Monday, 2 April 2007

Up Eliot Bank

The longer I leave it between posts, the further behind I fall with posting about these walks. I currently have 5 to write up and now that the weather is improving I imagine I will be getting out even more.

On the 12th of March I organised a work meeting at the Horniman Cafe. It seemed like it was to be a good day, so when my colleague asked me where we should meet, I instantly thought about getting away from the house and into some green space.

I left the house a little early (on purpose) and decided to walk to the Horniman, but take a sudden and last minute diversion up Eliot Bank. This hill has been intriguing me for some time. There is something about these residential streets that makes you feel like you are trespassing without an invitation, when in fact they are still public highways.

I headed up the steep hill opposite Honor Oak Road and the museum to find out what lay at the top. The area is called "Forest Estate" and the buildings at this level are all 60's/70's apartment blocks. They must have a pretty good view although I am not sure of the longevity of anything built at that time.

Once you reach the top there is a central green with tall buildings facing North, and smaller family terraced housing around the other sides. This is a nicely secluded spot, and certainly was quiet compared to the traffic on the road below.

Just off this green is a side road called Knapdale Close that skirts behind the impressive Forest Grove building (accesible from Taymount Rise - see my separate walk) and down to the back of the Shackleton Close Estate (whose buildings, see here on the left, I now learn, are designed in a 'Streamline Moderne' Art Deco style).

Following the main road from the green you pass an attractive building called Phoenix House which I believe is a health clinic of some sort (nice building to house it in) to one of the worst maintained roads I have seen in London. I guess this is one way to ensure that this does not become a 'rat-run' to Crystal Palace for daily commuters.

[Edit 12/04/2007: A member called Mayor Steve left me this message concerning this road:

"Sorry to be pedantic but as I understand it this is not on Lewisham's priority list because it isn't a Lewisham road! Its an unadopted road which is the responsibility of the residents living there.

Mayor Steve"

I have no idea or evidence that this was THE Mayor Steve we all know, but sure sounds like I annoyed someone at the Council]

The road emerges on the roundabout at the top of Sydenham Hill, so I am skirting with the borders of SE23 here, and as my colleague will eventually wonder where I am, I decide to head back down the hill - all 12% (+ tilt) of it.

The route down is down Sydenham Hill, then down Sydenham Rise. The triangle that this creates, with London Road, currently has a lovely little playground much loved by my daughter. However, it has a reputation as an old 'plague' burial ground. I believe that this is without substance, but this is a question I need to get "my mate Steve" to confirm for me.

After my meeting at the museum, I used the opportunity to sneak up the roads around Surrey Mount. There are some houses here, between the museum and the Tesco garage on the corner of Honor Oak Road, that back onto the museum. Nothing much to report (I had hoped to find Frederick Horniman's House, but I gather that was demolished) but my quest is to walk ALL SE23 streets in 2007, so must do my best.

I did not have the time to climb up inside the buildings on Eliot Bank as I would have liked, but I have been told the view is great. This was another walk that opened my eyes to parts of Forest Hill that were totally new to me and connected the dots with other walks on other routes. All in all, a short walk, but a good one.

[Edit 8 April: If all works as planned, this link should take you to a map of the route courtesy of Google Maps]


Michael Abrahams said...

The mayor is correct (as I sure you had little doubt). I walked up this road to school most days so I know it well. It has been is about the same condition for about 25 years, although when I used it, it did not have the nice pavement, it just had mud.

Phoenix House is a drug rehabilitation centre. It was visited by Prince Charles about 20 years ago (not for treatment, but for an offical visit), but I think his official car avoided the road you pictured :-)

Robert McIntosh said...

Thanks to Michael Abrahams (Chairman of the Forest Hill Society) and Mayor Steve Bullock (Mayor of Lewisham) for these comments and clarifications.

It is gratifying to know that this blog has such exalted readers!

I didn't doubt the veracity of the information, just surprised to see it (apparently) coming from the Mayor himself.

At least there is a pavement now, but now that you mention it, how often do we get to walk down a muddy road (by choice) any more? Or maybe as my own walks to school down muddy paths are also about 25 years ago I am romanticising it too much?

And thanks for the info on Phoenix House. I thought it might be something like this.

Anonymous said...

I believe there was a more recent Royal visit, with Prince Harry paying a visit at his pop's behest after his weed smoking - not for treatment but to meet people with more serious problems

Courtney Hamilton said...

You need to get yourself to Hilly Fields - if you go down Stanstead Road towards Caford, you'll see a pub on the left called Hilly Fields (I think it's called that). Walk up the road beside it, up the hill until you reach the park.

The views from there are the best views of London you will get anywhere in Forest Hill.

Robert McIntosh said...

Thanks Courtney

I regularly go to Hilly Fields (not the pub!), both in the car and walking and I agree that some of the views, and even the park itself, are great.

Unfortunately, in terms of this blog as it stands, it is a little beyond SE23 as it is in Brockley, SE4.

I have been wondering about "what next" after I accomplish my goal of walking around SE23, and I think whatever I do it will have to involve Hilly Fields and the other great parks of this area.

Thanks for the comment.

Courtney Hamilton said...

"I have been wondering about "what next" after I accomplish my goal of walking around SE23".

Maybe you should discover the Quaggy (pronounced Kwag-gie) - a not so well known river that runs through the heart of Lewisham - it passes through a few nature reserves and parks - well worth checking out.

Diane Goldman said...

Hi thanks so much for this pic of Eliot Bank. I worked at Phoenix House for 11 years 1982 to 1993 but had connections with it from 1977. I was there when Prince Charles visit but not when Harry popped in. His dad had arranged for him to get a 'reality check' by meeting people 'less fortunate than himself especially in relation to drugs. That's what I heard anyway! I have so many memories of the place - I must have walked up and down Eliot Bank - in heatwaves and snowstorms - actually impossible to walk up Eliot Bank when icy - and the morning after the 1987 hurricane where I had to climb over a tree that had been blown down. I believe Phoenix House has closeed down now and may have already been made in flats! The view from my old office that looked across the garden was stunning. I feel very fortunate to have spent so much time there! Thanks again for the memories - oh and yes Mayor Steve is right - it is an unadopted road but adds delightfully to the feeling of being in the country in London!


Anonymous said...

I've really enjoyed the pictures, massive thanks. I remember you Diane as i was an 'intern' there, Walter is/was my name. It was totally worth being an addict if just to spend some of the best months of my life there with some of the warmest and compassionate people (yourself included) I've ever met. All the best and thanks again for memories.