The Open Spaces of Hartley
Bancks's (Rectory) Meadow
As the name suggests this belonged to the old rectory which stood at the bottom of Hoselands Hill. Hartley Parish Council courageously fought an unsuccessful battle with a developer to have the land designated as a village green. However shortly after they were able to buy the land, and are currently working with North West Kent Countryside Project to turn it into traditional chalk grassland. The first fruits could be seen this spring in the large number of wild flowers growing there. Currently the southern end has a large number of ox eye daisys growing.
Billings Hill Shaw
This field off St John's Lane takes its name from a strip of woodland on its northern flank, although I can find no reference to the name earlier than 1909. Shaws are of great antiquity, being planted on estate boundaries - in this case between Hartley Court to the south, and Fairby/Middle Farm to the north. When Smallowners bought up Hartley, this land became part of Hartley Grange and was planted with orchard trees. Even in their decayed state today, the orchard trees still yield a good crop of plums and apples in late summer!
This small 1 acre open space was given to the parish council in 1975 by the developers of Chantry Avenue as part of the planning conditions. It boasts play equipment, mini football posts and a picnic table.
Downs Valley (fields by)
Unofficial open space, in the ownership of a building company.
Foxborough Wood and Green
This is probably the wood mentioned in the Domesday Book as being big enough for 10 pigs to forage in. In 1392 Hartley Court had two woods called "The Fryth" (from the Anglo-Saxon word for wood) and "The Hok", which appear to encompass Foxborough. Its current name is not mentioned before 1844, but appears to be of some antiquity, locally it is pronounced "Foxbury". The best time to see this wood is in spring for the magnificent blue carpet of bluebells. The trees are mostly hornbeam coppice but with oak and beech standards also. A survey by Friends of Hartley Countryside identified no fewer than 27 species of wild flower. It is in private ownership, but the management in conjunction with the Forestry Authority permits walking access from the public footpath. Opposite Hartley Court is Foxborough (Hartley Court) Green, a small piece of manorial waste (uncultivated) ground, ownership uncertain. In the 1930s Grange Lane was called Foxborough Lane, Grange Lane is a misnomer - an incorrect reading of a map.
Another of Hartley's old woods, this is first mentioned in the c17th, when it was called Hartley Gosse. Mostly lost to housing, the remainder is wedged between Gorsewood Road and the Recreation Ground. Mainly Hornbeam coppice.
Another piece of manorial waste ground, it was originally bigger until Yew Cottage was built on part in the early 1700s. The fine horse chestnut was planted in 1935 to celebrate George V's silver jubilee, before then there had been a walnut tree, which blew down because it was used for curing pork. This involved villagers pouring boiling water over the meat, which damaged the tree. The war memorial was moved here from the Ash Road/Church Road junction in 1970.
This is Hartley's largest wood and is believed to be in several ownerships, as a result of parcel sales in the 1940s. Part is owned by Southwark Council, the Woodland Trust tried to buy this some years ago but withdrew from negotiations. It appears to have started life as scrub land at the edge of the open field called "Northfield" (a field to the north of Manor Lane and east of Church Road). Use of the wood for fencing poles for temporary enclosures in the c15th is mentioned. It was here in 1554 that the rebel followers of Sir Thomas Wyatt made their final stand against Queen Mary's troops. Industrial use for charcoal making is likely in the c17th, as there was living then at nearby Goldsmith's Cottage, one Richard Stephens, a collier. Today many a pleasant walk may be made through its many paths, although there is only one official footpath. The trees are mainly hornbeam and beech coppice with oak standards, although there is hawthorn scrub in parts. There is a wide variety of wild flowers - wood anemone, celandine, yellow archangel, bluebells, herb robert, speedwell, self heal to name a few.
This grassed area is in the ownership of Sevenoaks Council. In recent years the Women's Institute has arranged a floral display.
The history of this field can be traced back to 1392 when this and the adjoining field were one field called Court Croft, belonging to Hartley Court. However after the purchase by Smallowners Ltd in 1913, this became part of Hartley Manor. The Parish Council had long wanted the land for a recreation field, and were able to complete the purchase from Mr Barry Richards in 1975. The covenants placed on the land state that the land is only to be used for sports and village fetes; motorbikes, model aeroplanes and the sale of alcohol were banned. Football and cricket pitches were laid out and the Pavilion was built in 1993. Currently the site is managed by the parish council sponsored Manor Field Trust, the facilities are fairly well used, but cost the village about £5,000 pa.
Manor Road, Longfield Hill
It must be said this is a dubious asset to the parish, since hardly anyone from Hartley visits here. It came to Hartley when the parish boundaries were redrawn in 1987 and consists of a cricket ground and children's play area.
New House Farm (Northfield)
A 65 acre field between the Black Lion and New Ash Green. Northfield is an entirely modern name coined by New Ash Green - after all it is Hartley's most southerly field! It was owned in the c16th by Fairby farm, but sold to New House Farm in 1622. One of the fields that made up the future Northfield was called Pitfield, no doubt due to the dene holes discovered on the site. In this century it was known as good agricultural land, with more demanding crops like strawberries and cabbages being grown there. There is a strip of ancient woodland shaw, which once divided the estates of New House Farm and Hartley Court. The field has for a long time been the subject of controversy, according to the evidence given by Hartley and Ash Parish Councils to the 1986 Planning Enquiry it was always understood that the land was to be used for agriculture. However Bovis saw things differently and made several applications for housing. Their hopes in that direction effectively ended with the 1986 Enquiry and now the land is protected from housing in the District Plan. In 1996 the Court of Appeal awarded the land to the New Ash Green Village Association in what the lawyers call "performance of contract" because it deemed Bovis had not honoured the 1967 Village Agreement; but the Court made no conditions as to how the land should be used.
Woodlands Avenue Recreation Ground
The land for this was purchased by the parish council in 1960. The playground and football pitch has changed little over the years. Recently a playwall was added at a cost of £14,000.
The first allotments were those adjoining The Recreation Ground in 1969, when the rent was 2s 6d pa. This land is now derelict pending planning permission to build houses as set out in the District Plan. The present allotments in Woodlands Avenue were created in 1971. There are other allotments by the Black Lion owned by the New Ash Green Village Association for their members.