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.
Sydenham Cottages Nature Reserve in Grove Park is a little area of wildness which you can access from Alice Thompson Close, off Marvels Lane. The nature reserve hides away alongside the River Quaggy and you can easily miss it as you drive past on the main road. But do stop. Park your car in Alice Thompson Close, or catch a bus which stops in Marvels Lane, and look at the reserve, or even wander down some of the Capital Ring Path.
Grove Park Nature Reserve hides away between houses and a railway line and it is just a joy! It is also quite easy to find it. Just walk down ’The Railway Children’s Walk’ off Baring Road. The Walk is named after Edith Nesbit who lived nearby in The Gables, a house which has been replaced by The Ringway Community Centre. The Reserve holds a Green Flag Community Award since 2009, and it is on the Green Chain Walk. There is a guide to the Reserve on the internet.
KIrkdale Green & Albion Millennium Green are two small green spaces in South East London – in the Sydenham district of Lewisham. The first is somewhat neglected, and seems to be left over from the grounds for a large Victorian house which has since been demolished. Albion Millennium Green was a neglected tennis court before the local residents converted it into a small nature reserve.
Lavender Pond Nature Reserve was created round one of the holding docks for timber in the former Surrey Commercial Docks and every year the small Reserve develops under the care of its single manager, with the help of volunteers. The Pumphouse is a striking feature in the Reserve, standing over the short channel which leads to the river Thames on one side, and a lock (now in some disrepair) which leads into Lavender Pond on the other.
The Russia Docks Woodlands is part of the wonderful Nature Reserve which has been created on the site of the former Surrey Commercial Docks. It is alongside the Stave Hill Ecology Park and together they offer over 40 acres of peace and quiet, teeming with wildlife, across the water from Canary Wharf Business Centre and only 5 miles from Trafalgar Square.
The outline of Russia Docks can still be seen on the ground – the quayside, rails for the cranes, and bollards for tying up the ships.
The surrounding woods are quiet and peaceful, with easy paths for walking and wandering.
The Shed Ecology Centre and nearby Lavender Pond are both open during Open Garden Squares Weekend on 17 and 18 June – do visit, and then take the time to wander through these lovely woods, tracing the outline of the docks.
I visited Lavender Pond last year and posted on the historical origins of this interesting small nature reserve fashioned out of the remains of part of the Surrey Commercial Docks. The Pond was originally much bigger and used for floating logs to keep them from splitting. ‘In 1928 the entrance to the pond was blocked when the Port of London Authority built the Pumphouse on the site to control the water levels in Surrey Docks. In 1970 the Docks were closed. The area became neglected and the pond was filled in, but in 1981 the pond was re-created as part of a nature reserve.‘ As you can see from the map below the ‘pond’ was an enormous area. Do visit this excellent blog for detailed history of the docks.
The Pumphouse stands at the head of the Pond and the remains of the lock gate are still in place, and still functioning. The channel into the Thames is clear and from the mouth, at river, Canary Wharf is just a stone’s throw away. Traffic up and down the river is slightly different these days and it is startling to realise how quickly the changes have come.
The large pond in front of the Pumphouse is enjoyed by the birds, and the local residents throughout the year – you can sit on the benches and enjoy the flowers and wildlife in complete peace and quiet.
And then there is the ‘secret pond’ behind the rushes, with an area of woodland which will develop into a magical place as the years pass.
An interesting paper on the history of the Surrey Commercial Docks
The Docklands History Group
A walk around the Surrey Docks
Down the road from Lavender Pond another section of the old Surrey Commercial Docks has become woodlands and a nature reserve – the Stave Hill Ecology Park. It is a peaceful, quiet place to walk, or wander and in The Shed, the Visitor Centre, there are ideas galore about conservation, recycling, gardening – do visit!
‘…Lavender Pond Nature Park was created in 1981 by LB Southwark in conjunction with the Trust for Urban Ecology and Landuse Consultants Ltd. It was once in the northern part of the Surrey Commercial Docks established in 1864 [and] finally closed in 1969. Nearby are remnants of the earlier industrial use, the Lavender Lock built in 1863 to serve a timber pond that belonged to the Surrey Docks, and the Pump House, built by Port of London Authority in 1928/9 over the channel through to the Thames…’. (London Gardens Online