What to see along the trail
The trail leads around an area important to mankind for about 5000 years, passing rare bog and wet meadow habitats, heathland, acid grassland and ancient coppiced woodland; all linked to the history of human settlement close to the River Ravensbourne.  In part it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the special plants and animals which live here.  Some of these are indicated as you follow the trail, others may be difficult to spot and are shown in some of the pictures on the ‘Habitats’ page.

Looking back to the past
Excavations close by have found pottery dating back to 2700 BC and evidence of people making flint tools here at least 4000 years ago.  1000-700 BC Bronze Age people were grinding corn and weaving sheeps' wool on Hayes Common, while about 700 BC an Iron Age settlement was built just south-west of Keston Common (at Warbank).  Abandoned about 200 BC, when a hill fort was built to the east (at Holwood), Warbank was later used by Romans who occupied a villa farm here until the 4th century.  Anglo-Saxons used the old villa site from 450-550 AD.

People changed the landscape, removing woodland, grazing animals and growing crops.  Without trees, nutrients in the free-draining soils derived from the underlying sands and gravels of the Blackheath beds drained away, leaving poor soil dominated by heathland vegetation on the higher ground.  Gorse and heather were harvested from the heath and where trees remained, wood was cut for many uses, including charcoal making.  When population pressure increased the value of crops and livestock, fields were cut out of the woodlands forming wet meadows along the River Ravensbourne.

In the early 20th century wood became a valuable crop again and pines were planted on parts of Keston Common, while in other areas birch/oak woodland has been developing since grazing stopped in the 1930s.  During World War II anti aircraft guns were stationed on Hayes Common and since these were removed, the landscape has reverted to heathland and grassland once again.

How to get around

The trail is about 2.5 miles long and shown by numbered or marked posts.  It may be muddy at times, with steps and some gradients of more than 10% (1:10).  It can be shortened using public footpaths or other marked tracks (see map below).  Please take care crossing roads, follow the Countryside Code, keep to footpaths and remove your dog waste.  Horse riding and cycling allowed on bridleways only. Bromley's Parks and Open Spaces/Commons By-laws apply.

Click here to download a printable copy of the trail.