Inventory Site Record

Downham Woodland Walk (Lewisham)

Brief Description

The Downham Estate was built between 1924-38, an extensive LCC estate designed on 'garden city' principles. Named after Lord Downham, Chairman of LCC in 1919-20, the estate had long winding tree-lined roads and incorporated and preserved an existing tract of woodland from Whitefoot Terrace to Bromley Road. Now called Downham Woodland Walk it runs between the houses for over 1.5 km, and much of it is almost certainly ancient woodland, shown on maps of 1805.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Downham Estate
Site location:
Moorside Road/Oakridge Road/Oakshade Road/Whitefoot Terrace/Bromley Road/Haddington Road/Downderry Road/Woodbank Road
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Open Land, Other
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
play area; dog exercise area; Nature Trail.
Public transport:
Rail: Grove Park then bus; Beckenham Hill/Bellingham then bus.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. https://lewisham.gov.uk/inmyarea/openspaces/parks/downham-woodland-walk

Full Site Description

The extensive Downham Estate was built by the LCC between 1924-38, designed on 'garden city' principles and named after Lord Downham, Chairman of LCC in 1919-20. An earlier scheme of 1920 by Lewisham, Deptford and Bermondsey Councils for a 4,500-house garden suburb here came to nothing. The LCC bought two farms, Shrofield Farm and Holloway Farm, owned by the Earl of Northbrook, and the houses were laid out on long winding roads that originally had trees and grass verges, now largely lost to the pressures of car parking. The road names recalled Arthurian legends as well as English resorts and villages such as Ilfracombe and Bideford. The estate was built to provide c.7,000 homes as part of the action to cope with housing shortages and inner city slum clearance after World War I. However, the rents proved too high for some of the early residents, many of whom were from the East End who had to move elsewhere, finding 12 shillings a week for a one-bedroomed house too expensive. A resident of the estate was Richard Harrow, at 40 stone one of the heaviest men in the world.

The estate incorporated and preserved an existing tract of woodland from Whitefoot Terrace to Bromley Road. Now named Downham Woodland Walk this runs between the houses for over 1.5 km in four sections, the widest section being between Moorside and Downderry Roads. The woodland is shown on maps of 1805 and part is almost certainly ancient woodland; indicators found here include wild-service trees, wood anemone and dog's mercury. The 1st Edition OS map of 1863 shows the route of the walk as boundaries of fields, and the lane was retained when the estate was built. Downham Woodland Walk is part of the Green Chain Walk, which connects Beckenham Place Park with Hither Green Nature Reserve, and is designated a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Importance for Nature Conservation.  

The Friends of Downham Woodland Walk was formed in 1999 by a group of local people who were concerned that the woodland walk was suffering from poor maintenance and rubbish dumping. They arranged regular clear-up days and persuaded Lewisham Council and its maintenance contractors to provide more litter bins, empty them more frequently and to lock the gates at night to deter fly-tipping. Since then, they have obtained grants to provide new seating and bins, and to resurface the path, and they are in regular contact with Glendale over the maintenance contract.  They normally meet on the last Sunday of each month to help maintain this area of ancient woodland.

Also preserved as open land was the highest point in the centre of the estate and fields to north-west and south-west. Initially called Downham Fields, the park was renamed Durham Hill (q.v.) in the 1990s, as it was locally known and referred to on old maps. In the 1920s the area was known as Seven Fields and was a popular place for weekend outings. South of Whitefoot Lane is Whitefoot Recreation Ground (q.v.), former agricultural land that was once part of the estate of Southend Hall. This was also preserved when the estate was built and its southern boundary abuts Downham Woodland Walk.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; John Archer, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Lewisham', Ecology Handbook 30, London Ecology Unit, 2000; South East London's Green Chain Walk pack, 1998; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Candy Blackham, 'Green Lewisham' (Clink Street Publishing 2022); https://lewisham.gov.uk/inmyarea/openspaces/nature-reserves/downham-woodland-walk

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ388715 (539539,171750)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Lewisham
Site management:
Greenscene Department, Glendale Grounds Management; Friends of Downham Woodland Walk
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance 1
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Area (strip adjacent to Recreation Ground)
Other LA designation:
Public Open Space (Green Chain Walk)

Downham Woodland Walk

Downham Fields - Photo: Candy Blackham
Date taken: 08/09/20 14:51

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.