This summer work is underway to design a new district park in the Grove Park, SE12 area of Lewisham. Championed by The Baring Trust, the project seeks to bring forward the Grove Park Neighbourhood Plan vision that re-imagines the green corridor landscape – which runs along the railway cutting – into the Railway Children Urban National Park. It will enable a continuous nature and geo-trail from the South Circular all the way to the ancient woodland of Marvel’s and Elmstead Woods.
The project was awarded a £40,000 development grant from the Mayor of London’s Green and Resilient Spaces Fund to further develop the district park vision – a vision is now firmly established in the Mayor of Lewisham’s manifesto.
With some match funding from Lewisham Council’s NCIL fund, the project aims to bring existing Metropolitan Open Land and a Site of Nature Conservation Importance into more active use as well as ensure greater enhancement and protection of its nature conservation value.
Landscape architects LDA Design are now on board to help work out what’s possible on the site to produce a feasibility study and a masterplan design for the parkland.
This green corridor is a key heritage landscape for Lewisham and probably one of the most memorable and enduring in English literature that even today keeps old train spotting traditions alive. This very landscape was a source of inspiration for author Edith Nesbit who wrote The Railway Children – a story which includes clues to the many happenings and encounters from the family’s time in Grove Park. The book itself is dedicated to her son – Paul Bland who was passionate about the railways, on whom the character of Peter in the story is based.
Published in 1906, a few years following Nesbit’s departure from Grove Park, there is no doubt the family’s time living along the railway cutting for the ten-year period inspired the story. They lived first at the top end at 2 Birch Grove between 1889 and 1894 and then at a house called The Three Gables on Baring Road from 1894 till 1899. Nesbit’s children would have grown up running up and down this very railway corridor at the bottom of their garden. Even today these sweet scenes of youth continue to fill the landscape; families with their children visit the railway embankment to wave at the passing trains, with train drivers hooting back in salute.
The Three Gables. c Lewisham Archives Nesbit’s Residence Railway Embankments
This relic piece of countryside has withstood all the development happening around it, and still stands today as a site of importance for nature conservation – a special and enduring place that is also a reminder of how nature can and does recover, if we consciously give it a chance.
Nesbit herself wrote about nature and her dislike of creeping urbanisation. In her chapter ‘memories of childhood’ Nesbit writes:
“Would that it were possible for all children to live in the country where they may drink in, consciously or unconsciously, the dear delights of green meadow and dappled woodland! The delight in green things growing, in the tender beauty of the evening light on grey pastures, the glorious splendour of the noonday sun on meadows golden with buttercups, the browns and purples of winter woodlands-this is a delight that grows with one’s growth-a delight that ‘age cannot wither nor custom stale,’ a delight that the years who take from us so much can never take away-can but intensify and make more keen and precious. “
Creating a coherent parkland here will positively make this heritage landscape more ‘keen and precious’, intensifying its literary heritage links but also preserve and enhance nature so that children, young and the young at heart, can live to drink in nature’s delights for many years to come.
Consultation Events this Summer
There is another chance to find out more about the project and to speak with the design team to share your ideas about how to create a park for everyone. Join the team at Reigate Road / Railway Children Walk playground BR1 5HT – one of the sites of the parkland – on the 11th August – 12pm till 4pm at this year’s Summer Fun event by Phoenix Community Housing.
The design team are aiming to show initial parkland design ideas at this year’s Grove Park Carnival on the 4th of September in Chinbrook Meadows.
Please Complete Online Consultation Survey
If not able to join, please do not miss the chance to feedback your comments via this online survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/park_for_everyone. The deadline for comments is 1st September 2022.
To stay in touch with progress and to find out more about the project as plans progress, please subscribe to the Baring Trust mailing list HERE.