Friday, 9 March 2007

Some Forest Hill back streets

Having already walked quite a few of the main roads around here on big circular routes, the job from here onwards becomes a little more tricky.

To walk every road in Forest Hill will mean going over several of the main roads a few times to go up and down the smaller offshoots, often parallel roads, but even on these you sometimes come across unusual sights.

This walk, on the evening of February 26th was just gorgeous. It was dusk as I set off so the light was possibly a little too dark already for some of these shots, but hopefully you'll get some of the effect.

The first new road I hit was Ewart Road coming off Beadnell Road, then right onto Bovill Road. Many of these are quiet side roads and nice residential streets. There is a certain "rat run" through here (if you know the route) that avoids the corner of the South Circular and Brockley Rise, but most of the day this is not a problem.

As you get to the bottom of this road and follow it around, you discover one of those "hidden sites/sights". In this case, the General Napier pub. I have only been in there once, but it is a genuine, local, neighbourhood pub (nothing gastro about it). Pint and a packet of peanuts sort of thing. It is nice to see it has survived, though who the General was I don't know.

From here I turned down Herschell Road. There are some slightly different terraced houses along here, all well maintained. At the end of the road, back at the junction of Brockley Rise, is another of Forest Hill's many churches. St. Saviour's. Not been in, but it looks pretty substantial. Funny to think that in 1850 or so, there were basically no churches here at all, and now there seems to be one every few steps - and that's after many have been taken down. I should count them one day.

So, to the main target of the walk, Lowther Hill. This road, and Duncombe Hill running parallel, are either side of a "private park" that has recently been generating some interest.

Lowther Hill is nice in itself, rising up to Brockley View, with nice houses on either side. However, it is what you cannot see behind them that is most attractive to me. The enclosed space is shared amongst all the bordering properties and is called Brockley Hill Park.

Being a large green space, it is probably already under scrutiny by a developer. I am all for developing sites with affordable housing, but that sort of in-fill development would not be right. In addition, it seems that Forest Hill is one of the few remaining habitats for certain Stag Beetles and they happen to like this park.

The sting in the tail is that all of this "green space" is not actually there for all to share, only residents, and that this "environment" is actually an accident of a most selfish development in the first place.

The whole land was apparently bought by a local Conservative Land Association for the simple reason that it could then sell the freehold plots to those who voted with them. Only freehold property owners had the vote, of course. A clear case of gerrymandering (Dame Shirley Porter would be proud - allegedly!). They had intended to build a church in the middle (what else?) but didn't get round to it I guess (why spend the extra money?).

However, that enclosure has resulted in something that today helps to make urban life just that little bit more bearable, so I guess that we can forgive them.

By the way, this information is courtesy of ... Steve Grindlay of course (original thread here on

No chance of getting in there for me, although I hold out hope that there is some tour at some point, so I was off to the top of the road - Brockley View! Here I got a few more lovely shots of the setting sun, and headed down the hill and out of se23 (with one final shot of Canary WHarf from Brockley).

Here is a selection of the photos (links below):

1. Canary Wharf from Brockley, 2. Canary Wharf from Brockley View, 3. Sunset over One Tree Hill, 4. Lowther Hill, 5. Lowther Hill, 6. London Skies, 7. St Saviour's, Herschell Road, 8. Lowther Hill and Brockley Rise, 9. Lowther Hill rising, 10. Electrifying Skies, 11. The General Napier, 12. Bovill Street

This was a one way walk (picking the car up the other end) so that's all folks!


David said...

As an old resident of Bovill Road you may be interested to know that at the end of WW2 the General Napier pub was kept by a badly burnt airman ? Who nevertheless was able to serve customers despite his terrible burns. Hope this is of interest

Robert McIntosh said...

Thanks - these little bits of local information bring these places to life.