Southeastern rail service operates Grove Park station, which is just over eight miles southeast of Charing Cross station as the crow flies, with mainline train services running through to Hastings via platforms 2 to 5. But my primary interest today is the service that runs from platform one on the branch line to Bromley North via the ‘popper line’. You can read about my visit to the other end of the line at Bromley North here.
Access to platform one is intricate and sadly not accessible to those with mobility needs; I believe there are plans to change this, but when I don’t know? There’s a flat, high-rise caged walkway from the station ticket hall that dog-legs from the sloping entrance that leads down to platforms 2 and 3. It travels over the rail line that terminates on platform 1, culminating in a steep flight of stairs. There’s also a separate bridge that interconnects with all other platforms further down the platform, but again it’s not step-free.
Class 465 EMUs are the workhorses of this branch line that shuttles every half hour between the two ends of the line. And trains slow down on their approach to the platform as the track curves in a 90° arc from due south to run parallel with the other mainline tracks.
The station is typical of late 19th century stations built at the height of the Victorian railway revolution. Grove Park opened in 1871. The main changes since then are, as you’d expect, the station livery colours, which now reflect Southeastern’s blue (hex 389cff), the lighting and tannoy systems, and the ramped access from the station’s entrance to the two island platforms that serve platforms 2/3 and 4/5
Grove Park is primarily a residential area inside the southeast corner of the London Borough of Lewisham. It was popularised following the station’s opening and grew following the creation of housing estates to meet the post-war housing shortages.
The commercial hub is centralised along Baring Road, about 100 metres on either side of the station and into Downham Way, opposite the station. As with most London suburban areas, the commercial premises here are a mix of fast food outlets, nail and beauty spas and an eclectic mix of international food stores. Unfortunately, and inevitably, the area also has its fair share of closed outlets.
Here are a few images:
Grove Park has several groups that support the local community and look to enhance the area’s development by creating open green spaces. Here are a few I’ve come across:
The Grove Park Neighbourhood Forum – This group is looking to create The Railway Children’s Urban National Park as part of the Countryside Charity’s vision for ten new parks across London. The park will be developed from a stretch of Metropolitan Open Land parallel to a railway cutting. It is aptly named as the cutting was overlooked by a house where Edith Nesbit once lived and is believed to be the inspiration for her book The Railway Children.
Grove Park Community Group – Formed in 1972 following the defeat of the proposal to build Ringway 2 – an urban motorway that could have destroyed Grove Park if built. Since then, the Group has provided a wide range of community activities at the Ringway Centre, which now sits on land through which Ringway 2 would have run.
The Baring Trust – The Trust was created in 2012 from a campaign to save the historic landmark public house – The Baring Hall Hotel – from demolition. It has now evolved into a heritage conservation organisation that supports and works with people, schools and community groups to champion local areas’ natural, built and cultural heritage.
The Baring Hall Hotel closed its doors as a pub in recent years, unable to cope with the challenges of social distancing. Now liquidated, there’s a petition for the local council to compulsory purchase it to save this Grade II listed building from developers.
Walk past the Ringway Community Centre down Railway Children’s Walk, and you’ll arrive at this delightful haven which deserves a special mention. Created in 1984, it has grown in popularity recently as Friends of the Nature Reserve have worked tirelessly to improve its appearance to attract more visitors.
The reserve is a haven for both wildlife and wildflowers. And at the Railway Meadow, the spot believed to be the inspiration of Edith Nesbitt’s book, you’ll find a peace pole constructed by local sculptor, Heather Burrell.
The pole features the word ‘peace’, carved into its metal flowers, in languages spoken by youngsters in nearby Baring School, whose choir sang at the unveiling of the pole in 2009 to celebrate the visit of former resident Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
I’ve encountered Heather’s work before without realising it; when I visited Watford Junction almost three years ago to the day. You can read about that visit here, and although I didn’t post her sculpture then, I’ll put that right now.
I stopped and chatted with a few residents enjoying the peaceful and calming nature of the reserve. It’s popular with dog walkers too, and I met ‘Duchess’ and her owner. Her owner explained that Duchess is an American-bred dog with Japanese heritage. Akita or Shikoku – I can’t remember. What I do remember, though, is that she was a playful one-year-old bouncy and very friendly dog.
Nature’s beauty is abundant as I look around and enjoy the variety of grasses, wildflowers, and the sound of birds. But the sound I noticed was that of gorse seed pods bursting open, reminding me of popping candy. The gorse is covered in gossamer, and this funnel-shaped web is home to a Labyrinth spider. Isn’t nature genuinely amazing?
The reserve has six QR-coded waymarkers, which help give information about the area. But you can also cheat by reading about the locations on the reserve’s website. As I walked through the wooded area, two carpenters were erecting a new bridge/platform over the pond near the reserve’s entrance.
At the top end of the wooded area, walking is made easier across the well-constructed boardwalk. In the distance, I could hear the sound of a group of children, and when I walked past them, I could see they were a group of school children being guided in an outdoor educational session looking for different types of leaves.
The walk around the reserve is a circular route, and if you continue along the Railway Children’s Walk, you make your way towards Hither Green Cemetery across this footbridge. In the daytime and full sun, the shadows create a stunning image, but it’s not a route I’d contemplate taking alone and at night.
Although when I looked through the caged railings surrounding the footbridge towards The City, I spotted a bright triangular shape that looked like a video ‘play’ button next to The Gherkin. It is, in fact, the unique shape of the Scalpel building reflecting the sun’s early afternoon glare.
My route eventually leads me back to the station through rows and rows of mid-1930s residential streets, and I contemplate my journey home. And whilst my last photo isn’t from anywhere near Grove Park, I have captured it as a consequence of today’s visit.
This shot is from inside the new Whitechapel Station on the Elizabeth Line. I expect to post many more Lizzie line-related shots as my travels criss-cross London’s latest feat of impressive engineering, bringing a new dynamic to the city’s travel routes.
Picture of the Day – Paul
Who doesn’t love a bacon, egg and sausage roll for their lunch? I met Paul in his van outside the Filling Station Cafe In Downham Way. He and his mate were taking a lunch break from their scaffolding business P&R Scaffolding Ltd.
We chatted a while, and Paul was more than happy for an impromptu photo shoot whilst he had stopped for his brief lunchtime bite. He explained that since covid lockdown, he’s been swamped with work in the wake of home improvements and extensions explosion. But he wasn’t one for hanging around, as no sooner had he finished his roll, he was off again to his next destination.
Thanks for the photo opportunity, Paul.
- Location: Ewell East Station
- Date/Time: Tuesday 08/03/2022
- Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ16; Shutter Speed – 1/80; Focal Length – 75mm; Film Speed – ISO 400