Last time we were in
Beckenham Place Park, we noticed that they were doing quite a
lot of landscape work, clearing spaces here, planting trees
there, and there were various boards up describing how this was
going to be a wetland, that was going to be a wild meadow and so
What we hadn't realised was that the golf course was a casualty.
Now I have never been a golfer; indeed, to a first
approximation, I have never played golf at all, at least not as
an actual golfer would recognise it, and neither has Amanda, but
Beckenham Place Park Golf Course was one of the background
constants of both our childhoods. It comes as a slight shock to
discover it is no more.
The occasion of discovery is that the Beckenham Trail 10k has
had to change its route because of the works in progress, and
will partly run over the former golf course.
So on the basis that, as Joni Mitchell sang, you don't know what
you've got 'till it's gone, we perhaps need to know: what has
Today's lesson is, then, a brief account of the course of the
So in 1907, a private 9-hole course was laid out, which was then
bought by Lewisham Council in 1934 and turned public. Apparently
Lewisham asked neighbouring boroughs if they would like to join
in (and contribute to!) the purchase, and while Bromley reckoned
they'd chip in for a few quid, Beckenham Council kept their
purse tightly closed!
The course was expanded to 18 holes (that's full-size for those
even less golf-literate than us) and became extremely popular.
In its heyday, it seems it was the busiest course in the whole
As a public park, it had to contend with courting couples and
playful dogs and others wandering across at any time, so it was
always a bit on the cheap and cheerful side, but as time went
on, it got rather less cheerful, and cheap didn't pay the bills.
Reviews from ten years ago are fairly consistent: nice place,
not great golf, really needs a little TLC.
The main mansion house building is Grade II* listed, and other
buildings on the site are Grade II, so upkeep was expensive and
Lewisham Council really didn't have the money. Numbers were
falling as well, so income was dropping even further behind.
Unsurprisingly, the place slowly going downhill made it less
popular still, in a classic vicious circle.
In the mid-2010s, then, Lewisham came up with a grand plan to
close the golf course and substantially renovate the park with
the aid of Lottery money. For everyone but golfers, it looked
really good, but it caused a lot of local controversy because it
turns out that golfers are pretty vocal!
One argument was that it was quite literally the only public
golf course in the whole of Inner London, and the effective cost
of a year's membership and play at a not-terribly-expensive
private club would be well over £4000. Trouble is, that this
argument rather shoots itself in the foot: if not one
public course can be a profitable venture in an area that size,
yet private clubs are charging an arm and a leg and getting away
with it, perhaps the real demand for a public golf course just
And for those who think that golf is a snobbish game played by
people with strange clothing fetishes, a few quotes from reviews
will help to confirm your prejudices:
too many people in jeans and t shirts.
shouldn't let people on with jeans and trainers
had the pleasure of being stuck behind a 6 ball of skinheads
with their tops off, i'm sure they wouldn't allow that at
Although some are
prepared to be a bit more conciliatory...
Ok, yes, the majority
of the reviews weren't like that, but these are real comments
and not taken out of context!
Anyway, local history lesson over, on to the running stuff...
Goodness, Beckenham Cricket Club has become rather more ecumenical!
To be fair, back in 2014 when we first did this race, the club was
Tennis Hockey Squash
Cricket Running Social
on the clubhouse outside wall [that R isn't a typo, the
real letter doesn't match the rest!] but it seems to be making much
more of a thing of it now. Vets [sic] football and cycling are
definitely new, though, but perhaps they're missing a trick by not
Oh, yes, sorry, running...
To the park, then, and the new start/finish line. Same bugler,
though, having a sneaky practice before the Last Post.
And I have just learnt that there are two different Last
Posts! One is "a B♭ bugle call within British infantry regiments"
and the other is "an E♭ cavalry trumpet call in British cavalry and
Royal Regiment of Artillery", so Wikipedia tells us. The former is
the one we all know as the remembrance piece, but originally it was
a purely functional signal that the final guard post inspections had
been completed and the camp was secure for the night.
Oops, I'm digressing again.
At last! Runners!
Ok, not actually running, but we're getting there...
Did you notice the blue sky in the background of the first picture?
Gone without a trace now.
The Dulwich contingent is seriously down on previous years that
we've been here, and Ola is the first of quite a small number.
Claire would be running if only her <expletive deleted> knee
was up to it, but we're expecting to see her at some point as
Amanda's definitely happy to be moving after standing around in the
cold for the Last Post and two minutes' silence. Next time they have
a First World War, can they please arrange to finish in the
And virtually at the back of the field, Paul has either set himself
an overtaking challenge or wasn't paying attention and nearly missed
the start. I do not speculate as to which.
Off they go. It's far from flat but nothing like the top of the
steep hill the traditional route started from.
Roughly halfway through the first lap, the lead man has already
pulled out some distance. The results will later show he clearly
never has any serious competition, with a winning margin of about a
To emphasise the fact, the next guy in the hi-vis vest is supposed
to be guiding the field! The course is a bit too tough in places for
a lead bike, so presumably the idea is that a decent runner can do a
single lap faster than anybody on a three-lap pace. If so, the plan
hasn't quite worked.
New members of my fan club?
Now I wish I had a picture that better showed the size of this dog.
It's huge! It must have at least 50% horse DNA! Amanda and
everyone else I know is through well before this Irish Wolfhound
appears and never get to see it, which is rather a pity. It's
friendly too, although if you're trying to run and it's in the way,
you'll have quite a detour!
Oh, and you may have noticed patches of sunlight through the trees.
Today's weather is changing by the minute.
Amanda's on her second lap now. This course is dead easy for
spectating, as this spot is probably about a km of running and a
hundred metres or so of walking from the previous point.
The runners emerge from the woods into bright sunshine now.
Mum and son marshalling. Is this family togetherness or child
And behind this marshall, another bit of Beckenham Place Park that I
at least have been ignorant of for all these decades. Investigation
shows that the building was formerly occupied by the Foxgrove Club,
a local social club, who were turfed out for rent arrears. An
article in the local paper a couple of years ago is full of outrage:
"Residents near a Beckenham Park have expressed their shock after
their beloved social club was closed by the council over rent
arrears only to find it allegedly being used as a site for
Shortly after the start of the third and final lap, that's the
Mansion House in the background.
Part of the hill where the old route started and finished is still
incorporated in the new one. Amanda has described it to me as
"Horrible Hill" because of the steep muddy descent - not her
And Paul comes over the top...
It's slippery, although not quite as bad as it was a few years ago
when even walking it was difficult. Then she tells me that the bit
around the base of the hill is even worse, so I follow to check it
Yep, it's slippery. Initially there's another guy between me and
Amanda, but he's definitely not wearing chunky enough shoes and he's
all over the place. Even carrying all my camera gear I pass him,
although I do momentarily wonder if I might be overdoing the gung-ho
And what's my reward for all this hard work and risk? A lousy
photographic angle right into the sun!
Past the mansion house and on to the final not-straight. Because I can
go straight, I can take this picture here and still get back to the
finish line in time.
57:09 on the clock. Not exactly a fast time for a 10k, but this
hasn't been a fast course. Pretty though, and in the end we've had
sunshine for most of it.
Well done ladies! Still haven't seen Claire, though.
Ah, speak of the devil!
The Great Beckenham Bake-Off stars have been busy. We've brought our
own lunch, but we'll put a tenner in the donation box and take a few
cakes home for later.
The prizes are announced, and Ola has won her age category!
Unfortunately, she's already had to leave but Claire can take her
prize for her. She's been working her way back after some very
difficult times personally, so hopefully this will be a real boost
And this sign certainly wasn't here last time!
Whatever is the world coming to?
Well, as you may have noticed, this report has taken a little longer
than usual, but my excuse is that I got distracted with research,
and I trust you will appreciate that the fascinating fact quotient
is correspondingly higher than usual too!
Love to all,