Listening to you, working for you www.bexley.gov.uk
Abbey Wood Belvedere
R i v e r T h a m e s
Cray Riverway Walk
by Train: Regular service available to Bexley, Crayford & Slade Green.
by Bus: Bexley Village: B15 (not Sun), 132, 492. Crayford: 96, 428,
492. Foots Cray: R11, N21, 233, 321, 492.
North Cray: 492. Slade Green: 89, 469.
Transport for London: 020 7222 1234 www.tfl.gov.uk
If you would like to know more about the
services the Council provides, or would like
either a translation of this document or the
information in a different format, please call our
Customer Contact Centre on 020 8303 7777
and press 0, quoting reference: 602521/7.07
Listening to you, working for you www.bexley.gov.uk
Wildlife on the river bank
Many different types of plants and animals live in the
margins and deeper water of the River Cray.
A challenge for plants living in open water is to avoid
being swept away in the flow. Water Starworts anchor
their roots firmly in the bed of the river. Water Crowfoot
have very flexible streamlined stems and leaves, to
lessen the chance of water flow breaking them off.
The Cray is said to have some of the best Alder Carr
woods in London. The Alder’s fine root structure helps
stop soil from being eroded by the river. Willow can be
seen in many forms, from shrubby Osiers to large trees
such as Crack Willow.
Other more scarce plants are only found in old meadows
such as at Foots Cray. One such plant is Creeping Restharrow,
so called because in the past its tough roots
would get caught in farm machinery and cause farmers
to ‘rest’ their ‘harrows’.
With its striking blue-purple flowers, Devil’s Bit Scabious
grows well in the damper parts of the meadows, but is
scarce elsewhere. Herbalists have long believed the
plant to cure many illnesses and legend has it the Devil
bit away part of the root to reduce its curing powers.
Kingfishers can be spotted on the Cray. Though they are
small, they are brightly coloured, so look out for a blur of
blue and orange darting low over the river. As their name
suggests they catch and eat fish. They hover over the
water briefly, before plunging in to catch their
Grey Heron can be seen too, near the riverbank
amongst the emergent vegetation. They also hunt for
fish, watching for prey before attacking by stabbing it
with their bill and swallowing it whole.
The Mute Swan has pure white plumage and a bright
orange bill. They build large nests using riverbank
vegetation. They are not shy animals, and will aggressively
defend their nests if approached.
The two most common mammals on the Cray live in
burrows on the riverbank. Usually where one occurs, the
other does not. One is rare, and protected in the UK:
the Water Vole. It feeds mainly on grasses and makes a
distinctive ‘plopping’ sounds when it drops into the
water. The other is the Brown Rat, which is widespread
along the river, particularly in urban areas.
Rats will feed on anything, but gravitate to food waste
dropped by humans. To the untrained eye, the two
animals are similar, but when you look more closely at
water voles you will see that the tail, ears and muzzle
are shorter than a rat’s.
The Grass Snake is Britain’s largest snake and can be
found hunting for frogs and toads on the river margins.
Although Grass Snakes have venom that is poisonous
to small mammals, it is harmless to humans.
Dace are among the most common fish in the Cray,
although they are normally found in shallow, cold and fast
flowing rivers. Their name derives from the Old English
word for darting movement. Dace eat insects, and in the
summer, shoals of Dace can be seen leaping to catch
insects close to or landing on the waters’ surface.
Pike live in most UK waters, and are a voracious
predator. They hunt fish, amphibians, and waterfowl,
normally ambushing their prey in a short, sharp strike.
Pike prefer the slower moving stretches of the river, at
Foots Cray, Hall Place and around Barnes Cray.
The Eel is a mysterious fish. It spawns in the Sargasso
Sea in the western Atlantic, and once hatched, its larvae
spend three years crossing the ocean to reach UK
waters. As elvers, they make their way into fresh waters,
including the Cray, where they will live for up to twenty
years before making the journey back to the Sargasso
Sea to spawn and die.
The River Cray supports a huge number of small
creatures collectively known as invertebrates (without a
backbone), who provide food for fish and other animals.
Mayflies spend most of their life as nymphs in the silts
and sands of the riverbed. In the spring and early
summer they float to the water’s surface and the adult
Wildlife in the water
winged insects emerge from the river in vast numbers.
They normally do not live for more than a few hours or
days, surviving just long enough to mate and for the
females to lay eggs.
Many different types of Caddis fly live in the river. Each
species constructs a particular type of protecting or
camouflaging structure, incorporating sand grains and
plant debris, held together in its own silk.
Freshwater Shrimps are crustaceans with a hard
exoskeleton (on the outside of their body), found in
large numbers in the Cray and an important part of
the food chain. Shrimps must stay in water or they
lose the moisture from their bodies.
Perhaps the most distinctive and beautiful insect
found along the river in summertime are Dragonflies.
The young dragonfly nymphs climb up the stems
of riverbank vegetation, before emerging as adults.
They are very agile, to feed on flies and other insects.
Many new species of wildlife have come to the UK
from other countries. Some invasive plants have
formed large patches along the River Cray and will
overwhelm native species if left unchecked. Giant
Hogweed, for example, can grow up to 3. 5 meters
tall with 10cm diameter stems. It has poisonous sap,
which when it comes in contact with skin and
exposed to sunlight, can cause severe blistering.
Chinese Mitten Crabs, so called for the fur forming
‘mittens’ over their claws, are thought to have arrived
recently in ships’ holds. Today they are widespread in
the Thames Estuary, and other eastern UK
waterways. They can be real problems for wildlife, and
can cause the side of riverbanks to become eroded
as they burrow extensively to make their homes.
The map overleaf shows sections of the path
which are surfaced, however even on surfaced
sections, stiles & gates may make the route
unsuitable for wheelchairs and buggies.
Please safeguard the countryside:
• Guard against risk of fire
• Keep dogs under close control
• Keep to the right of way across private land
• Leave no litter
For further information about the Cray Riverway,
Managing the Marshes and other open spaces, routes
or initiatives in Bexley, please contact the Bexley
Regeneration Delivery Unit Tel: 020 8294 6742
or visit Bexley’s website on www.bexley.gov.uk
The distance covered by this walk is approximately
10 miles. Where possible, the route follows riverside
walks but parks, rights of way, and roads are also
utilized. The walk is signposted with
timber waymarkers and metal signs,
identified by the Cray Riverway logo.
The Cray Riverway is a 16km (10 mile) path following
the River Cray to the Thames from Foots Cray
Meadows in the south to Erith in the north. The route
is signposted throughout, but much of it is along unsurfaced
paths and may present some difficulties for
pushchairs, wheelchairs or those with less mobility.
All Saints Church to Water Lane
The Riverway starts as you enter Foots Cray Meadows
from Rectory Lane, just south of All Saints Church.
All Saints Church and Foots Cray Meadows
All Saints Church marks the entrance to Foots Cray
Meadows, and the start of the Cray Riverway. Thought
to have been a site of worship since Norman times,
Foots Cray takes its name from Godwin Fot, a local
Saxon landowner recorded in the Domesday Book of
1086, and from the River Cray that flowed through his
land. Foots Cray Meadows were laid out as the
grounds to two 18th century estates, Foots Cray
Place and North Cray Place. The open grasslands of
Foots Cray Meadows are managed to support a wide
variety of wildflowers and grasses. This has been vital
in conserving the biodiversity we can see today.
Continue along the waymarked rough track, crossing
the river at Penny Farthing Bridge. The route follows
the southern bank of the river past Five Arch Bridge.
Five Arch Bridge
Five Arch Bridge was once in the grounds of North
Cray Place, in a parkland setting designed by
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Formal geometric
gardens favoured in the earlier Jacobean period
were swept away and replaced with the ‘naturalistic’
gardens in fashion at the time. These new ‘Arcadian’
landscapes were designed to evoke a
classical idea of perfection; with grand
sweeping lawns, tree lined vistas and
lakes. The River Cray was dammed to
create the meandering lake lying at the
end of the park, where Five Arch
Bridge still stands.
Continue walking past ‘The Alders’,
a block of woodland on the northern
bank, until the route divides into two
separate routes (A & B) at a signposted
footbridge at the end of
Water Lane to Hall Place
Route A avoids built up areas, and
Route B passes through the historic
centre of Old Bexley.
Turn right at the footbridge and
continue along Water Lane to meet
North Cray Road at Loring Hall. Turn left along North
Cray Road following signs. At the roundabout follow
the metal signs back along the south side of North
Cray Road and after the Garden Centre, turn left
uphill on the rough track, and follow waymarkers,
passing Mount Mascal Stables, and beautiful views
of Joyden’s Wood. Continue along the path and cross
Vicarage Road entering Churchfield Wood.The
waymarked path follows the perimeter of Churchfield
Wood passing beneath the A2 and entering into Hall
Place Recreation Ground. Keep following waymarkers
and cross over the footbridge on the River Cray, where
Routes A & B meet.
Turn left over the footbridge and walk along the path
until you meet Riverside Road. Turn right and follow
the finger posts for the Cray Riverway, across farmland.
Following the waymarked track past Bexley Cricket
Club, pass under the railway and continue along Tanyard
Lane into Bexley High Street, (Bexley Station 2 mins
walk). Turn right along the High Street and cross at
the crossing. Turn left into Bourne Road, and cross
that at the crossing. Follow Bourne Road, passing the
Recreation Ground on your right. Cross over the A2
as signed and follow the road past the roundabout (look
for the view of Hall Place) to the entrance of Hall Place.
Follow signs and waymarkers to the River Cray.
The present Hall Place Mansion was first built during the
reign of Henry VIII, in about 1540 for Sir John Champneys,
a merchant and former Lord Mayor of London. The
gardens date from the early 20th Century featuring a
rose garden, a topiary, a grass maze, herb garden, a
formal sunken garden, a walled kitchen garden, and
sub tropical plant houses. There is a café near the car
park which serves light refreshments. The house and
its gardens were extensively restored by Bexley Council
and are open to the public. Hall Place is now managed
by Bexley Heritage Trust.
Hall Place to Thames Road
Continue beside the river until the
northern end of the recreation ground
and follow the boundary of the ground
to join Bourne Road. The route follows
Bourne Road passing Bourne Industrial
Park on the right side to join London
Road. Continue along London Road
following signs and cross over Crayford
Bridge, continuing along Crayford Way,
past Waterside Gardens.
Calico bleaching and printing industry came to the town
in the 1820’s, followed by carpet making and a tannery.
The Maxim, later Vickers factories were established in
1896, making machine guns, shells, fuses and cartridge
cases. During the First World War aircraft, including the
Vickers Gun bus and parts for the Vimy bomber were
made here. 14,000 people worked in the factories by
the end of the war. The houses along Crayford Way
were built to house workers. The Princess Theatre
was built by the company, opening in July 1916, but
was burnt down in December, reopening as a cinema
in July 1919. The building was demolished in the late
1950’s and is now the site of the 1960’s housing block
opposite Waterside Gardens. The Vicker’s factory closed
in the 1950’s, being converted into the sites of industrial
estates and the Retail Park.
At the end of Waterside Gardens, cross Crayford Way
and continue along waymarked track beside the River
Cray where it meets Barnes Cray Road. Continue along
Barnes Cray Road and turn right onto Maiden Lane.
Walk along Maiden Lane and join the path along the
south side of the river. Continue along the path beside
the River Cray and at the end of the path turn left onto
Cross Thames Road and follow signed path
through the industrial area of Saw Mills
to Crayford Creek where the River Cray
meets the River Darent. The path then
follows perimeter of Crayford Marsh,
along the River Darent giving
extensive views across
Dartford Marsh, the
Darent Flood Barrier
and the River
The marsh path ends by Erith
Yacht Club; continue to Manor Road.
The Cray Riverway finishes at the
junction with Slade Green Road and
Manor Road (Buses) and if walkers
wish to continue to Erith they may take
the Thames Path to Erith Town Centre.
This is the historic name for the industrial
area between Thames Road (A206) and
Crayford Marsh. Many local road names are
derived from the timber mills that were situated
here in the 1840s. Industry thrived here from as
early as the 16th Century when a mill for making
iron sheet and armour was set up to use the river
for power. Since the 1700s the area was also
where much of the cloth bleaching took place, a key
part of the local textiles industry. Just beyond the
Thames Road bridge was the old millpond, the site
in the 1900s of the Vitbe Flour Mill and a chemical
works. Both had water wheels to power
The inter war years were a time
of high unemployment. In 1921,
construction began on Thames Road
as part of a Government sponsored
road building programme. Many unemployed
ex–servicemen were recruited
for the work. Before Thames Road opened in
1923, Iron Mill Lane was the only land route to
Saw Mills, and it was virtually impassable in the winter.
Sailing barges transported heavy goods, coming from
the Thames down the River Darent and along Crayford
Creek. The river remained a significant corridor for
industry until recent times. Records of tolls levied in
1977 show 400 tons of grain a week was brought along
Crayford Creek for processing at Saw Mills.
The marshes have been used
for grazing and rough pasture since
the beginning of the 15th Century.
Tenants were required to pay 6d
(half a shilling) per acre to help pay
for the upkeep of marshland walls,
dykes and fences. Other uses have
relied on the relative isolation of the
marshes and access to river transport. For example
the area where Darent Industrial Estate now stands
was the former site of ammunition works, in use from
1889 to 1962. It was an ideal place for the storage
and manufacture of explosives and armaments.
For more information on the marshes visit
Other walks in the area; The London Outer Orbital Path
(Loop) and the Shuttle Riverway.