A country path?

You might think that this photograph was taken somewhere in the countryside. However this path, fringed on both sides with cow parsley, was taken earlier today on Martins Hill, some five minutes walk from Bromley Market Square! It shows that you do not have to go far to enjoy the benefits of the natural world. Our town centre parks are each slightly different but all our ‘lungs’, in this otherwise heavily built up world. So please value your parks and visit them soon.

It was interesting that a passer by had previously mentioned that this path “was overgrown and needed cutting back”. Strange how people have different ideas about tidying up nature!

Spring is busting out!

With the daylight hours gradually getting longer and weather a bit better our thoughts turn to spring; with its flowers, birds, insects, etc. emerging to cheer us up. However this blog isabout another sort of spring! I am referring to those occasional rivulets of water that emerge, seemingly from nowhere, out of the ground. This phenomenon often occurs at a ‘spring line’, that is a layer where an overlying porous soil meets a more impervious layer below. If this occurs on a slope, at this point the water emerges as a spring line. Such an emergence is more likely to happen if there has previously been a period of heavy rainfall, thereby topping up the amount of water temporarily stored underground in the aquifer.

Due to its geological nature, with a sandy and stony soil (i.e. Blackheath Beds) underlying much of the town centre, there are several such springs in central Bromley. Indeed there is one in Bromley Palace Park, which is called St.Blaise’s Well. There are also some springs on the lower slopes of Martins Hill. Here water encounters a layer of clay and emerges, then running along on the surface until it ten gradually seeps away into the surrounding soil. In the areas more rural past these springs often fed small ponds where animals could then drink from. The lake in Church House Gardens, were originally a number of fish ponds, fed by a spring. This caused some significant problems when the foundations of the Churchill Theatre were excavated.

Springs, Martins Hill, February 2021 by Tony Banfield

Each year several of our Friends group has conducted a tour around our local springs, entitled “The Secret Springs of Bromley Town” (see below). This has been popular with the public, but last year sadly this had to be curtailed due to the coronavirus restrictions. It seems that such a public walk will not be possible in 2021. However in the meantime you can still investigate individually – but wear suitable shoes it can be muddy – enjoy!

Poster for an earlier event in 2017


Horse Chestnuts, Martins Hill

It is great to see the trees back in full leaf, as nature carries on regardless. One of the earliest such trees is the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum). They are now in full blossom. It pays to look closely at its delicate colours.

Horse Chesnut in blossom

Most famous for their seeds, much used in the past by small boys to play the game of “conkers ”.

Other uses of the conkers include horse medicines, as additives in shampoos, and as a starch substitute. Chemicals extracted from conkers can be used to treat strains and bruises. There’s hearsay that if you place conkers around your house it will keep spiders away, but there’s no scientific proof that this is the case.

The Victorians wrote recipes for making conker flour. The seeds were shelled, ground and then leached to remove bitter flavours. It’s not a common practise these days and if consumed in excessive quantities conkers are mildly poisonous. (Woodland Trust)

Town Centre Parks are looking beautiful

Early on a wonderful Sunday morning I decided it would be great to visit some of our town centre parks, in order to raise my spirits. I first visited College Green our newest park, just up the road from Sainsbury and behind Bromley College a Grade 1 listed building. This small park is maintained by volunteers of Bromley Green Gym. The daffodils of various sizes were looking magnificent.

Daffodils on College Green

And the fruit trees were just coming into bloom, hopefully promising a good harvest later in the year.

Fruit tree in blossom

In the circular Mulberry Bed I came across a Rosemary in full flower. This herb has been celebrated, for many centuries in folklore, with remembrance. In Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’; Orphelia states “ “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.” It is also good for cooking as well!

Rosemary in flower

Then a short walk to our next park, Queens Garden. Once upon a time this was White Hart Field, associated with the inn of the same name, where stage-coach horses would then rest and graze. Later a cricket field, frequented by H.G.Wells’ father, it is now a much appreciated park right next to The Glades shopping centre.

Queens Garden, from Kentish Way entrance

This was a chance, with very little traffic noise from the nearby dual carriageway, to hear the robins, blackbirds, etc announcing themselves. The formal flower beds, for which this park is especially appreciated by visitors, were looking excellent. In the former Darwin flower bed, which was replanted last year, I spotted this small tree in flower.

Tree located in former Darwin flowerbed

A short walk through the still closed shopping centre and deserted High Street brought me to Library Gardens, with scaffolding still around the Churchill Theatre, and into Church House Gardens. Where I spotted this lovely Camelia next to the lake.

Camellia in flower

The nearby ducks and geese were going along with their lives, perhaps waiting for people to feed them, and up to the upper gardens. There I came upon the gazebo with the magnolia close by.

Then across to Martins Hill, and yet more daffodils planted previously by Friends’ volunteers to celebrate the Marie Curie charity whose emblem this plant is.

‘Field of Hope’, Martins Hill

A quick walk along the top of the park, with many lovely bare trees resplendent in the morning light and fine views across the valley towards Beckenham and beyond.

Bare trees, Martins Hill

And so home to a well earned hot drink. Our parks while always important for our physical and mental wellbeing are especially critical in these worrying times. So please visit your park, but remember to adopt ‘social distancing’ and respect the health of other park users you come across.