We are pleased to welcome Steph Henderson (@proimpactfitnes) as a guest writer for this post. Many people who know Canada Water and perhaps Rotherhithe have never ventured into the central open spaces of the area – Southwark Park, Kings Stairs Gardens and Russia Dock Woodland. Steph writes an introduction to the work of the Friends of Russia Dock Woodland. Find out more about Steph’s work at BootcampSE16 here.


FountainIf you look at a map of SE16, you will see that located in the middle of the Rotherhithe peninsula is a rather large stretch of green known as Russia Dock Woodland and the Stave Hill Ecological Park. Split into two parts, Russia Dock Woodlands (36 acres) and Stave Hill Ecological Park (6 acres) make together 42 acres of publically accessible landscape.

Following the closure of the docks in the 1980s the London Dockland Development Corporation (LDDC) were commissioned to begin regenerating the area.  Their task included creating a number of homes and to do this waterways needed infilling, leaving the area with little character.  In keeping with the originality of area a new canal called the Albion Channel was then dug, allowing for a large amount of spoil left over.  Another part of LDDC’s plan was a large landscaped park centred on Russia Dock, so with further development the left over spoil from the Albion Channel was used to create Stave Hill (10 meters high) and the land soon became known Russia Dock Woodlands and Stave Hill Ecological Park.  By 1983 the Russia Dock Woodlands and Stave Hill Ecological Park were fully grown and in full bloom.

The woodlands started as a beautiful place. For over a decade, the LDDC maintained and enhanced the woodlands until they handed them to Southwark Council in 1997. Sadly, for years thereafter the Council spent virtually no money on them and failed to maintain them; as a consequence, the woodlands deteriorated badly.

The woodlands became a dumping ground for burnt out cars, motorbikes abandoned in ponds, a place for fly tipping, over-grown thickets, sometimes even fires; altogether a place that residents would rather walk round than through to get to their destination. Unmanned, uncared-for and neglected, the woodlands a decade ago were not the Russia Dock Woodland we know today. A steering group had been set up in about 1999 and in 2004 the Friends of Russia Dock Woodland (FRDW) was founded.

Stave HillMarking their tenth anniversary this year, FRDW and SHEP (Friends of Stave Hill Ecological Park) were bought together by chair Steve Cornish and John Wills and the site has been maintained on a daily basis by site manager Rebeka Clark. Rebeka and her team from The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) have been extremely active in the improvement and development of both the Woodlands and Stave Hill since the groups merged. Due to the hard work of the Council, Rebeka at SHEP and of course the general public and Woodlands users, FRDW has turned things around with spectacular results, culminating in winning the National Green Flag Award for four years running and silver in the Mayor of London’s Safer Parks Award for three years.

Rebeka, having been involved with SHEP for 26 years, works with volunteers from many City firms. These include such corporates as The Royal Bank of Scotland, Price Waterhouse Coopers and The Deutsche Bank; all offer their support as part of their corporate social responsibility and so each staff member can dedicate a day a year to volunteering work at SHEP. Each second Saturday, members of the community also undertake volunteer work; if you want to join in, do contact Rebeka for a chat.

Stave Hill Ecological Park, this little oasis in the middle of our peninsula, is a more specialised environment that takes more intensive management. It’s home to many ponds, a wide variety of wildlife and also to rare insects found only here in London. Stave Hill and Russia Dock Woodlands is a special place that TCV want managed as one piece of land.

AcrobatsNot only home to wildlife and nature, Russia Dock Woodland is also host to a wide variety of activities including Tai Chi, dog walking clubs, kids parties, Bootcamp, acrobats, free-runners, picnics, cycle tours, environmental education days-out for local schools and running clubs. SHEP and Russia Dock Woodlands have become a busy, eco-friendly hub in the growing community of SE16.

You can also get Tai Chi classes in Canada Water at John Brewer Tai Chi, in the famous Dock Offices, just next to Canada Water station

With continuing work by volunteers, the input of Southwark Council and the wonderful work by FRDW, we will continue to be able to enjoy this little sanctuary from the demands of life and find some peace with nature. For more information on how you can volunteer or to just keep up with news of FRDW follow them on twitter @FriendsRDW, like them on Facebook Russia Dock Woodland or contact Rebeka at R.clark@tcv.org.uk. You can also visit The Conservation Volunteers at Stave Hill Ecological Park.

Stave Hill Ecological Park and Russia Dock Woodland are accessible from a few different parts of Rotherhithe’s peninsula, the easier route to take is from next to Bacon’s College on Timber Pond Road.  Parking is available, it’s a close walk from Canada Water and Rotherhithe stations and walking up Dock Hill Avenue will allow you to see the fountain which is switched on daily between 10am and 12pm.


Grateful thanks to Steph (@sahPT) for this piece. If you want to get in touch with her, she has a Facebook page at Bootcamp SE16 or you can email her on stephanie@proimactfitness.co.uk. If you are interested in writing for the website, we are always keen to hear from potential authors. Please get in touch through @SE16Hour on Twitter or use shout@iliveinse16.com.