Category Archives: Uncategorized

Following the Quaggy – Chinbrook Meadows to Eltham Bridge

In previous posts, Running Past has followed the Quaggy from its sources around Locksbottom and then on through Petts Wood, the Hawkwood Estate, Chislehurst and Bickley and through the golf courses of Sundridge Park and on to Chinbrook Meadows.

We left the Quaggy in a concrete channel coming out of Chinbrook Meadows.  A small weir lowers the level of the river bed as it exits the park, it is not to provide a more natural bed though, the notched river bed gives way to a flat one but it is still concrete – attempting to quickly move the water on, as was de-rigour in the 1960s.  The river isn’t completely barren at this point – some small plants are clinging onto an existence but struggling to put down any roots.

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It is in a clear valley as it crosses Chinbrook Road, with climbs up to both Grove Park Station and the Grove Park and Chinbrook housing estates (both covered by the excellent Municipal Dreams blog).  But that is about as natural as it gets – while the shape of the banks and the bed change the concrete seems to remain as the Green Chain Path follows its eastern bank, it is a path that it marked on early Ordnance Survey maps (on a Creative Commons from the National Library of Scotland)

 

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The path emerges out onto what used to be called Claypit Lane but is now called Marvels Lane.  The road is bridged and heads towards the entrance to some playing fields – this isn’t how it has always been though.  As the Ordnance Survey map above from the 1890s shows, there used to be a small pool and a distinct meander at this point – taking  the Quaggy in front of the former agricultural workers cottages – Sydenham Cottages (below) – presumably for Claypit Farm (just off map, although no longer marked by the 1890s).

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There was serious flooding there – notably in 1968 – which seems to have led the channelisation and straightening of the river.  The Quaggy encased in concrete is now more or less devoid of life at this point.  Its former meander is now the Sydenham Cottages nature reserve which despite its river bank location has almost no trace of wetland habitat remaining.

The straight channel is slightly disturbed opposite the nature reserve with a concrete access ramp (see above left photograph) – this has led to some fluvial deposits in the slowest moving bits of the river.  Plants have colonised the sediments, but it is a precarious existence, without deep roots, they could be lost to the next high flow.

Opposite the nature reserve, and clearly visible from it is the outflow, just above the river level, one of the tributary streams joins the Quaggy, Grove Park Ditch – which rises in Marvels Wood and has an attractive 400 metres through woodland and park edge before being forcibly submerged around the edge of the Chinbrook Estate and then the playing fields of the former Fairy Hall – which gave its name to another stream in the Quaggy catchment, Fairy Hall Flow.

The river is followed by the Green Chain Path for another hundred metres or so before the path veers off to the right towards Mottingham Lane and the last home of WG Grace.  For those following the river as a walk this is the way to head and then re-join the Quaggy near at the junction with Winns Avenue.

For most of the 20th Century the former over spill Greenwich Union Workhouse, Grove Park Hospital, dominated the area – its land went up to the banks of the Quaggy – the slight valley is clear from the postcard below (source eBay November 2016).

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The location both as a workhouse and in its early days as a hospital, led to its under use as it away from the urban area.  It spent time as a military barracks and hospital during World War 1 ( see post card below – eBay May 2016) but was a TB and chest hospital for most of its ‘life’, although latterly became a mental health institution – the development of care in the community and associated hospital closure programme meant that its days were numbered.  It closed in 1994 and is now a mixture of a private health club and housing.

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There used to be a second meander, in what were the grounds of Grove Park Hospital but that too was removed presumably at the same time as that of Sydenham Cottages.  The meander is easy to see on the ground, next to the former hospital is a private leisure centre through whose ground there is access to a scrubby field that gently slopes down to the river, the path to it, which traverses a broken down bit of chain link fencing, is easy to miss though.  The former meander is a jungle of brambles which proved something of an obstacle to the bare-legged urban explorer.  A little further along the path that loops around the unkempt grass, the Quaggy is reachable and seems almost back to its semi-rural state last seen on Tong Farm, several miles back upstream.  It is but a brief interlude though – the Wates developed houses on the former Melrose Farm soon appear on the western bank and the river is left to flow behind the gardens of Westdene Avenue and Jevington Way.

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On the eastern bank is Hadlow College, which was once the site of a large Victorian house, Mottingham Hall.  For a while, the site was the Macintyre Nature Reserve – part of an organisation that provided support for people with mental health disabilities, it then became an outpost of Phoebes Garden Centre, before being taking on by Hadlow College.  Contours would suggest that there may have been at least one stream joining the Quaggy in this area.

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The Quaggy emerges into the public gaze by the side of the entrance to the College, still with natural banks, although one is lost as it hugs the side of Mottingham Lane before flowing through a shiny new screen to prevent blockages in a section under the Lane.  The opposite side of the road is then meandered against, with the fields of Mottingham Riding School on the other side, before a confluence with one of the Quaggy’s larger tributaries, the Little Quaggy close to the Sidcup by-pass (below, right.)

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In several Facebook threads there are memories of playing in the river in this area, catching sticklebacks and taking them home in jam jars, going through the underground sections of the river both under Mottingham Lane and the braver ones under the A20. Others used to play ‘Quaggy jumping’ in this area near the now closed Dutch House pub. ‘It was always a triumph when you reached the other side without getting wet shoes, good days.’

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Any feelings of ‘rus in urbe’ are soon lost after crossing the A20, while edged by grass and trees on initially scrubland and then a series of sports grounds, the concrete bed and banks return in their bleakest form anywhere on the river, any remaining sticklebacks would be hard pressed to find food.  The concrete course is almost as straight as a Roman road as it bypasses playing fields including the new home of Greenwich Borough FC, whose previous permanent ground, Harrow Meadow, adjacent to the Quaggy in Sutcliffe Park was lost to developers in 2009 – and they had a nomadic existence for a few years.  On the opposite bank, until the early 1930s, would have been the Middle Park Farm – like Horn Park Farm it was originally site one of the Eltham Palace’s hunting parks.

The river then squeezes between back gardens and is bridged the South Circular – on the south side it is shielded by a wall of a height that makes visibility of the flow impossible; on the northern side while the parapet was lower the overhanging shrub on both sides of the river meant that the flow was still invisible. It emerges back into the open at Eltham Bridge.  This is an area that is still subject to flooding – over 20 houses were flooded around Christmas 2013.  Before leaving the Quaggy there for another day a stop at the Bridge is worth making; it has an old London County Council sign with a wide variety of rules relating to bridges it controlled up until 1965.  Mooring a vessel at Eltham Bridge would be quite challenging though …..

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The Original Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee – ‘Lost’ in the Blitz

Historically, the Parish Church of St Margaret,  Lee was relatively small one serving three small population centres – the area around the church itself on what is now called Lee Terrace, around Lee Green and the large houses of Old Road such as Lee Place, the Manor House, The Firs and Pentland House.

The coming of the railways saw the population grow and the ecclesiastical parish of St Margaret was divided several times to form the parishes of Christ Church (Lee Park) in 1854, Holy Trinity (Glenton Road) in 1863 and St Mildred’s on the eponymous Road in 1872.  The first two of these have already been ‘visited’ by Running Past and were both lost as a result of World War Two bombs – the churches were partially destroyed, later demolished and not replaced – their parishes being subsumed back into that of St Margaret.

The fourth subdivision was the creation of The Church of the Good Shepherd in 1881 (see above – source eBay October 2016). Much of the initial funding apparently came from Lord Northbrook, still owner of the Manor House at that point but hadn’t lived there for some time.  Initially it was to be a chapel of ease rather than a parish in its own right, the Rector of St Margaret’s, Reverend F H Law announced at the beginning of 1881

The Chapel-of-Ease, then, to the Parish Church, which I purpose calling ‘The Church of the Good Shepherd,’ is to hold 550 persons, all the Sittings are to be unappropriated, so that the poor cannot be crowded out from what is more especially their own Church; and I have sufficient faith and confidence in those who will worship there, to believe that by their offerings, sufficient will be contributed, not only to provide for all necessary expenses of the Services, but also for the maintenance of at least one of the Clergy who will be especially in charge of it.

The church was designed by Ernest Newton; Newton has been featured in some detail in Running Past, in an earlier post on another local building that he designed, Lochaber Hall – formerly the church hall of Holy Trinity, Glenton Park.  Locally, he also designed the Baring Hall pub as well as St Swithun’s Church on Hither Green Lane.  Like St Swithun’s, the builders were the largely ecclesiastical Croydon firm Maides and Harper, they have been described as ‘first-class building firm’ with a reputation for high quality workmanship (photo below – source eBay September 2016).

Local Victorian historian F H Hart (who was a sidesman at St Margaret’s at the time of the consecration) described the church as a

plain, substantial structure of red brick, with tiled roof, and neat bell turret. The interior of the church has a remarkably open appearance, and light is admitted by four large semi-circular windows.

He suggested that the ‘fittings’ for the Church of the Good Shepherd church are very plain but substantial – money for them had been raised through a special offertory at St Margaret’s.

Hart also noted that in the months after the consecration that attendance at the services ‘is most encouraging, as are also the offertories.’

The church was largely ‘lost’ during  the Blitz in 1941 when it was hit by an incendiary bomb, possibly in error as that night the Luftwaffe were targeting the docks, however as the then vicar, the Reverend J B Phillips, sadly noted (1)

‘Consequently every fire-fighting appliance was directed to save our vital food supplies.  No water pump could be spared to save a building, however beloved, and it was poignant indeed for us to stand helplessly by and see the church blaze into ruins.’

While the building was damaged beyond repair the parish continued to function using the parish hall that had been built in 1892 (2), there were donations from other parishes of an altar cross, candlesticks, pews, pulpits, a font and altar frontals (3).  Some of these probably came from other churches lost in the Blitz.

 

For a while, the parish used the church hall of Holy Trinity in Manor Lane Terrace (now known as Lochaber Hall), see below, for Sunday Schools as well as providing a hall for other activities (4).

For many local churches and chapels destroyed during the war, the destruction of the physical place of worship saw the end of the parish or church community; in addition to losses of Christ Church and Holy Trinity, the Methodist church on Hither Green Lane and the Baptist chapel at the corner of Eastdown Park and Lee High Road were lost.  This was not the case with the Good Shepherd, but the parishioners had to be patient; due to post war shortages of building materials and the priority given to housing, it meant that it was to be seventeen years before it was possible to rebuild the church.

The new church was completed and re-consecrated in 1957 and in its rebuilding it was able to use foundations and some portions of the old walls, varying in height from a few brick courses up to some 2 to 3 metres on all the walls, apart from that facing Handen Road. This probably explains the more than cursory nod to the original designs of Ernest Newton, although perhaps had more work been done to the Victorian foundations there wouldn’t have been the problems with subsidence that beset the church around the Millennium.

 

 

Notes

  1. Booklet produced by Church of the Good Shepherd, Lee in 1956, p11
  2. ibid p8
  3. ibid p12
  4. ibid p12

Thank you to the Reverend Shepherd of the Church of the Good Shepherd and Lewisham Archives for allowing me use the photographs of the bomb damage and temporary church (the three black and white photographs in the middle of the post) – they were part of the booklet noted above.

Dairy Farming in Lee – College Farm

Running Past has covered several of the farms of Lee that predated the gradual encroachment of the city – Lee Green Farm, Horn Park Farm, Woodman’s Farm and the slightly smaller operation of Butterfield Dairy.  College Farm is a farm that the blog has mentioned a few times before in passing and was to be the final home of the large scale Lee farmer, William Morris (sometimes called Morriss) who ran both Lee Green and Horn Park Farms for many years. College Farm was a largely dairy farm which stood on the western side of Burnt Ash Hill, located roughly where Farmcote Road now meets Burnt Ash Hill.

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Before continuing, College Farm should not be confused with a farm of the same name on Lewisham High Street which was farmed latterly by the Clarks who end up at the close by Butterfield Dairy..

The land for the farm has its roots in the early 17th century, it was bought by Henry Howard, the Earl of Northampton to help provide income for Trinity Hospital in Greenwich which was founded in 1613 (there was a post on the blog in 2015 on Trinity Hospital) (1).  The land was initially woodland, but like most of the woodland in Lee it was probably felled for farmland during the 17th century.  It was managed on behalf of Trinity Hospital by the Mercers Company (2).

The farm was referred to, although not by name, in the 1839 tithe schedule.  While the land is noted in the tithe schedule as being owned by the Mercers Company, this is probably a mistake (3).

In 1839, College Farm was being farmed at part of the large portfolio of land which William Morris leased in the area – Running Past has covered Morris in some detail in a post on Lee Green Farm.  It was listed in the 1839 Lee Tithe schedule as being of 61 acres – it was mainly set to pasture as part of Morris’ extensive dairy operation.  Some fields had some rather attractive names such as Little Climbrooks (see below – source).

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In his latter years Morris was to make College Farm his home, passing away there in early 1851.  His second wife, Susannah, continued to hold the farm for another 4 years – she surrendered the lease in 1855 to William Brown (4).  It appears that by 1893 Brown was the freeholder, but it may have been much earlier than this.

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There was an attempt to let the farm house separate to the farm, presumably by William Brown in 1862 (5).  Whether this was successful or not is unclear, but by 1871 the Bowditchs were listed in the  census as living at College Farm, Kerslake Terrace. The father of the family was away on business on census night and doesn’t appear in subsequent censuses.  Charles Edward Bowditch was living there with his mother, Anne, his cousin and a Dutch visitor.  The family seems to have been around Lee since at least the Morris’ time, as Charles was born there in 1851.

There were three other households in Kerslake Terrace in 1871 which appears to have been the name of the workers cottages on or adjacent to the farm, they were given the similar ‘Karslake’ name in 1881.

It seems that the farm was run for a while as a joint enterprise between Charles and, presumably, his brother Stephen (born 1852) but this was ended in 1879.  Stephen carried on as a dairy farmer, based at 2, The Limes, Lee in 1881.  Charles stayed on at College Farm, having married Caroline from Cambridgeshire in 1878.

Like many modern farms, College Farm tried to diversify – it offered ‘board and residence’ in The Standard a couple of times in October 1881 – interestingly Lee was still regarded as ‘very pretty country’ at that stage (6).

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The Bowditches remained at the farm during the latter part of the 19th century – in 1891 there was Charles, Caroline, four daughters along with Ann(e). By the 1911 census Charles seems to have retired he and had moved to Wisteria Road in Lewisham, his occupation is listed both as ‘none’ and ‘dairy farmer’ so it is probably reasonable to assume that the 60 year old Charles had retired.  He passed away in 1915.

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The presumably shrinking farm was taken over by the Edwards Family – Public Health Reports listed them having 36 cows in 1913 along with 56 at Burnt Ash Farm – they were being farmed together, along with a few other local farms.  It seems likely that by this stage that the College Farm was just being used for milking and storage (7) – there is a photo above of some rather dilapidated looking buildings on the farm from that era (see notes for source).  The Edwards and Sons were a relatively large scale dairy enterprise with 60 shops around SE London – the family name continued to be used for a while after it was taken over by United Dairies (8) in 1927.  The photo below is a field from the farm from around this time  (see notes for source).

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The numbers were the same in 1919 but reports after that don’t list the dwindling number of dairy operations – which halved between 1919 and 1924 to just six, it probably didn’t include College Farm though.

The encroachment of suburbanisation continued apace in Lee as the series of maps below from 1867, 1893 and 1914 show (all on a creative commons from the National Library of Scotland).  By the next time the cartographers visited in the 1930s to update the maps the farm was gone – 1920s and 1930s terraces and semis were to sweep away most the remaining farmland in the area – as we saw with Wates development of the neighbouring Melrose/Woodman’s Farm.  It is likely that the developer was a local builder that we have covered before, W J Scudamore and Sons, part of what was referred to as the Northbrook Estate – Farmcote Road began to be developed in 1925 (9) .

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Notes

  1. Josephine Birchenough (1981) Some Farms and Fields in Lee p13
  2. ibid p13
  3. ibid p13
  4. Like much of the family detail on William Morris – this information comes via a comment to the blog on the post on William Morris and Lee Green Farm
  5. The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Apr 16, 1862; pg. 6
  6. The Standard (London, England), Thursday, October 13, 1881; pg. 8; Issue 17858.
  7. Birchenough op cit p13
  8. Ibid p 11
  9. Joan Read (1990) Lewisham Street Names and Their Origins p22

The last two photographs are  produced courtesy of Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre.  The census and related information generally comes from Find My Past although some relating to William Morris comes from a comment by Mike on the Lee Green Farm post.

The Long Good Friday & the Camouflaged Pub

The demise of some pubs is felt strongly by local communities, by their former regulars and often by those who were occasional drinkers but perhaps saw the pub as part of their community – their passing is regretted and the mere mention of their name provokes fond memories.  But for a pub which started life as the ‘Northover’ on the south corner of the junction of Northover and Whitefoot Lane  these rose-tinted reminisces proved harder to find, although not impossible, as we’ll return to later; a comment on a local blog described it as the ‘late unlamented Governor General’ (its latter name) set the scene.

The pub opened around 1937 as the Northover; not that much imagination in naming a pub after the street it was sited on.  It was a striking, large building on a big plot designed by the firm A W Blomfield for Watneys.  Blomfield was a well-established architectural firm, the founder made his name as a church restorer – his work included substantial alterations to what was then St Saviours, Southwark – now the Cathedral and his staff included for a short period a very young Thomas Hardy. Arthur Blomfield had died a generation before the pub was designed though.

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The pub is clear about 40% of the way up on the right hand side of the 1937 photograph  from Britain from the Air website that was taken around the time it opened.  Beyond it are the well planned lines of the Corbett Estate dominating the rear of the shot and the local authority housing of Waters Road the mid ground.  The open ground around the middle of the shot was to become the Excalibur Estate a decade later.

The location of the pub was on the edge of the Downham estate which had been developed from the 1920s, there was an excellent post on the estate in the Municipal Dreams blog.  The first and then largest pub in England, the Downham Tavern, had been built in 1930; the Northover was one of the second phase of community facilities which included the library and swimming pool, whose original incarnations were also opened in 1937.

It was in a prominent location and as the Britain from above shot showed, highly visible from above; as a result it would have been vulnerable to attacks from the Luftwaffe – so some attempts were made to camouflage the pub during World War Two – they clearly worked as the pub survived the war intact – remnants of the camouflage remained into the 1970s.

It is not clear when the name change happened, although the logic is clear – it was a reference to the rich and prominent local Forster Family, who lived at Southend Hall, which was at what is now the junction of Whitefoot Lane and Bromley Road.  Henry Forster had been ‘elevated’ to the peerage in 1919 and was Governor-General of Australia between 1920 and 1925.  He died in 1936.

govgen5The pub’s only real claim to fame was that it was that it had a small ‘part’ in the 1979 gangster movie ‘The Long Good Friday’ (poster – Wikimedia Commons) which starred Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, which the picture to below (source – the fantastic Reel Streets) is a ‘still’ from. Unlike Bob Hoskins, where the film became a launchpad for a successful career, the Governor-General faded back into obscurity and local semi-notoriety.

 

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Other on line references are very few and far between, the Governor-General appears in several message board discussions of ‘rough’ pubs where fights were a regular occurrences and there was even a strange suggestion that the pub’s name change followed its purchase by Danny LaRue.  While LaRue certainly owned other pubs and hotels, such as the Swan at Streatley on the Thames, and the upmarket hotel Walton Hall – owning a boozer on the edge of a council estate is probably unlikely.

There have been a few Facebook ‘threads’ on the pub including several relating to this post; the SE London Memories Group which started with its reputation claiming it ‘used to be a drinking hole for most of South East London’s underworld.’  Many remembered this aspect of the pub’s past with comments such as – ‘Northover was the sort of pub where you wiped your feet on the way out and ordered a fight at the bar along with your drinks.’ Someone else called it a ‘pint and a fight’ pub.  One person remembered their father returning home, rather shaken, after someone he had been standing next to at the bar was threatened with a crossbow.

One former employee described it as ‘a dump …. nothing but punch ups, (the) public bar was like a wild west saloon! ’  It was pointed by someone else though out that most of the pubs in the area had fairly similar reputations.

But many more had fonder memories – there was a function room at the back which several had held their weddings receptions, it was often packed out on Friday evenings when there were rock & roll and rockabilly bands and often discos; and, for the more refined, there were dinner dances there too.  It was the venue for football and other club ‘do’s’ too.

There were memories of the two worlds colliding too – there was a recollection of a mass brawl following a talent night being gate-crashed in the 1970s.

On a different thread , the pub is remembered as the location of the first, underage, pint – trying to and probably failing to look 18, and younger memories of sitting in the garden with just lemonade and crisps where the salt came in a blue packet (presumably before it was done on a retro basis).  Similar recollections came on some of the threads relating to this post too.

The filming of the Long Good Friday is remembered too – apparently Bob Hoskins had a kick about with several local teenagers, and generally being friendly towards locals; he may have received the attentions of a number of the local young women… One of the part of the filming went slightly wrong in that an actor was meant to be swung around seem to hit a poster on a wall, there was apparently a mixture of fake and real blood when it was salvaged as a souvenir.

The pub car park was the scene of a rather bizarre incident in the late 1970s when a large block of ice deposited from an aeroplane smashed through a car taking the engine with it!

The pub closed in the early 1990s – a pattern followed by several others on the edge of Downham – the Garden Gate, now a McDonalds, just off Bromley Hill and the Green Man, demolished and now a housing association office.  These days the site would no doubt have been developed for housing but around 2000 it opened as a petrol station, initially, as Q8, latterly a Shell filling station

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As with other ‘lost pub posts’ on Running Past, it would be good to be able to add in some other memories into the post. If you worked there or drank there tell your story – who were the characters that were regulars at the Governor-General? What about the landlord, the staff, the atmosphere, recollections of the friends, the memorable nights, (given its reputation) perhaps the fights and any memories of the filming of ‘The Long Good Friday.’  You can use your Facebook or Twitter login to comment here, first comments get moderated before they appear though.  If you found the post via Facebook, you can write your recollections there.  I will update the post with the memories.  Please don’t put anything libellous or that might offend others though…..

 

 

Grove Park Ditch – A Quaggy Tributary

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.

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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.

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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,

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Looking Back at 2015

It has been a strange year, a year that was nearly cut very short by a dark blue Fiat Punto that hit me at around 35 mph on a pedestrian crossing in mid January; amazingly and thankfully, I came out of it alive and without any life changing injuries, but it defined much of my year as I was initially put back together at Kings College Hospital and then gradually recovered.  It was something that really made me appreciate the NHS, its history and the risks it faces now.

Thank you to those of you who have sent their best wishes, expressed their concern and wishes for recovery here, via Twitter and elsewhere – they helped me stay positive and made the road to recovery a little easier.

One of the indirect impacts of the ‘accident’ was that Running Past changed a bit in that it became more focussed on an area that was closer to home as my running based research became walking based for a while. I did worry that, as a result, some of the things I posted on were about too ‘niche’, who on earth would be interested in a post on pond that was probably filled in during the1820s and its links to tributaries of the Quaggy? Oddly, lots of you did though, and for a while it was my most read post of the year.

Walking instead of running changed my perceptions a lot – I had never noticed the knee level graffiti in St Margaret’s Passage when running.

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The same was true of some of the things I found wandering along the Rivers Pool and Ravensbourne at a third of my previous pace.

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The much more local focus was something I have decided to largely keep for the future – although there will still be forays elsewhere.

So what have you read? The most read post was the same as in 2014, by some margin, on the Zeppelin Attack on Hither Green in 1917. The next five most read posts were all new ones on

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  1. The Russian Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin, and the time he spent in Bromley;
  2. George Wilson, the Blackheath Pedestrian – one of a number of posts I did on late Georgian and early Victorian walkers and runners;
  3. The Hidden Waterways of Greenwich Park;
  4. Will Crooks & the Greenwich Foot Tunnel; and
  5. A post tracking the largely lost Little Quaggy.

I enjoyed the research for all of the posts, I wouldn’t do it otherwise, but there were a couple of posts I particularly enjoyed – one ploughed a familiar furrow – a lost church, St Andrews, Vanbrugh Park, but linked it to the to the East London Group of artists, one of whose number Elwin Hawthorne had painted it in the 1930s. It was something a little outside my comfort zone, but art which adds to the local history of South East London and will be something I plan to return to in 2016.

(c) Elwin J. Hawthorn; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

See picture notes below for details re source & copyright

The other was a post I stumbled on when noticing an old street name sign off Baring Road which had links to Lee’s farming past – oddly it provoked little interest until I re-badged it as ‘Cows in Lee’ on Twitter. I will probably return to Lee’s agricultural past in 2016.

I have written a lot less about running this year, partly because it took an age to be able to run any real distance so the only posts tended to be about the real milestones – the first run, running up a mountain, the first race and some longer runs along the Thames at low tide – including one around Cliffe in Kent.

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I think that I have may have shied away a little from writing about running as I am not back to the sort of fitness I really want to be. In 2014, I covered virtually all my races, but my first post-accident 10k in early December 2015, an important milestone, was relegated to a brief mention on Twitter – I suspect because my time was so much slower than in 2014. Hopefully, this is something that will change in 2016.

I have tried one or two things that I would not have done pre-accident – notable amongst these was a piece on the pioneer of the internal monologue – Dorothy Richardson. I did find a slightly tenuous link to the place she died in Beckenham, but it was really a post about her writing. It took me out of my comfort zone, but I really enjoyed it, but it was a type of writing that didn’t fit easily into the confines of Running Past. So I developed another place for the occasional fiction review plus a few other more autobiographical posts based around music that has been important to me.

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Thank you for reading my posts this year, ‘liking’ and commenting on them, re-blogging on your own sites, as well as the large numbers of you who have re-tweeted, and liked on Twitter plus those of you who have put up links on Facebook, various on-line newspapers and elsewhere. It is really appreciated and has helped see a threefold increase in the post hits this year. There was also a doubling of the countries that I have had hits from – according to the statistical analysis of my blogging done by WordPress – I had hits from 82 different countries – I found it slightly surreal that someone in Tonga was interested in the street formerly known as Hocum Pocum Lane in Hither Green.

I have enjoyed lots of excellent writing from fellow bloggers – many of whom are on the blog roll at the side or bottom of the page depending on your device. Please do have a look.

Picture Credits

The painting of St Andrew, Vanbrugh Park can be viewed at Manchester City Art Galleries; it was made available via the BBC’s Your Paintings Project, which in turn allows reproduction in non-commercial research – this includes blogs (page explaining this only works intermittently).

The black and white photograph of Peter Kropotkin is from Wikimedia Commons

All others are mine, feel free to use non- commercially, providing you credit me.

A Spring in my Step

The skies were leaden with nimbostratus clouds as I left home and the brisk westerly wind thinned and thickened the cloud to change the colours from charcoal to light aluminium and back to battleship as I followed a fairly standard route from my repertoire – a loop edging the Heath, passing Charlton House before dropping down through Maryon Wilson Park to the Thames Barrier, following the River and then heading home back up the escarpment through Westcombe Park.

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It was just over six months since I had run the route, the sky had been almost azure that morning and the colours intense in the winter sun – the two pictures of Angerstein Wharf tell a tale.

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Today was an important milestone though, it was the first time post-accident that I had ventured more than a couple of miles away from home or from my car.  The pace for the 8.2 miles may have been slower than last time – 3.4 times faster than a British spring (around 9:15 pace), compared with a pre-accident speed of 3.8 times faster (8:15 pace).  The speed will come back eventually though – today was just about getting back to normal.