Birchmere Park was created as part of the GLC's 'new town' of Thamesmead built over the former Erith marshes. The Masterplan dates from 1967, the only New Town development in Greater London, but was much altered in execution. Designed to accommodate 60,000 people, Thamesmead was to have its own amenities, industry and centre with substantial areas of parkland, lakes, and canals to provide a varied landscape. The first phase was built in 1967-72 but due to financial and other priorities in the 1970s and 1980s, it has not been completed although development continues. Birchmere Park's lake was part of the network of water bodies and canals formed when the marshes were drained.
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Birchmere Park has walks around a substantial lake of 5.08ha, part of the network of water bodies and canals formed as part of the massive programme of drainage to prepare Erith marshes for the building of Thamesmead over some 1,300 acres of land. It was planned as a 'new town' by the GLC in 1965/6 to accommodate 60,000 people with public and private housing and its own amenities, industry and centre. The first phase was built in 1967-72 at the south end with housing around a large lake, described by Pevsner as bearing 'little resemblance to the ideal community visualised by its begetters'. The master plan had substantial areas of parkland including 5 lakes, the largest of which is Southmere within Southmere Park (q.v.) in LB Bexley, and canals to provide a varied landscape. Traffic-free zones and a network of pedestrian footpaths and cycleways were planned, with green corridors around the waterways. The estate has not been completed as originally planned due to financial and other priorities in the 1970s and 1980s, although development continues. Birchmere Park is well-planted with shrubs and flower beds; a landscaped canal runs north from the lake under Bentham Road; other facilities in the park include playing fields.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993)