Eltham Park is divided by the A2 and the railway line. Eltham Park North is to the north of the A2 and consists of meadows, a long pond and the Sheperdleas Wood.
Meadows in Eltham Park North
There are two areas of open grassland in the park. The first meadow is at the entrance on Eltham Park Road and is a steeply sloping site with views towards Lewisham and the ridge which was once the Great North Wood. Most of the grass remains uncut and I look forward to seeing flowers in the summer. And from the meadow alongside the pond there are views towards the centre of London and the Isle of Dogs.
The other large grassland is on the very top of the hill, on either side of the long pond. But it is the grassland on the very top of the hill, surrounded by the woods, which is most attractive. But it is very wet and muddy in the winter.
The meadow is managed as a hay meadow and offers false oat-grass, perennial rye-grass and crested dog’s-tail. Recently I found cowslips and dandelions. Apparently wildflowers such as common knapweed, oxeye daisy and clovers and buttercups add pinks, whites and yellows in the summer. I look forward to seeing them.
The long pond
The pond is attractive even on a dull winter day. There is no sign of a stream but the adjoining field is often very wet. I wonder if there is some kind of underground spring which feeds the pond.
But it is the woods which are the real joy in this park. Sheperdleas Wood is Ancient Woodland which means it has been undisturbed for farming for at least 400 years. Parts of the wood are extremely muddy in winter, and very slippery!
But in the spring it is very different.
One of the joys of Sheperdleas Wood is the bluebells. I have lived in Lewisham for forty years and this is the first time I have seen the bluebells – almost unbelievable.
Eltham Park North is very attractive, particularly in the woods, and it is surprisingly unfrequented. It is a real joy to visit and I look forward to returned several times during the year. But there is a sting in the tail of this story. Because the wood is less frequented the paths remain narrow and the bluebells and wood anemones spread. Oxleas Wood, by comparison, look barren. It is a dilemma…