This 1895 map shows the drainage ditch that ran along the south side of the Mudchute (which I called the Muddy when I was a kid), then up the east side, joining another ditch just north of Pier St.
By 1947, the northern ditch had disappeared underground, through a culvert next to the Rec.
Everybody called the ditch the Newty, for the obvious reason that it contained newts.
Many Island kids will remember newting – trying to catch newts. I caught one once and took it home, putting it in an old fish tank. It didn’t occur to me to put a lid on the thing, and overnight the newt climbed out only to dry out and perish on the bedroom carpet.
This photo was taken some time in the 1980s. 10 years earlier and the rope walk was still operational, and there was much more in the way of bushes, small trees and other undergrowth along both sides of the newty.
Another popular activity at the Newty was trying to leap from one floating wooden beam to another, to try and cross the water without getting a booty (are you keeping up with this childhood terminology?). The water stank to high heaven, an extra reason to avoid getting wet. Not to mention all the rusty old metal objects, oil and other chemicals that were dumped in the newty.
When the Mudchute received the status of a managed park, rather than a wild wasteground, there was much landscaping and clearing of the undergrowth.
Some years later, and the Newty was completely routed underground, although a dry ditch does mark its path in places, if you know what you’re looking for (Photos: Peter Wright).
A great thing happened at Mudchute Farm in 2012. Someone working in a goat’s pen spotted something wriggling in the mud. It was a newt!
Turned out that the pond created by the Mudchute Farm had become home for newts. Where had they been hiding themselves for the approximately 20 years since the Newty was drained? We’ll never know. Excuse for a silly picture, though.
For more information about Mudchute Farm, visit: http://www.mudchute.org/