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  • hilly 6:30 pm on August 29, 2014
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    Shrewsbury Park Bat Walk 

    Shrewsbury Park bat walk poster 2014

    Bats have become very popular, perhaps surprisingly given their past unfortunate associations with blood-sucking vampires. Bat walks are consistently fully booked up: both Woodlands Farm and Hall Place had no spare spaces on nightime strolls with bat detectors  in the last couple of weeks. And in July the Bat Conservation Trust’s  Bat Fest weekend at the Natural History Museum had its busiest year yet with nearly 3000 visitors.

    The Friends of Shrewsbury Park‘s bat walks have always been very well attended. This year’s will be held next Friday, 5th September. An e-mail from the Friends gave the details:

    We will be providing a bat walk on Friday 5th September.  If you would like to attend, please meet in the car park at 7.30pm for an introduction to bats by Kris and Les, and a demonstration on how to use the bat detectors.  The walk will last about an hour and a half.
    - please wear sturdy shoes and appropriate clothing
    - children must be accompanied by an adult
    - dogs must be kept on a lead
    - please bring a torch.
    If you have mobility issues, please contact us so we can help you to participate.  The trail is a mixture of paved path, gravel and grass.
    If it rains, neither the bats nor us will be coming out!!

    Biggles the giant Pipistrelle at Bat Fest at the Natural History Museum

    Biggles the giant Pipistrelle at Bat Fest at the Natural History Museum

    Bats’ popularity isn’t confined to the UK. This Saturday is the 18th International Bat Night, an event which started in 1997 and is marked by batty events in more than 30 countries all over the world. The Bat Conservation Trust in the UK is holding a Creative Competition for International Bat Night:

    To enter the competition all you have to do is create something original and inspiring that represents how you celebrated International Bat Night. Your entry could be a drawing or painting of a bat you saw whilst on a bat walk, a picture of bat shaped cookies you baked, or a poem or short story inspired by your activities.

    The closing date for entries is next Friday 5th September.

    Why the increased interest in bats and bat walks? Part of the reason, I think, is that bat detectors have become less expensive, and they are also available for loan for bat walks from the BCT, London Bat Group and park groups so it’s easier to find bats. Also, though, they are such fascinating creatures. They can detect and then capture insects such as midges on the wing using their echolocation – they shout continually as they fly around and use the echoes from tiny insects to “see” where their prey is. They have wonderful wings, constructed from layers of skins over elongated finger bones, hence the name of their order, chiroptera, meaning “hand-wing”.  This gives them great agility and control in flight, as you can see in the amazing film footage included below.

     

     
  • hilly 6:00 pm on August 1, 2014
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    Falconwood 

    Picture of the Falconwood Hotel from Greenwich Heritage Centre

    The Falconwood Hotel (photograph from Greenwich Heritage Centre)

    It’s hard to believe now that the little track running into Oxleas Wood from Shooters Hill was once the drive way to the Portland-stone Palladian mansion shown in the photograph above from Greenwich Heritage Centre. It was the home of Lords and Barons, painted by society artists and also once a hotel with 20 bedrooms. It was as grand inside as out, as shown in the set of photographs in the London Metropolitan Archive. These were taken in 1955 not that long before its demolition, and depict its elegant drawing rooms and a magnificent double-branched curved staircase as well as the boarded up exterior.

    The site of Falconwood is today a butterfly-filled meadow surrounded by Oxleas Woods.

    When the mansion was built in 1864-67 by the 2nd Lord Truro, Charles Robert Wilde,  it was called Falconhurst. Lord Truro was related to Sir James Plaisted Wilde, who became Lord Penzance, and lived nearby at Jackwood. In the London Metropolitan Archive there is a typed sheet of reminiscences by Major C.E.S Phillips of Castle House about Falconwood. He has this to say about Lord Truro:

    Falconwood was built by Lord Truro, reputed an illegitimate son of George IV. It is on Crown Land and was granted to him free of ground rent. Lord Truro had lived much in Italy and built Falconwood in purely Italian style. When his wife died (about 1880) she was buried under the lawn at mid-night by Lord Truro and his gardener Mr. Hart. The grave was surrounded by some beautiful wrought iron work, but after Lord Truro’s death in Italy this was removed and nobody knows now exactly where the grave is.

    Lord Truro left the place and a strip of freehold land on the other side of the road to a very beautiful lady of limited virtue. They were a magnificent pair on horseback, both perfect riders. The legacy proved a nightmare for the legatee, for as soon as the Earl died, the Crown Office afixed a ground rent of £400 per annum on the property and she had no means of paying it. It was put up to auction but the first time there was not a bid for it. On the second auction it was bought by Sir Clarence Smith for I think £5000. It has cost £50,000.

    I am indebted to our old Mr. Hart for the matter of the 1st part of this, it was he who helped bury Lady Truro, for all the rest I have relied on my memory only as I was familiar with all the facts at the time.

    David Lloyd Bathe’s “Steeped In History” gives more details of the story: it reprints an article from the Daily Telegraph from 17th October 1879 which says that Lord Truro used a light coffin so as to “not arrest the process of natural decay”, and that the burial spot was chosen by Lady Truro. It also says that they understood that the Lady’s remains were later removed by her relatives. The burial in non-consecrated ground shocked the neighbourhood, and one resident said they could smell the emanation of sulphurous gases.

    The caricature of Lord Truro below is from the National Portrait gallery and is reproduced under the creative commons licence, as is the image of Baroness d’Erlanger further down.

    Charles Robert Claude Wilde, 2nd Baron Truro by Carlo Pellegrini watercolour, published in Vanity Fair 1 January 1887 12 1/4 in. x 7 1/8 in. (311 mm x 181 mm) Purchased, 1970 Primary Collection NPG 4749 © National Portrait Gallery, London

    Charles Robert Claude Wilde, 2nd Baron Truro by Carlo Pellegrini
    watercolour, published in Vanity Fair 1 January 1887 12 1/4 in. x 7 1/8 in. (311 mm x 181 mm)
    Purchased, 1970 Primary Collection NPG 4749
    © National Portrait Gallery, London

    “Steeped In History” details the subsequent occupancy of the mansion. After Hull MP Clarence Smith moved out in 1908 he was unable to find a purchaser and the lease reverted to the crown. It was then let to Catherine (Kate) Rose Marie Antoinette d’Erlanger (née de Robert d’ Aqueria de Rochegude), wife of Baron Emile Beaumont d’Erlanger.  Baroness d’Erlanger was known as “the Flame”  because of the colour of her hair, and was renowned for her lavish entertaining. She was very well connected, as Philip Mershon says:

    Catherine cultivated the most astonishingly irreverent continental society of bohemians, artists and aristocrats at salons in her homes.  She was pals with Ravel, Debussy, Nijinsky and Proust.  She was also financial patroness to Diaghilev, The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Cecil Beaton.

    The Erlanger’s main home in London was 139 Piccadilly, but for weekends the Baroness “considered it wildly amusing for guests to drive eastwards down the Old Kent Road to Shooters Hill”. A glimpse of the interior of Falconwood in its heyday can be seen in Sir John Lavery‘s “The Drawing Room, Falconwood. This painting may include the Baroness’s daughter Liliane, usually called Baba, who  later became Princess de Faucigny Lucinge. Baba was also painted by Augustus John in his “Portrait of Baronne Baba d’Erlanger (1901-1945) and Miss Paula Gellibrand (1898-1964)“, and was photographed by Cecil Beaton.

    Catherine herself was photographed by Cecil Beaton, and also by Lafayette Ltd in the picture below from the National Portrait Gallery. It shows her in a “tableau vivant”, which was part of an entertainment called The Masque of War and Peace held in aid of the Widows and Orphans of the Household Troops during the Boer War.

    © National Portrait Gallery, London Baroness (Marie Rose Antoinette) Catherine D'Erlanger (née de Robert d'Aqueria) by Lafayette (Lafayette Ltd) sepia-toned bromide print, 1900 12 in. x 7 5/8 in. (305 mm x 193 mm) image size NPG Ax134833

    Baroness (Marie Rose Antoinette) Catherine D’Erlanger (née de Robert d’Aqueria) by Lafayette (Lafayette Ltd)
    sepia-toned bromide print, 1900
    12 in. x 7 5/8 in. (305 mm x 193 mm) image size
    NPG Ax134833 © National Portrait Gallery, London

    The house next door to Falconwood was Warren Wood, home of our favourite Shooters Hill historian Colonel Bagnold, and his more famous daughter Enid Bagnold. Enid, author of National Velvet and one of Samantha Cameron’s great-grandmothers, went to visit the Baroness; an event described in a biography of Enid by Anne Sebba:

    Enid, turning her ‘ardent snobbish eyes, mad with interest’ on the beau monde, soon wandered through a hole in the hedge. Announcing her credentials boldly, she told the Baroness she was a journalist poised to write books. She knew that her inadequate clothes and schoolgirl fresh face were not enough. ‘Whatever I have looked like, and what my face has not carried, I have always had a sort of vitality that did instead’. She managed to put herself over. But the d’Erlangers were installing a hard tennis court and Enid’s immediate entry ticket was her facility with a tennis racket. She quickly became a daughter of the household.

    The d’Erlangers left Falconwood at the time of the First World War. In June 1924 the Baroness applied to the London County Council for a licence to hold music and dancing entertainments in the drawing room on Falconwood’s ground floor. The licence committee notes in the London Metropolitan Archive say that it was proposed  to use Falconwood as a private hotel. In 1932 the Baroness surrendered the lease and later moved to Hollywood.

    Falconwood continued as a hotel under new management. In the archives there are Music and Dancing licence applications from Walter Frank Mills in 1933, Frederick Henry Clark in 1934 and F. Hugh Gough in 1936. The hotel seems to have continued in operation until after the war, but eventually failed. According to E.F.E. Jefferson’s “The Woolwich Story” Falconwood was acquired by Woolwich Borough Council in 1936  and was “laid out” in the 1950s and incorporated into Oxleas Wood. The house itself was demolished in 1959.

    What is the connection between this Falconwood, near the top of Shooters Hill, and Falconwood the place down the hill?  A.D. Mills’ Dictionary of London Place names says:

    Falconwood Bexley. This district was developed in the 1930s as Falconwood Park on the site of a large wood called West Wood on the Ordinance Survey maps of 1805 and 1876 (earlier Westwood 1551). It is said to have been given this name to attract new residents.

    So West Wood – the wood at the west end of the Manor of Bexley – was the name of the district, and of the farm there,  until Ideal Homesteads built Falconwood Park in the 1930′s, Maybe the company was inspired by the history up the hill when  naming its new estate.

    As for the site of the mansion it is now a peaceful butterfly-filled meadow only occasionally enlivened by walkers and dogs.

    Site of the former Falconwood Hotel

    Site of the former Falconwood Hotel

    Common Blue butterfly at site of former Falconwood Hotel

    Common Blue butterfly at site of former Falconwood Hotel

    Meadow Brown butterfly at site of former Falconwood Hotel

    Meadow Brown butterfly at site of former Falconwood Hotel

     
  • hilly 5:52 pm on August 1, 2014
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    The Fan Museum Open Day 

    Local Community Open Day The Fan Museum, Greenwich Saturday 2 August 2014, 11:00-17:00

    Emily from the Fan Museum wrote with details of their Open Day tomorrow, Saturday 2nd August 2014, a repeat of last year’s successful event. They are aiming to encourage members of the local community who have not visited the museum before to do so. Entry is free (with valid ID such as a driving licence or utility bill) to all residents in the boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham. This will include:

    •    entry to the museum for all Royal Greenwich and Lewisham borough residents
    •    Curator-led mini tours throughout the day
    •    fan-making demonstrations throughout the day
    •    children’s activity trails
    •    refreshments in the Orangery: a sample taster of their popular Afternoon Tea

    The Museum’s afternoon tea is one of “London’s ten best afternoon teas” according to the Daily Telegraph, which recommends “a satisfyingly hefty hunk of chocolate brownie, moist and filled with white chocolate chunks”. There’s also a chance to see a collection of over 4000 fans, most of them antique. The museum’s building is interesting too:  it is formed of two Grade II listed Georgian Town Houses and features a beautiful mural-decorated Orangery where the afternoon tea is served.

    The museum’s address is: 12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, London SE10 8ER and the Open Day starts at 11.00am and is open until 5.00pm.

    The Fan Museum in Crooms Hill

    The Fan Museum in Crooms Hill

     
  • hilly 7:26 pm on July 25, 2014
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    New River Crossing Consultation 

    Gallions Reach from Barking Creek

    Gallions Reach from Barking Creek

    Two thousand and twenty-eight pages in eighteen impenetrable documents have been published by Transport for London as part of their consultation on new river crossings in East London, and nowhere does it discuss the prospect of increased traffic in residential roads south of the river. A surprising omission since the poor road infrastructure south of the Thames  was one of the major issues in earlier consultations, and could be seen as the reason that the previous Thames Gateway Bridge scheme was cancelled.

    Also, bizarrely, all the traffic modelling assumes that the Silvertown Tunnel is already in place! Why? Not only is it not in place, but its construction is not even part of the current consultation: there will be a separate consultation later about Silvertown. Even if the tunnel  is approved it will take longer to construct than a bridge or ferry at Gallions Reach so for several years we’ll be dealing with the impact on traffic in the absence of the tunnel, and that’s what the modelling should have shown.

    This assumption that the Silvertown Tunnel has already been built pervades the Traffic Impact Report, to the extent that many of the traffic flow maps  don’t show how traffic will change compared to today, but how they will change compared to the flow after the Silvertown Tunnel has been developed. They are useless for anyone trying to work out how traffic flows will change in the future.

    The consultation asks for our opinions about four possible river crossings:

    1. A new modern ferry at Woolwich
    2. A ferry service at Gallions Reach
    3. A bridge at Gallions Reach
    4. A bridge at Belvedere

    We have until 12th September 2014 to respond, and can do so using an online survey. It can be completed quite quickly; there are just 15 simple questions.  Transport for London are holding some roadshows about the proposals where TfL say their staff will be able to answer any of our questions. There is one at Woolwich Library tomorrow (26th July) between 11.00am and 4.00pm and another at the Broadway Shopping centre, Bexleyheath on Saturday 30th August from 9.00am to 2.00pm.

    Routing of trips using a charged Gallions Bridge from TfL's Traffic Impact Report

    Routing of trips using a charged Gallions Bridge from TfL’s Traffic Impact Report

    I must admit I haven’t read all 2028 pages of TfL’s technical documentation, though I did search them all for mentions of Shooters Hill, Oxleas and Plumstead: I found barely a handful that were relevant, and only one on traffic impacts. This was in a footnote to a summary table at the end of “Report F Gallions Reach Ferry and Tunnel”, which indicated that there may be critical traffic impacts on the South side:

    Particularly increased traffic on tunnel approach roads in Thamesmead, Plumstead & East Wickham (on A2016, A206, A209 & A205). Highways works and traffic management will mitigate but not necessarily eliminate negative impacts

    The traffic flow map above comes from the Traffic Impact Report. Compared to the map in the London Borough of Newham’s report on the Economic Impact of Gallions Reach Crossings it seems to show lower flows through residential roads in Plumstead and Bexley. This may be because it uses a different traffic modelling tool to that used by Newham. It uses a model called the London Regional Demand Model (LoRDM) which models highways using TfL’s River Crossings Highway Assignment Model (RXHAM); Newham used another TfL model called ELHAM. However TfL do add the caveat:

    It should be noted that the RXHAM is strategic in nature and is used to identify broad changes in traffic patterns across the highway network, as well as the magnitude of this change. The results should not be taken as a definitive forecast of future flows, especially on minor roads or at individual junctions. Also the models do not yet assume any mitigation measures that might be introduced such as changes to junction capacities or new traffic calming measures.

    The map shows some traffic increase through Plumstead and Knee Hill, but surprisingly nothing coming from the South Circular at Woolwich. I wonder where all the traffic that currently crosses the river on the Woolwich Free Ferry goes to? Later in the document in the section about the routing of trips using an enhanced Woolwich Ferry it states that “the main roads used to access the ferry south the River Thames are Beresford Street, Western Way and Eastern Way.” Again no South Circular. Is something missing from the model?

    I wrote in a previous post about Oxleas Wood:

    TfL’s work on the traffic impacts of a Gallions Reach crossing will not, in my opinion, be complete unless they include a convincing, costed proposal for solving the inadequacies of the transport network south of the Thames that politicians commit to. Otherwise the additional traffic generated by the new crossing will overload local residential roads leading to pressure for new roads and a renewed threat to our heritage ancient woodland.

    It’s still not complete, and as it stands will lead to increased traffic through residential roads that weren’t designed to take it, leading to pressure for more road building and threatening Plumstead and Oxleas Wood.  Not to mention the end of the Woolwich Free Ferry. A campaign to oppose the Gallions Bridge is being set up.

    Postscript:

    I asked my questions at the roadshow in Woolwich on Saturday. As far as TfL is concerned the Silvertown Tunnel is going ahead so they felt it would be wrong to not include it in the traffic models, and they expect it to be complete before any of the other crossings. Of course if there were no Silvertown Tunnel, I was told, traffic flows over the other crossings would be significantly higher. They didn’t feel it was dishonest not to include the results of modelling without Silvertown. There will be two more consultations about the Silvertown Tunnel, but they would not be about whether it was built but how.

    I expressed surprise at the results of the traffic modelling: in particular the predicted reduced traffic flows from the South Circular Road through Woolwich to a proposed Gallions Reach Bridge, and that the increased flows predicted seemed to show traffic would go along the M25 as far as the approach to the Dartford Crossing, and then turn off along the Thames to Gallions Rach to cross there. The only response was “that’s what the model shows”. There are no current plans for improved road infrastructure South of the Thames, and I was advised to express my concerns in the consultation.

    HOK and Arup design for proposed Thames crossing bridge

    HOK and Arup design for proposed Thames crossing bridge

     
    • Kristine Inglis 4:24 pm on July 29, 2014

      Thank you , Hilly, for all your efforts made at distilling the basic threats/holes/discrepencies of this consultation for us. I’ve had a look at some of it and read your comments and will do the survey. It’s a snow job, TFL operates on uninformed assumption whenever the idea of increased river crossing comes up and floods the public with volumes of words – and it sounds like pretty poor answers at public consultations.
      Will pass your article on.

  • hilly 6:37 pm on July 16, 2014
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    Summer Activities and Bat Walks at Woodlands Farm 

    Woodlands farm Bat Walk poster

    Hannah, the Education Officer at Woodlands Farm, wrote with details of their Summer Holiday Activities for children and about a series of bat walks at the farm in the next couple of months. The children’s activities are:

    Tuesday 19th August Orienteering
    10am-2pm £1 per child
    Can you find your way around the farm without getting lost? Try our different orienteering courses to see how good you are at navigating. No need to book, just drop in.
    Friday 22nd August Be a Farmer for the Day
    10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm £3 per child, accompanying adults free
    Ever fancied seeing what it is like to be a farmer? Join us as we have a go at feeding and weighing our animals as well as walking our fields to check all our animals. This event is only suitable for children over 8 years. It is essential to book, call 0208 319 8900
    Tuesday 26th August Dragonfly Day
    11am-3pm £1 per child
    Drop in for a day all about these fantastic insects. Go dragonfly spotting, follow our trail or make your own dragonfly to take home. Just drop in, for more information call 020 8319 8900
    Wednesday 27th August Science Investigators
    11am-1pm and 2pm-3pm £1 per child.
    Would you like to have a taste at being a scientist and doing investigations? We will be delving into the world of biology with microscopes, owl pellet dissection and more. Drop in to find out more about science. More information call 020 8319 8900.

     

    Common Red Soldier Beetle, also known as the Hogweed Bonking Beetle, at Woodlands Farm

    Common Red Soldier Beetle, also known as the Hogweed Bonking Beetle, at Woodlands Farm

    The Bat Walks are on Wednesday 20th August at 8pm. Thursday 28th August at 7.45pm and Wednesday 3rd September at  7.30pm. Booking is essential, and you’ll need to be quick as places always fill fast: book by  e-mail at education@thewoodlandsfarmtrust.org  or by phone on 020 8319 8900. You’ll be walking around the farm’s meadows in the dark so you will need to wear sturdy footwear and suitable outdoor clothing and bring a torch. Children must be accompanied by an adult and the walks are not recommended for children under 6. They cost £4 for adults and £2 for children.

    Volunteers at the farm have been taking part in the bat Conservation Trust’s  National Bat Monitoring Programme recently and in the first of their July survey walks again detected both Common and Soprano Pipistrelles and Noctules. However they didn’t see anything auite as big as Biggles the Pipistrelle, pictured below,  which featured at Bat Fest at the Natural History Museum recently. Probably just as well.

    Biggles the giant Pipistrelle at Bat Fest at the Natural History Museum

    Biggles the giant Pipistrelle at Bat Fest at the Natural History Museum

     
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