Eaglesfield Park Lilly Pond is looking good at the moment; the lilies are now well established, with a number of flowers forming, and the wild flower meadow is showing the benefit of its last tidy-up in August.
The next Friends of Eaglesfield Park monthly meeting at the Lilly Pond will be on Sunday 3oth September from 11.00am to 1.00pm, weather permitting. As the wildflower meadow will be cut during October, an essential step in its development, this is the last opportunity to remove any invasive weeds such as brambles and prepare the pond surround for winter. I’m sure there will be an opportunity for pond dipping as well.
The Woodlands Farm Trust Apple Day is on Sunday 14th October 2012 (11am-4pm) at 331 Shooters Hill, Welling DA16 3RP.
All are welcome at the Woodlands Farm Trust Apple Day. Come and celebrate National Apple Day with a variety of activities, including crafts, a treasure hunt and apple pressing to make delicious juice. There will be stalls selling local produce, including honey, home-made jams and cakes. Live music will be provided by Skinners Rats. A great day out for all the family.
Entry is free, but donations are welcome – all money raised helps us to care for our animals.
My inbox and twitter feed seem to include a lot of crime at the moment, which set me wondering whether crime in the area is increasing, or just more visible because of improved information flow. There certainly is more information. For example the Metropolitan Police have a Neighbourhood Link community messaging service which sends out regular e-mails on local crime incidents, police activity and scam warnings. Recently there have been e-mails about the burglary at John Roan school and the jailing of two men who forced cabbies to drive to a secluded place in Mayplace Lane and then attacked and robbed them.
On twitter there are regular tweets from the Metropolitan Police, @metpoliceuk, various borough forces such as Greenwich, @MPSGreenwich and even the Police Helicopter @MPSinthesky, giving information about local incidents.
Then there are the excellent Neighbourhood Watch groups, who provide local police and crime news by e-mail and via the Shooters Hill Neighbourhood Watch web site, including up-to-date information about any suspicious people seen in the area or attempted scams.
The map snippet at the top of this post is taken from the police.uk web site which provides access to “Independent information on force-level crime and anti-social behaviour provided by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary”. It is possible to see the location of all reported incidents in any specified month, or a subset of crimes such as Burglary or Anti-social behaviour. The reports are positioned on the map using an anonymising algorithm to preserve people’s privacy. Another mapped view of local crime report levels can be seen on the Metropolitan Police Crime Mapping web site, snippet below, which shows reported crime levels broken down by ward – it says that there were 66 reports in the Shooters Hill ward in July, down from 67 in June, which works out as as a crime rate of 5.13 per thousand people. For the whole Royal Borough of Greenwich the rate was 8.7. It’s not clear to me why the figures on the two maps are so different, 66 vs 667; partly it will be because the first map covers a larger area, but also I suspect the second one doesn’t include reports of anti-social behaviour.
The Metropolitan Police Crime Mapping web site also contains a set of spreadsheets of crime report data, which included one showing number of reports per crime category per month over the last two-years broken down by borough and ward. What bliss, I thought – an opportunity to produce lots of graphs and pie charts! There’s a couple below: the first shows the total number of reported crimes in the Shooters Hill ward each month for the last two years. Excel manages to fit a straight line to the data, with a downward trend, though I would say the number of reports is about level – it isn’t really decreasing or increasing significantly. The numbers of reports for some of the crime categories are quite small, and the trends are often spiky. The trend for burglary reports, for example, shows distinct spikes around about December/January in both 2010 and 2011. Maybe mid-winter is a time to take extra precautions.
It’s interesting also to compare reported crime levels with other parts of London. The ward with the highest levels is the West End Ward in the borough of Westminster. Their reported crime level in July 2012 was 1755 compared with Shooters Hill’s 66 – a crime rate of 235 per thousand population.
So it would appear that my pereception that there is more crime at the moment is an illusion prompted by the Met’s increased transparency, and me being plugged in to more sources of information. Of course drawing conclusions from official statistics is often hazardous, and crime levels are notoriously difficult because much crime doesn’t get reported. An alternative approach is the British Crime Survey (BCS) which is based on interviews and is seen as giving a better picture of the extent of crime. The BCS figures aren’t broken down to ward level, but seem to give figures a bit over double the recorded crime numbers. However the BCS figures also show crime levels as steady or decreasing slightly according to the Home Office Statistical Bulletin on Crime in England and Wales 2010/2011.
One possible benefit of the increased visibility of crime figures is that people will be more vigilant which, when coupled with improved communication about crime threats from community groups such as Neighbourhood Watchers, plus the excellent work of the Shooters Hill Safer Neighbourhoods Police Team (SHSNT), may help decrease the figures further.
As Nick Ross used to say after discussing crime on Crime Watch, “Don’t have nightmares, do sleep well”.
Although the widely-held belief that Shooters Hill derives its name from its medieval use as a site for archery practice is probably erroneous, it still seems appropriate that the Paralympics Archery competition was held nearby. There is a record of a medieval archery competition on Shooters Hill, in 1516 as part of Henry VIII’s May Day trip to Shooters Hill where he met Robin Hood:
The King and Queen [Henry VIII and Queen Katherine] accompanied with many lords and ladies rode to the high ground of Shooters Hill to take the open air; and as they passed by the way, they espied a company of tall yeoman, clothed all in green with green hoods and bows and arrows, to the number of two hundred. Then one of them, which called himself Robyn hood, came to the King, desiring him to see his men shoot, and the king was content. Then he whistled and all the two hundred archers shot and loosed at once, and then he whistled again, and they likewise shot again; their arrows whistled by craft of the head, so that the noise was strange and great, and much pleased the King and Queen and all the company. All of these archers were of the King’s guard and had thus appareled themselves to make solace to the King.
The archery at the paralympic stadium on Woolwich Common was, of course, very different. There are probably more than 200 archers at the paralympics, they shot their arrows individually and in silence rather than all at once and the only strange and great noise was the audience applauding the archers who hit the gold area of the target and (especially loudly) any British competitors. I must admit that I visited the stadium as much out of curiosity about the strange structures transforming Woolwich Commmon as out of any great interest in archery and shooting, but once there I found the competition completely compelling. It was very easy to get infected with the loud and enthusiastic audience atmosphere, whether clapping and stamping along to We Will Rock You or silently willing the British competitor’s arrow into gold.
It will be quite sad when the paralympics is over and London life returns to its usual routine, but I won’t be sad to see the stadium complex disappear from the Common – I don’t find it an attractive development – and I’m looking forward to the reinstatement of the Common back to its previous state or better. Apparently they will be replacing each tree that was cut down to make way for the stadium with one and a half new trees, which could be interesting. Some of the structures will be dismantled and taken to Glasgow, as one of the many volunteer Gamesmakers reports:
After the Games the 10/50m and 25m ranges and shot net will go to Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games; the large final hall is likely to remain in Greenwich. The dramatic temporary halls have been nick named ‘Teletubby Land’ and the site will be returned to Woolwich Common once the Games are finished.
But it’s not all gloom; a memorial of Woolwich Common’s role in the Olympics is planned by the Olympics Development Authority. They propose to place three brightly coloured teletubby window at the side of Ha-Ha Road. And no, it’s not April 1st, I checked.
As a fully-paid-up member of both the Woodlands Farm Trust and Ramblers, the dispute about the blocked section of the Green Chain Walk through the farm fills me with dismay. I can understand the concerns on both sides, but get really worried that they don’t seem to be talking constructively and collaboratively about the problem, and that positions are becoming more entrenched.
I learnt about the latest development when my copy of the Autumn 2012 edition of the Ramblers’ magazine Walk arrived, with the latest South East Walker newspaper. In an article titled Mind the gap, Des Garahan (twitter @ramblerdes), a member of The Ramblers’ Board of Trustees and Campaigns Officer for Inner London Ramblers, presents the Ramblers’ point of view. It appears a classic case of the kind of situation that Ramblers exists to fight – an unsympathetic landowner preventing access to a public path ….. and that path is now the weakest link in a significant walking route that is seen as one of the enduring achievements of the 1970s.
The article recognises the complexities of the impasse – the disputed path is not a public right of way, but a permissive path, albeit one that Woodlands agreed could be part of the Green Chain Walk when the route was first established. It continues:
Inner London Ramblers feels it now has no option but to begin the ponderous process of claiming the path as a public right of way and get this stretch of the route included on Bexley’s Definitive map. Despite a reputation to the contrary it is rare that we resort to the legal process. Contact has been made with the borough and the Green Chain Walk users group and both are very supportive of this action.
However when the locked gate that blocks the path was left open it caused a lot of problems for the farm. The gate is at the furthest reaches of the farm, out of site of the farm buildings where most of the volunteers work. Consequently there is no-one nearby to prevent the acts of petty vandalism that have happened, such as starting fires. More seriously farm animals have been attacked on a number of occasions by dogs who were allowed to run free by their owners – again originating from the same gate. The farm has been willing to open the gate for walking groups who contact them in advance on 0208 319 8900, though this doesn’t help the casual walker. The farm has started a petition in support of their position that the path should be closed, which visitors to the farm’s recent Summer Show were asked to sign.
It’s the casual walker following the Green Chain Walk sign posts who suffers most from this dispute; the sign posts all point towards the locked gate. On the farm side this could mean that a rambler walks a mile across the farm only to find their way blocked and have to re-trace their steps. On the Dryden Road side it’s a walk of a couple of hundred yards along a narrow track, impeded by brambles, nettles and fallen trees to the locked farm gate. There is an alternative route via Footpath 245 near the Green Man pub – linked to on the previous e-shootershill post on this topic – but there’s nothing on the Green Chain Walk to indicate this. On both sides of the gate the path is becoming overgrown and impassable through lack of use and maintenance.
I wonder what ideas the Farm and Ramblers have investigated that would resolve the dispute to everyone’s satisfaction? One suggestion was that there should be a notice board at the locked gate with a phone number to call to ask for the gate to be unlocked. I guess that means that the farm would need to have someone to answer the phone and walk down to the gate, though that’s surely possible. Maybe a local householder would agree to be a key holder? Could the gate be unlocked when farm volunteers are working nearby? And could the signposts and Green Chain Walk publicity material show the alternative, Footpath 245, route for times when the gate is unavoidably locked. (I found Footpath 245 itself a very enjoyable walk, almost as good as the beautiful track through the farm’s meadows).
As someone who donates to both Ramblers and the Farm I would rather they got together to talk about possible ways to resolve the dispute than waste the two charities’ money on the legal process.