Tag Archives: Sundridge Park Golf Club

Following the Quaggy – Sundridge Park to Chinbrook Meadows

In earlier posts, Running Past has followed the Quaggy from its sources around Locksbottom and then on through Petts Wood, the Hawkwood Estate, Chislehurst and Bickley, leaving the river just after it had appeared from the dominant bulk of the railway cutting on Sundridge Avenue.  Almost as soon as it arrived into the open it was to disappear into Sundridge Park – which is largely out of bounds for the fluvial flâneur.

Sundridge Park is an old country estate – there had been a three storey brick house on the southern bank of the Quaggy which had been home to a succession of wealthy Londoners.  The estate was remodelled by Humphrey Repton in the late 18th century – this included creating a Pulhamite grotto on the hillside close to the current house (see comment from Sarah below). It seems likely that Repton, the preeminent landscape gardener of his generation, was responsible for culverting the Quaggy through much of the grounds – certainly early Ordnance Survey maps (on creative commons from National Library of Scotland) which were surveyed well before the golf courses were built  have the Quaggy largely hidden, only reappearing for a lake just below the House.  Part of the culverting was removed during the 20th century.

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As well as hiding the river, Repton was also responsible for the demolition of the original house, which was located south of the river, around 1792 and a new house was designed by James Wyatt for Edward George Lind and built between 1792 and 1795. Lind sold the estate to (Sir) Claude Scott in 1796, and he employed the prominent Georgian architect John Nash to make additions in 1799.  It is an impressive Grade I building (see below – source eBay February 2017), although the extensive conference centre it is now part of it, somewhat detracts from it.

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The Park itself is notable for its lack of public rights of way, there are no public footpaths traversing the pair of golf courses of the Sundridge Park golf club (although the Green Chain Walk skirts part of the western course) which was opened by the then Prime Minister Balfour in 1902 on land leased from the Scotts.  The valley of the Quaggy is clear on this early postcard of Sundridge Park (source eBay November 2016).

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While the golf courses make the park largely out of bounds for the (sub)urban explorer, access was negotiated for following Milk Street Ditch at the northern end of the Park along with some slightly less legitimate looking for the unnamed tributaries of the Quaggy elsewhere on the ‘estate’, the Sundridge Park Ditches.  ‘Ditch’ should not be seen as a derogatory term, it is just the local term for a small stream. The photographs below show the river upstream and downstream from Milk Street Ditch.

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Once out of the Park the river is culverted under New Street Hill  and flows, submerged through part of the 1930s suburbia, an area originally known as Hall’s Farm Estate after the farm whose land was lost to development.  While the Quaggy is submerged, it is clear in a valley and the course is followed above ground by tracks to what seem to be largely abandoned garages – too small for 21st century vehicles. The Quaggy is joined by another unnamed ‘Ditch’ which follows one of the streets of the estate Leamington Avenue.

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The Quaggy re-emerges into the open in the southern part of Chinbrook Meadows (top left below) before being encased in concrete to take it under the towering mass of the mainline out of Grove Park.  A few metres into its tunnel it is joined by another tributary – Border Ditch – whose last metres are behind the fencing in the bottom right hand photograph.

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The emergence again into the open is initially bounded by concrete but then gently meanders through the main part of Chinbrook Meadows.  This was not always the case – early Ordnance Survey maps (on creative commons from National Library of Scotland) suggest a straightening to allow for easier cultivation in pre-development Grove Park. Worse was to come for the Quaggy, after the farmland was turned into a Park – the river was given concrete banks which discouraged any flora or fauna and hedging was planted which almost prevented park users from even viewing the river. It was a waterway disconnected from its environment and the population around it.  This all changed in 2002 and the Quaggy was taken out of its concrete culvert and allowed a naturalised bed to flow in.

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The changes help mitigate flood risk and allow the banks to be overflowed and excess water to be safely retained within the park, slowing flows and reducing the likelihood of flooding downstream.

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Before leaving Grove Park a brief detour a few metres is worth making, to the Peace Garden – an area opened in 2009 by one of Grove Park’s most famous residents, Archbishop Desmond Tutu – some of whose early ministry was as an Honorary Curate at St Augustine’s between 1972 and 1975.

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We’ll leave the Quaggy at this point with a stark reminder of how it used to be – a barren concrete channel.

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Milk Street Ditch – A Tributary of the Quaggy

There are a series of tributaries of the Quaggy that run (or in some cases ran) through the golf courses of Sundridge Park – most of these are unnamed and we will return to them in a future post –but there is one which is visible and complete with appellation which we will look at first – Milk Street Ditch.

Before passing on it is worth noting that the designation ‘Ditch’ should not be seen as either derogatory or belittling of its importance, it is just the way in which streams are described in these parts; there is a neighbouring Border Ditch and Grove Park Ditch. One or two streams in the area do get offered slightly grander names – the most obvious being Fairy Hall Flow, which, unlike the Ditches, seems bereft of water.

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The name comes from the street, the street name relates to a dairy farm – Hall’s Farm.  It may have been one of the ‘dots’ marked when Roque surveyed area in the 1740s (see above – via Creative Commons) and was certainly there from the earliest Ordnance Survey maps (via National Library of Scotland on a Creative Commons).  The fields are long gone – a mixture of housing covers its acreage, ncluding an area sometimes referred to as the Hall’s Farm Estate – through which flows/flowed another small unnamed tributary of the Quaggy – which we have already covered, as well as the Quaggy itself hidden in concrete piping.

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The farm house is still there and is now a nursery – it is of children though, rather than any tenuous link to farming past. Although it may not be there for much longer, plans were afoot, at the time of writing (December 2016), to demolish the locally (but not nationally) listed farmhouse and replace with 8 four bedroom houses and one eight bedroom home.

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There is scarcely room for a stream to emerge here – the watershed with the Ravensbourne is only a hundred and fifty metres or so away on the opposite side of Burnt Ash Lane and the source of Spring Brook that heads through Downham Parkland to join the Ravensbourne barely 300 metres away.

The source is currently unclear, but seems, from old OS Maps, to be on what is still a small green in from of some probably largely ex-Bromley Council homes.  There wasn’t anything obvious in terms of either damp ground or the sounds of subterranean rushing water than would pinpoint the source or its early flow.

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There is though a slight, but perceptible, dip in Milk Street which would take the young Ditch towards the railway Bromley North Branch Line which opened on New Year’s Day 1878.

The Ditch’s emergence into the open is in Hall Farm Allotments – sadly on a chill December Sunday afternoon there was no one visibly tending their patches, presumably at home enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of their labour.

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Fortunately some of the stream flowing through the allotments was visible through the fencing protecting it from the narrow corridor of the Green Chain Walk; in other seasons it would have been easy to miss though, as the boundary chain link was covered with leafless, deciduous foliage.

Across the Walk there is a boundary of a different sort, much more sturdy 2 metre plus railings which hug the edge of the West Course of Sundridge Park Golf Club.  Some of the metal fencing was re-enforced to ensure that it was a little less porous, with holes considerably smaller than the 41.1mm diameter of a golf ball – presumably to prevent a wayward shots hitting the unsuspecting Green Chain Walker.  The Ditch was just visible but is much better viewed from the other side of the fence.

The helpful people at Sundridge Park Golf Course allowed me to wander around part of the course, insisting, quite reasonably, that I stuck to their well-made paths and wore hi viz attire – my normal cooler weather running apparel anyway – although a few eyebrows were raised as staff took me through the lounge – lycra short tights are probably a breach of the standard dress code. The dayglo was indeed necessary at one point, as an over hit approach shot was followed by the bellowing of ‘fore’ and a small thud way beyond the ball’s intended target green.

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The Ditch enters the golf course through some heavy rough before being briefly piped under the approach to the 12th green then emerging into the open as a hazard on the beautifully manicured fairway of the 393 yard 13th.  Its course is straight (unlike one or two of the drives witnessed whilst wandering) and partially marked by small flags, before quickly it joins The Quaggy – little more than a 9 iron shot from its entrance onto the course.  Golf courses are generally not places I frequent, but on a mild, sunny Friday lunchtime with a relatively quiet course and the backdrop of pleasant undulating park with the last remnants of the autumn, I could see the attraction.

Despite a length of barely 300 metres, Milk Street Ditch has a tributary (probably slightly longer than the main stream) which probably originates somewhere near the main clubhouse, close to the West Course’s 11th tee, which now emerges from a small copse and then forms a hazard running alongside the final fairway.  The stream bed was damp with a few hints of water but insufficient to allow a description of ‘flowing.’

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The stream feeds a pond (which may have an artificial source too) – it is carefully positioned just after the last tee to trap those topping their final drive.  It was orginally a farm pond though and is marked on the OS map.  When I passed it was ‘guarded’ by a heron, so presumably there were contents other than Titleist Pro V1. The stream then flows on and joins the Ditch near the 12th green – although from both the path and satellite images, this wasn’t obvious.

Finally, thank you to the Golf Club to allowing me access to the course and apologies to any member or paying visitor for any distraction my rather conspicuous presence caused to their round of golf (or their drinks at the 19th hole for that matter).