Burnt Ash Pond in Lewisham hides away in the middle of a housing estate, an oasis close to nearby busy main roads. This little pond is in an area which is rich in green spaces. Northbrook Park and Grove Park Nature Reserve are close by, and Hither Green Cemetery is just across the railway line. The area was woodland in the 17C but the trees had disappeared by the early 18C and the area had become farmland. Surprisingly, farming continued here into the early 20C.
Ecology and Burnt Ash Pond
‘…Burnt Ash Pond is perhaps the finest pond in the Borough from an ecological viewpoint, supporting a good variety of aquatic plants and animals. It is also aesthetically pleasing, with its fringing trees and colourful iris beds and is much loved by residents of the surrounding houses in Melrose Close…’.Nature Conservation in Lewisham, Ecology Handbook no.30
The above description praises the richness and diversity of plants and animal life in this little nature reserve. And there is even a single black mulberry tree! This must have been planted when the pond was in the back garden of the one of the grand villas on Burnt Ash Hill. Because I visited in winter there was no way of finding the tree. I would love to see the irises in flower too, so I will have to return in the spring and summer of the next year.
Why exactly is this pond here? And what feeds it naturally? I understand a standpipe now tops up the water level in a dry summer, but I can’t as yet find anything which helps me with my other questions.
Burnt Ash Pond opens on the first Sunday of the month, but only between April and November.
Burnt Ash Pond in Lewisham is another unexpected discovery as I travel around my London Borough, investigating green spaces. And another green space which I need to visit in spring or summer to see the flowers which grow around the pond.
- London’s Mulberry Trees: https://www.moruslondinium.org
- Burnt Ash Farm: https://runner500.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/wood-burning-farming-dairy-crest-the-story-of-burnt-ash-farm/ and https://runner500.wordpress.com/tag/willows-ii/
Our green spaces seem more precious than ever these days. I’ve never seen a mulberry tree – or at least if I have, I didn’t realise what it was.
There is an interesting site, http://www.moruslondinium.org, with a map of all the mulberry trees in London and some photographs – a fascinating undertaking! We had a mulberry tree in the garden when I was a child – the fruit was very good to eat and it also made good jam.
How amazing. I took a look at it. There really is a website for everything these days!
When I was a kid in he early late 60s/early 70s, I lived opposite the small Esso Garage on Burnt Ash Hill. A small track led up beside the garage, lined with huge elms and garages. At the end were tennis courts and an orchard. The pond was very very small, overgrown and flytipped but with lots of toads though, this area is full of them (I used to do the gardening at 171). The mock Tudor cottage that was the two pump Esso garage was quaint and run by John Brooks (of Winn Road). The workshop to the south was an actual Tudor Barn and next to that a plot with two charcoal burning cottages (my dad grew up in the area as our house (172) was bought off plan by his dad in 1926). The road in effect was the edge of the Eltham Palace Estate and I was told the pond was a quenching pond for a blacksmith who used the locally grown charcoal to heat up his furnace (hence Burnt Ash Hill and the Charcoal Burners’ cottages). Someone said that there is an underground connection with Whitburn Mount Pond in Blackheath and there are smugglers’ tunnels all the way from the Thames popping up near the pond! The two ponds’ levels alternate in height in synchrony it was also said!
Dutch Elm disease took out the huge elms, the proposed ‘Ringway 2’ (motorway) nearby (replacing Cooper’s Lane) required an upgraded service station so the barn, cottage and garages all went to be replaced by a huge Gulf petrol station that never saw the expected footfall as the Ringway scheme was abandoned (my dad played a big part in the campaign). The orchard and tennis courts disappeared as The Council bought the land to create a very nice leafy estate for their tenants and the pond was enlarged and restored and opened as one of the very first Nature Reserves in Lewisham. Local sympathetic neighbours have helped it keep going and tried to keep on top of the antisocial behaviour of a few people in Melrose Close. At least two lovely veteran English oaks survived (great acorns to grow on and plant locally) and the pond is a haven for wildfowl and toads! The duck weed though is a perennial problem and very difficult to eradicate on such a scale so there is a lack of variety of submerged plants unfortunately.
As a result of my interaction with nature around the pond and in ‘The Fields’ at the bottom of Winn Road where I messed about in the Quaggy, I am now Chair of the Lewisham Biodiversity Partnership and Vice-Chair of the QWAG (Quaggy Waterways Action Group). Google both as I’m not sure if this allows links.
Thanks for a lovely site! ‘ RunningPast ‘ also does a good job at tweeting environmental, historical, river and wildlife issues locally.
Mike, we met briefly a little while ago when Jess Kyle invited me to join an online meeting. I am working on a book about the green spaces in Lewisham, a big project and a very challenging one. Jess felt it might be helpful to meet some of those involved in Lewisham. Thank you for your very detailed response and if I may I will include your insights in the book. And yes, I do know Running Past.