10 reasons to love Chislehurst
PUBLISHED: 12:34 22 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:34 22 October 2018
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
It may have been swallowed up by Greater London, but it still feels more like an idyllic Kentish village
1. Below ground
Chislehurst Caves started out as chalk and flint mines, first excavated around 800 years ago. Later the underground labyrinth was used as a huge wartime air raid shelter and then as a live music venue, with legendary performances by bands including Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones in the ‘60s and ‘70s. These days, visitors are led on entertaining tours of the tunnels by lamplight and along the way hear tales from the site’s long and varied past.
2. Green thoughts
Overlooking the valley of the River Cray is Scadbury Park Nature Reserve – 300 acres of stunning countryside. Once the estate of the Walsingham family, and Lords of the Manor of Chislehurst, it is now a nature reserve with a circular trail and footpaths leading through ancient woodland and meadows and past the romantic ruins of Scadbury Manor.
3. Eating out
Chislehurst is a great place to wine and dine, with plenty of independents. Try out The Imperial Arms, Denny’s Seafood, Thaidine, The Thyme and Annabel’s II shop and tea room. And don’t miss Royal Parade, an elegant row of shops built in the 1860s at the centre of the Commons. Having achieved royal status in 1876, in recognition of Napoleon III, it’s an attractive home for a number of shops and businesses, with restaurants including Due Amici, Walnuts Café Bistro, The Bengal Lancer and Pizza Express.
4. Common touch
Although pedestrians enjoy unlimited right of access, Chislehurst Commons are privately owned and maintained by a board of trustees. Made up of 180 acres of woods, grassland, heathland and ponds in and around the town, they provide a home for several rare species of plants as well as birds, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals. There are three main areas: by the parish church; around the cricket ground and Mill Place; and the largest section, which starts at Camden Place.
5. Empire state
Napoleon III, deposed Emperor of France, his wife Empress Eugenie and their son lived in Chislehurst after they fled from France in the 1870s. The family stayed at Camden Place, which was briefly buzzing with diplomatic activity; it’s now the clubhouse for Chislehurst Golf Club. Napoleon was buried in St Mary’s Church, but 15 years later his remains were moved to an abbey in Farnborough.
6. Walk this way
Made up of 300 open spaces of woodland, commons, parks and recreation grounds, all linked by a 50-mile walking network, the Green Chain Walk is one of Greater London’s most interesting long-distance walks. With Chislehurst as one starting point and Dulwich as the other, it’s possible to walk all the way to the Thames riverside at Woolwich, Thamesmead or Erith.
7. Golfing fun
If you’re in Chislehurst for the day, you’re within striking distance of one of the south-east’s biggest family golf centres. Sidcup Family Golf has a recently refurbished 46-bay floodlit driving range, a Mr Mulligan’s Dino Golf adventure centre, a golf shop and a coffee shop. Golf lessons for all ages and group classes or individual tuition throughout the year.
8. Historic churches
St Nicholas Church contains Scadbury Chapel, linking the church with the Walsingham family and later the Lords of the Manor. Many of these important residents of Chislehurst were interred here. Roman Catholic St Mary’s Church was built in 1854 and was where the exiled Napoleon III was buried in 1873, joined six years later by his son.
9. Annual events
Chislehurst has kept its friendly village feel, with plenty of regular community events. June sees free music festival Chislehurst Rocks at Walden Recreation Ground and the Rotary Club’s Summer Fair on the Commons, also the venue for open-air cinema events in July. Still to come this year is the annual fireworks spectacular on 3 November at Chislehurst Recreation Ground.
10. Dramatic Deco
Ten minutes away by car is one of English Heritage’s gems. Part Art Deco showpiece and part Tudor royal residence, Eltham Palace is where Henry VIII grew up. The original palace was given to Edward II in 1305 by the archbishop of Durham but was almost entirely rebuilt in the 1930s by millionaire Stephen Courtauld and his wife.