What lies beneath? Authorities look into Great Hole of Charlton

Woodland Terrace sinkhole
The scene as captured by local police early this morning

As you’ve probably gathered from elsewhere, a sinkhole appeared in Woodland Terrace overnight, almost swallowing a car whole.

The hole appeared following a second night of heavy rain. Authorities are investigating, while the 380 bus is diverted away from the area.


It’s not known how the hole appeared, but it follows an incident last week where a sinkhole appeared near housing in Plumstead. If you’ve got a long memory, you’ll also remember the huge hole in Blackheath Hill, west Greenwich, that opened up at Easter 2002, caused by old chalk mining.

Charlton has its own share of underground mysteries – a few years back, it was claimed a cave posed a threat to the rail tunnels underneath Maryon Park, close to where this morning’s incident took place.

For now, though, it’s simply a relief that nobody was injured. If you’re near the scene and can tell us more about what’s happening, please let us know.

PS. Somebody passing by in a minicab reported the hole to the council via fault-reporting service FixMyStreet at 3.09am: “Road has collapsed. Car is on edge and ready to drop inside. It is not safe. My uber taxi could not see the collapsed road in dark. Avoided falling inside but he has two flat tyres now.” A moment when 999 might have been a better choice…

9.55am update: Thanks to Emma for this Facebook update: “I’ve just been past, the water and gas guys are there (plus TV cameras, police etc). They were talking about moving the car today but the vehicle needed to do it is 7.5 tons and they’re (understandably) concerned. It looks hollow underneath. Road closed to traffic between Heathwood Gardens and Maryon Road but pedestrian access is now open.”

6.55pm update: The car is now out of the hole, but the road will be closed for some time to come.


7 thoughts on “What lies beneath? Authorities look into Great Hole of Charlton

  1. maryorelse May 12, 2016 / 09:31

    Thanks Darryl – but something needs to be done. (not least because their have been constant collapses in Humber Road, near my house). As you said the Blackheath Hill collapse was partly due to old chalk workings up to the Roman Road over centuries – but the final cause was never established due to the amount of damage. The hole there was beyond scary and had to be reached by robots. The recent Plumstead hole is in an area of old chalk workings – as you know – and much of Plumstead is undermined like this. The last building associated with Plumstead mines was demolished only a couple of years ago down on the Abbey Wood camp site.
    For some time I have been raising the issue of water coming down the hillside from Blackheath. Streams, which used to come down the hill, have been blocked by buildings – you won’t remember the stream which was on the site of what is now Webb Road. Many of the building sites along Trafalgar Road have (I hear about this second hand as no one tells you) have had floods from hitherto unsuspected streams. All of that water has to go somewhere. My road – and I don’t know about the others – is on the spring line where the geological strata changes and water is trapped or percolates in a different way. I’m not a geologist but I guess someone who was could explain it better. There seems to be no proper mapping of all this water and where it is going to – Thames Water ought to know, but I more than suspect they don’t. A professional hydrologist could work it all out and warn where trouble is likely to occur. Planners need this information and developers should pay to have the water properly managed.

  2. MiceElf May 12, 2016 / 11:02

    Good points, Mary. We’ve also had a recurrent problem on Hill Reach where a huge hole opened up a few years ago for the second or third time.

    Woodland Terrace is a stone’s throw from Gilbert’s Pit where again there were huge chalk quarryings. A neighbour said St Thomas’ have had big problems with an old sewer so it’s likely that that was a warning.

  3. Squirrellman May 12, 2016 / 13:00

    There must be a fair few of these spaces in Charlton. I have a huge void under my garden path. Last time I checked the 5 foot cane I used didn’t touch the bottom and I could wave it around inside it

  4. Chris May 13, 2016 / 15:23

    There’s some frightening stuff here. Of course, nothing will be done until people are killed, and maybe not much even then.

  5. Larry Poulton May 17, 2016 / 19:22

    After much head scratching by various departments, it seems it has been decided to fill in the hole with rubble. Presumably that will have cement over it and then tarmac the road. Modern science strikes again!

    I hope they allow water to make it way thru so as not cause another bottleneck for erosion but I can’t help but feel that the problem will reappear somewhere else as soon as there is another heavy rainfall. It looked as if part of the hole had previously been filled in in this manner.

  6. heathwood10 May 24, 2016 / 12:19

    Yesterday evening I attended the Public Meeting at St. Thomas’s Church, chaired by the Rev’d Erica Woof, Rector of Charlton, to discuss the “Charlton Hole” in Woodland Terrace. There was a very good turn-out, of around 50 people. Reports were made by Tim Jackson, Assistant Director of Transport for Greenwich, and Carl Leadbeater, Regional Network Manager South Region at Thames Water, who both answered questions from concerned residents.
    Both Greenwich Council and Thames Water have been very proactive in responding to this unforeseen problem and are monitoring developments closely, as well as co-operating fully to resolve matters as soon as possible. They do not believe that there is any danger to surrounding properties and are working fully to restore the road to good working order, which may still take several weeks to achieve. The principal responsibility for current works belongs to Thames Water, to whom any concerns should be addressed.
    Basically they contend that the hole is the result of a collapsed middle-sized Victorian sewer, although they haven’t actually dug all the way down yet. Mr. Leadbeater had only recently been made aware that there was a smaller hole in the same place, some eight years ago, and knew nothing about earlier collapses (about 15 years ago) at the junction of Little Heath and Hillreach or subsidence in Park Drive. Surprisingly, the large pipe which earlier photographs show, and which appears to have stopped the car descending further into the hole, is not the sewer or a gas pipe and its purpose is not yet determined.
    I mentioned the fact that Nos 30-44 Woodland Terrace, directly north of the hole, do not appear in the 1869 Ordnance Survey map, as uniquely, that northern section of the road was not yet developed. Instead the map shows a depression at this point, referred to in an 1859 letter to the “Kentish Independent” as “a cesspool, the receiver of all the sewage from these houses, which has been for a long time, and is still, overflowing, close to the stagnant pool [at the back of the Woodman public house]. Look again at the state of the pit opposite St. Thomas’s Church.”
    At this distance in time it is not possible to say whether this still has any significance, but it is an historical fact that at that time this portion of what was then “Upper” Woodland Terrace, and is directly adjacent to the present hole, was different to other parts of the terrace.
    Regrettably, there appears to be no real plan to evaluate whether these other proximate ‘holes’ might be connected and, whilst residents will be advised of the Water Board’s progress and evaluation, no comprehensive report will be published, as all these courses would incur unjustifiable extra costs.

  7. heathwood10 June 23, 2016 / 07:42

    The torrential rain and storms last night have caused further collapse of the road in Woodland Terrace, so that this morning one of the mechanical diggers had partly fallen into what is effectively an extension of the original hole. As we were going to the Community Centre to cast our votes, the water could be seen rushing down the hill, but ten minutes later one of the underground pipes, which had been clearly visible, was completely submerged in the great muddy lake which was forming in the hole. This will obviously set back the completion date by many more weeks.

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