A leisurely 22 mile stroll over the most popular sections of the Green Chain Walk from Crystal Palace to Erith, but with a difference, the walk is nocturnal!
Meet outside Crystal Palace railway station at 23.45pm. After the first five miles we enter pitch black woodland. Quite amazing! By the time we get to Eltham we’ll see wonderful views of London at first- light. This was so good last year that we spent about 20 minutes watching. At around 05.00, after much more dark woodland we arrive at Shooters Hill for sunrise, and there’s no where better to see it as the view extends right over Essex and the estuary. The rest of the walk is mostly in woodland which looks lovely at that time of the morning. We arrive at Erith and the Thames at about 08.00 for plenty of trains home.
The walk was very successful last year but I must stress that the event is wholly unofficial and just for fun. If you take part you do so entirely at your own risk. For further information please contact Ian Bull – ianbull at btinternet dot com
If you prefer to hike by daylight then Ian will be repeating the walk on Saturday 28th September during the day:
TfL has offered to fund Walk London’s ‘Autumn Ambles’ and thus the 7th ‘Green Chain Megawalk’ will go ahead on Saturday 28th September starting from Crystal Palace railway station at 9.15. It’s the same as the above but in daylight.
Some things never change, and it seems that includes disputes over footpaths at Woodlands Farm and farm problems with trespassing motorcyclists. An intriguing card in a filing drawer at the Greenwich Heritage Centre led me to an article from The Mercury 21 years ago on 13th February 1992:
Two councils are hoping to settle a long-running dispute with landowners over public access to tracks in Woodlands Farm.
Bexley and Greenwich councils have already been to the High Court, seeking to force landowners to admit that the tracks which criss-cross farmland between Edison and Glenmore Roads, in Welling and Shooters Hill, are public footpaths – ‘even though they’re not listed on’ rights of way maps.
The boroughs quizzed 11,000 locals to gain evidence supporting their claims and obtained High Court writs against the landowners who have fenced off the tracks.
But over a year later agreement has still to be reached with the George Wimpey Company and the RACS Co-op, joint owners of the land at Woodlands Farm.
A report to the last meeting of Bexley Council development committee said draft public path agreements had been drawn up and were expected to be agreed with Wimpeys. But negotiations were still going on with the Co-op who were ‘determined to fight the action.’
A Co-op spokesman said opening up the path would re-expose the farm to problems with motorcyclists and trespassers which had stopped when the fences went up.
He said that the society disputed that the paths had been public footpaths in the first place.
The councils are anxious to secure the footpaths in order to link up with a footbridge across the southern approach road to the East London River Crossing.
The current dispute, about the Green Chain Walk path across the farm has seen some progress recently. The April-July newsletter of ramblers’ Blackheath Group had an article about the blocked path, and supported the farm proposals to re-route it:
I came away with a view that common sense needs to prevail & that the GCW needs to amend its route. I have since discussed the matter with the Blackheath Ramblers Group committee & the committee fully supports this approach.
I have also spoken to the footpath officer for NW Kent Ramblers who commend the trustees of the farm in their efforts to find a sensible solution for all concerned & support the proposed alteration.
So, in summary, the two Ramblers Groups which cover the farm area are in support of the proposal made by the trustees & we feel that Ramblers should be working with the GCW committee to get this alteration accepted.
That sounds good, and so does the the update on the Green Chain Walk in the Farm’s Summer Newsletter, which mentioned that:
Board members have been working with Green Chain officers and the Bexley access officer and significant progress has been made on resolving the problem of the Green Chain Route across the farm. A temporary diversion is at present in place and it is hoped that a diversion around the perimeter of the farm which would provide an acceptable, enjoyable alternative walk will be agreed on by all parties.
There are diversions in place: the photo at the top shows the changed sign at the Keats/Dryden Road end of the path. At the Oxleas Wood end it’s not quite so clear and the signpost in the farm itself is unchanged and points to the blocked path. I could only find one other changed sign post, at the junction of the eastern-most path in Oxleas Wood and Shooters Hill, and that had been crudely adjusted to point in the new direction and only has the words on one side of the pointer – not so good if you are approaching from Shooters Hill.
At the Dryden Road end the diversion sign posts point prospective Green Chain walkers down Chaucer Road and Wickham Street, past Shoulder of Mutton Green to Bellegrove Road, and then to Oxleas Wood. Quite a lot of road walking, and I wonder why they didn’t take the greener route via Footpath 245 near the Green Man pub and then along Hill View Drive to Bellegrove Road. The proposed re-routed Green Chain Walk would also include part of Route 245.
It sounds like the long-running battle over the Green Chain path through the farm is drawing to a sensible conclusion. Meanwhile, on the other side of Shooters Hill, the path down the side of the former Castlewood Day Hospital is still blocked, despite the intervention of local MP Clive Efford.
Congratulations to the Friends of Eaglesfield Park! It was announced yesterday that environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy had awarded the park a Green Flag, a national award which recognises and rewards the best green spaces in the country. Eaglesfield is one of 1266 parks and greens spaces in the UK that have received the award in 2013. This included 11 parks in the Royal Borough of Greenwich: Avery Hill Park, Charlton Park, Eaglesfield Park, East Greenwich Pleasaunce, Eltham Park South, Fairy Hill Park, Horn Park, Maryon Park, Sutcliffe Park, The Tarn and Well Hall Pleasaunce.
The awards have been running since 1996 and are seen as the “benchmark against which our parks and green spaces are measured”. They are decided by expert judges who assess the parks against a set of eight criteria following a site visit. The criteria include the park being a welcoming place and being healthy, safe and secure and also that it has a Marketing Strategy and a Management Plan. The Community Award is assessed against similar criteria, but excluding marketing.
The Green Flag award is well-deserved recognition of all the hard work that the Friends of Eaglesfield Park have put in over the last few years.
How do you make a Suffragette Cocktail? An American recipe from 1909 says it contains gin, Italian vermouth and French vermouth stirred with ice and a dash of orange bitters, and that it has very strange effects on men, such as turning them into dish washers. Well, there’s a chance to try the Greenwich Heritage Centre’s interestingly coloured version of the cocktail next Wednesday, 31st July.
Other activities during the evening include historical talks, a DJ and the launch of a new publication about local suffragette Rosa May Billingshurst written by third year University of Greenwich History student Carolyn Ayers. Carolyn was the co-curator of the “Freedom of Spirit” exhibition.
The evening is also a celebration of the Heritage Centre’s tenth anniversary at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich. Entry is free.
After all the months of consultation, 24 public meetings with 1,330 attendees, 23 council and scrutiny meetings, 13 petitions with a total of 21,770 signatures, 2,323 questionnaire responses at a cost of at least £172,377, the decision on whether to close 10 London fire stations, including Woolwich, comes down to one individual: Boris Johnson.
The consultation did result in some changes to the London Safety Plan: Clapham and New Cross fire stations would remain open, East Greenwich fire station would gain an additional fire engine and Chelsea fire station would keep its two fire engines. I couldn’t find anything in the consultation report and revised safety plan that mentioned the commitment made at the Greenwich consultation meeting to reconsider the closure of Woolwich Fire Station in light of the expected massive increase in the population of Woolwich Riverside. Coincidentally the day after the report was published I received a letter from the Royal Borough of Greenwich informing me that they had given planning permission for a further 2,032 homes in the Arsenal site – this is the plan for a series of blocks of flats up to 22 storeys high along the river front. That’s 2032 homes on top of the thousands already being built in the Arsenal site, just down the road from the fire station.
It seems from the consultation report that public opposition to the closure of Woolwich Fire Station wasn’t as strong as for others in the capital. Only 156 people signed the petition to save Woolwich Fire Station, compared to over 8,000 for the 3 petitions to keep Bow Fire Station and over 6,500 for those to save Clapham. Also no-one specifically mentioned Woolwich in their response to the questionnaire: other fire stations were named by respondents opposing their closure. The consultation meeting back in May was dominated by politicians, it was even commented during the meeting that very few “ordinary citizens” asked questions, though this may have been influenced by holding the meeting in Greenwich rather than Woolwich.
The YouGov analysis of the responses to the consultation questionnaire showed that an overwhelming 94% of respondents opposed any fire station cuts, graphically illustrated in the snippet from the report below.
Despite the opposition the Fire Commissioner presented the new plan, but the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) voted by 9 to 8 to reject the proposed cuts. Their e-mail on the subject said:
A majority of LFEPA Members (by 9 votes to 8) approved the following amendments – That:
1. The Authority instructs the Commissioner to delete from the Fifth London Safety Plan, supporting documents and appendices all references to station closures, appliance reductions and consequential operational post reductions, including reductions in Fire and Rescue Units, reductions in crewing levels of Fire and Rescue Units, alternative crewing of specialist units and reductions in officer numbers, and to make the subsequent changes that are necessary.
7. This Authority recognises and respects the single clearest issue raised during the consultation process: that Londoners do not want to see local fire stations closed. The Authority notes that the 1.2% Council Tax cut implemented by the Mayor came at a cost of £9.4million and that the Mayor’s plan to cut it by 10% over his four-year term will cost a further £70million making some £80million in total. Consequently the Authority calls on the Mayor to reconsider his policy of a 10% council tax cut and instead work with officers and members of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority to develop an approach that preserves London’s fire cover, saves London’s fire stations and balances the budget into the longer term.
The decision now rests with the Mayor of London, though a tweet from the London Fire Brigade Union yesterday reported that he is “minded” to overturn the LFEPA decision and close the fire stations.
Boris Johnson has written to the London fire commissioner, indicating he is ‘minded’ to overturn the fire authority’s rejection of cuts.
I’m not sure exactly what politicians mean when they are “minded” to do something. Have they just not quite made up their minds? Have they decided but are trying to avoid the criticism that a bad decision will attract? Whatever … it is starting to seem likely that Woolwich Fire Station will close after a hundred and twenty six years of operation.
Emily from the Fan Museum in Crooms Hill e-mailed details of their local community open day next Saturday, 27th July, from 11.00am to 5.00pm. Entry is free if you live in Greenwich or Lewisham boroughs, as long as you bring along proof of your address such as a driving licence or utility bill. The museum is in a beautiful Georgian house at the bottom of Crooms Hill, address: 12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, London SE10 8ER.
The Fan Museum has a huge collection of fans from different cultures and historical periods, many of which are artistically decorated. As well as the chance to see the collection the open day will include demonstrations of fan making and mini-tours of the museum led by the museum’s curators. There will also be refreshments in the elegant orangery – a taster of their afternoon tea which was rated one of London’s ten best afternoon teas by the Daily Telegraph. The Telegraph’s list also included the far-more-expensive Claridges and the Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair.
It’s several years since I visited the museum and it was slightly surprisingly absorbing, so it’s definitely time for another look around, even if only to replace the fan tea towel I got from the museum shop last time.
“That’s about 2 days worth of recycling”, said our guide, Danny Easton, pointing to the massive pile of rubbish that had been emptied from the Borough’s recycling trucks. We were at the start of a tour of the Greenwich Mirf, as the Materials Recycling Facility in Nathan Way is known. We’d already seen where the compostable material from the green bins is deposited, and learned that the methane from the composting waste is piped off to the gas grid.
I’d been trying to get a tour of the MRF for a while, wanting to know how the mixed-up contents of our blue top bins were separated out, but had been told that the old regular tours no longer run. A couple of years ago, in lieu of a visit, I was sent an interesting DVD describing how the recycling centre operates, but it’s not the same as seeing it for real. An enquiry card dropped into a box at the recent Great Get Together/Armed Forced Day event solved the problem, leading to an invitation to a personal guided tour.
The technology at the MRF is very impressive, and it utilises a wide variety of forces to sort the different materials: gravity, vibration, magnetism, induced electrical currents, infra-red, optical recognition and compressed air are all part of the process. The Veolia web site describes the technology and processes really well, so I won’t repeat it all here. I was most impressed by the the huge Trommel near the start of the process, after the bag splitter. The Trommel looks a bit like a massive tumble drier, 3 meters in diameter and 12 meters long, which rotates 12 times a minute separating containers from paper and cardboard. Then later on the infra-red auto-sort for plastic bottles which is able to detect the difference between coloured, clear and opaque plastic bottles whizzing past on a conveyor belt at 30-40 mph and adjust a blast of compressed air to direct them to different places. Amazing!
The MRF undergoes maintenance for 20% of the time, though it can usually be run safely at the same time. Partly this is for routine, scheduled work – for example the moving parts on the conveyor belts need to be cleared of dust and broken glass particles – but sometimes the machinery is stopped by material that shouldn’t have been put in the recycling. Textiles are a problem, particularly for a machine called the V Screen which separates mixed paper. Also old VCR tapes get broken and release hundreds of feet of tape that gets wound up in the mechanisms and need staff to come in on Sunday to cut it away with Stanley knives. So we can help by not putting VCR tapes and textiles in our blue top bins, and by removing the caps from bottles and tetrapak cartoons so they can go to the appropriate place in the MRF.
As much as possible of the separated waste is sent on to UK companies for further processing, though some does go abroad: for example old tyres are shipped to Holland. Greenwich waste that cannot be reused, recycled or composted mostly goes to the South East London Combined Heat and Power energy recovery facility near Millwall Football Ground, where it is burnt to generate electricity. The train into London goes right past the SELCHP site. This means that Greenwich has one of the lowest figures for the percentage of waste that gets put into landfill in the country. For 2008/9 an FOI Request revealed that “Greenwich Council sent less waste to landfill than any other local authority in the UK. This was around 3% of the household waste generated.” However 2011 data on recycling on the Guardian Datablog indicated that Greenwich was the third lowest council for “Percentage of municipal waste sent to landfill”, with a figure of 6%.
The Guardian Datablog data also shows that Greenwich is a middling performer on amount of waste recycled, at 37%. The best council in London was neighbouring Bexley at 51% and the worst our northern neighbour Newham with just 15%. However the Greenwich percentage has shown quite an increase from the 11.5% in 2003 when it was agreed to build the MRF. There is still a way to go to meet the requirement in Chapter 5 of the London Plan to exceed exceed recycling/composting levels in municipal solid waste (MSW) of “45% by 2015, 50% by 2020 and aspiring to achieve 60% by 2031.” Greenwich is working with other South-East London boroughs to achieve this.
Another interesting thing I learned during the tour was what drove their efforts to improve recycling quality and quantities. As well helping to save the planet, obviously, the need to meet European directives is important, but also economics plays a major role. For example the best grade of recycled paper currently fetches £150 a ton, and aluminium is £700 a ton. This makes it worthwhile to recycle waxed tetrapak type cartons which contain a thin layer of Aluminium. I remember from school chemistry how energy intensive it is to extract Aluminium from Bauxite, so this is a benefit on many levels.
It was a very interesting tour and we were buzzing with fascinating facts when we handed our safety helmets and protective glasses back to Danny on the way out. Some amazing technology, and key to decreasing the amount of our rubbish that gets buried in landfill sites and increasing how much is reused in some way.
The Friends of Eaglesfield Park would like to invite you to join us at the Eaglesfield Wildlife Pond and Meadow for an afternoon of fun and music on Saturday 13th July between 2 pm and 5 pm. An exciting Afro-Brazilian band and the Greenwich Gospel Choir will be providing the music. Why not bring a picnic. Enjoy an afternoon In Eaglesfield Park and check out the Restored Wildlife Pond and Meadow – it’s amazing how quickly everything has grown and the amount of wildlife it is attracting. Take a closer look at the pond life – come and try POND DIPPING (we will supply the equipment).
Madeleine also mentioned the Friends’ participation at the EPNWS Community Fête on the 15th June, which was memorable, in part, because of the strong winds and heavy rain that that struck bang on the stroke of 1.00pm when the Fête was due to open. But they managed to “Carry on Pond Dipping Regardless” and the weather didn’t spoil their photo display detailing the various stages of the restoration of the pond and meadow.
Madeleine gave an update on the Friends’ plans for the pond:
Our aim is to provide a habitat that will encourage a wide range of wildlife – wildflowers/grasses, insects, bees, butterflies, pond life, birds, etc and a healthy well balanced pond environment. Creating the appropriate habitat is not just a question of “let everything grow, let Nature do its own thing”. Some plants are “thugs” and will take over very quickly, which smother some of the important nectar rich wildflowers. So it does mean we need to carry out maintenance and tidying.
This aspect of work is very much a learning curve for FOEP. We are compiling reference guides for identification of wildflowers, pond creatures, butterflies, birds, dragonflies/damsel flies, bees etc. If anyone has an interest in this type of research or monitoring we would love to hear from you. FOEP is not just pond dipping, digging and gardening! Although I enjoy hands-on gardening, I must admit since I have become more involved with identification and research, I am more aware of how much there is to see, once you start looking!
FOEP will arrange another Pond Dipping and Tidying Session as soon as possible. Please keep an eye on our notice board at the Foxcroft Road entrance to Eaglesfield Park.
Finally, please keep in touch with us. We would like to hear your comments and suggestions about any aspect of Eaglesfield Park – don’t forget the area on the other side of Eaglesfield Road is also part of the park.
We are only a “small band” – so anything you could do to help would be very much appreciated.
Entry to the exhibition is free, and it runs until 4.00pm on Wednesday 31st July. The AWPS are planning another exhibition to be held later in the summer at the Elixir Gallery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and they will have a stand at the Horn Fayre at Charlton House on 28th July.
‘But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.’
‘Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or anything.’
‘But the plans were on display …’
‘On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them’
That’s the display department.’
‘With a torch.’
Ah, well the lights had probably gone.’
‘So had the stairs.’
‘But look, you found the notice didn’t you?’
‘Yes,’ said Arthur, ‘yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.’
Arthur Dent‘s experience with his local planning department came to mind today as I tried to get hold of the documents detailing a new planning application, 12/2933/F – Permanent retention of 1x300mm diameter transmission dish. LFEPA MAST, EAGLESFIELD ROAD, PLUMSTEAD, SE18. When I first saw the application online yesterday it didn’t include any information describing what was proposed, just correspondence.
I was greeted at the Woolwich Centre by a friendly man who directed me to a booth in the corner where planning documents were kept and gave me a phone number to use on the courtesy phones if the documents I needed weren’t there. They weren’t, so I dialled 5222 and spoke to another friendly, helpful council officer. We mostly spoke mostly about an old application that I was looking for, but I discovered that due to shortages of storage space the council no longer keep the paperwork for planning applications over 4 or 5 years old, which is a problem when the process takes longer as it does sometimes for significant developments. I tried the council PC in the phone booth, but it had a version of the council web site from 2012 with a non-working link to planning searches.
12/2933/F is a recent application so I was directed to a pair of large filing cabinets downstairs in the corner of the library. Here the folders containing application paperwork are tightly packed in numerical order. The one I wanted wasn’t there, so I checked a few either side in case of misfiling then went to ask the library staff if it could be somewhere else, waiting to be refiled. “We don’t deal with that.” I was informed, “That’s the responsibility of the Planning Department.”
Back to the filing cabinets where I searched through the drawers of applications, but no luck. Back upstairs and dialled 5222 again. “Ah, maybe someone up here has the file.” Which they did, and it was brought down to me in the library. I finally photocopied the documents about an hour after arriving at the Woolwich Centre.
When I got home all the documents were now online!
The application documents were equally annoying. They referred to the application about a year ago for the temporary installation on the Eaglesfield mast of an extra microwave dish to support Olympics’ security. The Design and Access Statement from that application said (the text in bold is in the original):
It needs to be borne in mind that the proposed development is for 1 additional temporary microwave dish which is required to be installed for use during the Olympic period. The dish will be removed by 30/09/12.
So not only is the dish they promised to remove by last September, nine months ago, still there, but now they’ve changed their minds about it being temporary and want to keep it. To rub salt into the wound part of the justification for keeping this new dish in a conservation area is that “The Dish is already in situ and as such there will be no alteration to the appearance of the site.” You couldn’t make it up.
The dish was originally installed to provide a back up communications link, required for security reasons during the Olympics. It provided a direct microwave link to another TETRA communications mast within 50km. The new application is also to provide a communications link, replacing their existing system based on the BT kilostream product. The application doesn’t say what the link will be communicating with, but it appears to be pointed towards London City Airport according to the maps supplied. The snippet above shows the beam directed over the old fire-station and then down Eglinton Hill.
The application includes an ICNRP Declaration, which declares that the dish conforms to the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) requirements for radio frequency (RF) public exposure: effectively declaring the design safe. As it transmits “only 50 milliwatts, approximately a thousandth of the energy of a light bulb, and 200 times lower than the energy from a mobile telephone base station”, there is less concern for safety. It is also focused in a narrow beam pointing above the roofs of nearby houses.
Everyone who lives near the mast, 627 addresses altogether, should get a letter inviting comments on the application. I haven’t received mine yet, I assume it’s in the post.
The planning system had one last aggravation for me. I decided to track changes to 12/2933/F using the online system, but it requested that I register first, something I’ve been trying to do since April. I entered all my details again only to get the same error message that I reported to the council 3 months ago yet again: