Eleven of us turned up at Chislehurst Caves in South London. Chislehurst Station (zone 5) is just 500 metres away, so very convenient.
The man-made chalk tunnels and caverns cover a large area, and the map looked like a small town. The entertaining guide occasionally dodged round a corner leaving us groping around with our feeble lamps until he suddenly popped out from an unexpected direction, such was his knowledge of the paths. The caves were used as an air raid shelter in the Second World War and there was a recreation of the conditions suffered by the people – triple bunks, the top ones getting wet from the chalk ceilings, basic medical provision, poor ventilation and so on. Discipline appears to have been rigid, which with that many people in an enclosed space is perhaps just as well. The caves were also used for storage by the army.
One hour later we were outside thinking what to do, the pub being uppermost in some minds. Instead we walked down the road to Petts Wood. This is a wood owned by The National Trust, along with Hawkwood Estate next door, but does not feature in their 2019 handbook. It is in their leaflet “Around London”, which is how we came to know of it. It was more than a mile to walk there, so we did the North edge of the Wood then went hungrily in search of a pub. The first was full – natch, it is Sunday – but the second, the Crown Inn on School Road, had tables outside. The weather was fine and so, ignoring the wasps, we had an enjoyable meal.
A walk along the busy roads back to Chislehurst and then off home.
Brian U. 28th July 2019