Walked on Wednesday 29 July 2020.
After buying refreshments from the local shop I was ready to tackle the next section of The London Loop and this time I was starting early. It’s 9am as I approach the red phone box by Bexley Train Station. The street is much quieter than my last visit with only a handful of people around. This could be the effects of lockdown or simply that folk in this area like a lie-in bed.
Between Cherry Blossom the bridle shop and The Railway Tavern public house, I turn right down the alley and under the railway tunnel as the 9:14am passes over on its way to Crayford. Once out of the tunnel I’m greeted with a large field and the sports grounds of Bexley Cricket Club and Burnt Ash Hockey Club. A teenager looks like he’s being taught how to bowl. On match days the public are allowed to use the bar in the club house and the toilets are also open.
I press on and pass a row of houses which seem oddly placed but what a location to live I quickly discover when I climb the dusty lane and am met by a beautiful open field signposted ‘Bexley Playing Field’. A dog comes and sniffs me as its owners arrive and explain that this field was previously a quarry which has been used as landfill. The area was covered with soil which resulted in the ground rising so high that the electricity pylons also had to be raised. Looking back down the dusty lane I had just left it was plain to see from the street level outside the houses how much higher up we were standing. With the sun now high in the street against a blue sky I walked across the field to the sounds of wildlife buzzy all around me.
Come down the other side and I find a wheat field, if only I had been a few early earlier to have seen the sight of the crop gently dancing in the breeze.
At the end of the lane I walk only a bridge crossing the River Cray. The sounds of birds and wildlife fill the air and being under the shade of the trees is calming.
I turn right coming off the bridge. The walk hugs the side of the river and for the most part it is an easy walk which goes from large areas of open land and even larger oak trees to smaller river side paths which would be impassable if the river had been any higher. The deeper I go into the woodland the more birds can be heard over the squawking of the Parakeets.
It was great to see friends and families having picnics along the banks of the river and playing in the shallow River Cray.
The bridge linked the former estates of North Cray Place and Foots Cray Place and formed the centre piece when Lancelot Brown landscaped the both estates. I wait here for a while as I notice a large group of elderly walkers are heading in the direction I’m heading. Their voices are quite loud so any filming would be spoilt so I leave the bridge and on the right hand side of the bank I sit down for my first tea break of the walk.
After 15 minutes I restarted the trail which goes through large fields before turning right and coming to a quaint bridge, which I’m informed by a local dog walker, is called Pennyfarthing Bridge.
As I cross Pennyfarthing Bridge I see lots of path ways heading off to my right. It looks like a visitor could spend all day here exploring just this one area. I head left besides a fence and then turn right when I notice an information board, pass this and back out onto a busy road, Rectory Lane. My map tells me to keep left but I notice there is a church to my right so I decide to have a quick look.
The church doors are locked so I walk around the graveyard. There is an area between graves which has been roped off where wild flowers are being grown.
A wooden Saxon Church was probably erected on the site of the present Church of All Saints: the original size of Foots Cray Church exactly matched the dimensions of a Saxon Church. The present Church, perpendicular in style, dates from about 1330. The Lord of the Manor at that time was Sir Simon de Vaughan, who was buried with his wife about 1350 in an altar tomb.https://www.allsaintsfootscray.org.uk/aboutus.htm
I return to the road and head left into Foots Cray Village, pass the village school on my left and the war memorial then arrive at a junction of the village, a very busy day due to the road being repaired by the local authority. I cross the two roads and head for Suffolk Road. At the end of this road I’m back out onto a large field, it was once home to Cray Wanderers Football Club who were formed in 1860 and is one of the very first football clubs in the UK.
Through a rabbit warren of back lanes passing horses and allotment sites I am back under the canopy of the trees as I enter Sidcup Place Park. It’s here under a tree hear the manor house (now a public house) that I decide it is time for lunch. Sandwiches and tea are on the menu as I tip my hat over my eyes and have a rest.
I get myself ready for the next part and walk through a section of the trees and through a gap in the hedgerow to find myself on a road leading to Queen Mary’s Hospital. For some reason, maybe tiredness, I found navigating the motorway underpass quite confusing. I finally come out onto a bridge over the fast flowing motorway below and I horse and rider casually come across the bridge with me.
Hidden between the trees is the entrance to Scadbury Park Nature Reserve and a large information board gives me all the details I need.
Scadbury Park Nature Reserve lies on the eastern edge of Chislehurst, overlooking the valley of the River Cray. Chislehurst is well-known for its cave system which runs for around 22 miles and all made by human hands. During World War II they where used as shelters and during the late 60s to 80s as a music venue.
Facts about the park:
- The Park is made up of over three hundred acres
- It forms a wildlife corridor linking Jubilee Country Park through Petts Wood and Scadbury
- Scadbury Manor
Scadbury Manor estate which archaeological investigation has shown was first settled around 1200. The remains of the early manor-house complex, surrounded by a moat can be still be seen in the Park. The estate has been held by a limited number of families over the years, which has definitely helped to preserve its integrity.https://www.scadbury-park.org.uk/about/brief-history-of-scadbury
From here I wander along the path and chat to locals about the park and the area. It’s quite busy now with lots of dog walkers and a few other ‘loopers’ on their journey.
For me this stretch of woodland (above picture) along a dirty road is beautiful. I can imagine carts travelling along over the decades and travellers making their way.
Now I’m entering Petts Wood and decide to stop to change batteries on my video camera and have refreshments.
After my afternoon tea I pass the official Petts Wood / National Trust sign and on my right is a wonderful sight looking across a field with many birds flying around.
The path leads me downhill, by now the toll of the walk is starting to take effect. I would love to sit down and have a good sleep but I carry on. Here I wanted to visit the stone memorial to William Willett but I miss the turning and by the time I realise I’m at the bottom of the hill and decided to visit it on another day and talk more about him then.
He proposed that clocks should be advanced by 80 minutes in four incremental steps during April and reversed the same way during September. The evenings would then remain light for longer, increasing daylight recreation time and also saving £2.5 million in lighting costs.
The walk through Petts Wood is very easy on well worn pathways which lead me alongside the railway track and then up-and-over three railway bridges. The final bridge in the trilogy brings me down into Jubilee Country Park and the end of Section 2 of The London Loop. The walk from here to Petts Wood train station is very easy and doesn’t take long.
My walk started at 9am and finished at 4:15pm. This included two refreshment stops and time to set up video camera shots.
With the exception of the pathways along the River Cray leading to Five Arch Bridge I found it a most enjoyable walk, especially Scadbury and Petts Wood.