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edge of the sand hills which rise up abruptly from the bed of the Thames. Each gives some more or less striking view, and there is a pleasant sense of breeziness and elevation As we wander over the smooth well-used turf of Blackheath, thinking perhaps of the time when Monk's forces were paraded there to hail their returning king, we come suddenly upon a steep descent, rendered almost precipitous by the removal of the gravel which forms the face of the slope ; and across the Lewisham and Sydenham hills we see the Crystal Palace (which we almost reached just now by way of Streatham Common) standing
to realise how charming is the site which London occupies. It is well that some few open spots remain from which one can look over the tops of houses and escape from the straight vistas of roads and streets. Views, too, are generally popular, and this corner is no doubt a favourite one, though many come to the Heath solely to play at some game, for Blackheath vies with Clapham Common as a playground. Its surface is absolutely guiltless of furze or bush, and, except where gravel has been dug, is unusually level. Cricket and football may be played almost anywhere, while the hollows from
clear and gleaming against the sky. The west wind is blowing the smoke of London down the river, and a heavy, dun-coloured pall lies over the city and drifts towards the sun. Masses of clouds cut off in a straight line at their lower edge but cresting up into billows of dusky white and bronze tipped with pale gold, hang in mid sky, and the light is paled and sicklied around is, while the yellow haze gives size and impressiveness to the southern hills overlapping one another in bold curves. It is only when one gets some chance glimpse of this kind and is a ble to dissociate what one sees from names of familiar suburbs that it is possible
which gravel has been taken are invaluable for golf. The Blackheath Golf Club boasts an unbroken existence since the time of James I., and as the game is essentially Scotch, it goes without saying that it is the oldest Golf Club in England. One cannot help anticipating, however, that the game must before long be crowded out from such a place as Blackheath. On Wimbledon Common where it is of comparatively recent origin, complaints of the terror which it inspires have been rife, and when it is remembered that a man has before now been killed on the spot from the blow of a golfball, it is impossible to say that the fear is
altogether without foundation. Meantime the red coats of the players, besides acting as a danger-signal, give a welcome touch of colour to the surface of the common. For there is certainly a tendency to monotony both of colour and form about Blackheath. The eye sweeps over a large expanse of green sward, so spacious and unbroken that the white rows of houses which edge the heath on most sides have the appearance of seaside terraces. On the south, indeed, the thick green foliage of Greenwich Park gives some warmth to the picture, and the Ranger's Lodge, a fine old red-brick house within the park inclosure, lights up the Lewisham side of the Heath. At the entrance to the park the Metropolitan Board have adopted a formal arrangement of posts and rails and gravelled road which is in keeping with the stately avenue within the great gates, while a bright pond with a few light weeping trees and some scarlet geraniums safely ensconced on a little island give a pleasant touch of gaiety, suggesting a Parisian garden. In another part of the heath there is a Rotten Row for riders, and one feels that more can scarcely be done to render a great public playground attractive and useful to persons of all tastes. The heath must indeed present a very different appearance from that which it assumed in 1865, when a Committee of the House of Commons reported that it was being literally carted away. Blackheath is situate partly in the manor of Lewisham, of which Lord Dartmouth is lord, and partly in the great Crown manor of East Greenwich. The Commissioners of Woods and Forests managed the manor on behalf of the crown, and it is quite in harmony with their treatment of the New Forest, Epping Forest, and other royal wastes, that they should have allowed gravel to be dug to an unlimited extent for a paltry revenue of less than £60 a year. No doubt the Commissioners could defend this state of things on principles perfectly satisfactory to themselves, but Parliament, happily, was not convinced by their arguments. The conduct of the Department was censured by the Committee, and a few years later the Metropolitan Board obtained those powers of management which they have turned to such good account.
The great Dover Road traverses Blackheath, which has no doubt in its time been a terror to many a benighted traveller from the Continent. If the straight broad line of this road be followed for about three miles, we shall touch the top of the next Kentish Metropolitan open space, Woolwich Common. A prettier approach, however, is
obtained by diverging from the Dover Road to the left, and following the winding lane which skirts the fine old wall of Charlton House, a noble mansion built for Prince Henry, the eldest son of James I. As we enter the common from this road we see in front of us the heights of Woolwich and Plumstead. Trees and houses in a picturesque mingling of green and white seem to cling to the abrupt slopes, and almost to hang over the common. For the rest, the common is an unbroken slope of turf rising to the south, but not affording any such southward view as we have described at Blackheath. There are no bushes, trees, or furze, and the turf, though not badly poached, shows signs of wheel-tracks and horses' hoofs. Woolwich Common in fact is a drill-ground. It belongs to the War Office, and not to the London public. Nevertheless it is a considerable open space, and cannot be omitted in any list of London commons. The wind blows fresh across it, and its existence must tend to neutralise the volumes of smoke poured out of the chimneys of the neighbouring dockyard.
It is but a short walk from Woolwich to Plumstead Common. We descend a steep hill, and mount one still steeper, so steep indeed that the gardens of the cottages built in the hollow seem to consist of nothing but blackish sand and stones with a few struggling trees. On the summit of this sandy hill is Plumstead Common, not, it must be confessed, a very inviting open space at first sight. The Woolwich end of the common consists of a series of small plots of poor grass, surrounded with posts and rails and cut up with roads. A sudden dip in the surface suggests that there may once have been a picturesque hollow, but nothing more inviting is now to be found than one or two red-tiled cottages with that patched-up hap-hazard appearance about them which tells its own tale. These cottages and gardens have undoubtedly been cribbed from the common; they were once the abodes of squatters who subsequently either acquired a title by lapse of time or obtained a grant from the manor court on easy terms. Further on we come to a tile-yard on one side of the common flanked by a square house of forbidding aspect. Ugly as it is, lovers of open spaces should look upon this house with some reverence, for it was the abode of one of the three champions who delivered Plumstead common from inclosure, Mr. Joseph Dawson. This part of the common is dominated to the south by the wooded heights of Shooter's Hill the best feature in the landscape, for as yet the views river-wards are indistinct, and the common itself is little more than a play-ground. Pre sently the place is redeemed from dulness by a sudden ravine which cuts across it. The Slade-a name to be found locally in many places as indicating narrow valleys through which water runs-has every appearance of having been scoured by floods. The sides are very steep and are formed of loose gravel and sand with a very slender covering of turf, and at the bottom are numerous waterrunnels. On the further side we catch the best view we have yet had of the low-lying marsh land to the north and the river in the distance. On a fine day the water glistens and the sails glide along white in the sunshine, but too often London smoke throws a dubious haze over the scene. This further part of the common would, however, but for one circumstance, be open and pleasant enough. The edge towards the river breaks away here and there, making miniature slades and projecting knolls, while eastwards and southwards beyond the few rather mean-looking houses scattered about the common are woods and fields, London seeming to have been suddenly left behind. But the surface of the common disturbs our enjoyment. Instead of turf, furze, and fern, nothing is to be seen but sandy gravel cut up everywhere with wheel tracks, and here and there ploughed and churned into mud and pools of water. The reason is not far to seek. The military authorities at Woolwich do not like to destroy the smooth expanse of grass which stretches before their eyes and which is their own property. So, on wet days, they send their heavy guns to maneuvre on Plumstead Common, which has been bought, not by them, but by the Metropolitan Board on behalf of the London public. A more wanton attack upon the rights of the metropolis can hardly be conceived, and one cannot but think poorly of the Metropolitan Board for submit ting to such treatment. Plumstead Common has indeed had a hard time of it, and though by the exertions of a few public-spirited men it has been rescued from inclosure, its beauty has suffered grievously. Thirty years ago it afforded good pasturage for cattle, and was plentifully sprinkled with furze and fern. The Manor of Plumstead, which prior to the Reformation belonged to the Monastery of St. Augustine at Canterbury, was in an ill-starred moment, devised by one John Michel, in the year 1735, to the Provost and Scholars of Queen's College, Oxford. The College allowed things to take their course for more than a century, but about
five-and-twenty years ago they appear to have been seized with a desire to turn their property to account, for the benefit, presumably, of sound learning, but to the injury, most certainly, of their neighbours at Plumstead and of the inhabitants of the metropolis. Their zeal was great, but was not according to knowledge. They contested the rights of those who had enjoyed the pasturage and scrub of the common uninterruptedly for years. They sanctioned inclosure and the digging of gravel, and rapidly destroyed much of the value of Plumstead Common both as a grazing ground and as an outlet for Woolwich. Their purpose was avowedly to reduce the common to the condition of private property, and had it not been for the newly-awakened appreciation of the value of open spaces on the part of the London public, and for the intrepidity and resolution of two or three commoners, they would no doubt have achieved their end. Fortunately the Commons Preservation Society had come into existence, and fortunately also the late Mr. Frederick Goldsmid was a commoner of the manor. Acting under the advice of the society Mr. Goldsmid, with Mr. Warrick and Mr. Dawson, threw down some of the fences erected by the College, and showed an unmistakable determination to submit the claims of that learned body to the arbitrament of the law. After some preliminary skirmishing the commoners commenced a suit to establish their rights against the College, Sir Julian Goldsmid taking the place of his father, who had died ; and in the year 1870, a Decree was obtained from the Court of Chancery vindicating the commoners' view of the case, and restraining the lords of the manor from inclosing or devastating the common. Unfortunately the commoners did not immediately follow up their advantage by obtaining statutory powers of management. Some delay ensued, and finally the Metropolitan Board undertook the guardianship of the common. Meantime the War Office continued to exercise their heavy guns over the turf. The College, angry at its defeat, supported them in this aggression; the Metropolitan Board would not fight, and the commoners were not inclined for a second essay in litigation. A compact was finally come to, under which the military authorities were restricted to the end of the common furthest removed from Woolwich, and the consequence is that by far the finest part of the open space is now reduced to a sandy desert. It is to be hoped that London will some day be represented by a central authority which will not allow itself to be thus bearded in its own territory. What the common was once may be seen from the delightful piece of broken ground which forms the eastern slope of the little table-land. The sandy plateau sinks abruptly into a broad valley through which runs the road to Wickham and Welling. The common extends no farther than the top of the hill, but the side of the valley beneath is over-grown with furze and fern and heath, and studded with young oak-scrub and thorns and brambles. This piece of ground cannot be worth much, as the pitch is too steep for either cultivation or building, and the Metropolitan Board should
gorges which penetrate its sides are covered with wild verdure. Young birch wave their delicate leaves and reflect the light from their silvery stems. Purple heather mingles with bright green or yellowing bracken and dark furze, young oaks give richness of foliage, and sandy scaurs add a touch of orange. On the west the common is flanked by the Scotch firs of a plantation of Sir Julian Goldsmid's, while one or two modern villas of bright red brick with gabled roofs do no harm to the scene. The heath is small, only fiftyfive acres, but it would be difficult to find a more delightful example of the wild, wooded
lose no time in securing it by way of addition to the common.
A mile or so beyond Plumstead Common lies another piece of waste in the same manor. Bostal Heath was wholly inclosed by Queen's College, but the fence was removed in obedience to the order of the Court of Chancery. Fortunately it is too far from Woolwich and too hilly, and perhaps too small, to offer any temptation to drill-sergeants. It has therefore been left in its natural condition, and a most charming little common it is. Situated, like Plumstead, on the top of the sand hills, its knolls are higher, and most delightful views of the marshes and river may be had from then. On the other hand the little
common. The Kentish group is redeemed by Bostal Heath from the charge of bareness and monotony, and may boast that it contributes to the circle of London commons one of the prettiest little bits to be found anywhere.
But it is time we crossed the water. The north side of London, as we have said, is badly off for commons. Epping Forest is outside our present limit and moreover belongs distinctly to the east, the valley of the Lea severing it from north London. There are left only the Hackney Commons, Wormwood Scrubs, and Hampstead Heath. Wormwood Scrubs has suffered a fate not wholly unlike that of Plumstead Common. Once a