2nd February 2017: River Peck and the Earl’s Sluice

The starting point of this south London trail was known to several of us. The Honor Oak had long been a key point in Camberwell; there Queen Elizabeth I joined in may dancing in 1602. In the 19th century thousands demonstrated to preserve the common of One Tree Hill and ever since this scrubland has remained in public ownership. Two years ago some of us gathered near the hill to remember our comrade Pauline; she was buried nearby in Camberwell Old Cemetery. We sauntered down the slope to the edge of the quirky Aquarius Golf Course (built over a wide vaulted reservoir) and then around avenues into the charming Peckham Rye Park. Here the brook winds through ornamental gardens and open spaces to the north end, where it disappears into the sewer system, and can be heard beneath a manhole cover. After exploring the park we crossed the soggy-bottomed Peckham Rye Common. We were led by Joanna through bohemian back streets to a craftspeople’s colony around the Bussey warehouse in Copeland Road. In the bistro gourmet burgers and salads were the order of the day. After lunch we trudged around South Bermondsey’s complicated road works (not to mention the notorious Millwall Den) to join the Earl’s Sluice and at last reach the Surrey Docks. Greenland Dock proved a chilly expanse, South Dock a well-heeled marina. The walk ended at the pier where our two rivers finally reached the Thames, mixed with the waters of the docks complex. Coffee in Canada Water Library had been well earned.

Next outing on Thursday 23 February: the lost River Effra

We will meet at Crystal Palace Station at 11.00. This walk goes over the Upper Norwood ridge to explore West Norwood Cemetery, where the river is briefly visible. From the cemetery we take back avenues through Streatham and Brixton and on to the Oval Cricket Ground. (After passing Brockwell Park, we will nod towards Effra Road, more than once the scene of rioting, which is actually the boundary of Effra Farm and not the course of our river.) Our seven-mile trek takes us to the HQ of our country’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in the basement of which runs the final outflow of the Effra. We should knock and ask to have a look. There are possible tea places around Vauxhall Cross if we search – or there is Pimlico across the river.

Steve Butters
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