As Running Past has noted before, little imagination went into the naming of most of the Quaggy’s tributaries, the notable exception being Mottingham’s Fairy Hall Flow. Grove Park Ditch is one of those appellations that is lacking in allure, purely functional, mundanely descriptive – although, as we will find, it is in places much more than that.
Grove Park Ditch is a near neighbour of the seemingly no longer flowing Fairy Hall Flow, its source in Lower Marvels Wood is a couple of hundred metres away from where the Flow once babbled through farmland on what is now Beaconsfield Road.
The ‘source’ is in the lovely Lower Marvels Wood, presumably a remnant of the past woods that covered the area now part of the Green Chain Walk.
The amount of water at the source is impressive, and has eroded a relatively deep channel which was quite a slippery scramble to get down see. It presumably isn’t the real source; there is a concrete construction around the ‘source’ with a just visible pipe curving off to the east – presumably water is culverted from somewhere else. There are one or two small ponds marked on Victorian OS maps a little higher up the gently sloping hillside in Marvels Wood – they aren’t marked on modern maps and my limited exploration on a very soggy Sunday morning failed to find any sign of them.
After the initial erosion from the force of the water from the source, the ‘valley’ soon becomes imperceptible with the Ditch clinging to the southern edge of Lower Marvels Wood, almost hidden from the playing fields it borders. For a small stream flowing through woodland and a park edge, it seems to ‘attract’ a vast quantity of urban debris, if the large pile by the plastics and glass by the traps close to Lambscroft Avenue is anything to go by – this is just before the Ditch is lost to view,
The ‘Ditch,’ once encased in concrete, heads down the gentle slope, under houses towards the playing fields of Eltham College. The exact route is unclear; it isn’t marked on old OS maps as a stream. However, as historical boundaries often followed natural features such as streams, it is quite likely that the original course marked the local government boundary from the highlighted boundary stone (on the map below) until it reached the Quaggy. During my reconnoitre I didn’t hear the sounds of rushing water emanating from below manhole covers, however, this may have related more to the cacophony of the above ground torrential rain, with one or two thunderous rumbles, drowning out any subterranean sounds.
Any access to the playing fields of Eltham College (Running Past has ‘visited’ the former Fairy Hall before) and those of the City of London School is limited, the gates are locked and the borders are patrolled. So it wasn’t possible to see whether there was any above ground evidence of the Ditch, maps suggest there might be, although the satellite view of Google suggests that it is submerged, hidden just beyond the boundaries of cricket pitches. The maps appear to show another small stream or drainage ditch too.
The outflow of Grove Park Ditch is a pipe from the wall of the horribly channelised Quaggy – the walls and river bed are concrete and presumably devoid of much life as a result. As the Quaggy Action Group suggested a decade ago, it is a ‘suitable case of treatment’ of the kind that has enhanced both Chinbrook Meadows and Sutcliffe Park, both visually and in their ability to hold storm flows. The outflow was easier to see than to photograph from the Green Chain Walk path, although this was largely because of the siling rain when I ‘explored’ for this post.
While not part of the ‘Ditch’, on the western side of the Quaggy there is modern cartographic evidence of a couple of streams joining the Quaggy from the area around what is now Hadlow College, the Victorian OS map showing just the ponds, however, this too is private land and not accessible to the fluvial flâneur.