Have I mentioned before how much I love the area that we currently live? I think I may have done once or twice, sorry about that. Anyway, another thing that I love about Chislehurst is living so close to London (we are just 10 miles away from the centre, and can even see the City from the top of our street) yet being able to get the feeling of being in the middle of the countryside in minutes. Just around the corner (in the other half of Chislehurst) you have the entrance to Petts Wood and Hawkwood Estate on one side of the road, and Scadbury Park on the other. Both are beautiful, and are places we go walking regularly (we really are spoilt).
Last weekend the weather looked miserable, as if it could rain at any second, and so we didn’t want to venture too far, but we definitely needed some fresh air. We decided to stick around Chislehurst, and go looking for the memorial to William Willett (the leader of the movement to have British Summer Time recognised) in Petts Wood. We have lived here for nearly five years and, quite shamefully, have never been to see it. With British Summer Time beginning again this coming weekend, I thought it would be an appropriate time to go!
Although the memorial can be reached from the main road quite easily, we decided to extend our walk and start at the beginning of the National Trust-managed estate. We drove up to the other half of Chislehurst and parked outside Coopers School; it is, obviously, possible to walk to the start of the estate from home, though this does add an extra half mile to each direction of the walk and so is a little bit much for A and E at the moment. Therefore, we usually either drive, or take the bus a couple of stops up the road. From the school it is just a short walk to Botany Bay Lane and then up onto the National Trust land.
Petts Wood and Hawkwood Estate, just minutes from Chislehurst High Street, consists of 338 acres of ancient woodland and grazed pastures, and is managed by the National Trust and tenant farmers, respectively. We started our walk along the footpath next to the bridleway, behind the land that makes up Coopers. We crossed a bridge over Flushers Pond and headed into the woodland beyond. E pottered along, collecting sticks that soon became his bows and arrows and swords; he is turning into such a little boy, despite the fact that he hasn’t yet started nursery and so has little contact with others!
We stopped to admire an exciting looking log in the pond that most definitely looked like a crocodile, and D searched for geocaches; there are many geocaches on this route but, although we managed to find quite a few, we did not have a pen with us to record our finds; I hope they are all still there on our next visit!
A and E stopped to climb on fallen trees at regular intervals, and A claimed that one area, with many fallen together, was “the best play area ever”. We ended up spending most of our time trying to cajole them from one “play area” to the next.
The main circular walk around the Hawkwood estate (the “yellow walk”) follows the perimeter of the farmer’s land (which is not open to the public) and back along the side of the railway line. It is 2.4 miles long and takes in grazed pasture and small pockets of woodland. In order to reach the Willett memorial (and the Edlmann memorial) you have to leave this walk just after Flushers Pond and head onto a separate footpath into Petts Wood.
In the wood there were more fallen trees, and A even managed to find quite a collection of pine cones, which she collected in her hat.
The memorial was easy to find, and while I stood and admired, A and E went off in search of further trees!
“William Willett was a prominent Edwardian builder who lived in Chislehurst. A keen supporter of outdoor activities, he noticed that during the summer, people were still sleeping when the sun had risen. Willett began to think about changing the nation’s clocks and published his idea in a pamphlet called ‘A waste of daylight’. Although William died before his ideas were adopted, it was his pamphlet that paved the way for British Summer Time.”*
So love it or hate it, you have this man to thank for it, and his memorial (a commemorative sundial, permanently set to British Summer Time) can be found in Petts Wood. As you can see, we obviously visited on a day with absolutely no sunshine whatsoever so we sadly couldn’t make out the time being shown!
After seeing this we decided that we may as well go and find the second memorial in the wood, that to Colonel Edlmann, who purchased part of this woodland to prevent it being lost to builders and developers back in the day. From the Willett Memorial we headed back towards the footpath that we had been on and picked up the bridleway, which took us right to the Edlmann memorial. Along the path were even more fallen trees, and A and E just wanted to climb on every single one!
We managed to get to this point quite quickly, and as the heavens hadn’t yet opened, we thought we would continue our walk for a bit longer, so we headed back and picked up the “yellow route” once again. We then followed this all the way round the circle, along Kyd Brook and on a path between the farmer’s field and the railway line. We searched for signs of spring (which are becoming more prominent every day) and admired large amounts of fungi!
Although the part of the walk that skims the edge of the railway line is less attractive than the rest, it was perfect for E, who enjoyed watching the passing trains.
As we made our way along the final stretch (the only uphill part of the whole route) we stopped to admire the lambs leaping around the fields! At this point the sun even decided to shine (typically, just as we began our ascent back towards the car).
It really was a beautiful walk with something for everyone!
If you are looking for a lovely walk, Chislehurst is easy to access by train from Central London, and the estate is just 400m up from the station. There is also an abundance of pubs close to the route and many cafés and shops along the High Street, if you fancy making a day of it!