London Gardens Online tells me that ‘…Brookmill Park originated as a small recreation ground provided from 1880 near the Kent Waterworks’ reservoir by the River Ravensbourne. It was expanded in the 1920s when part of the disused reservoir was infilled, and opened as Brookmill Park. Some evidence of the reservoir remains, much reduced in size, as the small oval lake still found in the park. When nearby housing was destroyed by WWII bombing, the park was further extended, re-opening in 1951 as Ravensbourne Park. When Deptford and Lewisham amalgamated to form Lewisham in 1965, the park reverted to its earlier name. It was again re-landscaped when the DLR was constructed, necessitating re-routing of the Ravensbourne, and former Thames Water gardens were added, now a formal garden with pond, pergolas, ornamental beds and hedges. The park was re-opened in 1998…’. (2012 and no photographs).
I feel that LGO doesn’t do justice to the two parks, Broadway Fields and Brookmill Park, which lie between Deptford Bridge and Elverson Road and run parallel to Brookmill Road. The parks cover 9 acres (including the river) and facilities include: a cycle route, a play area, the river, and there is a Friends of the park group. The cycle path is part of Route 21 and the path is also part of the Waterlink Way which runs along the River Ravensbourne at this point.
Near the formal garden there is a small, fenced-off children’s play area and lots of open grass on both sides for children to run round. Tall trees abound but sadly one of the very old London Plane Trees has recently been defaced – why do people do this?
These two parks are in the Ravensbourne River valley and between the play area and Elverson Road DLR station you are very conscious of the river. The Ravensbourne Water Company was founded as early as 1709 and became the Kent Waterworks Company in 1809. The companies took water from the river but as time passed it became increasingly polluted and so in 1859 they drilled a well down into London’s artesian water and after 1861 water was no longer taken from the river. In 1904 the Metropolitan Water Board took over the supply of water which today is controlled by The Thames Water Board. Nowadays the reservoir (next to the pumping station) has been covered and the course of the river has been changed to include flood prevention measures and the Docklands Light Railway. Part of the former reservoir remains as a small lake within the park – this had been drained but was reinstated after a local campaign. The lake is surrounded by mature trees, including London planes.
A cycle path running alongside the pedestrian path through the park is Route 21, a long-distance cycle path from Greenwich to Eastbourne. The footpath and cycle path are part of the Waterlink Way, a 12km route which follows the Ravensbourne and Pool Rivers from the Thames to Lower Sydenham.
With areas of marsh, water and grassland, some of which flood at high tides, the park is considered an important nature conservation area within the borough of Lewisham. Bird species sighted at the park may include kingfisher, grey heron and moorhen – I was lucky to see the heron!
The path along the river is quiet, and peaceful and people often just sit and read, or just sit with their own thoughts for company.
Some notices mention a wildlife area on the opposite side of the river but I think this is now the enclosed area in front of Crescent House, off Ravensbourne Place.
And finally the path reaches the DLR at Elverson Road, with Lewisham nearby. The path here is overhung with buddleias – lovely! The River Ravensbourne continues, of course, as does the Waterlink Way – both worthwhile walks, but we stop here at the boundary of the park.
This is a well-used and interesting park, and a lovely evening walk between DLR stations – a real asset in the local area.