London: the step-by-step guide

Michael Leapman enjoys the daffodils of Abbey Wood
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London: the step-by-step guide

Michael Leapman enjoys the daffodils of Abbey Wood

Daffodils remind us that winter will not last forever, and this weekend should see them at their peak. The best place to enjoy them in London is in the ancient woodland around the ruins of Lesnes Abbey, near Abbey Wood Station. This walk ends there, after penetrating modern, man- made landscapes of Thamesmead new town, built in the 1960s on former marshland.

From the station's eastbound platform, walk north up Harrow Manor Way and turn right into Lensbury Way. When you get to the Lakeside apartment block, walk up the blue ramp to the upper level.

At No 51, turn right, then left up a red-and-blue ramp to the bridge leading to the small Tavy Bridge shopping centre. Keep the shops on your left and turn sharp left alongside the Swallow express cleaners, down a flight of steps.

Turn right to follow the bank of Southmere, a lake formed when the marsh was drained. Keep ahead, with the sailing club house away on the right.

Turn left, following a sign for the Green Chain Walk, to pass under flyovers, then up some steps to cross a concrete walkway over the A2016, Eastern Way. At the end of the walkway, turn left under a road to enter Birchmere Park. The path curves to the right and you soon reach Birchmere, another man-made lake popular with fishermen.

Turn right past the changing rooms. Do not cross the bridge over the canal but stay on its right bank. The canal was one of a network of waterways built for the transport of explosives when this was part of the Woolwich Arsenal munitions factory.

After the path passes beneath Bentham Road, you will see an impressive stand of reeds across the water. Where this ends, a bridge takes the path to the other bank of the canal, passing a school on the right before crossing the canal again, and then for a third time to Harold Wilson House. Just before the canal turns sharp left, cross it again by turning right on a path that goes under the road, then passes between houses and a primary school.

The path veers right under a flyover. Go up a ramp on the right and cross the same footbridge as before over Eastern Way. At the end of the bridge turn left by a concrete stile to walk for a few hundred yards on the raised path, parallel with the road. Take the first path on your right down on to Belvedere Road, then turn right to walk briefly in the direction you came from, before turning left at a Green Chain Walk signpost to Lesnes Abbey. Stay on this path as it crosses high over roads and the railway to reach the Abbey.

The ruins of the Abbey, founded in 1178, are on your left. Like most, it did not survive Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries and fell into decay during the 16th century. Only in the present century have the foundations been excavated and well labelled.

After exploring them, make for the information centre on the right of the path you came in on. Turn left in front of it, then right between clipped hedges and left up a short flight of stone steps. The path leads to an information board at the edge of the wood, marking the main areas of wild daffodils, which have been a feature of woods at least since the 16th century.

Turn right at the board on an unsurfaced path that winds uphill. At the T-junction turn right to cross New Road and enter the woods at the other side, turning left on another uphill path. Go up some log steps, fork right and pass a small, rather slimy pond on your right.

Not far beyond it is a more salubrious pond surrounded by railings. Turn right in front of it,

passing newly coppiced sweet chestnuts, then turn sharp right between holly bushes. You will see clumps of daffodils on each side of this path before it runs steeply downhill.

Turn left at the T-junction and, a few yards later, fork right downhill, through a dip, then up log steps to emerge on open ground, where you will see Abbey Wood Station away on your right. Cross the meadow diagonally to the roundabout, colourfully planted with crocuses, and follow the road to the station.

The route was compiled with the help of the architectural writer Tony Aldous

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