Chinbrook Meadows in Grove Park and the River Quaggy come together in a surprising green space in South East London in the Borough of Lewisham. Large grassy sports fields lead through woodlands to allotments and an orchard. Apart from the usual park facilities there are several ‘routes’ through the Meadows. Firstly, there is a route for the River Quaggy. Secondly, a railway line crosses one corner of the park, and thirdly the Capital Ring Path and the Green Chain Walk lead the intrepid walker through the park and on to Grove Park Cemetery and Elmstead Woods.
History of the area
This area was heavily wooded until the 18C, but the trees were cut down for charcoal, we are told, and perhaps ships? After that, Burnt Ash Farm was an old farm which covered a large area in what is now Lee Green and Grove Park. The farm had a chequered history (expertly covered here) and eventually disappeared under housing. Other farms in this area in the 19C were Court Farm, College Farm, Grove Farm, and Claypit Farm. As in many other parts of South East London, the expansion of the railways lead to urban development. Grove Park station opened in the mid-19C, giving easy access to the City and private housing slowly developed. The construction of substantial villas was encouraged by Lord Northbrook, who owned land in this area. Curiously, at the same time, farming and particularly dairy farming, continued into the 1930s.
Development of the park
The Lewisham Council built the 44-acre Grove Park Estate in the 1920s and Chinbrook Meadows (8 acres) was the recreation area for the residents of the estate. In 1937 the park was enlarged by a further 23 acres to provide more sports facilities.
Today the park is still very much a recreation area. Sports pitches – soccer and cricket – occupy the two central grassy areas on either side of the river. And there is also a ball court, tennis courts, and outdoor gym gear for adults. Children play in a specially fenced and protected play area in the main park, and in a small area alongside the cafe. Of course one can just walk in the park! In the winter the wide paved track around the park is dry, and useful to both walkers and runners.
The River Quaggy runs through the Meadows and is very much a feature of the park. It is c.11 miles long and rises near Farnborough Hospital at Locksbottom, eventually joining the River Ravensbourne in the new Confluence Park in the centre of Lewisham. The river is also known as the ‘Chin Brook’. I believe the ‘Kyd Brook’ is a tributary of the River Quaggy, like the Grove Park Ditch, rather than another name for the Quaggy.
‘…In 2000 a new scheme to re-landscape the park was agreed following local consultation, the works completed in 2002. The Quaggy was naturalised as a meandering river and the newly landscaped park is also designed to hold floodwater, minimising the risk of flood damage to surrounding houses…’.London Gardens Online, April 2012
And recently, with the abundance of rain, I have been able to see the effects of taking the river out of a concrete channel, returning it to its natural course, and enabling wetlands alongside the river. The flow of the river is visibly slowed and although the water level is raised by the time it reaches Manor Park there is no flooding.
The southern end of the Meadows rises quite steeply and here, between housing and the Green Chain Walk and the railway, is a little wooded area – just delightful, even in the winter.
Allotments & Community Orchard
In the south of the Meadows, beyond the wooded area, are allotments. Fences and firmly locked gates protect the allotments. I think these allotments also include a community orchard. I peered through the fence and the extensive and neat plots, even in the middle of winter, impressed me.
New apple orchard
The Friends planted a new apple orchard in the smaller part of the park, beyond the railway underpass. Recently a local resident donated two cherry trees to the orchard. This little orchard must be absolutely gorgeous in the springtime – I will return!
Desmond Tutu Peace Garden & facilities
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a Curate at St Augustine’s Church in Grove Park between 1972-75, at a time when he and his family lived in London while he was the Director for Africa with the Theological Education Fund. Archbishop Tutu is an extraordinary man – do read about him – and he returned to the UK to open the Peace Garden in 2009.
Chinbrook Meadows in Grove Park in South East London is a varied and fascinating green space which seems likely to continue evolving, thanks to the efforts of a very active Friends Group.
- Friends of Chinbrook Meadows: https://chinbrookmeadows.wordpress.com/about/park-facilities/
- Grove Park Estate: https://municipaldreams.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/7062/ and https://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/grove-park-lewisham/
- The Quaggy and its Tributaries – excellent and detailed coverage, as always: https://runner500.wordpress.com/the-quaggy-its-tributaries/ and https://runner500.wordpress.com/2020/07/24/beating-the-bounds-of-lee-part-4-chinbrook-and-downham/
- Redirection and opening of the River Quaggy: https://www.therrc.co.uk/case_studies/chinbrook_meadows.pdf
- The River Quaggy in pictures: https://mentalmapping.wordpress.com/2020/04/11/virtual-tour-of-the-river-quaggy/