Pratts Bottom - Birthday Woods (Kent)
|Thanks to Tony for the photographs and information about a Giant Redwood in Birthday Woods in Chelsfield. The map and co-ordinates are also very welcome for pinpointing the exact location. Tony Lavelle is a local resident and supplied this information to Geoffrey Copus, (Matthew's father), in December 2006.
In "Millenial Halstead" on page 146 in the historical gazetteer appears - "Birthday Wood, Chelsfield, London Borough of Bromley. The birthday was that of John Burnaby Atkins (15 September 1873) commemorated by the planting of a Wellingtonia (Sequioadendron giganteum)."
The photos give a good idea of the size and appearance of the 1874 Atkins redwood. On the 1805 OS map the wood is much less extensive and the tree would have been on the south eastern edge where it could be expected to be seen, when grown, from Halstead Place.
The Halstead Place sale particulars map for "the remaining portions of the Halstead Place Estate...for sale by auction 21 November 1921" shows well how the tree was probably visible from the house. Birthday Wood and much else had been included in Lot 1 with the house and park in the 1919 sale, when it's said that half of England changed hands and property like this went for absurdly low prices.
The approximate position of the tree is marked with a red circle on the map. Looking at the older maps, this would have been on the edge of the wood in 1805 but by 1874 the wood is shown at its current extent.
The location obtained by GPS (in DD MM.MM using WGS84 datum) is 51N20.03 0E07.02. The Ordnance Survey grid ref (OSGB datum) is TQ 47780 61560.
The land is privately owned by Jim Davis of Hillside Farm and the tree is not near a right of way but Jim says that he has a "policy of tolerance" towards walkers and riders. In other words anyone can walk about in the wood and he doesn't mind, so long as they act responsibly.
There is convenient parking outside the Pratts Bottom Primary School in Hookwood Road and one can easily enter the wood on foot opposite, but with care to avoid the speeding cars on Rushmore Hill. To find the tree, walk up to the crest of the ridge and turn south along the path for about 300 metres. After passing what looks like a bomb crater, follow the path south-eastwards for another hundred metres and the tree comes into view just to the left of the path.