diamond geezer

 Friday, August 29, 2014

Greenwich: Shooters Hill

132 metres (8th out of 33) [map] [map]

Not to Greenwich Hill but Shooters, a much loftier prominence to the southeast of town. Watling Street runs over the summit, and once led Canterbury pilgrims and Kent-bound stagecoaches into potential danger in the woods. Were early highwaymen responsible for the Shooters Hill name, or did it come from archers using the slopes for target practice? 18th century travellers and their horses paused at The Bull for refreshment, the current building being a Victorian rebuild. An octagonal water tower was built later on the top of the hill, broodily gothic in style, and probably the most visible water tower in the whole of London. Much of the northwestern flank of the hill was covered by housing in the 1930s, but the southern side mostly survived undeveloped, including the ancient forest of Oxleas Wood (which also fought off a proposed road scheme in the 1990s). Deep in the trees is Severndroog Castle, very recently restored and reopened after triumphant efforts by local volunteers. I wanted to go inside but this was my last Borough Top visit of the day so I was about an hour too late. A shame, because from the viewing platform on the roof you can see all the way across to Central London, in much the same way that from Central London you can see all the way back to here. [3 photos]

I'd expected the highest point to be on the Oxleas side but no, it's wrapped up within the Wimpey estate. A recreation ground covers most of the hilltop, which is a nice touch, with a few fortunate flats encroaching from the west. This is Eaglesfield Recreation Ground, much of which has too steep a gradient for ball games but there is a flatter zone at the top where a children's playground has replaced a Yacht Pond. I'd never been up here before, so was impressed to stand on the slopes by the Green Flag and stare out across Bexley, the Dartford Crossing and the Thames estuary beyond. The towers of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge are only fractionally higher than this hilltop, and most everything else within the panorama substantially lower. The land below Eaglesfield Road drops away fairly steeply across Shooters Hill Golf Course, and in the valley below is Woodlands Farm, possibly the closest agricultural land to the centre of London, and definitely the largest city farm in the whole of Britain. Meanwhile up on the summit, behind a row of trees, is a quiet approximately square pond with a boardwalk for dipping purposes along one bank. The whole thing's fenced off to prevent improper access, which must really annoy whoever had kicked a red football into the water and couldn't retrieve it. And there's a single bench overlooking the lot, where I sat and congratulated myself on reaching the 33rd of my 33 borough tops, and wondered if there might be a medal or certificate. My apologies but I'm writing this out of order, so you've still got two to go.
by train: Falconwood   by bus: 89, 244, 486

Bexley: Langdon Shaw

83 metres (21st out of 33) [map] [map]

Nowhere in the London borough of Bexley attains the lofty heights of Greenwich nextdoor. Instead there's a significant ridge at Belvedere near the Thames, and a more general rise up from the Cray valley in the south of the borough. Very very nearly on the border with Bromley is a small prominence, extant as a ring contour on the OS map and also plainly visible in real life. It's perhaps best seen from Frognal Corner, a major roundabout on the A20 Sidcup Bypass close to Queen Mary's Hospital. The playing fields of the local sixth form college rise fairly sharply to make room for a single sports pitch on the top plateau, where the groundsman has already erected the rugby posts for next term's games afternoons. [3 photos]

The top of the hill sits at the rear of a housing estate along a single road called Langdon Shaw. It's not a long road, more a hooked crescent of about fifty homes, I'd say postwar semis, and a pleasantly ordinary slice of Outer London. One resident has a black cab, two have caravans, and I suspect there are several Mail and Express readers behind the net curtains. Two of them came out to fill their wheelie bins, and two small boys rode their bikes repeatedly along the pavement to the dividing line their parents had set and back again. And I thought there might not be much more to say until I walked down to the junction with Tyron Way and saw the view. It's been a theme of my London Borough Top journey, spotting views of somewhere else (generally central London) from high points all across the capital. And this didn't disappoint, first with an obvious sightline to Shooter's Hill beyond the "Humps for 300 yards" sign, then the traditional Shard/Gherkin combo from the lawn by the postbox plus Canary Wharf poking its pyramid above the nearest rooftop. Langdon Shaw's a very ordinary street, for sure, but with a special outlook that only those who live up here ever see.
by train: Sidcup   by bus: 160, 229, 269, 286, B14, R11

» 96 photos of London Borough Tops (three each, so far, and four to go)
» List and map of London Borough Tops
» Previous reports: Outer NE; Inner E; Inner N; Inner NW; Outer NW; Outer N; Outer W; Inner SW; Outer S; Inner SE

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