Tag Archives: Hawkwood

Following the Quaggy – Suburbia and Rural South East London

An earlier post followed the  Kyd Brook (the name given to the Quaggy in its first few miles) from its two main sources to the confluence – submerged beneath the edge of suburbia of the western edge of Petts Wood.  The Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1894 below, shows where we left the river, close to the former Town Court.
kydmap1The post-development Kyd Brook is submerged beneath suburban streets and, while the roads are too busy to be listening for the sounds of water beneath manhole covers, the course is clear – the miniature valley of the newly  combined Kyd Brook is obvious where Ryecroft Road meets Queensway.

The river remains submerged as it flows under the railway and then parallel to the former Green Lane, now Tudor Way – there are no obvious remnants of Elizabethan times here although perhaps a nod to the arts and crafts elements of some of the housing.

Kyd Brook emerges from its concrete casing just before being bridged by Petts Wood Road, its emergence is greeted by a dissipation of the traffic noise.  We are in the ‘high quality estate in a rural setting’ that the 1920s developer of Petts Wood, Basil Scruby intended when he secured an option to buy 400 acres of woodland and strawberry fields in 1927.  Like Cameron Corbett at Hither Green 30 years before, he recognised the importance of the railway and built the station before the homes.

The front lawns are neatly manicured in what is now expensive suburbia, but parallel to Crossway runs Kyd Brook, between the gardens – it is less constrained by expectations and providing a more natural counterpoint to the street fronts.  Of course, appearances must be kept up, and there are quaint colonnaded bridges on the side roads as the river passes.


Oddly, for a while, one of the neighbouring streets was home to Charles de Gaulle who lived at 41 Birchwood Road for a few months after the fall of France in 1940. He may have admired Kyd Brook as it crossed Crossway, providing the boundary between two houses, a pleasant alternative to privet or chestnut fencing.


Kyd Brook is soon to disappear from view again – crossing Hazelmere Way it turns sharp west through the back gardens and alongside another railway line and is then buried for around 500 metres.   The follower of the Brook dips under the tracks and enters a different world, although it is still Petts Wood.  The arboreal buffer bought for the National Trust to prevent Basil Scruby’s developments extending further northwards.  Running Past has been here before when attempting to trace some of the tributaries of the about to be Quaggy

When visited almost a year ago, the Wood was a morass of mud; it was difficult to disentangle flooded paths and ditches from streams called ‘Ditch.’ At the end of September, while the two arms of the most easterly of the streams, Petts Wood Ditch, were flowing, some of the unnamed ditches were dry, even to the touch.  Petts Wood Ditch used to join Kyd Brook close to the pedestrian tunnel under the railway, but an abundance of wetland plants alongside the path for a while suggests that the confluence may have been moved by Scruby’s contractors.


Kyd Brook emerges from an impenetrably dark tunnel under the railways and is briefly followed by a path before heading across the only really rural part of its course – the NT Tong Farm, part of the Hawkwood Estate. There are several small unnamed streams that come down the hillside from the higher parts of Chislehurst – the confluences are all unseen and all covered in an earlier post on the Estate.

There are several small visible streams emerging from the south-west following field edges before being piped under the path to emerge from pipes on the southerly bank of the still Kyd Brook.  There is plenty of bird life along the river at this point – although no kites – the Anglo-Saxon meaning of Kidbrooke and presumably Kyd Brook is “the brook where the kites were seen”.


Back in the suburbia of Chislehurst, Kyd Brook is left behind and the river becomes the more familiar Quaggy, but is immediately ‘lost’ to view having been carefully ‘screened’ first.  It emerges briefly in a private estate – somewhat less grand than those around its westerly source upstream.


The Quaggy is soon again unseen, but it has created an impressive valley, around 50 metres deep, presumably shaped in times when the river was more of a torrent than it now is.  Railway engineers have purloined the valley at this point and the Quaggy disappears from view under Chislehurst station.   The submerged parts seems greater than in the past – which skirted around the edge of the now demolished Bickley Hall. The stables were designed by Ernest Newton, the architect behind the Baring Hall pub, St Swithuns Church on Hither Green Lane and Lochaber Hall.


A rather circuitous wander around the embanked railway sees the river emerge in Bickley, while it is in the open, behind the veritable mixture of architectural styles of Lower Camden, vantage points are few are far between and with several of those the greenery is in such abundance that the Quaggy is audible but barely visible.


The Quaggy dips again under the railway’s earthworks, to emerge again alongside Sundridge Avenue, its course largely constrained by unnatural concrete banks.  After crossing Elmstead Lane, the river disappears into the grounds of the former mansion of Sundridge Park – now a golf course and conference centre.  We will return there another day.




Hawkwood & the Quaggy Tributaries with No Name

One of the more surprising parts of the Quaggy catchment area is a working farm, Tong Farm, on the borders of Chislehurst and Petts Wood – it is part of an estate that is known as Hawkwood.  Farming was still quite common relatively close to London until the end of World War Two – Running Past has covered several farms in passing as it has followed other stream in the Quaggy catchment – Coldharbour Farm and Chapel Farm while following the Little Quaggy and Court Farm whilst tracking Fairy Hall Flow.

While city farms have been set up, and there are a few bits of green for horse riding remain around Mottingham and the eastern edges of Eltham, there are now very few other fully working farms in south east London –  Tong Farm and the rest of the Hawkwood Estate and the linked Petts Wood are owned by the National Trust.

There are five or six small streams, none much longer than about half a kilometre in length, flowing down the hill from the higher ground of Chislehurst towards Kyd Brook, the Quaggy’s name at this point.  Kyd Brook should not the be confused with the Upper, Mid or Lower Kid Brooks which join the Quaggy further downstream.  Oddly though, the courses of the streams while visible, are harder to ‘follow’ than in a more urban setting – the rights of way across the farmland are limited and the woodland dense in places.



The most obvious valley, above, to the western side of the estate seems to have been culverted; at least as far as OS maps are concerned, for much of its short course.  Its source is near Watts Lane and it then would have tumbled down through open pasture to join Kyd Brook behind Gosshill Road – a fall of around 40 metres over its 550 metre length.  The valley is clear from the photograph (with a relatively long zoom) but as the land is fields without any rights of way across them and there is housing along Gosshill Road it is difficult to check any further.


Just to the east of Tong Farm, there is another small valley with a stream that has been partially dammed to form a small pond, Flushers Pond (behind the wooden fence above), which is surrounded by a dense mixture of ash and alder before the stream descends unseen through fields to Kyd Brook (behind the sheep below) .


To the east of the farm land is Petts Wood, still controlled by the National Trust and home to several small streams – the wood were so sodden and muddy when visited it made any exploration difficult as was distinguishing between streams drainage ditches and flooded paths in places.  The most easterly of these is referred to as Petts Wood Ditch by Ken White – although he too struggled to locate it (1).

I did return in drier conditions and found both arms of Petts Wood Ditch, both with small bridges and valleys, delightful little streams – it seems almost harsh to refer to them as a ‘Ditch’ – but such is the way with many of the Quaggy’s tributaries.


The name Petts Wood comes from the Pett family who were shipbuilders in Deptford, Woolwich and Limehouse and it is believed that the wood was used to supply timber for ships; it was a name that was used as early as 1577.

The 88 acres of the woods themselves, known as the Willett Memorial Wood, were bought by donations from local people in 1925 amidst fears that they would be developed, they were then given to the National Trust.

William Willett was the man behind British Summer Time, the idea having occurred to him whilst riding in the area.  His original plan was more complicated than the biannual clock change that was eventually adopted – he suggested an incremental approach with time gradually changing by 80 minutes in 4 steps.  The idea was eventually enacted during May 1916 with clocks changing for the first time on 21 May 1916.  Willett did not live quite long enough to see the change; he died in 1915 – he is buried in St Nicholas churchyard and is remembered with a sundial in the woods, obviously set to summer time.


The western part of the wood was bought by the then owner of Hawkwood House, Francis Edlmann – the 3rd generation of the family who had lived there – in 1929 – he was keen to preserve the rural characteristics of the area.

The estate was bought by a local couple, Robert and Francesca Hall in the late 1950s after Edelman’s death; like those in the 1920s in Petts Wood, they had concerns the area would be developed and lose its ‘rural’ charm.  After purchase, they then donated the estate to the National Trust.  The Trust would not take on the rambling mansion that was on Hawkwood Lane, parts of which dated from the 17th century but it was in an awful state of repair.  Part of the house collapsed due its condition and the remainider was demolished in the 1960s and a much smaller modern house rebuilt by Mrs Hall.  Some of the outer buildings to the old Hawkwood remain though, including one with a rather attractive weather vane.



The Kyd Brook itself is attractive and bucolic at this point, Running Past will return there, hopefully later in the year,  when I plan to follow the main course of The Quaggy from its source to the confluence with the Ravensbourne in Lewisham (if it is visible at that stage), but there a number of other tributaries that the blog will cover first.


1 Ken White ‘The Quaggy and Its Catchment Area’ p74