Belvedere to Slade Green via Erith and Crayford Ness; 31 December 2014

Erith, London

On New Year’s Eve we went for a walk. With the weather dry and intermittently sunny, but rather cold, we decided to walk from Belvedere to Erith, and then round Crayford Ness and up Dartford Creek, finishing at Slade Green station.

We started by taking a 141 bus to London Bridge, and then a train to Belvedere (until 1965 in Kent, but since then part of the London Borough of Bexley). The suburban district takes its name from Belvedere House, an eighteenth-century mansion that stood on a hill near here overlooking the Thames (‘belvedere’ comes from Italian, meaning ‘beautiful view’).

From Belvedere station we headed north up Norman Road to Eastern Way (A2016) and the entrance to the oddly named Isis Reach industrial park, where a succession of large trucks was entering and leaving an ASDA distribution centre. We crossed the road and passed through a kissing gate into the Crossness Nature Reserve, a remnant of the extensive Erith Marshes, now largely built-up.

Crossing muddy fields, some with horses in them, we eventually reached the river, where we joined the Thames Path, eastwards towards Erith. This section of our walk, by the mainly industrial or semi-derelict riverside, was familiar from several previous trips, but on those occasions we had always found ourselves here at around dusk, so it made a change to see the same things as before, but in bright sunshine.

River Thames, Erith, London
Above: Thames foreshore near Erith

After a slight detour inland near Erith town centre, we returned to the riverside, with the footpath passing between salt marshes and pasture before skirting the Darent Industrial Park. This mass of scrapyards and other premises occupies part of the former Thames Ammunition Works (est. 1879).

Past Crayford Ness, we reached the mouth of Dartford Creek (River Darent) and the Darent Flood Barrier, where the path turned south and then south-west towards Slade Green. As we walked by the creek, the wet mud on the riverbank was shining in the fading light; I stopped to take some photographs, but I couldn’t capture the subtle beauty of the scene.

Having turned west, away from the creek, we passed Howbury Moat, a site dating back to c.900 CE and at one time owned by Bishop Odo, a relative and close associate of William the Conqueror. The surviving medieval walls inside the water-filled moat originally enclosed a succession of manor houses, the last of which, a seventeenth-century building, seems to have been demolished in the 1930s.

After stopping briefly to catch a glimpse of the moat, which was in an adjacent field but some distance from the footpath, we resumed our progress and soon reached Slade Green station, where we caught a train back to London Bridge.