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Shuttle riverway - introduction

The Shuttle Riverway is a signposted walk along the River Shuttle, a small tributary of the River Cray, which it joins at Hall Place near Bexley.

Shuttle Riverway logo

The walk then joins the Cray Riverway, which follows the Cray through to the Darent at Crayford Marshes and through the marshes to the Thames. The route for walkers is described in three sections, starting from the Green Chain Walk at Avery Hill Park and continuing eastwards eventually to join up with the Cray Riverway at Hall Place. The entire walk covers a distance of approximately 5 miles but it is possible to start and finish this walk at various points along its length.

Where possible, the route follows riverside walks but also uses woods, parks and some linking roads. The walk is signposted with metal signs and wooden waymark posts, which can be identified by the logo shown on the left of this page, which describe some of the historic and ecological features of the river and the land through which it flows.

The banks of the river, and some areas of adjacent land contain remnants of the woodlands and agricultural land which formerly dominated the countryside of this region. Particularly obvious are the alder and willow trees which would once have formed extensive stands in the low lying wetland areas next to the stream. These remnants of past woods, and indeed the river itself, provide a refuge for wildlife. They enable a variety of animals to move freely within the small but continuous stretches of trees, rough herbage and waterside habitats, and penetrate further into urban areas than would otherwise be the case without such corridors.

History

The early history of the River Shuttle was almost completely related to agriculture. The Anglo Saxons settled by the River, cleared spaces in the forest, farmed and tended pigs.

In 814 AD King Cenwulf of Kent made Archbishop Wulfred the Lord of the Manor and gave him ten ploughlands, through which the Shuttle is thought to have run. 'The Manor' is included in William the Conqueror's Domesday Book of 1086. In 1397 conservation of game in Bexley Park Wood and the rabbits at the Warren kept Keeper Casteleyn alert. The deer were the Lord's, the rabbits 'fair game' for the peasants.

Under Henry VIII the Manor was leased to secular people. In 1621 William Camden held it briefly, giving it to Oxford University to endow a Chair in History. The Manor continued in agriculture for many years.

With the passing of time a number of large estates were established such as Lamorbey and Marrowbone Hall which was later known as The Hollies. Some of these buildings still survive today, including Lamorbey and Hall Place, while others such as Warren Farmhouse have disappeared.

The Dartford Loop Railway was opened in 1866 and brought many changes with development encouraged by the new accessibility to London. Together with a boom in affordable houses, today's 'Dormitory Suburb' was on the way.

Ecology

The alder woods along the banks of the Rivers Shuttle and Cray are amongst the best in London. Alder prefer to live in wet places and their fine root systems penetrate well below the water level preventing bank erosion by holding the soil together.

Much of the bankside vegetation along the Shuttle consists of nettles, brambles and coarse grasses. These plants provide cover and shelter for invertebrates and mammals, and also food for a variety of insect species. For instance, nettles are the food-plant of several butterfly species including the small tortoiseshell, red admiral and peacock, all of which can be seen in this area.

Another interesting feature of the walk is the variety of water-loving plants. The most obvious examples are the species which are rooted in the shallows and grow out of the water. Several of these species occur in beds, such as watercress and fool's watercress, or in clumps, for example reed canary-grass, pendulous sedge and soft rush. Other plants include species growing at the water's edge such as water figwort and marsh marigold.

Suitability

The walk is easy and most paths are surfaced. There are some steep slopes which may require a detour for wheelchairs and buggies.

Please follow the Country Code:

Guard against all risk of fire, keep dogs under close control, keep to the right of way across private land, leave no litter, help keep all water clean, protect wildlife, plants and trees, cross roads carefully.

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