The Landscape Guide

South London Green Chain

London Landscape Plans: 1829, 1900, 1929, 1943, 1951, 1969, 1976, 1988, 1990, 1992, 2000, 2004, London landscape architecture,

The Green Chain, planned by the Greater London Council and the South London Boroughs, seemed a good idea at the time. It turned out to be little more than an exercise in signposting. The idea was to create long-distance 'green' walks by establishing footpath links between existing parks. A few new paths were made, almost justifying the project, but most of the Green Chain connections are just badly signposted paths through suburban housing estates. If one has a map the signposts are unnecessary. Without a map the routes are extremely difficult to follow. Some of the paths are well-used and some are not. It does not seem at all likely that designating them as part of a Green Chain has increased their usage. One even feels a bit cheated: the maps lead one to expect something good and the reality is disappointing. The only good signposting of the Green Chain is within parks and open spaces, where it is unnecessary. Have a look at the Green Chain Website. The Green Chain was planned as a marketing stunt by bureaucrats for politicians.

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Re-planning the Green Chain

The best solution would be to replan the Green Chain as a long distance leisure cycle route. It would then be possible to locate the type of facilities people think worth visiting on the route of the Green Chain. Thousands of people cycle from Amsterdam to the Bos Park. They do so partly for enjoyment of the cycling and partly because the Bos Park has lots of things to do: sports, restaurants, cafes, sailing, camping .

One of the obstacles in making the Green Chain available to cyclists is that motorcyclists would also find it easier to use. This could be dealt with by design barriers and by policing.

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The South London Green Chain looks good in plan but is a great disappointment on the ground

Mostly, the Green Chain is an exercise in signposting within parks

The between-park sections of the Green Chain are just routes through suburban housing estates, badly signposted

The Green Chain Bridge (over the A2) is one of the project's most significant achievements. Because the chain was shown on a plan, the highway engineers had to build a bridge (left), though they designed it like a road (right).

Some of the woodland walk sections are delightful - but making them part of the Green Chain has had no consequences whatsoever.