in a Café near London Bridge after the event.

Ian can be contacted by e-mail on  ianbull at btinternet dot com

If you prefer to walk the Green Chain in the light of day Ian is also planning to hold a day-time megawalk on Saturday 27th September.

Ian Bull and day-time Green Chain walkers admire the view in Shrewsbury Park
Ian Bull and day-time Green Chain walkers admire the view in Shrewsbury Park

Weekend Walks

The Thames near Erith
The Thames near Erith

Our favourite walk leader, Ian Bull, wrote to remind me of this weekend’s set of strolls brought together by Walk London. Ian is leading two walks over the weekend. The first, and longest, is on Saturday, 17th May – a 17.5 mile, 8 hour hike along the Thames from Slade Green to Greenwich.  This Thames Path Super Walk is described on the Walk London web site as follows:

 – This is without doubt one of the most fascinating walks possible in South East England. In a most attractive way it explores the Thames between bucolic countryside and the intense development of the World’s greatest commercial centre. This isn’t so much a walk as a journey.
– We begin in the farmland of London’s Green Belt beside the River Darent, a stones-throw from Kent, arriving at Crayford Ness and confluence with the Thames by way of brackish marshes rich in bird life. We then receive the almost magical experience of seeing the great river progress from pre-estuarine bleakness to the heart of urbanity.
– The transition between the contrasting landscapes is both inexorable yet surprisingly gentle as the natural environment penetrates well into London. Typically, whilst passing Bulrushes reclaiming an old wharf we might already see the towers of commerce rising before us.
– The walk is also a historical timeline for London. We’ll pass evidence of almost every aspect of the city’s economic and industrial past from agriculture and fisheries through iron and shipping to electronics and nuclear engineering. We’ll conclude besides one of the most famed examples of the built environment anywhere on the planet, Wren’s magnificent work at Greenwich. Overall, this walk is a feast for both the eye and the mind, no wonder it’s proven so popular.
– The start is timed to allow for a walk without rush but please note that it demands the ability to consistently maintain average walking pace for some 14 miles. A packed lunch is essential as is water to drink along the way. There is a small supermarket at the beginning but opportunities to re-stock along the way are very limited
– The walk leader has a lifetime’s experience of walking besides London’s river and will be delighted to share his extensive knowledge. Feel free to contact him, Ian Bull, for further information.  Telephone 020 7223 3572,  E-mail

The walk starts at 10.00am at Slade Green Station and finishes at Greenwich. Both walks are free and booking is not required.

Green Chain walkers in Bostall Wood
Green Chain walkers in Bostall Wood

The second walk, on Sunday 18th May, is even closer to home.  The modestly titled London’s best woodland and views, without doubt is only 7.5 miles, but takes in the best bits of the Green Chain walk. It starts at 11.45am outside the booking office at Belvedere railway station and finishes at the top of Shooters Hill. The Walk London write up says:

 – The title of this walk says it all and participants will not be disappointed.
– South East London is sometimes dismissed as a sprawl of suburban housing. This couldn’t be further from the truth, the area contains the finest landscape in London. Thanks to that quality the South East was chosen in 1977 as the location for London’s first long distance footpath network, the Green Chain.
– This walk naughtily picks the very best parts of the Green Chain system and combines them into one gem, perhaps the most attractive foot journey that London can offer. There will be miles when you’ll have no idea that you are within a City. The Woodland is ancient, extensive, and dense, it was recorded by the Romans and pre-dates them by millennia.
– Within that woodland we’ll meet one of London’s least known ancient monuments, the ruins of Lesnes Abbey. Already having met some notable gradients we now start climbing consistently, to well over 400 feet. As we progress you’ll notice ever more extensive views unfolding and at every stage you can be sure of ever better views and landscape before you. A Victorian interlude at Plumstead Common preludes further ascent towards Shooters Hill and, if the weather is clear, views out to the North Sea. The summit of Shooters Hill with its great vista over Kent and Surrey is crowned by yet more ancient woodland and nestling within it we’ll find the remarkable Severndroog Castle. From here it’s a short walk to buses for home and memories of a day you won’t forget. Please note that our route is very steep in places, a packed lunch is essential, and there are few places to re-stock along the way.
– The walk leader is the Green Chain Walk’s surveying contractor and will be delighted to share his extensive knowledge.

While walking with Ian you could also ask him about the railway system that used to run in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich and the restoration of the Woolwich steam locomotive. Ian is scheduled to give a talk about “The narrow gauge railways of the Royal Arsenal” at the Greenwich Industrial History Society meeting on 17th June. It starts at 7.30pm at  The Old Bakehouse, Bennett Park, SE3, behind Age Exchange in Blackheath.

Horse riders near Severndroog Castle
Horse riders near Severndroog Castle

Winter Wanders

Ian Bull, left, leads the Green Chain Megawalkers across Shrewsbury Park
Ian Bull, left, leads some of the Green Chain Megawalkers across Shrewsbury Park

Ian Bull e-mailed about a walk he is leading this Saturday, 25th January: The best landscape and views in London – Charlton to Plumstead via Shooters Hill. Ian frequently leads walks on the Green Chain path, including the Green Chain Megawalk, which last year attracted some 60 walkers for the 22 miles from Crystal Palace to Erith. He wrote:

I’ll be leading a walk on the Green Chain from Charlton to Plumstead  via Maryon Park, Charlton House, Woolwich Common, Severndroog Castle,  and Shooters Hill etc. All are welcome, no need to book, and it’s  free of charge. We’ll have lunch at Charlton House. Meet 11.30 at  Charlton railway station. Finish 17.00 at Plumstead railway station,  seven miles long. A packed lunch and waterproof footwear are essential.
There are some slightly glorifying, but not too embellished details here.
I’ve spent a great deal of time on Shooters Hill in the past few  weeks. As lovely as ever, but isn’t it muddy? I suppose that’s what  comes from a hill made of Clay!

The walk is one of many across London as part of Walk London‘s “Winter Wanders Weekend”.  I notice Ian is also leading a walk on Sunday, A Cathedral of Steam and the mature Thames – Plumstead to Woolwich Arsenal, which includes a private visit to the Crossness Pumping Station. Unfortunately this is already fully booked.

Deer in Maryon Wilson Park last winter
Deer in Maryon Wilson Park last winter

On Sunday the Winter Wanders Weekend includes another nearby  walk, though not led by Ian this time: Ferry cross the Thames – Woolwich Arsenal to West Ham/Hackney Wick. Details are available from the Walk London web site:

Date:                        26th January 2014
Start Time:               11:00am at Woolwich Arsenal Station
Duration:                  3 hours
Length of Walk:        5.8 miles
Cost:    Free of charge
Booking advice:    No booking required
Walk Description:
Start your walk along this part of the Capital Ring with a ferry across the Thames to the Royal Docks and a walk through Beckton parks, the Greenway and the Lower Lea Valley to the largest remaining C18th tidal mill at Three Mills.
The walk takes in the Greenway, Bazelgette’s famous raised sewer that combated the “Great Stink” and cholera outbreaks.
Walkers are advised to bring a packed lunch.

Woolwich Free Ferry
Woolwich Free Ferry

Autumn Ambles in Shooters Hill

Eltham Palace - first stop on the Unknown delights and gems in South East London walk
Eltham Palace – first stop on the Unknown delights and gems in South East London walk

Ian Bull, who frequently leads walks on the Green Chain Path, has been in touch about two walks he is leading this weekend as part of Walk London‘s Autumn Ambles Weekend. On Saturday he is leading a Green Chain Megawalk:

Saturday 28th sees the seventh ‘Green Chain Megawalk’. This very popular 21.5 mile stroll leaves Crystal Palace railway station at 09.15, arrives at the Oxleas Wood café at about 14.30, and finishes by the Thames at Erith at about 18.30. The aim is see many of the really good parts of the Green Chain in one day at average walking pace. A packed lunch is essential and there are more details here . One of the best aspects of this walk is the excellent camaraderie generated between participants, some making life-long friends.

Look out for, and be careful of, the Hornets’ nest in a hollow tree just down the hill from the old concrete tank in Oxleas Wood.

Hornets' Nest in Oxleas Wood
Hornets’ Nest in Oxleas Wood

Then on Sunday there is the Unknown Delights and Gems in South East London walk, which takes in Eltham Palace, Eltham College,  the River Quaggy  and Chinbrook Meadows, Elmstead and Marvels Woods, Avery Hill Park and Oxleas Wood:

Sunday 29th sees us exploring attractive parts of the Green Chain that haven’t featured in Walk London’s programme before. Indeed, few organised walks have. This 10.5 mile walk starts at Eltham railway station at 12.00 and will finish at the Oxleas Wood café at about 17.00. There will then be an extension for those interested down to Plumstead Common via Shrewsbury Park for trains from Plumstead railway station. Again a packed lunch is essential for people who won’t have already eaten by the state time. We’ll take lunch either at King John’s playing fields in Southern Eltham or at Chinbrook Meadows depending on what the walkers want to do. There are more details here

There’s no need to book for these walks. Ian can be contacted for more details on ianbull at btinternet dot com.

Sounds a great weekend for walkers.

The woods on Eltham Common
The woods on Eltham Common

Castlewood footpath closure – can you help?

Google Street View of the path before it was closed
Google Street View of the path before it was closed
Today’s post was written by Clive Barbour who is trying to get the footpath blocked by the MoD reopened. He would like to hear from people who have used the path, ideally those who have used it for 30 years. Here’s Clive’s story:

I moved to the neighbourhood in the early 1980s and almost immediately started using the footpath that runs from Shooters Hill to Academy Place.

It was so handy to nip off the bus stop after a night at the theatre as the bus then used to run then all the way from Haymarket to Shooters Hill and beyond.

And I was amazed by the meadow off Academy Place and the mature woodland on the path which meandered down to Bagshot Court, Prince Imperial Road and eventually to my house in Red Lion Lane and before that Herbert Road.

That little walk, which I often took, especially at weekends, could make you forget you were living in London but somewhere in the country as well as being a very handy shortcut.

Earlier this year as I drove up Shooters Hill I noticed the path had been closed but as there were significant building works going on at the nearby property I assumed this had been done temporarily on health and safety grounds.

But as the months passed and the path remained closed I contacted the Royal Borough of Greenwich to find out what was happenIng.

I was very disappointed to be told that the road had been closed by the Ministry of Defence.

But I wanted to find out why so I put in a Freedom of Information request to MOD asking for correspondence relating to rights of way and discussions with the Royal. Borough of Greenwich and a few weeks later a set of papers fell through my letterbox.

One email in particular grabbed my attention dated 10 October 2012 from the wonderfully named Senior Street Naming and Numbering Officer (Legal Searches) Business & Resources (Property & Transportation) at the Royal Borough of Greenwich to the Ministry of Defence.

That correspondence advised the MOD that while the footpath was privately owned “…however, it could be considered a right of way due to ‘public use over time’ I understand this requires it being in full use for over 20 years by the public.”

There was also references in the papers to complaints from the public about the closure including emails from Plumstead Runners and other people who had written to Clive Efford MP.

I have been using the footpath for over thirty years and I understand that if a path is used on Crown land for that length of time it can be deemed to be a right of way.

So I have formally written to the Royal Borough of Greenwich to protect our right, as provided for by section 130(2) of the Highways Act 1980, to enable pedestrians to continue to use this footpath and therefore be able to walk or run unhindered from Red Lion Lane to Shooters Hill via Prince Imperial Road, Bagshot Court and Academy Place and vice versa.

It is very significant that the footpath has a chicane at the Shooters Hill/Academy Place end and two bollards at the Bagshot Court/Prince Imperial Road end as this can only mean that the owners decided in the past that the footpath was to be used only by pedestrians and not by vehicular traffic.

Bollards at Bagshot Court/Prince Imperial Road showing that the footpath was to be used only by pedestrians
Bollards at Bagshot Court/Prince Imperial Road showing that the footpath was to be used only by pedestrians

A few weeks ago when walking up Academy Place I noticed that there was a hole in the fence that I took the picture below which shows the chicane to prevent vehicles and the panel that has been put up to close the path.

The path now, showing the chicane to prevent vehicles
The path now, showing the chicane to prevent vehicles
I have also asked the Royal Borough of Greenwich to formally dedicate the footpaths from Shooters Hill to Academy Place and onwards to Bagshot Court/Prince Imperial Road as highways on the basis of a presumed dedication as provided for by section 31 of the Highways Act 1980.

The basis for this presumed dedication are:

– my continual use of this route from Red Lion Lane to Shooters Hill along these two footpaths for more than 30 years;

– the presence of the chicane and the bollards preventing vehicular access demonstrates that the owners were content for pedestrian use along this route.

But why did the MOD decide to close the footpath between Academy Place and Shooters Hill in the first place?

In a letter to the Council in 21 June 2012 they say it was because of dumping of rubbish and college students “using the area as a recreation centre to meet and socialise causing a possible nuisance”.

I raised an eyebrow when I read this as I have never encountered either of these problems and in any event even if they are,  they are entirely capable of being addressed in other ways which do not require the closure of the footpath.

I hope that I have provided enough information here to enable the Council to take the necessary action to have the route classified as a public right of way which will lead in turn to the re-opening of the footpath. My fear is that the MOD might put pressure on them not do so.

So I am asking for the help of you neighbours who have been using the footpath – ideally for 30 years – to email me on parly @ sky. com to tell me how often you used this footpath in the past and I will present any further evidence to RBG to help persuade them to reopen the path.

Thank you for any information you are able to provide.

Friday 2nd August – A midnight 'Megawalk'

Sunrise from Shooters Hill
Sunrise from Shooters Hill

If you fancy a 22 mile night hike along the length of the Green Chain Walk from Crystal Palace to Erith then you’re in luck because Ian Bull will be leading one on Friday night. This is a repeat of last year’s successful “megawalk”, but without the Oxleas missiles. Ian has led a number of walks in the area, including the Best Landscape and Views in London,  the Thames Path Super Walk and London’s best woodland and views – without doubt. He e-mailed to say:

A leisurely 22 mile stroll over the most popular sections of the Green Chain Walk from Crystal Palace to Erith, but with a difference, the walk is nocturnal!
Meet outside Crystal Palace railway station at 23.45pm. After the first five miles we enter pitch black woodland. Quite amazing! By the time we get to Eltham we’ll see wonderful views of London at first- light. This was so good last year that we spent about 20 minutes watching. At around 05.00, after much more dark woodland we arrive at Shooters Hill for sunrise, and there’s no where better to see it as the view extends right over Essex and the estuary. The rest of the walk is mostly in woodland which looks lovely at that time of the morning. We arrive at Erith and the Thames at about 08.00 for plenty of trains home.
The walk was very successful last year but I must stress that the event is wholly unofficial and just for fun. If you take part you do so entirely at your own risk. For further information please contact Ian Bull – ianbull at btinternet dot com

If you prefer to hike by daylight then Ian will be repeating the walk on Saturday 28th September during the day:

TfL has offered to fund Walk London’s ‘Autumn Ambles’ and thus the 7th ‘Green Chain Megawalk’ will go ahead on Saturday 28th September starting from Crystal Palace railway station at 9.15. It’s the same as the above but in daylight.

Interactive map from Green Chain Walk web site
Interactive map from Green Chain Walk web site

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