diamond geezer

 Wednesday, March 18, 2015

THE UNLOST RIVERS OF LONDON
River Beck
West Wickham → Beckenham (4 miles)
[Beck → Pool → Ravensbourne → Thames]


Who'd call a river the Beck? It's tautological, surely, as any Northerner knows. But the Beck isn't northern, it's a south London river, running approximately up the western side of the borough of Bromley. It's also the river that flows through Beckenham, which might make you say "well yes, of course," except the origination's not the way round you might think. Beckenham's thought to be named after a Saxon chieftain called Beohha, and the river Beck is named after the town, or rather village as it was at the time. It's also a rather sweet little river, in places, and rather more unlost than some.
[Here's an approximate map, if approximate maps are your thing]


The Beck rises on a long wooded ridge between Addington and West Wickham, with thick trees shielding any view of either. It's a fairly obvious place for a river to start, indeed there's a spring line along the brow of the slope, and the wooded area goes by the name of Spring Park. The Beck actually starts to the north of of Threepenny Wood, with which you'll be familiar if you've ever walked London Loop section 4 (and probably not otherwise). A path leads off through the trees, increasingly untrodden, to a small clearing where a concrete-coated pipe pokes out of the earth. This is the visible source of the Beck, here narrow enough for a toddler to straddle the channel as it almost-trickles through the undergrowth.



A thin tongue of woodland stretches north between some nice houses on the Bromley side and some lowbrow flats on the Croydon side. It's no coincidence that the two boroughs meet here, because the fledgling Beck marks the dividing line between the two. More importantly it once marked the precise boundary between Kent and Surrey, until Greater London swept out fifty years ago and pushed the Home Counties back. On a midweek afternoon the woods feel quite cut off, the opposing estates held back behind gateless fences. The river ducks between birch and holly trees, carving a muddy notch in the earth overhung by spindly branches. In a capital city whose rivers are often little more than concrete culverts, this is very minor, but very real.

Emerging from the trees, the Beck continues unseen behind the backs of houses. Unseen that is unless one of these houses is yours, in which case it makes a particularly nice water feature crossed by an ornamental bridge topped with shrublets... as can be seen if you peer through a knot in the fence down the first cross-river alleyway. But that's the last sight for half a mile, forcing the riverwalker along Reggie Perrin avenues to the main Wickham Road. The building ahead by the riverside used to be La Rioja restaurant, but KFC have plans to create a drive-through instead and local residents are livid. The planning application was submitted last week, hence the Say No To Drive Through KFC at La Rioja Site West Wickham Facebook group members are busy leafleting at the moment, and an online petition is in full effect.

Up next is High Broom Wood, which is lovely. This secluded linear strip of woodland follows the River Beck corridor, accessible only at top and bottom, but with well maintained footways to either side. A band of volunteers have done sterling work keeping fifteen acres well-groomed, adding a couple of footbridges and the occasional carved animal too. The river weaves between the trees following pools and riffles, a geography teacher's delight, while unseen songbirds bring the upper branches to life. If KFC get their way a new entrance will be added from the south, which could be both very good (access!) and very bad (litter!). In the meantime I found my way in from Monks Orchard Road, which is how I happened to be passing Bethlem Hospital and its new museum... but that was yesterday's post.



North of the Eden Park roundabout the Beck again runs unseen through private land. A sports ground and a secondary school playing field are first, then an enclave of inaccessible woodland through which a brief tributary flows. Next up is a primary school, the bridge by its entrance clearly not the best place to hang around with a camera midweek, and thence to the enormous campus of Langley Court. This used to be a major research hub for pharmaceutical firm Glaxo Wellcome, until closed 20 years ago, and the non-Beck part is now covered by a large mixed residential estate. For us mere mortals the river doesn't reappear until the upper part of the Harvington Estate, rather wider now, meandering past landscaped tree trunks and a dangling blue rope swing.

Compared to most unlost London rivers, the Beck is somewhat spoilt for scenic sections. Kelsey Park is a case in point, Beckenham's finest recreational space, created from the remnants of the Kelsey mansion estate. A succession of wealthy owners in the 18th century landscaped the river to add two lakes and a waterfall, which now form the centrepiece of a much-loved linear park. Much-loved by parents and toddlers hanging out at the cafe by the playground, much-loved by the retired couples who wander the banks with bags of bread, and much-loved by a heck of a lot of ducks and swans and geese who flock the waterside and gardens. This is the sort of park that publishes its own calendar, and without the Beck it'd be nothing.



And that half-kilometre is as good as it gets. Soon afterwards the Beck dips into culvert to pass through the centre of Beckenham, beneath the High Street, long buried as a barrier to commercial activity. It re-emerges along the back of Church Avenue, now confined to a bland concrete trench, in which it remains, occasionally reappearing between semis or across the front of a trading estate. Burrowing beneath two railways brings the Beck to Cator Park where it joins the Chaffinch Brook, in a landscape feature that brings the concept of "bland concrete trench" to new heights. And at this point both tributaries change their name, if not their construction material, combining to form the Pool River which continues north. But that's for another day.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Sun 4 December (8am-10pm)
Tower Bridge fully closed
For one day only, cross the river by free passenger ferry!

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv