Olympics & Paralympics Test Events: Bus Changes in April/May

Olympic Shooting and Paralympic Archery venue
Olympic Shooting and Paralympic Archery venue

Transport for London have published the dates and details of local bus route changes when the Olympic and Paralympic test events take place over the next month. The changes are needed because Ha Ha Road is closed from 15th April to 7th May and Repository Road from 16th April to 29th April. Bus routes 161, 178, 291, 386, 469, 486  will be affected. A temporary new bus route, the 561, will go to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital from Chiselhurst between 15th and 28th April:

On the days that both Ha-Ha Road and Repository Road are closed, route 161 will not serve Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  Instead a new, temporary service – route 561 – will operate between Chislehurst and Queen Elizabeth Hospital (west entrance). This service has been provided in response to concerns from residents in Eltham, Mottingham and Chislehurst. All other routes will continue to serve the hospital via the west entrance.

The two events are the ISSF World Cup Shooting from 17th-29th April, which the LondonTown web site describes as:

The world’s top elite marksmen compete in this international rifle, pistol and shotgun competition which also serves as an Olympic qualification and Test Event ahead of London 2012. The 11-day ISSF World Cup event will be the ideal opportunity for both competitors and spectators to get a taste of the historic Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, which will host the Olympic shooting competitions this summer.

and the Paralympic Archery Test Event from 4th-6th May:

International Paralympic archers trial out standing and wheelchair events for individuals and teams in this four-day Olympic test event at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich. The event is part of the London Prepares series, which runs high-profile tests and trials all all London 2012 venues and for all events ahead of this summer’s Olympic bonanza.

There will only be between 240 and 440 people attending on any one day so it has been decided that the proposed controlled parking zone in the area will not be required. Tickets will not be on sale to the general public, though Royal Greenwich Council will have about 17% of the tickets to distribute to local residents and 6% of tickets will go to local community groups.

Incidentally the Olympics Controlled Parking Zone seems to have changed in the Olympic Delivery Authority document from the previous map – the shapes of the borders are different. I guess the details are still under discussion, but I’m sure  “they” will let us know before 27th July.

Map of Olympics Controlled Parking Zone
Map of Olympics Controlled Parking Zone

Olympic Torch Route

Olympic Torch Route on 21st July
Olympic Torch Route on 21st July

London 2012 have announced the street-by-street route that the Olympic Torch Relay will follow in the weeks leading up to the games. They will be in Greenwich on Saturday 21st July, starting at 07:21, passing the Royal Observatory and Meridian Time Line at 07:42 and getting to the Woolwich ferry by 10.10. As can be seen on the snippet from London 2012’s map above, the route near Shooters Hill takes them along Eltham High Street, Westmount Road, Well Hall Road, Academy Road, Woolwich Common, Grand Depot Road, John Wilson Street and Wellington Street.

London 2012  have also named 7,300 of the 8000 torch bearers, including  23 people ranging in age from 11 to 81 years old who will carry the torch through Greenwich on the 21st. There will be an  average of 115 torch bearers a day carrying the flame. London 2012 also revealed the uniforms that the torch bearers would wear, which they described as follows:

The primary colour is white with gold shards accenting the energy of the Olympic Flame at the shoulder and neckline. Multiple gold shards are used at the elbow to focus the eye on the arm, with a final shard continuing down to the cuff and the hand holding the Torch.

One of London 2012’s photographs showing the uniform is included below.

I’m sure there will be lots of people lining the road as the torch passes on the morning of 21st July.

Corky Fruited Water Dropwort

wikipedia commons image of the Corky Fruited Water Dropwort
wikipedia commons image of the Corky Fruited Water Dropwort

The Corky Fruited Water Dropwort (Oenanthe pimpinelloides) has been getting a lot of press in the last couple of days. It would appear to be the only barrier preventing deployment of a Rapier Missile Battery near the cafe in Oxleas Woods. The plant mainly grows in the west country, Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire but also in a few places around London. My New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora says it is a “tuberous perennial herb, found in hay meadows and pastures, especially those which are horse-grazed, and on roadsides. It grows in both damp and dry grassland.”  It sounds like  like an innocuous plant to have the power to deter missile batteries. The Devon Wildlife Trust describes it as follows:

Grows up to about 100 mm tall. The stem is solid, ridged and un-spotted, and it has a swollen corky base (hence the English name). The lower leaves are 2-pinnate in spring, but wither by the time of flowering. The upper leaves are 3-pronged and lanceolate, persisting into flowering. The roots terminate in rounded tubers.

Flowering takes place from June to August. The flowers are in umbels (2 to 5 cm across), on stout rays (1 to 2 cm across), which are flat-topped when in fruit. The flowers are white or pink, 2 mm across, with the outer petals unequal. Bracts and bracteoles are present. The fruits are cylindrical, ribbed, and thickened at the top with 2 erect styles.

Oxleas Cafe - Proposed Site of a Rapier Missile Battery
Oxleas Cafe - Proposed Site of a Rapier Missile Battery

I first heard of the proposal to site missile batteries in the woods and on Blackheath through the Blackheath Bugle blog. It sounded so bonkers that I had to quickly check that it wasn’t 1st April – could anyone really be thinking of  shooting down a couple of hundred tons of passenger aircraft over London? Surely they would have closed the airspace around London and stopped flights at London City Airport well before they got to that? But it does seem to be under consideration and has been reported in the Mail Online, the BBC News and News Shopper.

Local MP Clive Efford is objecting to the plans because there is a risk of damaging the ancient Oxleas woodland, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. As the Mail Online said

Mr Efford said five troop carriers had driven into the woods last Thursday, with the rockets pulled behind them on a trailer, to carry out a military exercise.

He said: ‘The missiles have a range of only ten miles so any plane they target would come down over a densely populated part of the capital. It seems to me they can be used only as an absolutely last line of defence.’

Mr Efford added that as the Rapiers were set to be placed by the Oxleas Wood cafe, ‘at least the missile operators would eat well’. Olympic security planners fear that terrorists could mount a repeat of the 9/11 attacks by flying a hijacked civilian plane into packed Olympic venues.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for any Corky Fruited Water Dropwort next time I’m walking in Oxleas Woods. Oh, and any Rapier Missile Batteries.

Clive Efford (centre) and friends giving a Valentines Day card to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Clive Efford (centre) and friends giving a Valentines Day card to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Olympics Parking in Shooters Hill

Shooters Hill 2012 Olympic Parking Restrictions
Shooters Hill 2012 Olympic Parking Restrictions

I just caught the LOCOG/Greenwich Council/TfL stand in General Gordon Square about traffic management during the games before the wind and rain blew them in to Woolwich Library. They will be there again tomorrow (weather permitting I guess), and they have published some, but not all, of the displays on the London 2012 web site.

The proposed road closures weren’t surprising. Roads around the Olympics venues  – Ha-Ha Road, Circular Way and perhaps less expectedly Repository Road – will be closed. There will be a checkpoint for traffic coming along Charlton Road, with all non-games traffic diverted down Stadium Road. Buses will be diverted around the closures.

The main impact proposed for us Shooters Hill residents will be a large extension of the residents parking zone across the hill, as shown in the extract from the map, above. The additional area is North of Shooters Hill Road, bordered on the East by the Golf Club and Shrewsbury Park, Wrekin Road and Ennis Road down to the Common then down to join the current restricted parking zone round Plumstead Station. Details of how we can get parking permits, including permits for visitors, will be communicated “early in 2012”. The web site does say that we are entitled to visitor permits, but not how many.

Providing they get all the details right this sounds like a good way to deter Olympic games spectators from filling all the roads around the venues with parked cars, with not-too-much impact on residents. Parking fines are likely to be increased to £200 for the duration of the Games.

If you want to comment on the proposals, and can’t get along to the drop-in session, the London 2012 web site gives the following methods:

Have your say

Email: greenwichparking@london2012.com
Post: Freepost Traffic and Parking enquiry
Phone: 08000 111 300

Tough Times

Demonstration outside Woolwich Centre about public sector pensions
Demonstration outside Woolwich Centre about public sector pensions

The well-stocked  Amnesty International Blackheath and Greenwich Book Sale gives me a feeling of reassurance that my obsession with books is not as bad as it might be. Other bibliophiles have it much worse than I do; they are already in the queue for the sale when I arrive at the Church of the Ascension about ten minutes before it opens, and they bring along suitcases and cardboard boxes to cram full of their purchases. In the last couple of sales I’ve, fortuitously, come away with books that seems appropriate to Amnesty International’s mission. At the sale a few weeks ago I bought a slim, 119-year-old, battered blue-brown covered hardback copy of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. With its yellowed, sometimes stained pages, that so clearly express such powerful ideas, I feel it is a truly beautiful object. OK, so maybe my book obsession is as bad as I suspected.

In his Introductory Mill writes of the need to protect the weaker members of the community from the “vultures” and “minor harpies” of the governing tribe or caste. Of course that should not be necessary now we elect our rulers, and we don’t have a governing caste …. or do we?

The members of the unions representing public sector workers who came out on strike last week, some of whom are pictured above demonstrating in front of the new Woolwich Centre, certainly feel under attack. As well as the proposed changes in their pension contributions and retirement age they also have to cope with the effects of a new forecast total of 710,000 public sector job losses and an extended pay freeze. Leaving aside the economics and the politics of public sector pensions, the public sector workers are undoubtedly experiencing tough times, an experience that is perhaps exacerbated by the perception that not all parts of society are experiencing their share of the toughness of the times.

Another group feeling under attack at the moment are disabled people and those unable to work due to medical conditions. The way in which the current Work Capability Assessments are being carried out has led some vulnerable, psychologically fragile claimants to despair , depression and thoughts of suicide.  Private Eye recently reported claims that these assessments had been cited as factors at 16 suicide inquests; these include Scottish writer and poet Paul Reekie.  Amidst reports that staff at Atos, the company contracted to carry out the assessments, have expressed very disparaging opinions about disabled claimants, the campaign group Black Triangle have called for a boycott of the Paralympic Games because of Atos’ involvement. I’m amazed that there hasn’t been more of an outcry about this failure to protect some of the weaker members of the community. Vultures and minor harpies indeed!

The FareShare Million Meal Appeal leaflet which was handed out to Sainsburys' shoppers on 26th November
FareShare Million Meal Appeal leaflet

The generosity of people in Woolwich, Greenwich and across the country in supporting the FareShare 1 Million Meal Appeal provides a cheering and striking contrast to these attitudes.  FareShare is a charity that is working to relieve food poverty. This is mainly achieved by redistributing quality food that food retailers are unable to sell and would otherwise throw away. The food is distributed through a network of some 700 organisations in the UK, such as church groups, hostels, women’s refuges  and school breakfast clubs. It  feeds about 35,500 people a day, up 20% from 29,000 last year, rescuing 3,600 tonnes of surplus food in the process.

The 1 Million Meal Appeal, a collaboration with Sainsburys, aimed to collect 1 million meals worth of food items that FareShare do not usually get because it is long shelf-life, such as rice, pasta and tinned food. They recruited hundreds of volunteers to hand out a shopping list of such items, shown above, at Sainsburys’ stores across the country and ask shoppers to donate. When I went in to the Sainsburys in Greenwich to do our weekly shop at around lunch time last week the volunteers’ sign said that shoppers had already donated 5 shopping trolleys full of food, and there was another full trolley on the way out. Across the country shoppers gave enough food for 600,000 meals, which was matched by Sainsburys to make 1.2 million meals in total. FareShare will provide food for about 250,000 Christmas lunches and dinners, so this is good timing.

Tough times, for sure. What would John Stuart Mill have thought about it? I think that one of his other books, Utilitarianism, puts him firmly on the side of the 99%.

Equestrian Centre Leaps Final Fences

The controversial Equestrian Centre that is proposed for the area between Woodlands Farm and Thompsons Garden Centre on Shooters Hill Road has passed two potential barriers to its implementation. Both the Mayor of London and the Secretary of State have decided not to intervene in Greenwich Council’s decision to grant approval for the Centre.

The Mayor’s letter stated:

Having now considered a report on this case (reference PDU/2760/GK02 copy enclosed), I am content to allow Greenwich Council to determine the case itself, subject to any action that the Secretary of State may take, and therefore do not wish to direct refusal.

However I request that Natural England are fully consulted in relation to the discharge of condition 22 regarding the ecological mitigation and management plan.

And that from the Secretary of State’s representative:

The Secretary of State has carefully considered this case against call-in policy, as set out in the 1999 Caborn Statement. The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively. The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
The Secretary of State has carefully considered the impact of the proposal and the key policy issues, which this case raises. In his opinion, the proposals do not: involve a conflict with national policies on important matters; have significant effects beyond their immediate locality; give rise to substantial regional or national controversy; raise significant architectural and urban design issues; or involve the interests of national security or of Foreign Governments. Nor does he consider that there is any other sufficient reason to call the application in for his own determination.
The decision as to whether to grant planning permission will therefore remain with Greenwhich Council.

The decision does include 31 conditions, including a stipulation that there should be a minimum of 82 horse-riding hours a week access to the facilities by the local community, a prior programme of archaeological work and production of an Ecological Mitigation and Management Plan.

The report accompanying the decision reveals that 12 sites were considered as possible locations for the centre, most of them local sports grounds and playing fields, and the brief reasons why they were discounted.

It also states that the Council are seeking agreement for the Blackheath donkeys to move to a site in Woodbrook Road.

Perhaps most importantly the report mentions the “very special circumstances” that are necessary to justify development on Metropolitan Open Land. Mentions but doesn’t detail…  in the words of the Mayor’s report:

The ‘very special circumstances’ put forward to justify the harm to MOL regarding Olympic legacy, increasing participation in sport, education, community benefit, lack of alternative sites and the financial justification from connection activity on the site are now, on balance, acceptable, and the application complies with London Plan policy.

So that seems to be that. Greenwich Council is allowed to decide on the planning application that they themselves have put forward.

Plan of the area where the Centre will be as it is now taken from the planning documents
Plan of the area where the Centre will be as it is now
Plan of the area where the centre will be after the Centre is built taken from the planning documents
Plan of the area after the Centre is built

Heroes' Corner

Memorial at Heroes' Corner, Greenwich Cemetery
The memorial at Heroes' Corner, Greenwich Cemetery

The Last Post always brings  tears to my eyes, and not just because it was played by a bugler at my Dad’s funeral. Remembrance Day was an important time of year for Dad. In the photograph, framed in black slate, that looks at me as I type he is wearing a poppy in his British Legion  beret. It was taken by  a Mercury photographer to illustrate an article about him selling poppies in Lewisham a few years before he died. Another picture shows him standing proudly to attention as the standard bearer holding the Light Infantry Association standard at a remembrance parade at the Chelsea Barracks.

Heroes Corner, in Greenwich Cemetery, is the area where 263 of the 556 First World War graves in the cemetery are located. As the Commonwealth War Graves Commission describes it:

“Greenwich Cemetery contains 556 First World War burials. More than half of these graves are scattered throughout the cemetery, but 263 form a large war graves plot known as ‘Heroes’ Corner’. Here, two curved screen walls bear the names of casualties buried both in the plot and in unmarked graves in the cemetery. The Second World War plot adjoins and contains 75 graves. An additional screen wall commemorates casualties buried in this plot and ten others buried in unmarked graves elsewhere in the cemetery. In all, the cemetery contains 124 Second World War burials, 3 of which are unidentified British soldiers. Section E contains a plot of 30 Norwegian service graves from the Second World War.”

The tragedy of the First World War is compounded by the courageous futility of mass charges against artillery and machine guns. My favourite poet, Wilfred Owen, captures the gritty reality and sadness, and also seems to express some of the anger we feel today at the waste of a generation.

    Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.

The close relationship between Shooters Hill and the armed forces is epitomised by the monumental architecture of the cluster of military-related buildings around Woolwich Common – now the site of the shooting stadium for the 2012 Olympics. Close to the Greenwich Cemetery there is the former Royal Herbert Hospital, then the former military academy and of course the Woolwich Barracks. Nearby stands the ruin of St George’s Garrison Church, with its Victoria Cross memorial. Further up Shooters Hill is the Memorial Hospital.

Responsibility for raising the money to build the War Memorial Hospital was the role of the Remembrance Committee at the end of the First World War. They did this largely through public subscription, for example all the staff of the Woolwich Arsenal agreed to have a shilling a month deducted from their pay to contribute to the cost. The hospital was opened on the 2nd November 1927 by HRH the Duke of York, who also planted the Lawson Cypress that still stands in front of the hospital. The heart of the hospital is the Hall of Remembrance where two books of remembrance lie open, commemorating local servicemen and civilians killed in the two world wars. A page is turned every day.  Yesterday the civilian pages included records of six deaths in Red Lion Lane on the 19th October 1940 and deaths in Eglinton Road on 15th October 1940.

Hall of Remembrance at Memorial Hospital, Shooters Hill
The Hall of Remembrance at the Memorial Hospital

And the heroism and sacrifice has continued since the second world war:  Malaya – 40 British service personnel killed; Cyprus – over 105 killed; Korea – 765 killed; Aden – 68; The Balkans – 48; Kuwait – 47;  Falklands – 255; Northern Ireland 719; Iraq – 179; Afghanistan – 382. The last post has been sounded too many times.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

From Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen”.

Approaching sunset at the memorial at Heroes' Corner, Greenwich Cemetery
The going down of the sun at Heroes' Corner

Marvellous Mosaics

St George - a detail of the St George and the Dragon Mosaic, Garrison Church Woolwich
St George shown in the Victoria Cross Memorial mosaic in St George's Garrison Church

I was really pleased to read in the Mercury that the Heritage Lottery Fund had awarded a £396000 grant to put a tensile roof (of similar material to the O2 Dome) above the ruins of St George’s Garrison Church to conserve the remains, and to preserve the stunning mosaics that still decorate the walls. And also pleased that it is planned that the site will be fully accessible to the public once the work is complete in just over 2 years time; the detail of these marvellous mosaics should be seen by many more people.

The Heritage Lottery Fund web site describes the project, and also some of the history of the church:

“St George’s Garrison Church – built between 1863-67 to serve the Woolwich Garrison community – was designed in the Lombardi style of stock brick construction with red and blue vitrified detailing, and was decorated internally with mosaics, inlaid marble, and monuments to battles and servicemen fallen in armed conflict. It became the Royal Garrison Church in 1928 after a visit by King George V, however was reduced to a roofless shell after being hit by a V2 Flying bomb in 1944. Subsequently partly demolished to leave only the lower sections of the perimeter walls, the remains of the church now enclose a walled garden that has the feeling of a ‘secret’ garden.

Today, the church remains consecrated and is used for open air services by Service personnel in the Royal Artillery Barracks, and significant decorative interior remains. Notably, this includes the Victoria Cross memorial with a mosaic depicting St George and the Dragon, flanked by marble tablets inscribed with the names of all deceased gunners who won the Victoria Cross from the Crimean War to mid World War II. Ownership, as part of this project, is due to be transferred from the Ministry of Defence to HOLT Op at the start of November.”

I visited the church on one of its rare openings, on London Open House day a few years ago, and was struck by the detailed and colourful mosaics. These include the Victoria Cross Memorials’ St. George and the Dragon, a Peacock and a Phoenix rising from the ashes. An article from Dulwich OnView gave some background on the mosaics:

“Recent research by English Heritage has revealed that the mosaics were added in 1903 by Messrs Burke & Co of Newman Street in London – they include a wonderful peacock, the symbol of the Resurrection, and a phoenix, the symbol of immortality.”

The BBC Inside Out London programme on Monday 7th November at 7.30 will feature an item about the church and the efforts to conserve it.

Phoenix rising mosaic, St Georges' Garrison Church Woolwich
Phoenix rising mosaic, St Georges' Garrison Church Woolwich
Detail of Peacock mosaic, St George's Garrison Church Woolwich
Detail of Peacock mosaic, St George's Garrison Church Woolwich

Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Archery

During the Olympics Woolwich will be playing host to the shooters. At one point there were calls to stage their events at the Bisley rifle range, which would have benefited the future of gun games in this country by upgrading their facilities, although it does seem appropriate to shoot stuff at the spiritual home of this country’s big guns: the Royal Artillery. Plus the competitors can all stay on Shooters Hill and feel at home.[1. Note that the name Shooters Hill more likely follows from the old English `Shaw Tor’ meaning Woody Hill…]

Apparently, work has recently started on the venues, without so much as a by-your-leave from anyone in the local area, although apparently there has been a `consultation’ (an increasingly spine chilling term). I wonder how many people actually went.

Some hoardings are now up on Woolwich Common, surrounding the site of the shootings to be, and here’s a look at the cheesegrater style architecture that’s going to be built on the common, and then taken away. No news what’s going to be left behind once they’ve gone, although I hope the Olympic people leave the common in the same shape they found it (i.e. pretty much as nature intended, bar the odd lawnmower and circus camel).


The view of the paralympic archery venue, looking westwards along haha road.

Thanks to @grantblowers for sending me the news release, and 853blog who wrote about this earlier today, also pointing out that ha-ha road and circular way will be out-of-service during the games, meaning that bus routes to the hospital will presumably be redirected via Charlton way – again this is the kind of thing that a more transparent (i.e. known about) consultation process could bring to people’s attention so they don’t find out in Summer 2012. More can be read about what’s happening in the first issue of Engage, the Olympic news release for our area.

Eagles in the field

Wow! The 3rd eaglesfield neighbourhood watch fête was absolutely fantastic. The main park users catered for were the children but i’m sure the dogs didn’t mind. A possible 3rd user group was being sounded out yesterday with the beginning of a council consultation regarding funds allocated for new fitness facilities in the park. There are currently 3 main options:

  • trim trail (monkey bars etc dotted around the park)
  • one gym area (possibly in the south east corner, almost certainly not the top by the lily pond)
  • neither

It would be great to get some more park users (improved access and signs are also coming), although there are several issues to be sorted out at the grass roots level including environmental effects, materials to be used, colours, maintenance etc. For those interested in finding out more, the councillors/friends of eaglesfield park can provide more information. At first i thought that a trim trail might blend in more (require less levelling), but on further reflection i think it could actually be more intrusive as it would involve spreading these potentially unattractive structures over a much larger area, it didn’t take long to find an blog rant on the subject, with a main complaint being that people don’t actually use them – it’s not certain whether people would use an outdoor gym any more or less either.

Moves to make a permanent feature of ww1 gun base are coming along. It was probably installed to help defend against zepellins flying towards london, and is highly significant as it remains a unique find.

The reinstatement of the lily pond is looking promising too.