One of the oddities of the Quaggy catchment area around Grove Park is that there are two completely separate tributary streams which are referred to by the same name. Unfortunately, it isn’t an attractive name drawing on local history or some unique aspect of the wider local landscape, it is the rather mundane ‘Grove Park Ditch’. Running Past covered the easterly of this duo a while ago.
The source of the westerly Ditch seems to have been a pond, or the ground just above it, at the junction of what is now Leamington Avenue and Portland Road – the little bit of blue on the Ordnance Survey map published in 1898. The stream’s route is clear from the Environment Agency Flood Risk maps, when the surface water option is selected – it is the thin blue line to the bottom right of the map.
Its original course was probably no more than 200 metres long, the upstream pointing contour lines of the modern 1:25,000 OS map show it heading from its orginal source (the left hand picture above), towards the Quaggy’s original course – behind Leamington Avenue, roughly following a now largely overgrown track to garages behind the houses (middle picture), then crossing Leamington Close, still under a track to garages (right hand photo above), to join the Quaggy behind where Oak Tree Gardens are now situated.
The Quaggy too was diverted underground in this area when the houses were built, there is a clear dip in Leamington Avenue (top photo immediately above) and its new submerged course is topped by another access track to garages. Oddly, where the confluence would have historically occurred there was a large puddle (above, lower photo), I did plan to take a slightly closer look but dogs barking on the private land as I approached rather deterred me – a less than intrepid explorer.
Rather than have an underground confluence of the Quaggy and Grove Park Ditch (West), the latter has had its course significantly and circuitously extended, probably by around 500 metres. It is seemingly piped over the Quaggy, probably crossing the junction of Portland Road and Oak Tree Gardens – there was a subterranean sound of water at around this point from one of a pair of manhole covers, although there sounded as though there may be more water than at the outflow (which I had already found) – so it could have course just been a drain.
The likely current course would probably have the encased stream following the edge of the westerly section of Chinbrook Meadows (beyond the short tunnel under the railway), behind the fencing to the branch line towards Bromley North. Close to the railway junction with the main line, Grove Park Ditch (West) would then curve around the base of the railway embankments before emerging into the open.
Unlike its eastern sibling which emerges with a roar, shouting ‘look at me, look at me’ creating itself a valley before turning into an attractive, babbling brook edging woodland and fields. Grove Park Ditch (West) rather lives up to the last word in its appellation. There was a desultory emergence from the concrete casing into what was more reminiscent of a drain than a stream. There was little sign of movement in the ominous looking muddy water. I had hoped for more, well at least more water, on the morning after a heavy downpour. It wasn’t even easy to see, hidden behind stout metal Network Rail fencing preventing any ne’er do wells having access to the embankment from the westerly part of Chinbrook Meadows.
The emergent Ditch trickles slightly downhill for almost a hundred metres towards its final destination – its confluence with the Quaggy. The coming together of the flows is rather lacking in distinction too, there is a twist to force the Ditch down and almost back upon itself to meet the Quaggy just inside the tunnel piping it under the railway with the all the force of a tap with low water pressure. My failed attempts to photograph the junction were even less impressive than the reality.
The good news is that there are plans afoot to try to make the last few metres of the ‘Ditch’ slightly more alluring, while the aesthetics will be improved considerably, the real reason is to install a sustainable drainage system (SuDS) which would enable water to run through a series of pools planted with native marshland plants that will naturally filter the water reducing the potential pollution impact of the ‘Ditch.’ I am no expert on gauging water quality by sight, but it didn’t look good.
While Grove Park Ditch (West) isn’t currently worth much of a trek Chinbrook Meadows is a different matter, it is a lovely park – one of my Lewisham favourites. It was the site of a small dairy farm, Chinbrook Farm – the park first opening in 1929 and being considerably extended eight years later. The Quaggy was channelised early in the ‘Meadow’s’ existence and, from memory, large fences and hedges partially hid the river. The river was freed into a more natural gently meandering course with more natural planting and access after works that were completed in 2002.
An finally … thank you to Lawrence Beale Collins of Thames21 for helping me with unpicking the two very different Grove Park Ditches.