This website and blog provides information about Ladywell Fields, a large park and former watermeadows that runs along the banks of the River Ravensbourne between Ladywell and Catford in South East London
Our next meeting is the traditional Christmas social, on Thursday 8th December 2016. Our usual venue, the Ladywell Tavern will have just reopened after a long closure for refurbishment. Unfortunately the gallery at the back of the Ladywell Tavern will no longer be available, so we'll reserve a table instead. Everyone is welcome.
Also make a note in your diary of the dates for our meetings next year:
Thursday 9th March
Thursday 15th June
Thursday 14th Sept
Volunteers are needed urgently to help
with a clearance of sediment from the secondary channel in the North Field this
coming Wednesday, 28th September. Meet at 10am by the 10,000 Hands cafe in the North
Field. We will be working from 10am-3pm with a group of volunteers from Thames
21 to try to make the river flow more easily.
The next meeting of the Ladywell Fields User Group will be on Thursday 22 September in the LB Lewisham Wearside Depot Conference Room. Please come to the depot reception for 7.25pm. Among other items on the agenda will be an update from Nick Pond on the improvements to the weir and secondary watercourse in the North Field.
Please note the dates of our next two meetings. They will be held on Thursdays 22nd Sept and 8th December 2016, as usual upstairs in the Art Gallery behind the Ladywell Tavern from 7.30pm.
We, the undersigned, demand that Lewisham Council provide additional recycling bins throughout Hilly Fields (and any other Lewisham borough parks that need them).
We additionally demand that the council, or its contractors, empty the bins more frequently – this will need to be at least twice a day on sunny summer days when there are higher than usual numbers of park users.
We continue our tree walk from part 4, introducing the last five of the twenty most interesting trees in Ladywell Fields.
From the centre of the southern field, walk downhill towards the river. As you turn, in the distance you will see the remains of a row of Lombardy Poplars (16) along the boundary between the park and the school. They are tall and narrow trees, with the typical fluttering leaves of the poplar.
Carry on past the Golden Weeping Willows (17), which at first seem to be growing a little too far from the river. However as regular park users know, there is in fact a small underground stream running down this hill, which presumably gives them all the water they need. The stream is the reason the path at the bottom often floods in wet weather.
Caucasian Wingnut tree
As you reach the river turn left, along the path on the near side. You may notice that growing near a lamp-post, up against the fence, is a Field Maple (18), probably also a old field boundary tree. The path then takes you under the railway bridge.
Caucasian Wingnut tree leaves
As you come out into the field, keep to the path as it turns back towards the river. As it passes close to the river, look for a special tree, the Caucasian Wingnut (19). This species originates from Iran and is only occasionally found in parks. This one is on the river bank itself, a few metres from the path. In summer it has catkins up to 50cm long which turn into tresses of small green nuts. Continue along the path following the river. Just before the backwater in the river you will see another poplar, this time a Balsam Poplar (20). It has larger spade shaped leaves which feel a bit waxy to the touch.
Balsam Poplar leaves
As you continue you will also notice more Black Poplars on this stretch, planted in a row that is not straight. They probably follow the old course of the river. These are a particular variety known as the Manchester Poplar and are all males. In mid-spring look up and you will see their tops covered in red catkins.
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The Ladywell Field tree walk ends here--we hope you enjoyed our little guided tour. Please fee free to add your own observations and discoveries. Or why not end your walk simplywith some delicious treats from the Ten Thousand Hands Cafe?
We were pleased to report that works to the weir by the hospital had been completed. Construction company Volker Fitzpatrick has completely rebuilt the weir and it is hoped that this will maintain the flow through the river channel in the meadow. Park users are asked to keep an eye on how the new weir copes with the large amounts of rain that we are occasionally experiencing.
The main item for discussion at the meeting were the proposed improvements to the tennis courts in the North Field. This will involve the complete resurfacing of the hard courts, new fencing and the introduction of floodlights. In addition, the two grass courts will be turned into hard courts. The proposal also includes a suggestion that an annual membership charge will be levied as well as a pay by use fee. Entry to the courts will be via a new keypad system. While there are concerns about ensuring that some free to use courts are maintained, a majority of park users support the proposals. The improvements are to be carried out by Lewisham Council in partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association Many thanks to Andy Thomas, council officer with responsibility for sports, and to the tennis court users who joined us to provide information and answer questions at the meeting.
Park users also raised a number of park management issues, including the recent damage to the railings on the bridge between middle and south fields, which are being
pursued with Glendale and others.
Please come along to our meeting at
7.30pm this Wedneday 22 June in the Gallery at the rear of the Ladywell Tavern.
Just get your drink at the bar (if you'd like one!) and walk on out the back and
head into the Gallery. We'll be upstairs.
There's plenty to talk about this time -
not least the Council's proposal to work in partnership with the Lawn Tennis
Association to upgrade the tennis courts, with users being required to purchase
a key fob to gain access. Andy Thomas, the Council officer with responsibility
for sports, will be present to provide more information and answer
This meeting is also a great opportunity
to raise issues direct with Glendale, the Council's longtime parks contractors,
with whom we in Ladywell Fields have historically had a very good
To mark London Tree Week 2016 (28 May - 5 June 2016), we continue our tree walk from part 3, introducing the twenty most interesting trees in Ladywell Fields.
As you pass underneath the railway bridge from the middle field into the southern field, on the far bank is a gap where a Crimean Lime (11) stood until Easter 2016 when it blew down in a storm. They are often said to the be ugliest tree in the park, especially in winter when its drooping, tangled branches are easily visible. This one has now mostly been chipped and the wood chips used to mulch the trees in the community orchard.
Continue to follow the river upstream and you will see a fine pair of London Plane trees (12) to your left. Then after the concrete events area, notice the Ash tree (13) ahead and to your right, just before the playground. It is an odd tree, as the bark changes half way up. It appears that someone has grafted a Manna Ash onto a Common Ash tree, although it is not clear why. Just beyond the playground you will see the Community Orchard (14). The first trees were planted in 2011 when the park was renovated. They are now maturing and in the summer you should see fruit on the frees. There are apples, pears, plums and cherries. A sign on the far side tells you when it is time to pick.
Turn back at this point and take the path running diagonally up the hill, between a row of cherry trees. In front of you on either side of the path are a fine pair of English Oak trees (15). They have grown without obstruction and have developed that classic oak shape which is so beautiful. They probably mark the line of an old hedgerow from the days when this was Kent countryside.
We continue the tree walk from part 2, introducing the twenty most interesting trees in Ladywell Fields.
As you cross from the northern field into the middle field via the spiral bridge, you will immediately see another fine female Black Poplar (7) in front of you. She also snows in early June. Keep left and follow the path along the riverside. You will soon see a Dawn Redwood or Water Fir (8). These have the distinctive red bark but do not grow very tall like the Giant Redwoods. Again, it likes the moist soil of the river-side.
Next is the Lewisham Elm (9), the only tree in the park with its own sign and designated one of The Great Trees of London. Since Dutch Elm Disease struck the UK in the late 1960s only a few mature elms survive and this is one. The disease actually strikes all elms, not just Dutch ones, so it is uncommon to see any elm over 20 years old. The sign says this is a rare variety ‘Klemmer’, or Flanders Elm. Some experts think that it is actually a European White Elm, but this is also rare and makes its survival no less remarkable. Look for the beautiful confetti-like seeds in spring.
Next along this path is a fine row of London Plane Trees (10). The London Plane is not in fact a native, but thought to be a cross between the Oriental Plane and the American Plane. It was widely planted across London in the 19th century when urban pollution made it difficult for any tree to survive. Its waxy leaves and peeling bark, combined with its ability to grow in very poor soil made it the ideal tree for Victorian London.
Our next orchard work day will be on Satruday 4th June at 11am. Meet in the
communtiy orchard near the south entrance and the children's playground.
In celebration of London Tree Week, the Urban Orchard Project are giving us
small potted comfrey plants to accompany the fruit trees. We need to plant them
in the ground around the edge of the mulch circle. Comfrey
bring valuable minerals up from deep below, which makes the leaves a good
addition for future mulching, keeping the trees healthy. For more information
This is also a chance to do some weeding and inspect for pests and diseases.
Everyone welcome. Bring thick gloves if you have them as there are thistles to pull out.
On Sunday 24 April, we worked our way through two the River Ravensbourne from the curly bridge to the southern boundary of the Fields. We removed various large objects and some 30 black bags worth of cans, bottles and plastic rubbish. We also cleared the 'Turning Tree' of accumulated debris so that it is once again functioning as it should. Thanks as ever to Thames 21 for leading the event and supplying all the kit. Thanks also to the nine children who joined in and enjoyed themselves thoroughly. All-in-all a worthwhile, sociable and rewarding few hours.
Meet in the Park at the end of Malyons Road, close to the Adventure Playground and curly railway bridge. Come suitably dressed. The well-known waterway charity Thames 21 will start off with a short safety talk and provide equipment including waders and boots.
Thames21 provide a one-day training module to give an overview of a serious issue facing many of London’s waterways: the presence of invasive non-native species (‘INNS’). What are they? Why are they a problem? This training will talk about how to identify and contain several locally occurring varieties.
Venue: ArtsCafe at Manor Park, Lewisham, SE13 5HX,
To register and book a free place, please go to
Meet in the Park at the end of Malyons Road, close to the Adventure Playground and curly railway bridge. Come suitably dressed. The well-konwn waterway charity Thames 21 will start off with a short safety talk and provide equipment including waders and boots.
Everyone is welcome to a morning of trimming, pruning, planting and maintenance. Meet by the community orchard in the south of the Park, at the r/o Bourneville Road, SE6. Equipment will be provided, but come wearing sturdy footwear.
The apple and pear trees in the Ladywell Fields orchard have received their springtime pruning and are now better prepared than ever for vigorous growth and bountiful harvest. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped on the day.
We will continue our orchard maintenance by pruning the trees on 27th Feburary, 11am-1pm, weather permitting. The community orchard is located in the south field, right beside the Bournville Road entrance (SE6) and the children's playground. Everyone is welcome. Some tools are provided but if you happen to have your own gardening gloves and secateurs, please do bring them along.
We continue our series from part 1, introducing the twenty most interesting trees in Ladywell Fields.
As you reach the footbridge at the southern perimeter of the hospital grounds, cross to admire the trees on the eastern bank. Downstream is a Mimosa (4), with tiny fern-like leaves, although it is currently somewhat obscured by ivy. It originates from Australia and probably likes this sheltered position.
Upstream is a fine row of Grey Poplars (5) growing along the river bank. Because they are growing so close together they have become very tall and bend easily in the wind. They have beautiful silvery grey bark.
Continue from the bridge to the playground. Standing in the playground is what used to be the tallest tree in the park, a fine female Black Poplar (6), probably a hybrid. In the summer of 2015 she was given a radical pollarding after a branch dropped on the playground. She should recover from this in a few years and resume her annual snow of seeds each June, covering the playground and creating a magical effect for children. This content is based on the observations of an enthusiastic amateur. Any corrections and further suggestions will be gratefully received.
Iona Orchard nature reserve
is a haven of green tranquility behind a locked gate at the south end of
Ladywell Fields (i.e. in the Crofton Park area) just a stone's throw from South
Iona Orchard is a SINC - a
site of interest for nature conservation - because the ancient fruit trees,
alive and dead, provide home to some uncommon species of beetles. The site,
which is part owned by the Council, part by L&Q Housing Association, used to
be the double gardens of the pair of fine Victorian villas that face onto
Ravensbourne Park Road - but now it is fenced off and secure without free public
The Council's Ecology
Manager, in liaison with the Ladywell Fields User Group and L&Q, has drawn
up a management plan for the site and for the last few years Nature's Gym and
the Ladywell Fields User Group have run volunteer sessions to build a woodchip
path, keep brambles and ivy at bay.
Ten fruit trees (of
traditional varieties) have been planted with the help and generosity of the
Urban Orchard Project and, in time, they will grow into full-sized trees - but
they have to be looked after carefully to ensure they survive and
Now is the time to take
this project to a new level so that the site can be declared safe for
educational visits during the Summer and Autumn, so might you be able to help -
either by coming along to the occasional volunteer session or by joining a
'management committee' for the site. An Interest in ecology, gardening and/or
environmental volunteering would be helpful but is not essential.
Families are welcome
although parents may wish to keep a close eye on younger kids, especially if and
when work is being done one-site, until such time as we're fully confident the
site is completely safe (i.e. free of any residual broken glass, cans
If you're interested,
please email email@example.com and let us know how you'd like to be
involved and what sort of time commitment you might be able to
On Sunday a group of four intrepid volunteers braved the wet weather to apply mulch at our 30+ cherry, apple and peartrees, giving them a better chance of competing with the meadow grass. We did not prune the trees because of the rain--we still intend to do that on 27th Feburary, weather permitting. Please do come along, bringing gardening gloves and secateurs if you have any.
This series introduces the twenty most interesting trees in Ladywell Fields.
We start at the northernmost tip, at the entrance on Ladywell Road. Here is the first tree of interest, a Monterey Pine (1). This originates from California and in spring it has extraordinary flowers. Look out for the Firecrest, a small bird sometimes seen in the tree.
Just beyond the pine is a birch and behind that a young Black Walnut tree. It has large compound leaves that droop downwards. From the summer onwards look out for the walnuts which are green and sit at the leaf joints. They are edible but have very thick shells which require special nutcrackers. There is another, larger, Black Walnut further down by the river, but it is largely hidden from view.
Ladywell Fields has particularly fine Black Poplars which like the moist riverside setting. They are dioecious, meaning there are both male and female trees. You will see several as you walk along the river of the northern fields alongside the hospital. Just before the bridge into the hospital, notice the two large trees to your right, followed by a stump. These are old female Black Poplars (2) with small leaves that flutter in the breeze. Towards the end of May each year they shed a snow storm of seeds, forming a white carpet beneath.
Walk further along and you will find more Poplar trees (3) to your left along the river. These have larger leaves are probably Hybrid Black Poplars.
This content is based on the observations of an enthusiastic amateur. Any corrections and further suggestions will be gratefully received.
The community orchard planted in
Ladywell Fields in 2011 is thriving but, like any orchard, it needs constant
care and attention if the trees are to grow strongly and avoid disease. This is
one of our twice-yearly volunteer sessions at which you can learn and help prune
the trees, inspect and repair the guards and mulch the trees with woodchip to
keep weeds down.
At this session you'll also be
able to take a look inside the Iona Orchard nature reserve, a lovely quiet
wilderness behind a locked gate at the southern end of Ladywell
To register your interest in
participating please email firstname.lastname@example.org If
you do come and you have any of the following please bring them - thick
gloves, secateurs and garden buckets. Also, at the risk of stating the obvious,
come in work clothes with robust shoes!
If the weather is seriously bad on Sunday 31 January, we have a fallback date which is Sat 27 February.
Our next meeting will be held on Wednesday 23rd March, as usual at 7.30 pm in the gallery at the back of Ladywell Tavern.
Everyone welcome--if you would like to be more involved in the Ladywell Fields User Group, this is the perfect opportunity.
The following meeting will be on Wednesday 22nd June.