Friday 1 February 2013

Pippenhall Farm - a short history

A short history of Pippinhall Farm

Pippinhall Farm, Bexley Road SE9, is an amazing relic of agricultural land. It is a network of small meadows and ancient hedgerows on Eocene strata; a river terrace of Blackheath Gravels overlying a spring line on Woolwich & Reading Beds.

The first specific written record is in 1290 when King Edward 2nd negotiated hay from John de Henley, the owner, to feed the royal deer at Eltham Palace during a very cold winter.

Pippinhall Farm lies in a valley drained by one of the headwater streams feeding the River Shuttle

The first evidence of human utilisation of the Pippinhall Valley is a Mesolithic concave scraper dropped by a hunter gatherer sometime around 7000 BC and discovered by a “Young Friend of Avery Hill Park” while hedge planting.

Since then the Bronze Age and Celtic, Eltham farmers have cleared the wet woodland and planted hedges around their fields. The oldest dateable hedges at Pippinhall are from 1370. There is a small relic of medieval “ridge and furrow” in the south east corner of the farm. This most probably dates from before the Black Death decimated the local population; when maximum arable land was needed to feed the locals and the Kings entourage at nearby Eltham Palace.

At present the ridge and furrow, an amazing piece of Eltham’s agricultural history, is being engulfed by Blackthorn scrub. The wet pastureland, presumably protected by the borough, is invaded by over 1200 square metres of Japanese Knotweed and large areas of blackberry thicket.

The present tenants are unable to keep pace with the encroaching scrub simply grazing their ponies in these precious meadows.

Royal Greenwich Parks and Open Spaces hope to commence clearing the knotweed with stem injection.

Bee Twidale 

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