Croydon Canal route - Forest Hill - a walk along the towpath

The History of Sydenham from Cippenham to present day. Links to photos especially welcome!

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will greenwood
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Croydon Canal route - Forest Hill - a walk along the towpath

Post by will greenwood » 3 Mar 2008 17:43

Firstly, I realise this is conjecture (possibly even wishful thinking), but I do think there is a strong case for further investigation, at the very least.

I went to Garthorne Rd nature reserve hoping to find some small speck of evidence of what I thought may be the Croydon Canal towpath.
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Almost immediately the path cut through a low bank
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Passing through and looking back to the east
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..the bank reveals itself as curved, running north – south and following perfectly the known course of the canal.
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The white tape, part of a school nature project, I believe, conveniently hints at the approximate level and shape of the canal, seen from the towpath…
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(it was here that I kicked up this early 19th century salt glazed pot, apparently IN the canal…approx 2 inches high)

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The Bank is lower on the eastern side than it is on the west;
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The towpath remnants peeter out at the north end as the canal looped round into what is now the cutting
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The canal hen looped back southwards to the area above the steps on the far side, then continuing west towards Hengrave rd
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Heading South, now, from the path cutting through the bank, as the natural ground meets more and more of the cutting, the towpath becomes more indistinct, and harder to follow
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There are, however some tantalising linear features that appear to follow the right course a it curves towards the cutting

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It crossed here, towards Howels wharf…(remember, the ground was pretty even across here at the time)
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Last edited by will greenwood on 3 Mar 2008 18:43, edited 2 times in total.

will greenwood
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Post by will greenwood » 3 Mar 2008 18:00

I then went to the other side of the cutting at Devonshire rd nature reserve. (I would recommend a visit)

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There was less immediately visible here. The area where the loop came through on this side is totally overgrown and inaccessible, but there are some signs of the cutting the canal would have sat in
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The semi circular feature marked here next to the wharf,( hereafter known as ‘the crescent’), is definitely visible, with the footpath skirting its edge, and drainage dykes cut across.Image
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This would infer that this area is as it was at the actual time of the canal, as, it seems, is a lot of this reserve.
I believe there is a lot of original sydenham common here.
This Oak, although seriously coppiced a long while ago, shows the root size of a tree of 150 – 200 years old, as do several other oaks and ashes here, putting them contemporary with the canal.
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The canal crossed over here
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Curving round here at its west bank

A short walk south of the crescent reveals Howels wharf;
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Its very overgrown, but certainly diggable if permission could be found. Geophysical examination would be better.

There is evidence of a pond just beyond, at the very limit of the reserve, and the canal would have continued on through the flats to Ewelme rd and on to Davids rd.

To sum up;
There is substantial, visible evidence of the Croydon canal towpath in Garthorne rd reserve.
The Railway cutting did not affect a band of ground between the top of the cutting and the gardens, hence, there is original land here.
I now believe that the area of the cutting was fairly evenly sloping, but with the lower slopes of benson rd allowing the canal to cross on a low embankment around the contour…so not as weird as we originally thought.
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(notice the shape of the hill coming in from the south west)

This was a very different landscape indeed!
Also, there is little evidence of spoil from the cutting, and I believe the huge embankment to the station further south would have used a lot of any detritus.
There is also evidence of chalk, apparently from the north downs scattered about the lower slopes.



addendum
Further South, past the station, past cyde vale, there is small ‘park’ where there usewd to be tennis courts. The area has been cleared and left as an open space.
On the western extreme of the canal route I came across this, 2 foot bank, running along the course for 50 feet or so
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will greenwood
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Post by will greenwood » 5 Mar 2008 09:33

Here is a video of the route, which I think makes it clearer...
(please excuse the embarrassing commentary...it was cold and very early~)

part 1;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_LTMF6qYvM

part 2;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgxk3Cz6H7U

will greenwood
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Post by will greenwood » 8 Mar 2008 11:42

hers an overlay that confirms the alignment

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perryman
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Post by perryman » 8 Mar 2008 18:40

Will,

Your investigation of the route of the canal has created a good deal of interest amongst the friends of Devonshire rd nature reserve.

The Garthorne site in particular has always interested many of us, and we have unsuccessfully been trying to organise a walk over that site for a few years.

Now with the opportunity to walk in the actual canal bed too, surely we have enough support now finally be rewarded with an guided walk.

Perhaps you, Will, could guide us along your proposed route and indicate interesting structures, and Nick Pond (perhaps) could point out the difference in the plant life from the main reserve. (It is significantly different.)

Actually I suspect Nick could date the banking in the Garthorne reserve within a decade by inspection of the type and variety of species of plant living on it. 8)

Would something like this interest people?

will greenwood
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Post by will greenwood » 8 Mar 2008 22:41

I'd be happy to collaberate on such a tour, especially if it helps find a date for the mound.
great idea.

will greenwood
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Post by will greenwood » 9 Mar 2008 10:05

...I do have to say, I had hoped for some debate about the ideas put forward here.

.....the people who usually join the debate, and thus help to focus the facts, (Falkor, Steve etc), havent shared their valued opinion as yet...which is slightly frustrating..
I am 99% sure of these finds, but I'd really like to hear what others think.
(or shall I call Time Team now?) :roll:

I'm sure Nick Pond would allow access for genuinely interested people.

I know I really had the feeling of sitting on the towpath, looking into the canal....if this is right, it would be nice for others to share that feeling.
It is time to get to the bottom of this canal!
:oops:

Falkor
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Post by Falkor » 9 Mar 2008 19:48

Quite a lot to take in, but I'll respond to this bit first:
addendum
Further South, past the station, past cyde vale, there is small ‘park’ where there usewd to be tennis courts. The area has been cleared and left as an open space.
On the western extreme of the canal route I came across this, 2 foot bank, running along the course for 50 feet or so
This area, I think, is the Millenium Green at the botton of Albion Villas Road, and has always been common land since the time of Sydenham Common. From my research in overlaying maps, I found that this area wasn't dug out for the canal, which at this point, had come quite far away from the railway, stretching across the bottom third or so of Albion Villas Road. Some of this canal alignment is grassed over at the bottom of Redberry Grove, but most of it, by the looks of things, is actually underneath the roads:
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The light blue part is more accurate.

Falkor
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Post by Falkor » 9 Mar 2008 19:53

Will, when you get the time could you please highlight on an aerial photo the areas where these 2 nature reserves are located? I'm not familiar with them. I don't think the public are normally allowed access to any of these places; Dacres Wood Nature Reserve should be our number one priority.

will greenwood
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Post by will greenwood » 9 Mar 2008 22:02

firstly...
the canal was definitely dug that far west, and the aerial photos show the route...the bank is directly in line...which is why I mentioned it...but would have been unviewable while the tennis courts were there.
I think your overlay is wrong..and clues on the ground bear me out.

as for the reserves..
Devonshire rd is open to the public, as much as any other reserve, 1 sunday per month in winter, and more in summer, but access can be arranged via Nick Pond.
Garthorne rd, is only closed due to staff and funding shortages, and the interest shown by the friends of Devonshire rd reserve may well see this area being open again.

Dacres rd site is rarely open to the public, as far as i know due to vandalism...also, it has been re dug, and is very unlikely to hold any artefacts

My priority is to find proof for the things I have found...which I consider very interesting, and possibly important.
Falkor, we discussed these sites in the forum a while ago...you said you were going to check on the wharf...
as I said, I have the codes for you to go and see these things yourself...
check out Millennium green against the aerial pics as well as the old maps...its so plain to see!!
...as is the towpath in Garthorne rd.

will greenwood
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Post by will greenwood » 9 Mar 2008 22:36

This is the rioute we more or less agreed on when i was doing the google earth map.
I reckon it ran a bit more east, including the allotments.

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Falkor
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Post by Falkor » 9 Mar 2008 23:18

I think your overlay is wrong..and clues on the ground bear me out.
Well, it was using a more accurate map to what we are used to with the Honor Oak to Brockley section, plus the dam lined up perfectly with Sydenham Park Road, so I don't see how the rest of the overlay is wrong. The bank you found is too far east to be connected to the canal, but we can agree to disagree on this point--no problem. :D
My priority is to find proof for the things I have found...

...as is the towpath in Garthorne rd.
Perhaps I can help provide some evidences and interpretations to help support or refute your findings, but first I need to know exactly where the 2 nature reserves are located on an aerial photo.

I'm still not happy about the accuracy of the photocopies of Lewisham Local Studies' own photograph copies of the "official" maps, and will endeavour to locate the originals. They are the best source to work with--particularly for the entire section between Forest Hill and Brockley.

will greenwood
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Post by will greenwood » 9 Mar 2008 23:44

As you know, Falkor..I dont hold with un neccessary argument, and am happy to differ...
I just think you may change your opinion if you see for yourself.
the canal route through Clyde vale andm along to the bridge at SDydenham Park is so onvious on the ground...and in the Virtual earth images, you can see the route as it passes through millennium park.

The devonshire rd reserve is situated at the highest point in Devonshire rd...opposite the end of Tyson rd.
The Garthorne rd reserve is at the top of Beadnell rd.
The fact that these are usually not open to the public has allowed this to be preserved...and believe me.....it is quite splendid to see, and the photos dont really do it justice.
both reserves contain l;arge areas of land that has NOT been cut or covered by the railway cutting, and as such is pretty near to original pre victorian., as my small pot find would bear out.

I just dont understand why its so important to prove me wrong, here!
The fact that no one has looked in the Garthorne reserve is simply
a, lack of access
b, maps since the cutting have neglected to show anything inside the railway land, which implies that it is all cutting...(but it certainly isnt...with 150 yr + old trees etc)

I really wish we'd met up when I was down...we could have debated this in situe...
I'll have to come down again, now, wont I.

honestly, mate...forget about proving me wrong until you see it for yourself...keep an open mind and a closed sphincter, and all will reveal itself

c :lol:
Last edited by will greenwood on 15 Mar 2008 13:24, edited 1 time in total.

Falkor
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Post by Falkor » 10 Mar 2008 00:00

I'm not trying to prove you wrong; as I've said before, I'm only interested in the truth. In fact, I think you've got more chance of getting the alignment right in the 2 nature reserves based on what you said about them being nature reserves in the first place. I'm just not in a position yet to comment on your findings there, either way, so I haven't even begun to try and prove you right or wrong. You've put forward several new hypothesis that need to be taken into consideration, but it will take time. Thanks for the offer of the lock codes, which I'll gladly accept; after visiting there myself I will be better able to envisage the area in question (only knowing where the entrances are isn't enough), and note the alignment of your findings.

will greenwood
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Post by will greenwood » 10 Mar 2008 00:14

yr
Last edited by will greenwood on 15 Mar 2008 13:22, edited 1 time in total.

Falkor
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Post by Falkor » 13 Mar 2008 22:53

Both nature reserves seem to be well placed on the "S" part of the Croydon Canal through Forest Wood. But saying that, the Devonshire Road one only catches the alignment at the very incoming and outgoing edges if the reserve even spans that wide (north to south).

Some of the most intrigueing indications of the canal are seen further north between the Devonshire Road reserve and Honor Oak Park. I think a general rule we can apply to the ground is that a towpath alignment will always be on a bank, and the level of the canal will either be on the same level as the towpath bank or cut away beside it at a lower level. This stretch is very noticebly on the alignment:
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The indication at the bottom of Hengrave Road is almost staring at us in the face like a ghost; on both sides of the road where the houses come to an end, garages clearly indicate the alignment:
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will greenwood
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Post by will greenwood » 13 Mar 2008 23:16

whereabouts is that bank in the top picture?

Falkor
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Post by Falkor » 14 Mar 2008 18:57

Between Honor Oak Park gardens and some flats.

will greenwood
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Post by will greenwood » 6 Apr 2008 15:57

This should be interesting to anyone who wants to check things for themselves..
and its a great place to visit, anyway!
Last edited by will greenwood on 15 Oct 2008 17:33, edited 1 time in total.

MartinH
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Post by MartinH » 6 Apr 2008 17:05

I tried to open the link but to no avail! Anyone else had any luck?

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