The Capital Ring – Shooters Hill to Falconwood


Dear Readers, this week we’re planning on getting in a few more walks around the Capital Ring, so we started where we left off last month, at Shooters Hill. The area around here is blessed with lots of green space – we started off by the Old Police Station on the corner of Shooters Hill Road and Academy Road. These days, it’s residential, as so many industrial and civic buildings seem to be. I do sometimes wonder about the sum of human misery that hospitals and police stations, prisons and asylums have seen, and whether some of that is baked into the walls somehow. I hope not, for the sake of the people now living in these places.

Then we cross Eltham Common and enter the first of the woods that we’ll be walking in today, Castlewood. This is one of several forests that form Shooters Hill Woods – the area was bought by London County Council during the 1920s and 1930s, and they have been designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest. The trees are certainly very interesting, being a mixture of hazel, silver birch, pedunculate and sessile oak and wild service tree, plus a large number of sweet chestnuts.

In the middle of the castle there is something that actually looks like a castle.

Severndroog Castle

This was built in 1784 as a memorial to Commodore Sir William James by his wife, Lady Anne James. Severndroog is a misspelling of Suvarnadurg, an island fortress in India captured by Commodore James in 1755. Apparently you can see several counties from the top but alas the ‘castle’ is only open on occasional Sundays and, to add insult to injury, the café was also closed. Harrumph! Still, this is the highest point on the Capital Ring (at a staggering 419 feet above sea level) so we could claim a small sense of pride.

On we go, and so we pass some people who are working on a rose garden, in what is clearly the remains of an old estate. Turns out that this was once the garden of Castlewood House, which stood here from the 1870s to the 1920s. I was very impressed by this magnificent redwood.

Further along the path there are great views south.

Then we pass the walls of another turn-of-last-century estate, this time Jackwood House. I love the walls, and the variety of vines that are clambering over them, especially as the Virginia Creeper starts to redden.

And here’s another sunny view through the trees.

By now, the absence of caffeine is starting to make itself felt, and so we are delighted to happen upon the Oxleas Wood Café, with its wonderful view and full range of sandwiches. Just the thing.

Oxleas Wood Cafe (Photo by David Fisher)

And just look at the view!

A falcon (probably a kestrel) flew over the scene and disappeared into a large tree just as I was raising my well-earned cuppa to my lips. This seemed very apt as our last stop was Falconwood Station.

Replete, we head off again for the last part of the journey. The last wood is Shepherdleas Wood, and it has some wonderful trees, like this four-trunked specimen, which looks like something out of Tolkien.

What has been missing from the walk, however, is water – this is the only pond that we see, and it seems to be a hotspot for frogs and newts in the spring.

Very sensibly, it has a sign to warn people not to take frogspawn or tadpoles from the pond.

I think people often don’t realise how difficult it is to rear the spawn of amphibians successfully, and also that they risk transferring disease from one area to another if they release any survivors somewhere else. I hope that people pay attention, and let the frogs and newts get on with reproducing without harassment. It’s not much to ask.

And so, we come to the end of a relatively short walk. Tomorrow, if the weather holds, we’re planning on marching on a bit further, from Falconwood to Grove Park. ‘See’ you tomorrow!

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