Preparing Eaglesfield Pond for Winter

Friends' publicity flyer Side 1

The Friends of Eaglesfield Park would welcome help on what will probably be their final lilly pond tidying and pond dipping session of the year this Sunday (26th October) starting at 11.00am. Madeleine wrote with the details:

It is a long time since my last email, but I hope our blog at has kept you informed about FOEP activities and progress of the pond and surrounding meadow.  It is only 2 years since the pond and meadow were restored and already they are  providing a wonderful environment for the wildlife of our local area.
During the year we have continued with monthly pond/meadow maintenance, planting, tidying and pond dipping and have enjoyed some beautiful weather.  However Autumn is now upon us and we need to make sure all is prepared for Winter so that we can look forward to the new Spring.
Probably our last opportunity to prepare for Winter will be Sunday 26th October, between 11.00 am and 1.00 pm.
We would really welcome and appreciate any time you could spare to help us !    We are hoping to thin the pond vegetation and to rough rake the meadow/sow wildflower seeds (subject to whether or not the Council’s Parks and Open Spaces Dept have been able to cut the meadow).    Of course, “Weather Permitting”.
If you are able to join us, don’t forget to wear old clothes and wellies.   I am afraid we are unable to supply tools – could you kindly bring your own ?   Particularly useful would be garden rake (not lawn rake), spade/fork and don’t forget gloves.

The Lilly pond has come a long way in the last few years, from the overgrown eyesore with broken railings at the end of 2011 to the verdant wild-life friendly pond of today. Some of the photos showing the transformation are included below.

Eaglesfield Park Lilly Pond October 2011
Eaglesfield Park Lilly Pond October 2011
Eaglesfield Park Lilly Pond March 2012
Eaglesfield Park Lilly Pond March 2012
Eaglesfield Park Lilly Pond May 2013
Eaglesfield Park Lilly Pond May 2013

As well as the regular pond tidying and pond dipping sessions,  the Friends recently hosted a group of young volunteers from National Citizen Service (NCS) The Challenge for a day. The 15-17 year olds took on two tasks. One was gardening. Some of the park’s pathways were being obstructed by  low and overhanging branches of holly, hawthorn and acacia trees or narrowed by brambles and nettles: the volunteers cleared these to make the paths more easily passable. They also delivered copies of the leaflets shown at the top and bottom of this post to over a thousand homes around the park.

There are lots of pictures and some videos of the volunteers in action and the results of their work on the Friends’ blog.

Friends' publicity flyer Side 2


October half term events at Woodlands Farm

October Half Term Events poster 2014

Hannah, the Education Officer at Woodlands Farm sent details of their October half term events for children:

October half Term events at Woodlands Farm

Wednesday 29th October
Autumn Scavenger Hunt
1pm-3pm    £2 per child
Join us for our autumn scavenger hunt around the farm.  If you can find everything you get a prize!
No need to book, just drop in!  For more information, call 020 8319 8900

Thursday 30th October
Make a willow bird feeder
11am and 1pm   £3 per person
Join us to learn how to weave willow to make a lovely bird feeder for the birds in your garden, just in time for winter.  Booking is essential, to book call 020 8319 8900.

Friday 31st October
Horrible Halloween
6pm-8pm  £3 per child
Come along to a spooky evening at Woodlands Farm.  Wear fancy dress as we explore the farm by night as well as make a spooky craft to take home.  Booking is essential for this event, to book call 020 8319 8900.

For more information, see our website or contact Hannah Forshaw on

Woodlands Farm is located on the borders of the London boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich.  At 89 acres, it is the largest city farm in the UK.  Our priorities are education and conservation, and we are part of the Natural England Higher Level Stewardship Scheme.  Our education programme attracts visitors from pre-school to third-age groups.  The Trust aims to involve local community groups, schools, volunteers and businesses in farming and conservation, helping to bridge the current town-country divide.
We are open 9.30am-4.30pm, Tuesday-Sunday (except Christmas Day).  There is no entry charge except for special events, though donations are always welcome.
Nearest tube: North Greenwich
Nearest BR: Welling
Buses: 486 and 89
We are a farm so sensible shoes and clothing are recommended!  We do allow dogs, but please note that these must be kept on a lead and not taken into any farm buildings.

During the summer Hannah has been leading a team of dedicated volunteers on a set of surveys of the farm  flora and fauna, including  meadow plants, newt and pond life, bats, butterflies, moths and mammals, not to mention the Opal Biodiversity Hedgerow survey and Opal Tree health survey. Here are a couple of their finds: A Wood Mouse and a Lunar Underwing Moth.

Wood Mouse caught on the Woodlands Farm mammal survey
Wood Mouse caught on the Woodlands Farm mammal survey
Lunar Underwing Moth seen on Woodlands Farm moth survey
Lunar Underwing Moth seen on Woodlands Farm moth survey

Picture Puzzle

Shooters Hill School about 1875
Shooters Hill School about 1875

From time to time I receive e-mails with questions about Shooters Hill local history. Often these are from other countries, such as a question about dairies in Shooters Hill from someone in Australia. Another e-mail from Australia, from Lorraine McBride, was a question about the painting shown above of Shooters Hill School in about 1875. Lorraine wondered if I knew anything about the school, and whether it was still standing. She said that she knew nothing about the painting, or how it made its way to Australia.

It’s a puzzling picture. It doesn’t look like any of the schools around Shooters Hill today, certainly not Christ Church or Eglinton Road or the Post-16 Campus which used to be Shooters Hill Grammar School. The pond is particularly puzzling. The only possibility, it seemed to me, was that this was a painting of Wickham House at the back of the old Bull where  the Rev. Thomas James Dallin ran an  academy for gentlemen. The pond would have had to be the Eaglesfield Park Lilly Pond. This wasn’t a very satisfactory solution as none of the old OS maps of Shooters Hill showed  both the pond and Wickham House at the same time. Also the dates didn’t quite fit: the Rev. Thomas James Dallin was the first vicar at Christ Church from 1856 until his death in 1865, ten years before the painting’s date.

The answer was in the Greenwich Heritage Centre. David Lloyd Bathe’s “Steeped in History” includes the photograph below, which is very clearly the same building as in the water colour: the chimneys and widows are quite distinctive, as is the pond at the front.

Steeped in History has this to say about the building:

Up until 1875 the area by the water tower was known as Woodcot complete with its surrounding gardens. The house was said to be constructed from large sawn timbers obtained from local woods. It had a pond which measured 150ft by 90ft fed from a local spring and was used in severe winters for skating. The east facing house was built before 1745 and was demolished in 1875. For many years it was occupied by the artist W. Earl who with his wife oversaw a school for young ladies.
When the house was pulled down in 1875 two cottages were built just north of the water tower, they were known as 1 and 2 Woodcot Cottages. The pond remained until 1906 when it was filled in and six semi-detached villas were built, Ardmore, Eridge, Hammerwood, St Ives, St Denys and The Crest by Mr. Hutchings.

So the School in the painting was a school for young ladies run by W.Earl and his wife. W. Earl’s full name was William Robert Earl.

Woodcot showing the pond used for skating in icy weather
Woodcot showing the pond used for skating in icy weather

The Greenwich Heritage Centre folder about William Robert Earl contains an exchange of letters in 1979 between William’s great grand-daughter, Mrs. Patricia Glasgow, and the Greenwich local history library which was then at Woodlands House. Mrs. Glasgow lived in New Zealand to where her grandfather Albert, one of William Earl’s sons, had migrated in 1857. It reveals that the school was run by William’s wife Ann with the aid of a governess and that there were an average of 10 pupils.

Mrs. Glasgow’s letter also says a little about William’s career as a painter:

My great grandfather was a prolific painter; I received a letter from the librarian of the Royal Academy of Arts with a list of 19 paintings they exhibited between 1823 and 1854, and she also mentioned that over 50 works were shown by the British Institution  and that he was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Society of British Artists.

Here is Mrs. Glasgow’s list of William Robert Earl’s paintings that were exhibited by the Royal Academy:

1823        View near Chichester
1824        View on the coast of Sussex
1825        View at the back of the Isle of Wight, View from Green Hill, Evesham, Worcestershire
1826        A scene on the coast, Scene at St Cross, Isle of Wight, Scene at Charlton Forest, Sussex
1827        View in the New Forest near Lyndhurst, with figures, The fisherman’s fortunate haul and lucky return
1828        Waterfall and figures
1829        Coast Scene
1831        View near Eltham, Kent
1845        Fishing boats on the beach, Hastings, Sussex, Fishing boats landing, Hastings, Sussex
1848        Shrimping and wildfowl shooting between Hastings and Rye
1850        A wreck off the castle, Scarborough,  Landscape, evening
1852        The morning after the wreck of the “City of Bristol” near Warms Head, South Wales
1854        Fishermen leaving home

Mrs. Glasgow also sent a colour photo of one of William’s paintings, Sheep Washing in Eltham Lane, which was owned by a cousin; I’ve included a scan of it below. Two more of William’s paintings are shown on the BBC Your Paintings web site.

Mrs Glasgow provides a link between William Robert Earl in Shooters Hill and the Southern hemisphere. Another is mentioned in an article in the March 2002 issue of the North West Kent Family History Society‘s journal by John Orbell, a great grandson of William Robert Earl. He had discovered a distant relative in Australia, but didn’t give any details. John also found an entry about William in the Dictionary of Victorian Painters by C. Wood:

EARL, William Robert, flourished between 1823-6 7, Coastal views in England, Scotland, Belgium & Germany. Exhibited 114 works, 19 at Royal Academy, 52 at British Institution (1806-67), 43 at Society of British Artists (founded 1823); London landscape painter. Exhibited at RA 1823-1854, but more frequently at BI & SBA, Suffolk Street. Subjects mainly views of Sussex, the Isle of Wight, and other places on the English coast. Also travelled in Germany and along the Rhine.

William lived in Shooters Hill until his death at Glengall Cottage on 10th June 1880.

Could William have painted the water colour of Woodcot? It’s difficult to say. Lorraine removed the painting from its frame to check for a signature with no luck. On the back of the painting there are two lines of indistinct text. The top one is the title and the second is:

‘…. ….. Bess (B.l.. .y…. dam) …ut about 1875

The dots indicate undecipherable letters and Lorraine was not 100% sure about the letters in red. Any suggestions about the water colour’s painter would be very welcome.

Photograph of W.R. Earl's Sheep Washing in Eltham Lane from Greenwich Heritage Centre
W. R. Earl’s Sheep Washing in Eltham Lane photo from Greenwich Heritage Centre

The cottages and houses mentioned by David Lloyd Bathe that replaced Woodcot  are still there, shown in the photographs below. The original Woodcot and its pond occupied all of the area between the short part of Cleanthus Road and Eaglesfield Road, with the house itself at the western end of the plot facing east. The water tower which now takes up part of that land wasn’t built until 1910; looking at the position of Woodcot on old maps the tower is positioned at the left hand end of Woodcot in the photograph at the top.  The name “The Crest” can still be seen on the semi-detached villa closest to the water tower and  “Eridge” on the one second furthest away. Colonel Bagnold says that the photograph of Woodcot was taken by “Miss Carter, at one time resident of Summer Court”. It would have been taken from roughly where Eaglesfield Road is now. The Colonel also says that the spring that fed the pond still existed (at the time he was writing) in the garden of the house called Hammerwood.

A partial solution to Lorraine’s picture puzzle, though not yet the complete answer. But it did reveal some interesting local history.

Woodcot Cottages and the Water Tower
Woodcot Cottages and the Water Tower
The row of semi-detached villas on the site of the former Woodcot pond
The row of semi-detached villas on the site of the former Woodcot pond

Wide Horizons Family Fun Day & Adventure Abseil

Wide Horizons' Fun Day Flyer

Aimee from Wide Horizons wrote with details of a Family Fun Day and Adventure Abseil to be held this Saturday, 18th October, to celebrate the charity’s tenth birthday. She wrote:

Wide Horizons are turning ten this October and on Saturday 18th October, wish to celebrate this by inviting members of the local community to our beautiful site to enjoy a day of free activities, take part in an Adventure Abseil and listen to our range of guest speakers talk about the charity, including Mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock.
Wide Horizons are celebrating ten long years of the charity providing local schools with Adventure Learning. The eight centres across England and Wales allow schools to experience life changing adventures, schools can take part in day and overnight visits at our centres.
Our aim for this Free Family Fun Day is to give members of the local community, primarily Greenwich and Lewisham, an insight to what Wide Horizons is about and how Adventure Learning is important for development of youth. The Environment Centre in Eltham will host this day, giving members of the public the chance to come and experience activities available to schools in the area. There will be a range of activities include; Arts & Crafts, Bushcraft, a climbing wall, the Adventure Abseil and much more throughout the day.

The sponsored Adventure Abseil will take place at the nearby University of Greenwich Avery Hill Campus. It’s a 90ft drop, shown in Wide Horizons’ photograph below, but you will be guided by the charity’s expert instructors and I hear that the views over South-East London from the top are amazing. You can register for the abseil here:

The Family Fun Day is completely free and runs from 10.00am to 4.00pm at Wide Horizons 9 acre Eltham site at 77 Bexley Road London  SE9 2PE.

Wide Horizons' photo of the Adventure Abseil
Wide Horizons’ photo of the Adventure Abseil
Portrait of a goat at Wide Horizons' Eltham Centre
Portrait of a goat at Wide Horizons’ Eltham Centre

Woodlands Farm Apple Day 12th October 2014

Woodlands Farm Apple Day Poster 2014

Maureen from Woodlands Farm e-mailed details of their annual autumn apple-fest – Apple Day. She wrote:

Join us for a celebration of British apples on Sunday 12 October 2014, from 11am to 4pm. This is an opportunity to discover and buy many different types of traditional British apples.  There will be a variety of activities including crafts, a treasure hunt, archery, apple pressing to make delicious juice, stalls selling local produce, including our own honey and home-made jams, cakes and try some Kentish Cider.  A great day out for all the family.  Entry is free, but donations are always welcome and go towards the running of the Farm.

I was hoping to find some unusual apples in the Farm’s orchard; I know the apple trees there are of various varieties that you wouldn’t normally find in a supermarket. Unfortunately all the apple trees were fruitless. Already harvested perhaps? However there were some interesting looking pears and some medlars, which looked ready to be bletted.

Pear tree in Woodlands Farm orchard
Pear tree in Woodlands Farm orchard
Medlar tree at Woodlands Farm
Medlar tree at Woodlands Farm

Local History Walk on Sunday

Royal Coat of Arms in a Shooters Hill garden
Royal Coat of Arms in a Shooters Hill garden

I hear from Steve that the Shooters Hill Local History Group is organising a circular walk on Sunday 5th October commencing at The Bull on Shooters Hill at 11am with a 12.30pm finish. He doesn’t give many details, but says that it an opportunity to learn more about the history of our area, and will make reference to some famous local names associated with Shooters Hill, houses, landowners and stories of interest about the area.

Participants in the Group’s last history walk took a peek over the wall of the garden of a Shooters Hill house and saw the stone coat of arms shown above. I wonder if this walk will go the same way?

Appropriate footwear is recommended

Constitution Rise Woodlands

The pond in the Constitution Hill woodland
The pond in the Constitution Rise woodland

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.

Snippet from Alan Godfrey's 1866 OS Map of Shooters Hill
Snippet from Alan Godfrey’s 1866 OS Map of Shooters Hill
Google maps snippet showing location of woodland on Constitution Rise
Google maps snippet showing location of woodland on Constitution Rise















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 of Sir 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.

Guided tour of the woodland site in February
Guided tour of the woodland site in February
Chickens at Wide Horizon's Eltham Centre
Chickens at Wide Horizon’s Eltham Centre