Sunday, 17 April 2011

History Walk in Jubilee Country Park

Jennie Randall addressing the group on her Jubilee Country Park history walk. 17 April 2011.
Jennie Randall addressing the group on her Jubilee Country Park
history walk. 17 April 2011.
We had been waiting for this walk for a while. Jennie Randall, chair of the Friends of Jubilee Country Park, was interested in history before she became involved with the park, and this shows in the way she has gathered her material and the original research she has done.

The walk was formatted as a gentle stroll from place to place, with frequent stops while Jennie told us facts and stories, meticulously working through her notebook, handing out copies of maps and photos for all to see. I won't even try to repeat everything she told us, just mention a few details.

The park is a patchwork of woodland, open meadow, and ponds. It has a mixed historical background and a rich natural history, parts of which are mentioned elswehere on this blog. (Look for the subject label in one of the boxes on the right.) The park wasn't always a single entity; parts of it were owned by different families, then it was a golf course, and it has been the site of an anti-aircraft battery; twice it has almost had a housing estate built on it. Now it is owned by Bromley Council and is a Local Nature Reserve.
One of the old golf course bunkers, now an occasional pond.
One of the old golf course bunkers, now an occasional pond.

A bronze age axe-head was discovered in one area, which was used as allotments during the war as part of the "dig for victory" campaign. It could be 3,500 years old; this was the oldest item we were told about. That area, the Signal Box area, is now recovering woodland.

Next in line would be the oldest tree in the park, a pollarded oak that was planted around 1660; it once was part of a row of similar trees forming a boundary line.

Skipping gaily past a good deal of interesting material: the anti-aircraft battery was placed during WWII and included four naval guns with a 15-mile range, so powerful that during test firing they broke tiles and brought ceilings down in nearby houses. The guns were worked at various times by Royal Marines, Royal Artillery, Home Guard and the women of the ATS. A set of barracks nearby was used as emergency accommodation after the war. Some information about this gun emplacement is on a history board near the site.
The oldest tree in the park; a pollarded oak dating from around 1660
The oldest tree in the park; a pollarded oak dating from around 1660

Recent history, World War II and after, is where Jennie has gathered most material, as she has been able to speak to people who were there and collect their memories. In fact she is writing a book about the events at the nearby Crooked Billet, which was destroyed by a German V-2 ballistic missile. A plaque on the rebuilt pub, commemorating this event, is to be unveiled on 21st May.

A final random fact: in 1873 the novelist George Eliot took a house on the edge of the park. However, due to a problem with getting it furnished, the house felt unwelcoming and she did not stay long, even though she liked the surrounding area.

If you want to know the rest, watch out for the next history walk on the Friends site ...

The history notice board, with information about the WWII gun emplacement.  Click on it to see it enlarged.
The history notice board, with information about the WWII gun emplacement. Click on it to see it enlarged.

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