Grove Park Nature Reserve hides away between houses and a railway line and it is just a joy! It is also quite easy to find it. Just walk down ’The Railway Children’s Walk’ off Baring Road. The Walk is named after Edith Nesbit who lived nearby in The Gables, a house which has been replaced by The Ringway Community Centre. The Reserve holds a Green Flag Community Award since 2009, and it is on the Green Chain Walk. There is a guide to the Reserve on the internet.
The railway line & history of the Reserve
In 1865 the railway line from New Cross to Chislehurst opened and development continued in the following years. However, a wide piece of land between St Mildred’s Road and Grove Park Station was left untouched. It was only in 1984 that some of this land became recognised as a Nature Reserve, and in 1987 Lewisham Council acquired the freehold of the land.
Woodland at the southern end of the reserve (says the information board) once belonged to a large house on the Baring Road. Early maps show tennis courts laid out along the path down to the railway line, as well as a large private garden. The landowner in the area was the Earl of Northbrook and apparently he improved the road, previously a farm track, to facilitate his own travel.
Walking through Grove Park Nature Reserve today
‘…[this] Nature Reserve, situated across the railway from Hither Green Cemetery, contains a good variety of habitats, including the only substantial area of grassland with a calcareous influence in the borough. These habitats support a wide diversity of plants and animals, including a number of locally rare species. The reserve is greatly appreciated by many local people, whether walking their dogs, picking blackberries and plums, or quietly enjoying a peaceful wild space…’.Grove Park Nature Reserve website
This reserve feels different from the others I have visited in Lewisham – Sue Godfrey Nature Reserve and the Downham Woodland Walk. I will pull together my thoughts on the nature reserves in Lewisham when I have visited them all. In the meantime I hope the photographs speak for themselves – do come and wander through the woodlands with me…
These are winter photographs and so I find it particularly difficult to identify the trees apart from the obvious oak and birch tree. According to ‘Nature Conservation in Lewisham’ published by the London Ecology Unit in 2000, there are also ash, hornbeam, horsechestnuts, limes and poplars and these are evidence that there was once a Victorian garden here. Undergrowth plants such as privet and snowberries also evidence the garden origin of the woodlands, but I will need to return in the Spring to find these trees and shrubs more easily.
There is even a small stream in the woodlands, which feeds into a pond, green with algae. And of course there are birds!
On the slope
Beyond the woodlands there is a slope down to the railway. This open grassland and is apparently more or less untouched since the railway was built.
Closed off area?
A large section of woodland, to the west of the open grassland, is fenced off. And a gateway on to Gables Close was firmly locked when I visited. Google maps suggests access from Bramdean Crescent but this was also also closed off and locked. Is this land perhaps still in private ownership, and therefore locked? I also noticed the following somewhat alarming post on the internet:
Grove Park Nature Reserve is an absolute delight! It is atmospheric, tangly, varied – just a wonderful discovery on a gloomy winter’s day! Do visits, and if you have spare time and want more walking then Northbrook Park is close by.
- The Reserve: https://groveparknaturereserve.wordpress.com/grove-park-nature-reserve-home/about/
- History of The Reserve: https://lewisham.gov.uk/inmyarea/openspaces/nature-reserves/grove-park-nature-reserve
- Kent Rail: http://kentrail.org.uk/Grove%20Park.htm