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Eltham Park North

Eltham Park North

After one of the wettest winters on record its good to see that parts of the Green Chain Walk are again in bloom. The cherry blossom in Eltham Park is, this year, truly magnificent. In Japan the blossom is a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life and is celebrated in the annual festival of Hanami. After three poor blossom seasons this splash of colour against a clear blue sky is a welcome vision.

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Eltham Park North

Eltham Park North

From the park a walk into Oxleas Woods and there are more signs that spring has arrived. The woods are full of birdsong; the squeeking hinge sound of the blue tit and the squarking of the invading parakeets. The woodland flowers are awakening. The best display is the wood anemonies that have carpeted whole sections of these ancient woodlands.

Oxleas Woods

Oxleas Woods

Eltham Park North

“We must learn to walk slowly, so that we have time to see; we must learn to tread quietly, so that we do not cause alarm; above all we must think peace.”
Robert Gibbings – Sweet Thames run softly 1940

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Oxleas Woods in the snow
Without the aid of snowshoes but with some sturdy waterproof boots and trousers I set off for a walk in Oxleas Woods. The snow was falling and there was about 6 cms on the ground. Oxleas Wood is an ancient deciduous forest and some parts date back over 8,000 years. It has been designated a Site of Special Scientific interest (SSI). It is situated in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. To live in London and to have access to this ancient wood is remarkable. Even on a snowy day there were people out enjoying it. I saw several dog-walkers and a very hardy runner in fluorescent shorts. He was very noticeable in the colourless woods.

Green Chain Walk Oxleas Woods
In the past the woods have been under threat when there were proposals to build a road leading to a Thames Gateway Bridge. After strong local opposition the plans were abandoned in 1993. In the recent River Crossings consultation which closed on 1st February 2013 there was no proposal to build a bridge and put the woods under threat again. Yet the Royal Borough of Greenwich launched the “Bridge the Gap” campaign. This called for a new bridge at Gallions Reach so re-opening the controversy about the woods. With no funding, no proposal and no support an ill conceived policy.

Oxleas Woods in the snow
The woods were acquired by the London County Council in 1930 to be used for public recreation. They were open to the public in 1934. There is a cafe at the top of the hill which, on a clear day, as great views. Not so on the day I visited. The Green Chain Walk goes through the woods. If you follow this path past the cafe it declines towards Falconwood. Here amongst the trees you will see lots of the green parakeets which have become such a familiar sight in south east London. They make an ear-piercing squark and are an invasive anomaly in the winter wonderland. Sadly, there is little evidence of any native birds. Is it time to have a cull? The park ranger service provides free walks in Oxleas Woods. Every Thursday and every second Sunday of the month at 10am. They meet by the cafe.

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