A meander along the River Shuttle in South London

I’d never heard of the River Shuttle until it was mentioned in the YouTube comments under my video of a walk along the River Quaggy. A crisp, bright, sunny Sunday felt like the perfect time to seek out this suburban watercourse. The River Shuttle rises on Avery Hill and flows through a sequence of parks and patches of woodland before making its confluence with the River Cray beside the A2 Rochester Way. The Shuttle Riverway is a 5.5-mile walking trail that follows the river.

I found the Shuttle running along a narrow concrete culvert just inside the gates of the University of Greenwich Avery Hill campus and next to the Charlton Athletic Training Ground. I remembered that my Uncle Stan had turned down a professional contract to play in goal for Charlton in the 1950s leading me to declare that the deity of the River Shuttle was a former Charlton Athletic goalkeeper. [*note: in Ben Aaronovitch’s brilliant Rivers of London books all of London’s rivers have a living, breathing deity who moves among us]. I followed the river through the campus and across the road, through Parish Wood and connected with the Shuttle Riverway as ran alongside Berwick Crescent, Sidcup. It was here I encountered my first Shuttle Riverway signage – always a great moment to add a new walking trail sign to the memory bank.

Shuttle Riverway sign for the River Shuttle walk
Shuttle Riverway

In Hollyoak Wood Park the Shuttle meets its tributary, the Wyncham Stream which rises in Chislehurst. Just past the confluence of these two rivers an egret elegantly strode along the edge of the water.
The river led me on through Willersley Park and Marlborough Park in magnolious late winter sun.

River Shuttle in Parish Wood
River Shuttle in Parish Wood
confluence of the Wyncham Stream and the River Shuttle in Hollyoak Wood Park
confluence of the Wyncham Stream and the River Shuttle

As the Shuttle crossed Burnt Oak Lane into Sidcup Golf Club I followed the Shuttle Riverway round the streets when later I learnt that a footpath runs around the edge of the golf course emerging near Viewfield Road. However, I’m grateful that my detour took me past the great pylons that straddled the houses and the stink pipe in Albany Road.

pylons in the street in Sidcup / Bexley
pylons in the street in Sidcup / Bexley

The daylight faded as I traced the river across the edge of Bexley Woods and a luminous full moon broke through the clouds. It made me think of Steve Moore’s Somnium, a brilliant weaving of the mythology of the moon goddess Selene into the landscape of Shooters Hill, not far from the source of the River Shuttle. The moon and the river seemed intricately linked. How I connect this to the goalkeeping deity of the Shuttle I haven’t worked out yet.

confluence of the River Shuttle and River Cray
confluence of the River Shuttle and River Cray

Selene guided me down Love Lane in the moonlit night to the Holiday Inn laden with ennui beside the A2 East Rochester Way. The Shuttle shimmered in the headlights of passing cars. The confluence with the River Cray was not far away. A fox slid through the undergrowth along the riverbank. Somebody had left a can of energy drink on the railing as a votive offering. It was a perfect ending. I paid my respects and then headed off into the moonbeams to Bexley Station.


  1. Alex   •  

    Great video that – loved your shots of the pylons looming over the bungalows (very Falconwood-y) and the shots of the river by the A-road at night.

  2. Pingback: Walking the Norbury Brook - the lost byway

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