Lesnes Abbey || Conquering the Green Chain Walk

I blogged last summer about living near to a branch of the Green Chain Walk and wanting to complete all 50 miles of it. We accomplished a fair bit of it last summer and over this long bank holiday weekend we got about another 17 miles of it done. Success! (Which is good because I ate my body weight in chocolate eggs…) Just to summarise the Green Chain Walk a bit, it’s a walking route that links all of South East London without really leaving a park, woodland, field or nature preserve.

On Saturday we headed down to Erith, where the Thames looks like the ocean – it’s incredible. From there we walked to Lesnes Abbey, one of the attractions on the Green Chain Walk I’d most been looking forward to. I can’t say that I loved the Erith area. I didn’t feel comfortable taking photos but to give you a visual reference it’s where Stanley Kubrick filmed “A Clockwork Orange” at. Let me summarise my time in Erith with this anecdote: we were walking down the street and I saw a massive rat run out of the sewer and into a chicken shop. There were a few people around and no one batted an eye. I was gutted because Sam was looking at something else and missed it. Luckily this situation was remedied about 30 seconds later when the rat ran back out of the shop and into the sewer.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re so close to the mouth of the Thames. Anyway. But let’s not tar this whole leg (Section 2) of the journey with a rat brush. As soon as you entered the woods, you encountered Frank’s Park, which was a delight and then climbed Bostall Woods to find some amazing heath. And then you come across Lesnes Abbey. 

Lesnes Abbey built in 1178, and what you can see today are the ruins of it’s former glory. It was only operational for about 400 years, as it was mostly demolished in 1524 when Henry VIII said goodbye to Catholicism. One of the craziest things you’ll discover as you wander amongst the ruins is a plaque denoting where historians found the mummified heart of Roesia of Dover, the great, great grand-daughter of the Abbey’s founder. She spent a good portion of her childhood at the abbey and upon her death, wanted her heart bequeathed to the Augustinian monks as a relic to pray on. Strange. But true.

Monday found us continuing our epic Green Chain Walk, but a bit closer to home. We did Sections 8 and 10, which took us through the lovely Beckenham Place Park, where we had our first picnic of the year. The park is neat – it’s one of the last remaining areas of truly ancient woodland within London. Plus the second oldest oak tree in Britain is there, and how can you top that?

Monday also proved that Sperrys can withstand anything, as I did the whole 9.5 mile walk in them.  

frank park playground sam at frank parklesnes abbey from green chain walkruinsabbey lesnes abbey
abbey bars    gazing at old rooms keep off walls    excited to explore

How was everyone else’s long weekend? Anyone else have a super active one? 

You Might Also Like

  • This looks great, Amanda! I love the idea of walking it all, so fun to set yourself local challenges. I went to secondary school right by one part of the greenchain walk but I never went in as it was where all the teenage smokers used to go after school! So it’s never given me the best impression so thank you for showing me that actually it’s a really nice place to walk πŸ™‚

    • We walked past a fair few secondary schools – maybe your old on was one of them! πŸ™‚ xx

  • Wow- what a packed weekend! All of your adventures sound really fun… if I lived there, I would definitely be seeking out cool things to do like the Green Chain Walk. Going to have to look up Erith; it sounds really interesting both geographically and historically. I can’t believe Sam missed the rat incident!

  • Angie SilverSpoon

    How lovely to start having picnics again!

    Lots of love,
    SilverSpoon London

  • Ugh rats so nasty!

    • Hahaha I was almost glad that it ran back out so that Sam saw it too and knew i wasn’t making it up! x

  • Cool pictures!!

  • We went to a park yesterday, but got up so early I was tired the whole day! So not as active as I normally would have been, and had a nap when we got home haha. I love walking around ruins though, this looks so pretty.

  • Ala

    17 miles!!!!!! Go you! That’s insane! I loved your Green Chain Walk posts last year, it’s so good that you’ve got to see all these amazing places in SE London! Would love to see the ancient forest xxxx

    • You should totally do some of the Green Chain walk. Yesterday’s took me through Bromley and quite close to the market and I thought of you! xx

  • 17 miles! Wow! Looks like it was worth it though.

    I spent the long weekend unpacking and setting up furniture in Basel and then washing windows back in Karlsruhe.We did go to the Basel paper mill on Sunday though, which was fascinating.

    • I think unpacking and setting up furniture is just as much of an ask and definitely as much exercise as a long walk! x

  • I am waiting with baited breath for your review of that chicken shop! πŸ˜€
    I accidentally kicked a rat while kicking though Autumn leaves once. Rats happen.

    • It looked like a very clean rat if that makes anyone feel better about the safety of the chicken shop. The rat looked 0% mangy. Probably from all the delicious chicken! x

  • Don’t! 99% of the time I am sitting, eating snacks so I needed to kick my butt into gear this weekend. Sam was definitely grossed out by the rat, but not nearly as much as I was! x

  • She bequeathed her heart? What? Just what? And the Dissolution of the Monasteries was in 1538.

    • Yep. Just her heart. The rest of her is buried elsewhere. And archaeologists even found the heart… (grim.) Wolsey began to dissolve this monastery in 1524 because it had less than 8 inmates. By the time the Dissolution came about only the abbots lodge remained and the rest of the monastery had been fully destroyed. Making it one of the first ones suppressed and pre-Dissolution at that! Because you know, those crazy royals – they do what they want! (Not that that helped Wolsey very much…) The history of the excavation of it is pretty neat. You can read more about it here: if you’re interested. x

      • Interesting. I knew that smaller houses were dissolved early, but I didn’t know that a house was closed in 1524. You learn something new every day!

  • So I may be alone here, but I don’t mind rats…as long as they are clean, healthy, and in a cage being kept by someone. I had a roommate who kept all sorts of animals (mice, rats, lizards, frogs, etc.) so I don’t feel the general gross-out towards rats. However, if it just came out of a sewer and runs into the shop I’m eating at…No. Absolutely not.

    I’m in awe of a woman bequeathing her heart to monks. That fact will sit comfortably on my list of the 10 Most Intense Historical Occurrences Evah.

    • A really close friend had two pet rats (one was named after Cyndi Lauper) and I didn’t mind that too much, but seeing one come out of the sewer was a whole other story!

      I think bequeathing her heart was a kind of badass thing to do. And weirdly when I was thinking of where I’d bequeath mine too the first thought that popped into my head was “Papa Johns” sooooooooo…. xx

  • Such a beautiful area! And I definitely ate my weight in sweets this long weekend. Thankfully we were walking all over Amsterdam!

  • Looks likes a really nice area, I have not had much in the way of Easter chocolate due to my BGL’s being high all the time lately and having to keep a diary of what I eat each day

  • Looks like a fun weekend! And I agree with eating my weight in chocolate….

  • That walk looks lovely! It’s so weird because I HATED walking when I was a kid and every weekend we were marched through woods, parks, across the beach – anywhere! But now I love it and can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend – my parents are, naturally, delighted!
    I wonder if there’s a walk that links up South West London? πŸ˜€