The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 8 Commons and Open Spaces

Ladywell Recreation Ground

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In the valley of the Ravensbourne, below the hill stretches the long, narrow strip of the Ladywell Recreation Ground. It lies on either bank of the stream between Ladywell and Catford Bridge stations. It is intersected by railways, and the pathway passes sometimes over, sometimes under the lines, and constant trains whizz by. But in spite of such drawbacks, the place has a special attraction in the stream which meanders through the patches of grass devoted to games. Where the stream has been untouched, and allowed to continue its course unmolested between iron railings, even the railings cannot destroy a certain rural aspect it has retained. Alders and elms, with gnarled and twisted roots, lean over the banks, and hawthorns dip down towards the rather swiftly flowing water. When the land was bought for public use in 1889 the stream frequently overflowed its sandy banks, and one or two necessary cuttings were made across some of the sharpest curves, to allow a better flow of water. This has stopped all the objectionable flooding, but the melancholy part is that, having been obliged to make these imperative but necessarily artificial cuttings, the London County Council did not plant them with alders, thorns, and willows, like the pretty, natural stream; but instead, the islands thus formed, and the banks, were dotted about with box and aucuba bushes. The babbling stream seems to jeer at these poor sickly little black bushes, as if to say, "What is the good of bravely playing at being in the country, and trying to make believe trout may jump from my ripples and waterousels pop in and out of my banks, if you dreadful Cockneys disfigure me like that ?" Very likely it does not jar on the feelings of the inhabitants of Lewisham or Catford, but when public money is spent by way of improvement, it is cruel to mar and deform instead. Where the churchyard of St. Mary's, Lewisham, touches the stream is a pretty spot, but, in places, untidy little back-gardens are the only adornment; but that is not the fault of the London County Council.