Horn Park in Eltham hides behind houses in a 1930s housing estate. This sounds unpromising! But do visit and you will surprise and delight yourself, even on a dull and grey winter’s day!
History of Horn Park
West Horne, which was also known as Lee Park, was one of three enclosed parks of the Eltham Palace estate. In the 15th century the crown enclosed 345 acres of woodland and used the park for rearing deer and hunting. Shortly after 1600 a survey showed Horne Park had 240 deer and 2,740 oak trees. Woods produced income and the mature trees were used for shipbuilding.
However, Crown estates were often severely damaged during the Civil War and the interregnum. In West Horne the deer were destroyed, mature trees were sold to the shipyards in Deptford and land was sold and turned into farmland. The Crown reclaimed the land after the Restoration but the trees were lost.
By 1838 part of Horn Park had become Horn Park Farm of 221 acres of arable land and pastures and William Morris was the tenant farmer who grazed cows on the land. Morris also farmed in Lee Green on land which today includes the Edith Nesbit Park. Morris’ lease expired in 1860 and Thomas Blenkiron (1829-1894) leased the farm. William Blenkiron (1807-71), his father, used the land to graze his race horses.
The lease expired in 1930 and the Woolwich Council starting clearing the orchards. By 1938 the main roads were laid out and some houses had been built. Building continued after WWII and eventually there were c.1100 homes on Horn Park Estate. The Dutch House pub is popular and the pub and a new school service the estate.
Horn Park sports and playground
Today Horn Park in Eltham is a park in an area of the same name, a small part of the original enclosed park. It is mostly grassland. A hedge separates the sports fields in the west, on top of the hill, from the conservation grasslands on the downward slope.
Planting in Horn Park
The northern and western edges of the park are secondary woodland. Here a delightful hidden path paved with wood chippings winds through the trees. Birch trees predominate. There is just one old willow in this part of the park, knarled and huge, and it was once coppiced.
In the eastern end of the park the hillside slopes down towards the River Quaggy. At the bottom of the hill, which is damp there are several mature and beautiful willow trees and these fungi thrive in winter.
Every year since 2008 the Friends have planted 100 free saplings from the Woodland Trust. They are hard native species which will tolerate exposed sites. The trees include hazel, downy birch, hawthorn, goat willow and crab apple.
One day the view down the hill to the valley of the Quaggy and across Middle Park to Eltham Palace will have returned to trees.
This is a delightful park. Do look out for it if you are in Eltham or Lewisham in south east London.