I arrived at Erith waterfront with a bitterly cold wind ushering me towards the easternmost section of the Green Chain.

Yet again the sun was only shining on Erith itself. Two thin stripes of lights beating down on the town. Everything else was moody and grey. I stepped inland and the frigid air seemed to warm noticeably.

Nevertheless the rest of today’s walk definitely needed my jacket zipped all the way up.

Starting Point: The River Thames waterfront, just north of Erith railway station (follow Thames Path signage to the start of the Green Chain).

Finishing Point: The north side of Charlton Park, with bus stops on Little Heath taking you to Woolwich or Lewisham.

Length: 7.5 miles (12km)

Green Chain sign at Erith waterfrontGreen Chain section 2 carries you across road and rail lines and into Frank’s Park. Whoever Frank is he has a nice park.

Excellent blazes are a feature of the day’s entire walk and they are completely clear from the outset despite several potential ambiguities. Though at times I was thankful to have excellent vision because some of the signs are relatively distant and hard to discern from crossroads.

The muddy shore of the Thames at Erith

Looking towards the Thames from Frank's Park along the Green ChainI strode through the tall trees and took in the sounds bouncing over Erith. Tannoys echoed loudly but indistinctly from a factory almost a mile away beside the Thames.

It feels like you are actually in the Midlands with a shift changeover happening in an industrial revolution-era workshop. Part of my childhood was spent in the Nottingham/Derby borderlands and it brought me back to the mid-eighties and the huge but sadly long-demolished Aristoc hosiery factory across the road. As soon as the warped voice died out a strange mid-pitched hum filled the hillside, as if a giant maid was hoovering all of Erith…

Clean up your dog mess stencil at Belvedere, Green ChainAs you leave Frank’s Park you walk along the quiet hillside streets overlooking Belvedere. My wife’s friends call this area ‘The End of the World’ but it’s pleasant enough. Apart from the serious dog shit problem. It’s so bad that the residents have resorted to spray-painting stencils onto the pavement asking people to pick it up. I’ve not seen that since I walked the LOOP through Footscray a few miles south of here.

Lesnes Abbey Woods comes next, and is weirdly lacking any of the muck of the residential streets so far. I was almost pounded into the mud by a couple of rampant joggers but after leaping safely out of their way I was free to climb through the woods to the signposted tumulus. The steep downwards curve from here is lovely and quiet. It lulls you into the expectation of a never-ending but completely acceptable banality found in trunks and foliage. Out of the blue you get a wonderful surprise.

A Green Man sculpture in Lesnes Abbey Woods, Green Chain

How’s that for a treat?! This is the third Green Man sculpture area I’ve found so far in south London woodland. Every time I’ve been delighted to be surprised by them and I have a feeling I have more still to come…

After using Facebook and Twitter to tell everyone I knew that I’d found something beautiful I peeled myself away and followed the path round a bend overlooking the ruins of Lesnes Abbey. I soon found myself back on previously-trodden parts of the Green Chain just south of Thamesmead, which meant that I was free to enjoy my surroundings more than I sometimes might because I didn’t have to keep an eye out for blazes.

By the time I reached Bostall Woods football pitch and cricket nets I was feeling peckish so I was pleased to find a picnic table I hadn’t noticed last time I was here. The cold got to me pretty quickly but I still gobbled down ever last morsel of my lunch and laughed in the face of the murder of crows assembling around me.

Back on the path commencing Green Chain section 4 the sun lit the sparse woodland floor, and this odd deadwood circle.

A wooden circle in Bostall Woods, Green Chain

London County Council boundary marker beside the Green Chain east of Winn's CommonThe sun started to come out strongly for the first time and I crossed Wickham Lane in high spirits. The thin band of woodland beyond had a small London County Council Boundary marker beside the path, but not obvious from the path, so keep an eye out to the left.

Bleak Hill, and therefore Winn’s Common, was bathed in light and cold in the wind, but an unexpected surprise. I don’t know what I expected, but I supposed it to be a bit rougher and sadder. A bit more neglected perhaps. Again I am more than happy to be proved wrong by one of my walks around London!

Slade Ponds on the Green ChainThe Slade Ponds mark the eastern tip of Plumstead Common, in a deep and steep cleft. Beside the fence there’s a sign pointing out the names for everything you are looking at – very useful if you are a rusty naturalist or want to take a break to show the kids what they are really seeing.

Plumstead Common felt weirdly like the verges of Clapham Common.  The Common itself is pretty dull and featureless but there are plenty of buildings of interest. The houses on the south side looking more pricey and pretty than I imagined they would, but the Old Mill pub retaining many of the mill structures. There’s a pretty building with a clock tower on the roof as well but it just houses an Indian restaurant and a carpet shop now.

You pass the start of the Green Chain route up Shooters Hill and will probably notice the hedges beside the tennis courts are full of small birds nests.

Heading ever westwards you find a stark divide in the area’s wealth. The real Plumstead. Tired tower blocks appear, and the roadside houses frequently possess smashed windows facing into the street. The traffic roars along to and from the A205 junction. Crossing onto the magnificently named Ha Ha Road you enter a depressing roadside walk. But you do get glimpses of the old Royal Military Academy to the north, and the towers of the Garrison Church to the south (at least I think that’s what it is), with Shooters Hill and its distinctive water tower forming the backdrop.

Only a cemetery and the grave of somebody called ‘Champ’ lies between you and Charlton Park. I decided I didn’t and don’t want to find out who ‘Champ’ was because, with respect,  sometimes imagination is better than reality. I want him to be a proper south-east London middleweight scrapper, with decades of frantic fights under his amateur belt. All experienced in the scuzzy back rooms of long-defunct working class boozers. Someone the notorious Richardson family might have approached and asked to throw a match, but refused to. Perhaps his real name would have been Don. Perhaps he would have spent the last years of his life sitting in a South London pub accepting all-comers to pay tribute to his faded youth. To strangers a sad character but to those in the know someone deserving respect and the time taken to pop in just to say ‘Y’alright?’.

As I merged real characters from my life with the imagined ‘Champ’ I crossed Charlton Park, briefly scraping along the Capital Ring, and tried to catch views down towards Charlton House. It was still absolutely freezing when I reached the bus stop ending my walk.

This is definitely one of the better Green Chain walks. For me it was full of new discoveries and rethought prejudices. As one of the better signposted walks in this area I have already repeatedly recommended it to some casual strollers, and I do that again to you now. Give it a go.