18 February, 2006

The Capital Ring Walks 1 & 2: Woolwich to Grove Park

Went on the first and second walks of the Capital Ring today. Woolwich to Grove Park station which is at the bottom of Downham (more later). Most of today’s walk I have done before so it was more revision than new territory but one must start at the beginning and keep going. My feet will be happy when they reach the end though. Only 13 more sections to do.

I started at the Woolwich Foot tunnel (where the Capital ring begins, although a circle never ends does it?) and walked along the river, getting slightly lost at a building site. But I did see the Woolwich free ferry in operation. Woolwich was the headquarters of the Royal Arsenal Coöperative Society and although the former Central Stores with their statue of Alexander McLeod were not on the route Commonwealth Buildings (the Coöperative commonwealth of course) were. These buildings are now a funeral depot but there used to be all kinds of productive premises there, including a jam factory. It all looks a bit sad now. Woolwich is not somewhere one would go in search of visual delights, excellent shopping, beautiful architecture and it is better to get out of it fast. I did- via Maryon Park and Maryon Wilson Park. Maryon Park is quite attractive with tree covered hills and valleys made out of old sand pits- Maryon Wilson Park is a bit bleaker although it does contain a children’s zoo with a herd of deer that had to be evacuated during the second world war. In fact Maryon Wilson Park was quite overgrown with some ruined shelters. I don’t think Greenwich Council looks after its parks very well as there was another demolished shelter in Charlton Park and each toilet I passed was closed!

Charlton Park consisted mostly of boys playing football and Charlton House which you can see elsewhere on this web log. Arthur Mee liked it and it is a beautiful house with ceiling plasterwork and chimneypieces. I have been to several events there and it is well worth a visit.

From Charlton Park to Woolwich Common (which I haven’t been across before) this is bleak also, but it is where soldiers drilled in days gone by, then up by Shooters Hill to Severndroog Castle. Severndroog Castle featured in the film Mr In-between (why do they always set British gangster films in South East London? I always know the locations!), but was built to commemorate a British victory at Severndroog which was a pirate fortress in Malabar on the Indian Sub-continent. Here I had a little encounter with two extremely pleasant men out walking their dog. Another dog was playing there with it and I said what a beautiful dog it was. Trouble was it was the wrong dog I referred to! Bang went any chance of being invited in for tea and crumpets there! Actually Castle Wood, Jack Wood and Oxleas Wood around here are very ancient woodlands dating back to Saxon times and they look it.

A stop for refreshment in Jack Wood café then on to the concrete bridge over Rochester way which is the finish of Walk 1 and the beginning of Walk 2.

Walk 2 leads from the dull Eltham Park South (just a football field with nobody playing on it) through some posh suburban streets. I also called in at Holy Trinity Church Eltham which has been re ordered in a modern manner whilst preserving the best of the Victorian parts of the church. The communion table is in the body of the church in true prayerbook style and the congregation sit on chairs with a carpet to warm their feet. There is a stage at the back of the church for performances, and a little chapel, which is dedicated to the fallen of Gallipoli. There is some good stained glass both old and new and a friendly guide who gave me a history of the church.

Outside the church there was a little conduit head which, built in the 16th Century, formerly supplied Eltham Palace with water.

More boring suburban streets for me to walk down until I reached Eltham Palace (which is mentioned elsewhere in the Web log). It is well worth a visit though if you get the chance.

Crossing the railway line into the Borough Of Bromley was marked by green playing fields including the City Of London Sports Ground, and the playing fields of Eltham College. The Playing Fields of Eton in a smaller way. The path is highly fenced and I think I saw a rat (or maybe a squirrel) here. The path also goes by a very tiny River Quaggy at this point. Then on to journey’s end at the signpost on Marvels Lane- but the walk requires a final flourish to Grove Park Station. Home again tired and happy with only 66½ miles to go to complete the Capital Ring which works out as an average of 5½ miles each walk.

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