As a child growing up in Abbey Wood the Ridgeway was a place rarely used and if so with a tad of trepidation.
Every now and again we’d scamper there and towards the Thames path into the overgrown foliage and head towards the main appeal of the area – World War II pillboxes that dot the landscape.
A visit was often with some hesitation, as it was a hang out for some who would have a swing if you so much as looked at them. A narrow dirt path was about your lot. Many areas dingy, secluded and grim. Let’s say it didn’t meet the criteria for modal change in modern parlance.
By the time I became a teenager it was a place me and my friends would down beers away from prying eyes – and in the process probably putting off others from using it.
Fast forward and the path that runs atop the southern outfall sewer from near Plumstead station to the sewage works beside the Thames has seen a few quid splashed on it to encourage usage.
So with a new (second hand) bike I thought I’d have a cycle along it to see not only what it offers, but how land alongside is shaping up – as the nearby area has seen many changes.
The Ridgeway starts at the western end near an area of 1970s reconstruction of the road network. I’d not call it overly appealing. Pedestrians and cyclist stroll under three lanes of traffic on a gyratory above.
As I covered many times last year, this is supposed to the main route from over 2,000 recently-approved homes to the nearest railway station in Plumstead.
There is a narrow path alongside all that traffic above, but with expected footfall it’s not really ideal.
Greenwich planners thought it wasn’t worth spending a penny on improving the area below or doing much about the path on top of the bridge using income from those two developments – and so into the bin went suggestions drawn in the Plumstead Area Framework by external consultants in 2015 that sought to improve pedestrian connections.
Over the past seven years the main change is modest sums spent on murals but it needs more than that. The Framework suggested reducing vehicle dominance on the east side and creating “good walking and cycling routes”.
Nothing really happened.
The area is generally ok on a sunny mid-summer’s day though not a place many would happily use mind on a dark December evening.
It took a few seconds to work out the way towards the Ridgway from down there.
From memory this used to be a dirt track which was often overgrown. It’s now gravel and been widened.
From up here we can see work underway on 1,750 homes at West Thamesmead Gateway.
A number of piling rigs are dotted across the site which glamorously sits beside a gyratory and prison.
As stated, it’s one of two developments bringing millions to Greenwich while they opted not to substantially improve pedestrians links to the nearest station and major bus routes running past.
The other is 333 homes just to the north at the former Gallions View nursing home, approved late in 2021.
TfL specifically mentioned poor paths to the station which Greenwich Planners completely ignored while stating a limited amount of Section 106 income would be spent on links in the opposite direction rather than many bus routes and a major station far closer.
Looking across to the other side of the Ridgeway from here shows a former Crossrail depot and worksite. It’s long been in the possession of Network Rail and sits beside sidings for Southeastern.
Now its use as a Crossrail worksite is over it appears to be a storage depot for gravel and rails for the wider Network Rail network.
Sidings formerly covered the entire area, with one line heading off to the Royal Arsenal’s extensive railway network. Click here to view a map and an extensive history of the network.
Walk or cycle east and there’s a link to White Hart Road.
Plans for a market on the listed Plumstead power station near this point have been switched to a new homes for Mo-Sys.
The upgrade program for LED streetlights hasn’t yet got this far. The Ridgeway itself isn’t lit.
Greenwich councillors recently enquired why street upgrades have been focused at White Hart Road some way away from Plumstead High Street which has so far seen nothing in the way of public realm changes. There was no clear answer.
This is one idea for under the rail bridge on White Hart Road:
Heading east towards Thamesmead and we see empty land designated for industrial use.
Land here could see some warehouses near Woolwich Crossrail station – used to store cars for example – relocate and permit many homes to be built.
Back to the Ridgeway and I dived off once reaching an exit alongside Sewell Road on Abbey Wood estate.
If I’d carried on the Crossway sewage works would have been reached beside the Thames, with a former golf course the other side.
That golf course is long disused and Peabody revealed plans for housing on part and conversion into a park back in 2020.
If homes are built, the Ridgeway would provide a direct route to Plumstead station and if on bike, perhaps one day a direct and safe cycle link to central London.
That would require improvements at the western end of the Ridgeway and then linking the area in central Woolwich to connect segregated lanes Plumstead to east Woolwich and a lane from Woolwich ferry to Tower Bridge.