diamond geezer

 Friday, October 29, 2010

Earl's Sluice/Peck

Southeast London's two lost rivers, the Earl's Sluice and the Peck, merged somewhere in the vicinity of South Bermondsey station. It's no coincidence that this station lies on the border between Southwark and Lewisham. If you trace the borough boundary from the Old Kent Road up Ilderton Road you're following the route of the Peck, near enough. And if you carry on along that same boundary to the east, you're following the final mile of both rivers down to the Thames, pretty much. Indeed, these rivers once marked the county boundary between Surrey and Kent, which is impressively significant for a minor river that no longer exists.

For the best view of the area, head up to the elevated platforms at South Bermondsey. The footpath from the street is ridiculously long (all the better for corralling football supporters), and the curving narrow platform almost longer still. From the tip you can even peer down through a gap in the stands at The Den and watch Millwall play, so long as the ball's in one specific tiny patch of pitch. [photo]

My river walk continued down the embankment, outside the stadium, on one of the gloomiest streets I've ever encountered in central London. That's Bolina Road, a bendy backwater which burrows its way beneath as many as five railway viaducts in quick succession. The first cuts you off from the outside world. The second, and loftiest, is blessed by a pile of boulders and abandoned tyres at its base [photo]. The gap between here and the third feels scarily oppressive, as if some ne'erdowell might leap out at any moment and your body might not be found for months. The fourth is low enough to slice off the entire top deck of a bus, although its precise height is unclear because the official road sign's long since vanished. And the fifth is so narrow that cars wishing to pass have to honk their horns lest they meet a car, bike or even pedestrian coming the other way. I moved on fast.

It's hard to imagine the Hawkestone Estate as riverside fields (and worrying to imagine which council committee thought 'Regeneration Road' was a good name for one of its new streets). Another railway bars progress before long, this time the East London line, with a welcome footbridge at the point where the spur to Clapham Junction will one day divert. A thick white pipe crosses the tracks close by, reputedly the sewer-borne remains of our lost river, flirting anonymously with the open air. There's one last inferred sighting at the top of Rotherhithe New Road, where a green stinkpipe rises from the triangular traffic island. 200 years ago the view round here was rather more peaceful, with the Earl's Sluice rolling by beneath an arched bridge.

One last push to the Thames, along a stretch which last saw the light of day as the "Black Ditch". On Chilton Grove there's conclusive evidence of the river's burial - the Earl Pumping Station. It's housed in a boxy brick structure which could easily be a 1930s library, but instead houses some non-cutting-edge Thames Water pipework. You might expect the river to have flowed along the line of the South Dock [photo], but cartographical evidence suggests its replacement sewer follows Plough Way. A memorial stone inlaid in the pavement wall, past Baltic Quay, confirms that the former Kent/Surrey boundary passed this way (until 1899). It makes sense - those are indeed the Surrey Docks just to the north on the non-Kent side of the divide. [photo]

The final few yards in Helsinki Square are marked by what looks like a filled-in dock, lined by 21st century trees, leading to St George's Stairs [photo]. At low tide a pebbly beach is revealed alongside a pair of rotting wooden piers [photo]. Don't be tempted down the steps - a bold yellow Thames Water sign warns of a "sewer outlet 30 metres out from this board". Stay on the riverside promenade, turn left, and you'll find a preserved brick wall from a bridge over Earl's Creek. It was shifted here in 1988, and includes yet another boundary stone to admire. Surrey/Kent, Rotherhithe/Deptford, Southwark/Lewisham... not a bad tally for the former Earl's Sluice/Peck.

» A very approximate map of the Earl's Sluice and Peck's course (my best Google map attempt)
» Read all my Earl's Sluice/Peck posts on one page, in the right order

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
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 me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream