The highest point of Hampstead Heath – what used several centuries ago to be open heathland but is now heavily wooded – runs along a ridge running from east to West with Hampstead on the west side and Highgate on the east. In the middle is Kenwood House and grounds, and The Elms, the home at various times of Lord Chancellor Erskine, Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth’s heiress and the president of the United Arab Emirates. It is now ultra posh flats. On ‘my’ side, the Highgate side, is Kenwood Nursery and Athlone House; on the Hampstead side is Springett’s Wood. (I am afraid it is a bit hard to see on this map you’ll get the general drift.)
Because Kenwood is closed by COVID and the Elms is closed because it is private, it is a bit of schlep for me to visit Springett’s Wood so, until last week I hadn’t. But on one of the ultra sunny days I set off. And how lovely – and how different to the woods over on my side. Much more open – no ivy or undergrowth in sight – and splendidly empty of (almost) everyone except for birds.
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I also found some seriously eye catching trees, both dead and alive. This decapitated trunk rearing up out of the green ‘jungle’ with its great branch arm pointing to the city below.
This one which looks as though it has had a serious dose of the measles….
Or this great grandfather whose huge bulbous trunk has grown so many lumps and lozenges over the year that it looks as though it now accommodates a whole population of pudgy elves.
When I discovered that this wood was called Springett’s Wood, I wondered why. So I reached for Helen Lawrence’s wonderful ‘How Hampstead Heath was Saved’, now my first port of call if I want to know anything about the heath! And sure enough, there was an entry in the index taking me to an image of a deputation to Downing Street in 1984: part of one of the many hundreds of campaigns that have been fought over the centuries to preserve the heath. Among the group was one, Kate Springett – but that was it.
However, a little further investigation took me to a tweet from the City of London in March 2018
‘Kate Springett was a founding member of the Marylebone Bird Watching Society which has a weekly walk on the Heath every Tuesday. It is also thanks to her there is a Kingfisher nesting bank at the Bird Sanctuary Pond. Springetts Wood is named in her memory.’
Although it does not actually say so, I am deducing from the above, and from the fact that she already looked moderately middle aged in 1984, that Kate is probably longer with us. But what a lovely memorial. I am sure she would have been delighted.
My daily blog now has an Instagram account! WalksonHampsteadHeath – the idea being to widen the circle of people who might enjoy a daily ramble across the heath. Please follow us and pass on the news!!
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