Brookmill Park in Lewisham is a small but attractive park through which the Ravensbourne River flows. Part of the park has been designated as a nature reserve. The site is owned partly by the London Borough of Lewisham and partly by Lewisham College.
Address: Brookmill Park, Brookmill Road, Lewisham, London SE8 4JD (Map; OS grid reference TQ 376 764 - tetrad TQ37y.
Brookmill Park lies in an area that was traditionally used for market gardening, but by the 1840s the local water company, which used the River Ravensbourne as a source of water, had constructed a small reservoir surrounded by grass and trees on the site of the current Brookmill Park. The river ceased to be used for water supply in 1862 and by 1900 the reservoir was also disused, since it no longer met the needs of the growing population. A small recreation ground had existed next to the reservoir from 1880 and in the 1920s this was expanded when part of the reservoir was filled in, leaving just a small oval lake with a central island.
In 1932, the northern area of the park, known as Broadway Fields, which had till then remained in market gardening, was given a new life as Deptford Municipal Playing Fields. A few years later, an extension across the Ravensbourne River was added. When housing in Brookmill Road was destroyed by bombing in the Second World War, the park was further extended and reopened in September 1951. The park was renamed Ravensbourne Park, but when Deptford became part of Lewisham in 1965, it reverted to the original name of Brookmill Park to avoid confusion with Ravensbourne Park Gardens in Ladywell.
In the 1990s a route along the line of the river’s concrete flood channel was chosen for an extension to the Docklands Light Railway. Most of the park to the east of the river was given over to the DLR and the river was rerouted along a 300m meandering course designed to provide different depths of water to improve the diversity of wildlife. The lake was drained when the rerouting took place, but was later restored as a result of local campaigning (with its island removed to discourage Canada Geese). This work was completed in 1998, and in the same year the former Thames Water gardens were added to the park, having been relandscaped to create a formal garden with pond, pergolas, ornamental beds and hedges.
Other developments have included the creation of a nature reserve on the east side of the river and the planting of native shrubs on a railway embankment that formerly carried a branch line from Nunhead to Greenwich Park, crossing the south end of the park.
According to London WildWeb, the site includes amenity grassland, marsh/swamp, a pond, running water, scattered trees, secondary woodland, semi-improved neutral grassland, tall herbs and wet grassland. The gently sloping edges of the inner channel of the Ravensbourne, and its gravelly bed with pools, riffles and shelters, provide many niches for aquatic plants and animals. Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and other marginal vegetation have been planted while other species, such as hemlock water-dropwort (Oenanthe crocata), are probably self-established. The grassland of the outer channel floods on high tides (tidally-inundated grassland is a rare habitat in London). This area is expected to become increasingly more important as habitats mature.
Aquatic vegetation in the park’s pond is dominated by blanket-weed, with a few clumps of yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus) at the edges.
Beside the river and in the nature area on the northern bank various (largely native) trees and shrubs have planted. Species include hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and various willows and osiers (Salix spp). There are also grassland areas sown with a wildflower seed mix that should become more important as they establish. Further planting of native shrubs has taken place at the southern end of the park on the site of a former disused railway embankment. Other parts of the park have attractive ornamental gardens (the north end) and a range of scattered trees, including a large number of conifers.
Birds seen on and around the more open areas of water include Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Grey Wagtail, Grey Heron and Little Egret. Brookmill is also an excellent site for Kingfisher, with sightings more or less guaranteed in winter, when Water Rail may also occur. Mandarin are regular on the lake. The trees and shrubs beside the river and in the nature area attract common passerines, including breeding Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush (a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species). In winter, the large number of conifers present attracts Goldcrest, with the possibility also of Firecrest.
Fish in the river include eel, flounder and stickleback.
Odonata found in the wetland areas include Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans) and Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis). The southern end of the site is frequented by numerous grasshoppers and butterflies. The latter include Small White, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper and Comma.
Directions The nearest railway stations are Elverson Road (DLR) to the south-east of the park and St Johns (National Rail), south-west. Bus routes 21, 47, 53, 136, 177, 180, 199, 225, 321, 436 and 453 pass near the park.
Access There is free public access to the site. A footpath and cycleway through the park form a part of the Waterlink Way, a public foot and cycle path that runs from the Thames at Creekside to the south coast at Eastbourne, following National Cycle Route 21.
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