Sidcup Road grasslands and Harmony Wood were a wonderful surprise to me. If you live in south east London you have probably been up and down the Sidcup bypass many times, concentrating hard on keeping to the speed limit and avoiding impatient drivers. But hidden between the road and the railway line is a little piece of paradise.
Origin of the grasslands and woods
Sidcup Road grassland and Harmony Wood are also known as the Great Meadow according to Greenwich Borough Council. The Middle Park of Eltham Palace and now the Middle Park housing estate, abuts on to the railway line to the north. So perhaps ‘Great Meadow’ refers to the former enclosed park? Or perhaps it refers to Mottingham Farm. The farm is on Mottingham Lane and these fields were on the farm until the road was driven through in the 1930s.
Children from Horn Park and Middle Park Schools planted trees here in 1986 and again in 2002. Tree planting has now stopped in order to protect the remaining grasslands. The path through the woods lies close to the railway line. It is curiously wet. I have walked the path in winter, when it was almost impassable, and recently again after dry weather. The path was still very wet and muddy and very slippery in some places.
Why the name? I haven’t been able to find an explanation for the rather curious name of the woods.
The trees are dense and do not invite you to explore.
The Sidcup Road grasslands
The grassland fills with wildflowers in the summer. It is mostly neutral grassland and you can find corky-fruited water dropwort, fairy flax, wild onion (Allium triquetrum) and rough hawkbit all of which are less common in Greenwich. More usual and found here on a small patch of acid grassland are sheep’s sorrel and common cat’s ear. Common blue and meadow brown butterflies flit among the flowers.
The River Quaggy
At the southern end of this long site King John’s Walk connects Eltham with old Mottingham Village and at the other end, near the Dutch House pub, in a hollow, you find the River Quaggy. The pub services the Horn Park housing estate.
South of the Sidcup bypass
The area south of the road is less diverse but the Little Quaggy flows alongside the road. ‘One of the few sections of river with natural banks in Greenwich borough, it supports wetland vegetation including hairy sedge, marsh foxtail, gipsywort, floating sweet-grass and water figwort.’
 Description of the site: http://discover-london.gigl.org.uk/site-Details.aspx?sID=GrBI10&sType=sinc