Oxleas Meadow is the place to go when it snows. It’s the perfect place for sledging – long, broad slopes with a choice of steepnesses to suit all ages and abilities. And all ages and abilities were out there today showing off their skills.
There was an incredible variety of sledges; old fashioned sit-up wooden-slatted toboggans, snow boards, surf boards, a bin liner, bright pink and green plastic sledges, snowmobile style sledges, round ones looking like dustbin lids and one that I’m sure was a dustbin lid. Chaos reigned, bodies falling and rolling everywhere as sleds overturned, ran into each other and skittled other sledders. The whole scene overseen by the usual large crowd of dogs out for a walk, though on this occasion many were dressed for the weather, and a motley assortment of snow men. One enterprising group of sledders had even created a ski jump out of a park bench and a large pile of snow and were using it to launch themselves into ignominious heaps of snow and sledders.
Not far away in Shrewsbury Park a younger set of sledders enjoyed the gentler, less crowded but equally sled-able nursery slopes.
Elsewhere on the hill the snow had waved its transformative magic wand, turning the world bright and beautiful, hiding flaws and smothering imperfections. The woodlands were serene and pristine. Colours were accentuated in the otherwise monochrome landscape; vivid red holly berries and pillar box, the previously unnoticed blue beams in a house on Shrewsbury Lane, and colourful clothing glimpsed through the woods.
Fingers and feet were frozen on Friday night in General Gordon Square while waiting for the start of the Royal Borough of Greenwich festivities. The chill was slightly eased by the mulled wine and hot chocolate that were on offer. The young and young-at-heart warmed themselves by frantically jumping up and down waving their arms about to play the interactive games on the big screen – bashing balls and bugs, encouraging rain to fall on flowers to make them grow or, best-of-all, wiping custard off the screen. Nearby, mementos of the occasion were distributed – Royal Greenwich pen, Royal Greenwich pencil, Royal Greenwich card holder and Royal Greenwich key-ring torch. Wandering minstrels desperately pleaded with adults to request a song following the children’s suggestions of Old Macdonald, Run Rabbit Run and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Historical characters wandered around, including Henry VIII, Queen Victoria with Prince Albert and a knight on a wheeled horse. The big screen changed to explain the elements of the new Royal Borough coat of arms and to show an inspirational film about Greenwich which few people watched.
Things warmed up a bit with some excellent gospel music from the New Wine Church choir – it was a pity their set wasn’t longer. The church will be hosting the Musicians of the Royal Artillery Band in a free concert next Friday, 10th February to further commemorate the conferment of our royal status.
There was a big cheer for Henry VIII when he welcomed us to Royal Greenwich, and a more muted one for Council Leader Chris Roberts when he did the same. Mercifully his speech was very brief before the highlight of the evening – the fireworks. And they were well worth a few freezing fingers and toes.
So now we are royal. I haven’t seen any new royal road signs in Shooters Hill yet, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for them.
Arts and Environment project, Avant-Gardening, are looking for people who have stories to tell about their personal experiences of living in Greenwich to put in their Greenwich Cabinet of Curiosities. They are particularly searching for some of the lesser known and personal histories which add real colour to an understanding of the area. You can see some of their research so far on their tumblr blog. As they say in their project description:
The project aims to create a mobile archive and art exhibition that responds to the area through the voices of the people that live or pass through it; exploring hidden histories, folkloric tales and secret places, documenting the people and places of this diverse borough to capture a unique snapshot of the place, its people and its history. To help us achieve this aim we will be working with residents, schools and community groups to create a uniquely creative response to the borough and we need your help to achieve this. If you have any stories, home movies, photographs, loved places you want to tell us about or memories you are willing to share, please get in touch and we can arrange to come and meet you to document these stories for possible inclusion in the cabinet.
We are also looking for artists who have created Greenwich-related or inspired works that they would like us to consider for inclusion in the exhibition or to be documented in the cabinet itself. We are also interested in collaborating with like-minded artists interested in the environment, social and personal histories and psycho-geography.
Avant-Gardening is an artists’ collective led by artist Polly Brannan and project manager Paul Green, whose work investigates social spaces and the urban environment. Described as “artists in gardening gloves”, they have been going since 2008 and have completed a number of projects throughout London, and as far afield as Ethiopia. Their projects focus on environmental and sustainability issues and encourage the involvement of local people through workshops, community gardens and even a mobile allotment.
Another one of Avant-Gardening’s current projects is “The Place where Plums Grow” which aims to plant a number of small dwarf orchards in and around Plumstead, starting on the Nightingale Estate, reflecting the area’s history of orchards. The venture is a joint effort with the Welcare charity and the London Orchard Project:
“Starting in and around the community garden on Nightingale Estate we planted a small number of dwarf apple trees and ran a number of summer workshops with the children to raise awareness of the garden and fruit trees and their role in urban bio-diversity. This pilot project proved to be a great success and led to us developing the second phase of the project, to plant a wider variety of trees in the area and to encourage wider community participation.”
Avant-Gardening have also worked on the Barnfield Estate. Their Blooming Barnfield project during the summer of 2010 encompassed a wide range of activities, including a Barnfield Dream Team football challenge, Growing Stories workshops, the Big Avant-Gardening Lunch and a GPS walk around the estate looking for places for potential community gardens. All beautifully described in the Blooming in Barnfield Fanzine. One of the Avant-Gardeners also spent six weeks working with children at Plumcroft School on their allotment and arts and photography projects.
Last year Avant-Gardening started work on planning a project to create and plant a community garden on the Barnfield Estate.
For more information about Avant-Gardening, or if you have a story about local history to contribute to the Cabinet of Curiosities, contact Paul on e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 020 3239 9174
Thanks to Woodlands farm for sending in news of their forthcoming half term events.
As spring approaches the birds are starting to look for somewhere to nest. Although there is normally plenty of food available during this time, there are increasingly less natural nesting areas. This is why it is so important to put up nest boxes.
During half-term we are running a ‘Bird Box Day’ where you can come and make a special box to put up in your own garden and support the birds as they set up home during nesting season. We will be building open fronted bird boxes, which are a favourite for robins and wrens, and can also be used by pied wagtails and spotted flycatchers. To build your very own nest box, come along to Woodlands Farm on 14th February between 10am-2pm to build your box. It costs just £3 and all materials are provided.
On Wednesday 15th February from 10am-3pm we are running the ‘Carrier Bag Creatures’ activity (see picture). Pop in any time to create your creature using just carrier bags and newspaper. You can make anything from a chicken, to an ant or whatever creature you can imagine. This event is free, so just pop by and see what you can create.
On Thursday 176th February we are holding our regular Toddler club event, which runs from 10am to midday and the cost if £2 for adults.
On Friday 17th February between 10am and 2pm we are getting ‘Wild in the Woods’. This will be a chance to come along and explore our woodland at The Woodlands Farm. With a variety of activities including scavenger hunts, woodland art and shelter building there will be plenty of things to ‘get wild’ at! This activity is free so come along anytime between 10am-2pm and join in the woodland fun! We will be out whatever the weather so warm, waterproof clothing is recommended.