Spotlight on: Beckenham & Bexley
- Credit: Archant
Close to London but with plenty of green space, walks and sports facilities, this is an area of Kent well worth exploring - here are 10 good reasons why you should
1 Kelsey Park
Opened in 1913 and once part of a grand estate, Kelsey Park in Beckenham (BR3 3LS) is an absolute gem - a peaceful oasis not far from the centre of London. A beautifully landscaped park with a lake and plenty of wildlife to spot, it’s very popular with families. Parking is free, there’s a fun play park for the children and a lovely café too.
2 Sports facilities
If you’re an active person, the sports facilities in Beckenham and Bexley are second to none. With 18 tennis courts, try out Beckenham Tennis Club (0208 6500266, BR3 5AS) which was established in 1879 and has a rich tennis history. Or if cricket is your passion visit Bexley Cricket Club (01322 524159 DA5 3QG). One of the biggest yoga centres in the south east is at Beckenham’s Breeze Yoga (0208 6581990, BR3 5HZ) and several riding centres in the areas include large Mount Mascal Stables in Bexley (020 8300 3947, DA5 2AW).
3 30 minutes from London
For somewhere with so many parks and green spaces, it’s easy to forget just how close Beckenham and Bexley are to the centre of London. They’re both under 15 miles from the big smoke, or around 30 minutes by train, and both blur the line between living in rural Kent and living in busy London. The commute to and from London is easy, the shopping is brilliant and there are so many top places to eat in both areas it’ll make your head spin - and yet these towns are a polite distance away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
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4 Lewisham Country Park
Better known to locals still as Beckenham Place Park, Lewisham Country Park (BR3 5BT) is huge and has a vast woodland area to explore. As part of London’s ‘Green Chain’ - a number of linked parks which form a 15-mile route from Beckenham to Thamesmead - it’s often referred to as the ‘lungs of London’. As well as plenty of green space to relax in, there are tennis courts, a children’s play area and an 18-hole public golf course with putting green.
5 Gambado Play Centre
One of the biggest indoor play centres in Kent, the Gambado Centre in Beckenham (0208 6626910, BR3 1NZ) is perfect rainy day fun for families with young children. With a vast soft play area, ball pools, a separate area for toddlers and a vintage carousel and dodgems ride, parents can let their little ones wear themselves out to their heart’s desire. And with a café and free WiFi, it doesn’t have to be too much of a strain for parents either.
6 St George’s Church
The principal church in the parish and located in the centre of Beckenham, St George’s (020 8663 6996, BR3 1AX) is an unmissable landmark in the town and very popular for weddings. With parts dating back to the 12th century, it’s been extensively rebuilt over the years and is mostly a Victorian building these days. However, it still boasts what is thought to be the oldest lychgate in England and the church is known for hosting musical events and has an annual arts festival in June.
7 Danson House
Danson House in Bexleyheath (020 8303 6699, DA6 8HL), a stunning Palladian villa built in 1766, overlooks the award-winning Danson Park. Having fallen into ruin in the 20th century it was identified by English Heritage as the most significant building at risk in the London area. This kicked off what became a busy decade of restoration. Reopened in 2005 it has been returned to its former glory and it is now a popular wedding venue and has period room displays open to the public, a tea room and shop.
8 Hall Place and Gardens
If you want to step even further back in time, then a visit to the Tudor mansion at Hall Place in Bexley is a must for you (01322 526574, DA5 1PQ). Built for a former Lord Mayor of London in 1537, using stone recycled from an old monastery, it’s had an interesting past and was even used by the US Army’s Signal Corps as an intercept station during the Second World War. Today, much of it has been restored to its original look and it’s not hard to imagine medieval banquets when you explore the Great Hall and the Tudor kitchens. Outside you can enjoy exploring 65 hectares of landscaped grounds, including a topiary display and tropical garden.
9 The Cray Riverway Walk
The Cray Riverway is a signposted walk along the River Cray. Starting at Foots Cray Meadows (DA14 5BP) it follows the river through North Cray to Hall Place at Bexley and on to Crayford Marshes and the Thames. The entire walk is approximately 10 miles but it’s possible to break it down into smaller sections. The walk also offers some great views of historic buildings and an insight into how industry changed this area. Visit www.bexley.gov.uk for details.
10 Shopping hub
Bexleyheath’s Broadway Shopping Centre (020 8301 2956, DA6 7JN) has 60 stores and a huge multi-storey car park all under one roof. With everything from an M&S to TK Maxx, there really is something for everyone together with plenty of places to stop for a drink and a bite to to eat. Built in the 1980s, it was revamped in 2007 and has a fresh new look. n