Dave Sergeant

The 52 mile Green Chain Walk, London's first long distance footpath, opened in 1977. The network links together the open spaces in the great arc of protected, undeveloped land with a total area of 4,500 acres, that sweeps around South East London from Crystal Palace to the Thames at Erith and Thamesmead. I followed the maps and guidance from the Inner London Ramblers website. Although I have walked parts before this is my project for 2024.

Sections 7, 8a and 9a - Falconwood to Chislehurst - 29th March 2024

Today's walk is an amalgamation of section 7 with a couple of the shorter sections, sections 8a and 9a, giving an overall length of around 8 miles. It also includes the first part of section 8 and a bit of section 6. You really have to do the Green Chain this way as it is a real tangle of separate routes. Good Friday allowed an earlier start though the weather forecast was not good and I nearly called it off, however in the event it was largely dry.

Section 7 - Falconwood to Mottingham

I arrived at Falconwood station around 10.30am then made my way to where section 6 enters Shepherdleas Wood. A short way further on was the start of section 7.

The first part of the walk goes through Shepherdleas Wood then Eltham Park North, pleasant woodland but quite muddy in places.

Passing Falconwood Station again and after a short bit of road walking Gravel Lane is entered which eventually reaches Bexley Road.

More pleasant woodland and then one of the original kissing gates from when the Green Chain walk was first opened in 1977.

The walk approaches Avery Hill Park which offers good views and the first glimpses of the River Shuttle.

A very muddy path. To the side are the training grounds of Charlton Athletic and players were out there practising. The walk continues through housing to emerge at New Eltham Library. Along here I met another walker who was doing the Capital Ring and we had a short chat.

The route now passes through two small parks. The first of these, Southwood Park, was found to be totally waterlogged. The second, Fairy Hill Park, was paved.

After passing Mottingham station came the first surprise of the day, The Tarn. This nine acre park surrounds the Tarn lake and is a most pleasant area with wildfowl. Near the exit is the ice house which used to supply Eltham Palace.

The path now climbs up into Eltham Palace Fields and at the top there are excellent views of the surrounding area, at the right spot no buildings can be seen anywhere. Is this really London!

At the top is a donkey enclosure and a couple of donkeys were enjoying their straw feed. Then into King John's Walk and the route of section 6 is followed across the railway to its end in Mottingham.

Section 8a - Mottingham to Elmstead Wood

On Mottingham Lane is the junction of sections 6, 8 and 9. I first followed section 8 along the lane, passing the riding school with its old buildings before turning off on a track which runs past the grounds of Eltham College.

The muddy track continues for a while then reaches the River Quaggy, in a concrete channel at this point.

The track emerges on Marvels Lane where section 8a begins. The route follows the Quaggy for a while, still in its concrete channel.

Chinbrook Meadows is entered, a large park and the Quaggy now flows as a proper river. Turning away from the meadows, and approaching the railway line, there is quite a steep climb and this path was particularly muddy. I slipped and fell a couple of times but the only damage was the mud on my clothes.

Reaching the top of the climb a welcome signpost marks the end of the short section 8a and the start of section 9a. This continues into Elmstead Wood, originally elm trees but now largely oak trees.

Section 9a - Elmstead Wood to Chislehurst

The route passes Grove Park Cemetery then heads deep into the woods, which fortunately is much drier under foot.

The path emerges from the woods into Elmstead Lane then into the long Cow Path. Through Hangingspring wood to enter open parkland.

I am given a warm welcome as I enter the park. And another Green Chain signpost.

Then more woodland, Whytes Woodland. Emerging from here Chislehurst and its church comes into view.

Chislehurst Church and the pond which marks the end of section 9a. I stopped for lunch in the adjacent Queens Head then made my way to Chislehurst station, about a mile away, and the train back to Waterloo and home. Around 8 or 9 miles walked today and very enjoyable it was as well.

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