Downham Woodland Walk in South East London

Downham Woodland Walk in South East London is Ancient Woodland which hides away behind the houses on the Downham Estate, and close to more Ancient Woodland in the Forster Memorial Park.

London Gardens Online (2012) tells me that: ‘…The Downham Estate was built between 1924-38, an extensive LCC estate designed on ‘garden city’ principles. Named after Lord Downham, Chairman of LCC in 1919-20, the estate had long winding tree-lined roads and incorporated and preserved an existing tract of woodland from Whitefoot Terrace to Bromley Road. Now called Downham Woodland Walk it runs between the houses for over 1.5 km, and much of it is almost certainly ancient woodland, shown on maps of 1805. Also preserved as open land was the highest point in the centre of the estate and fields to north-west and south-west. Initially called Downham Fields, the site was renamed Durham Hill in the 1990s, as it was locally known and referred to on old maps…’. (In a second post I will visit Downham Fields.)

Map of the area, OS 1894-96,
The same area today, Google maps; Forster Memorial Park at top left, and Downham Fields bottom right

The Downham Estate

‘…The LCC bought two farms, Shrofield Farm and Holloway Farm, owned by the Earl of Northbrook. [These can be seen on the OS map above.] The houses were laid out on long winding roads that originally had trees and grass verges, now largely lost to the pressures of car parking. The road names recalled Arthurian legends as well as English resorts and villages such as Ilfracombe, Bideford….’

Recreational Grounds

‘…South of Whitefoot Lane is Whitefoot Recreation Ground (q.v.), former agricultural land that was once part of the estate of Southend Hall. This was also preserved when the estate was built and its southern boundary abuts Downham Woodland Walk. A new Leisure Centre and outdoor sports courts are now adjacent to the park. There are a few scattered trees on the open grassland, some exotic species and some fine crack-willows and white willows…’.

The Walk

‘…Downham Woodland Walk is part of the Green Chain Walk, which connects Beckenham Place Park with Hither Green Nature Reserve…. The Friends of Downham Woodland Walk is a group of local volunteers who meet each month to help maintain this area of ancient woodland…’. Sadly the Friends have not been able to meet in 2020 because of Covid-19 restrictions. And even more sadly local users of the walk have left their rubbish in the undergrowth during this time.

Bromley Road to Haddington Road

The signposting at the start of the walk close to the Bromley Road is clear. When I visited this section was not very pleasant; it was quite smelly and the stream was dried up. However, it is a surprising avenue of trees, mainly oaks, close to the busy Bromley Road.

Entrance to Downham Woodland Walk from Bromley Road
Entrance to Downham Woodland Walk from the Bromley Road
Downham Woodland Walk
Walkers under the (mainly) oak trees
Dry stream bed in Downham Woodland Walk
Dry stream bed

Haddington Road & dogleg to Oakshade Road

The walk pops out on the Haddington Road and then continues, in a dogleg, to Oakshade Road. The trees are dense here, and it is very quiet and secluded.

Avenue of oak trees in Downham Woodland Walk
A long avenue of oak trees

Oakshade Road & dogleg to Downderry Road

This section is just a short section of woodland and then a little lane alongside some houses.

Downham Woodland Walk - keen runner
Keen runner!
Path through the trees

Downderry Road to Moorside Road

This section of the walk was very enjoyable indeed. The birds were singing, a squirrel or two was running around, and the woodlands seemed less unkempt. As before there were numerous large oak trees, but also ash and hornbeam. I couldn’t find a wild service tree, but then I am a little shaky on trees!

Downham Woodlands Walk in South East London
A tunnel through the trees!
View towards Canary Wharf from the entrance on Moorside Road
More oak trees
View towards London (Canary Wharf) from the entrance on Moorside Road

The Downham Woodland Walk is another of the surprising green spaces in south east London, hidden away in Lewisham.

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