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  • hilly 6:25 pm on June 17, 2015
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    Summer Solstice Celebrations at Woodlands Farm 

    Woodlands Farm midsummer walk poster

    They’re celebrating the summer solstice at Woodlands Farm this weekend with a barn dance on Saturday and a midsummer meander through their marvellous meadows on Sunday. Hannah from the farm wrote with details:

    Midsummer events at Woodlands Farm
    With the summer solstice coming up this weekend there are opportunities to celebrate at Woodlands Farm. On Saturday 20th a riotous barn dance starting 7.30pm until 11pm. The band is the famous Skinners Rats and a good tune is guaranteed. Bring your own choice of food and drink. Tickets £12 per person.
    On Sunday 21st June a chance to take part in a fabulous guided walk through our stunning hay meadows. Walk starts at 2pm and finishes in time for high tea, with scones, sponge, finger sandwiches and refreshing tea, all it costs is £10 per person.
    Book tickets by calling the office on 020 8319 8900 or email admin@thewoodlandsfarmtrust.org
    Woodlands Farm Trust Chair, Barry Gray says ‘The events this weekend are a chance to have fun and see Woodlands Farm at its best in high summer at the time of the solstice. We are looking forward to seeing many of our friends at this event’.

    The farm’s barn dances are great fun, as you can see in their photo below. No experience is necessary as Skinners Rats call the steps as well as playing the tunes. Recent dances have seen an abundance of stetsons, gingham, denim and boots, though I did wonder if the blow up cactus and mule were taking things a bit too far at the last dance.

    Barn dance at Woodlands Farm

    Barn dance at Woodlands Farm

    The BBC are forecasting good weather for Sunday so the farm’s meadows should be at their best. You will be able to see a wide variety of wild flowers with ancient names such as mouse ear, sheeps sorrel, goats beard, tansy, lesser trefoil, common vetch and grass vetchling. If you’re lucky I’m sure your guide will point out the Rapier missile resisting corky fruited water dropwort. Then, if you’re really interested in wild flowers, there’s a chance to help with a meadow plants survey next Wednesday 24th June, at 3.00pm.

    Wild flower meadows at Woodlands Farm

    Wild flower meadows at Woodlands Farm

  • hilly 5:29 pm on June 12, 2015
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    Community Open Day at the Equestrian Centre 

    Equestrian Centre Community open day leaflet

    Hadlow College’s Equestrian Centre on Shooters Hill is holding a community open day tomorrow, Saturday 13th June, but you’ll have to book a slot on 020 8331 3410 to be able to take a look round because the advertised on-line booking system doesn’t seem to work. Visitors will be able to see all aspects of the centre, plus riding displays and demonstrations and they will get to meet the horses. It’ll also be an opportunity to find out about the college’s courses and riding lessons.

    The Equestrian Centre was built following the 2012 Olympics as an Olympic legacy project. There was some controversy over Greenwich Council’s decision to grant planning permission, not least because the centre was to be built on a site next to Woodlands Farm that had been designated as Metropolitan Open Land. One of the conditions attached to planning permission was that there should be a minimum of 82 horse-riding hours a week access to the facilities by the local community. The centre is now offering riding lessons in the evenings and at weekends to Royal Borough of Greenwich residents who are over 14 years of age, but at a price.

    According to the Hadlow College leaflet you’ll have to pay for:

    Membership, costing just £40.00 a year includes:
    * Free initial assessment on our mechanical horse
    * Discounts on courses and events run by Hadlow College
    * Ability to book lessons up to 2 weeks in advance
    Lesson Costs (per lesson)
    30 minute private lesson £45.00
    45 minute group tuition (2-4 riders) £35.00 per person
    30 minute private lesson on our mechanical horse £40.00

    I managed to have a look round the centre shortly before it opened, but couldn’t take any pictures. I’m hoping to be able to photograph one of the only equine baths in the south-east of the UK tomorrow.

    Reception building at the Shooters Hill Equestrian Centre

    Reception building at the Shooters Hill Equestrian Centre

  • hilly 10:55 am on June 11, 2015  

    Prisoner of War Working Company 1020 Shooters Hill 

    Front cover of "Zur Erinnerung an 1020" from the Greenwich Heritage Centre

    Front cover of “Zur Erinnerung an 1020″ from the Greenwich Heritage Centre

    Zur Erinnerung an 1020 G-PWW-Coy Shooters Hill – As a Memento of German Prisoner of War Working Company 1020 Shooters Hill – is the title of an exquisite,  slim booklet from the archives of the Greenwich Heritage Centre. Its contents are a set of pen and ink drawings of the PoW camp by one of the German prisoners, Wolfram Dörge. Dated Christmas 1946, it is dedicated to the officer in charge of the camp, Major Leech, who was known to the prisoners of war as the “Father of the Camp”.

    Wolfram Dörge’s pictures show the various huts that made up the camp, including the mess hut, the infirmary, the recreation room and the cobblers’ and tailor’s shop. They also include views of the inside of some of the huts, such as the billet hut shown below, the kitchen and the stage in the recreation room. It is a unique record of life for German prisoners of war in the UK after the end of the second world war.

    Wolfram Dörge's picture of the Officers' Mess at Camp 1020

    Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the Officers’ Mess at Camp 1020

    Wolfram Dörge's picture of the inside of a hut at Camp 1020

    Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the inside of a hut at Camp 1020

    Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the recreation ground at Camp 1020

    Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the recreation ground at Camp 1020

    The camp was situated in the area now taken up by the southernmost 9 holes of Shooters Hill Golf Club, the part nearest Shooters Hill, plus the westernmost fields of Woodlands Farm. The Shooters Hill Golf Club history page  summarises the use of this part of the course during the war years:

    In 1939, the southernmost 9 holes of the course were requisitioned for the establishment of an anti-aircraft battery and part of the Clubhouse became the headquarters of the Home Guard, and in the latter years part of the course also became a Prisoner of War camp for some 1000 German and Italian prisoners. The camp was surrounded by a 7ft high wire fence, and the cookhouse situated by the 17th green. The remaining 9 holes continued to be played even though the course sustained considerable damage from bombing.

    The 17th Green at Shooters Hill Golf Club

    The 17th Green at Shooters Hill Golf Club

    The anti-aircraft battery was an unusual one – it was a Z Battery, which used 3-inch rockets to defend against enemy air attacks. In 2005 a community archaeological research programme called the “Lie of the Land project” led by local archaeologist Andy Brockman investigated the Shooters Hill ZAA Battery and the findings are documented in chapter 14 of Images of Conflict: Military Aerial Photography and Archaeology. An aerial photograph of the golf course from August 1944 shows the 64 twin-barrelled rocket projectors of the battery arranged in an 8 by 8 grid across the eastern-facing slopes. The battery was initially manned by personnel from the Royal Artillery, but later the Home Guard took over and it was fully manned by the Home Guard from the end of July 1943.

    Even at the time it seems there was some doubt about the effectiveness of such unguided rockets against enemy aircraft, and it was suggested that they were there as much for civilian morale as for usefulness in defence. After the battery was stood down it is reported that the Mayor of Bexley sent a message to the stand down dinner which included the comment: “Thank God you are standing down because you have caused more damage to property in Bexleyheath than the enemy has”.

    The Z Battery was on the golf course between August 1942 and November 1944, according to David Lloyd Bathe’s “Steeped in History”, which also mentions that an American tented camp was there before the PoW camp. Another aerial photograph from Images of Conflict, from October 1945, shows rows of military Bell tents which were no longer there in the autumn of 1946 – presumably this was the American camp – though when the PoW camp was first set up some of the prisoners were billeted in tents.

    "Loading Z battery Merseyside 1942 IWM H 21135" by Taylor (Lt), War Office official photographer - This is photograph H 21135 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 4700-37). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Loading_Z_battery_Merseyside_1942_IWM_H_21135.jpg#/media/File:Loading_Z_battery_Merseyside_1942_IWM_H_21135.jpg

    “Loading Z battery Merseyside 1942 IWM H 21135″ by Taylor (Lt), War Office official photographer – This is photograph H 21135 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 4700-37). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

    Camp 1020 was formed on 26th June 1946 according to a fascinating document from the National Archive which was referred to by Andy Brockman in his talk about the camp to Shooters Hill Local History Group last  September. Andy thanked SE9 Magazine who passed on the document which is a report on an inspection visit to the camp and gives details of the PoWs and their educational and cultural activities in the camp, including the work to “denazify” the prisoners .

    At the time of the report there were 533 German prisoners in the camp. They had all been transferred from Camp 197 at Chepstow, but before that 75% had been in the USA and the remainder in Belgium. Initially morale was low, as the report says:

    Morale at first was low, owing to the disappointment of Ps.W. ex USA, who had been assured by American officers that they were being repatriated, and discontentment of Ps.W. ex Belgium who alleged they had been badly fed and roughly treated in Belgium. Good treatment, attention to welfare and educational activities on the part of the British staff and better food has now raised morale considerably. Many Ps.W. ex Belgium have gained up to 40 lbs in weight and the camp can now be regarded as content and happy.

    Many of the activities organised for the prisoners were aimed towards political re-education, or denazification. One of the first steps was to classify how strongly each prisoner adhered to the Nazi ideology. A report on a project about another PoW camp, at Butcher Hill in Horsforth, explains the classification scheme:

    White patches (‘A’ ‘A-‘) were for prisoners with no loyalty or affiliation to the Nazis. A grey patch (‘B+’ ‘B’ ‘B-‘) meant that the prisoner, although not an ardent Nazi, had no strong feelings either way (mitläufer). Hard-core Nazis and almost all Waffen SS and U-Boat crews wore a black patch (‘C’ or ‘C+’).

    It isn’t clear whether the black/grey/white patch system was used at Camp 1020, but the camp was classified overall as grey and the A/B/C  method of classifying prisoners was used. The vast majority of Shooters Hill prisoners were classified as A and B with just 31 Cs and 1 C+.

    There were a wide range of re-education activities, including lectures on “Public Life in England” and “Germany yesterday, today and tomorrow” which were attended by between 100 and 150 prisoners and were followed by “lively discussions”. A press review was held three times a week attended by 150-200 men. Press items were selected and translated beforehand for the review. “Mr. Churchill’s speech at Conservative Conference was given in full and caused much discussion”. The radio was popular, with about 200 men listening to the BBC news in German on the “good quality wireless” in the recreation room. The YMCA Film Unit visited every Tuesday.

    There were beginner, intermediate and advanced classes in English and classes in French and Spanish. The number of classes was limited by lack of accommodation, according to the report. It also recommended that the library of 103 books in German and 100 in English be augmented with more German novels. In addition the supply of newspapers needed to be increased. They received copies of the Daily Express, Daily Herald, Daily Mail, the Times and the News of the World, and also of a UK government produced newspaper in German called Wochenpost. The 50 copies of the latter were deemed totally inadequate for a camp of 530 men.

    Westernmost fields of Woodlands Farm looking towards golf course

    Westernmost fields of Woodlands Farm looking towards golf course

    Why were prisoners of war still held in 1946, when the war in Europe had ended over a year earlier? They were kept as workers to help in reconstruction work at a time when many British workers were still overseas in the armed forces. Under the Geneva Convention PoWs couldn’t be forced to work, but most of them volunteered to as a way of passing the time. At its peak in September 1946 there were 402,200 prisoners of war in the UK, in hundreds of camps, of which 84.9% were working. It has been estimated that 25% of the workforce in the UK was such PoW labour.

    “Steeped in History” records that the prisoners in Camp 1020 worked mainly in the warehouses of the North Woolwich dockyards and in the public utilities of military and civilian facilities. A few helped with farm work, for example harvesting potatoes at Woodlands Farm where the Western field was given over entirely to growing potatoes. They also worked on the groundworks for the Cherry Orchard Estate in Charlton and on snow clearance in the harsh winter of 1946/47. David Lloyd Bathe tells the story of how they saved a Charlton football match:

    In the very severe winter of 1946/47, PoWs volunteered to clear the snow from the First Division Charlton Athletic’s football ground so that a regular weekend game could be played. About 300 PoW volunteers were “guests of honour! at the game.
    “When our part in saving the game was acknowledged over the loudspeakers, there was much cheering and backslapping, and many cigarettes came our way!”

    Prisoners at the camp were allowed quite a lot of freedom. When they weren’t working they could move freely within 5 miles of the camp in daylight hours. On Sundays a party of about 70 protestants went to a service in Welling Church. Catholics initially had a religious service at the camp led by a German speaking priest, but later they attended a mass arranged by Fr. Nevatt at St. Stephen’s RC Church in Welling. This became known to parishioners as the German Mass and hymns were sung in German.

    According to David Lloyd Bathe the prisoners at Working Camp 1020 were discharged from the camp in the spring of 1947. Now, nearly 70 years later, almost all trace of the war-time uses of the golf course and farm has disappeared. Apart from some anomalies in archaeological geophysical surveys at Woodlands Farm all that remains is a couple of ramps leading from Shooters Hill towards the golf course.

    Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course

    Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course

    Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course

    Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course

  • hilly 6:03 pm on May 29, 2015
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    Woodlands Farm Summer Show and Open Farm Sunday 

    Summer Show 2015

    Woodlands Farm‘s Summer Show is combined with Open Farm Sunday again this year, so it will include farming related demonstrations such as sheep shearing and a vintage tractor display. It takes place on Sunday 7th June between 11.00am and 4.30pm. Maureen from the farm wrote with details:

    All are welcome at the Woodlands Farm Summer Show. Come and meet our animals, and enjoy the chance to buy quality local produce at reasonable prices, including home-made preserves and cakes. Relax in our café, get involved in craft activities and games, and enjoy displays of country crafts. Entry is £1 adults, 50p children. All proceeds go towards caring for our animals. A great family day out!

    Since Open Farm Sunday started in 2006 over over a thousand farmers have opened their farms to the public for a day. This year hundreds of farms will be open on Sunday 7th June. In London, as well as Woodlands Farm,  this includes Stepney City Farm and Kentish Town City Farm.  Open Farm Sunday is organised by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming).

    Woodlands Farm's 2014  Summer Show

    Woodlands Farm’s 2014 Summer Show

    The farm will also be participating in the pollinator survey  which is being run as part of Open Farm Sunday again this year. The pollinator survey is one of a series of ecological surveys that the farm will be repeating this year, following the same approach as in 2014. Others already lined up are an amphibian survey on Tuesday 16th June, a meadow plants survey on Wednesday 24th June, two bat surveys in July, a dragonfly survey on Wednesday 8th July and the Big Butterfly count in August. If you’re interested in being involved in the surveys contact Hannah Forshaw, the farm’s Education Officer, on education@thewoodlandsfarmtrust.org.

    Wild Rose at Woodlands Farm

    Wild Rose at Woodlands Farm

  • hilly 11:51 am on May 10, 2015
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    Shrewsbury Park Bat Walk 

    May 15 bat walk poster

    The Friends of Shrewsbury Park‘s bat walks have become so popular that this year they will be holding two. The first will be held next Friday, 15th May, and the second later in the year on 11th September. An e-mail from the Friends gave the details:

    Hang out with the bats
    Shrewsbury Park 15th May 2015
    Meet in the car park off Plum Lane at 8.00pm for an introduction from bat-wise FSP members who will lead this adventure through the park at sunset using our eyes, ears and bat detectors!
    – Wear sturdy shoes and appropriate clothing
    – Children must be accompanied by an adult
    – Walk lasts about 1 ½ hours and torches are helpful
    – Dogs must be kept on a lead
    – If you have mobility issues, please contact us on fspdog@hotmail.com and we will 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!!

    The Friends will be borrowing bat detectors for the evening from the local parks forum,  the Bat Conservation Trust and London Bat Group.

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

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

    If you’re interested in bats then there will be lots of other chances to see them during the summer months. You can get really close to bats at the annual Bat Fest held at the Natural History Museum. This year it will be held over the August Bank Holiday weekend, 29th and 30th August from 12-5pm. One of the many highlights is Jenny Clark and her education bats, as the BCT website says:

    Sussex Bat Hospital –  One of our most popular attractions!
    Learn about the work of Jenny the bat carer a.k.a. ‘BatLady’ who will bring her bat lodgers in for the day. These bats have been previously injured but sadly cannot be released into the wild. However, they live a comfortable life with Jenny who caters to all of their batty needs.

    Jenny, who was awarded the MBE in the 2015 New Years Honours List for her services to bat conservation, brings along examples of most of the UK bat species and shows them off to visitors.

    There will also be a number of other bat walks in the local area during the coming months. Woodlands Farm and Hall Place haven’t published the dates for their bat walks yet, but Crossness Nature Reserve have. The Bexley Wildlife blog has the details:

    Fri 14th Aug, 20:15 – 22:30
    BAT WALK– A walk round Southmere Lake and Crossness Southern Marsh, south of Eastern Way, identifying bat species with the use of bat detectors. Daubenton’s bats will be putting on a show over the lake, and Pipistrelle bats – and hopefully other species – will be hunting over the marshes. Feel free to bring children along. Bring a torch if you have one and you might want to wear some insect repellent. Sorry, there are no refreshments provided for this event
    Meet 20:15 at the Southmere Lake/ Lakeside Complex car park off Belvedere Road (SE2 9AQ)

    Fri 11th Sept, 19:00 – 21:00
    BAT WALK– A nocturnal walk around the nature reserve north of Eastern Way after sunset, identifying bat species with the use of bat detectors. Hopefully we’ll see some other nocturnal species too. Bring a torch if you have one, and you might wish to wear some insect repellent.

    Book for these by contacting Karen Sutton, the Biodiversity Team Manager at Thames Water Crossness Nature Reserve by phone on 07747 643958 or Email: Karen.sutton@thameswater.co.uk.

    If you can’t wait to see some bats here is a video of a pipistrelle bat in the hand. Remember though, if you do find a bat you shouldn’t handle it, but follow the BCT guidelines for containing it and contact the Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228 or email enquiries@bats.org.uk.

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