The Friends of Oxleas Woodlands have had an amazing first year, and continue with a full programme of events for 2019, including a Family Walk this Sunday, a Bat Walk on May 10th and activities in May to mark the Tree Council’s Walk in the Woods month. They have made great progress in the restoration of the rose gardens in Castle Wood and Jackwood, have set up additional Conservation Working Party sessions and litter picks and continued to campaign for the preservation of the woodlands. And that’s not to mention the Houses in the Woods walks, their Gardeners Question Time at Shrewsbury House and rose pruning workshops.
The work on the rose garden restoration has been particularly impressive, with many volunteer hours put in to clearing and mulching the beds, in association with the Royal Borough of Greenwich Parks Department. They have plans to re-plant the beds with 265 roses and create interpretation boards, which will include information about the varieties of rose planted, the history of the woods, the Friends of Oxleas Woodlands and the names of donors. They are crowdfunding to pay for the roses and boards: to donate go to: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/freindsofoxleaswoodlands-fow
Each £15 donation will sponsor a rose in either your name or the name of a loved one, which can be displayed on the new interpretation board.
The Friends’ next public event is the Family Walk on Sunday. Their events flyer gave the details:
Guided Walk : Seasonal Family Walk – Sunday 28 April at 10.30am. FEEL a tree, SEE spring plants, LISTEN to birds and other forest animals. This guided walk is designed for accompanied children aged 5 years and upwards. Please note that all places on Guided walks must be booked in advance and you are advised to let us know if you are coming to any of the activities as there may be changes to where and when we meet. You can contact us at email@example.com for activities or firstname.lastname@example.org for general enquires or visit our website www.oxleaswoodlands.uk
The Friend’s programme for May is included below, though I suspect there will be additional events to mark Walk in the Woods month:
Celebrate Oxleas Woodlands by joining us on Monday 6th May at Oxleas Woods Café from 11am. This Bank Holiday Special is part of the Tree Council’s Walk in the Woods month. We will have free activities for all the family, including guided walks, maps, tree dressing, bark rubbing and more. Guided Walk: Dawn Chorus on Saturday 4th at 5am. An early morning walk identifying the birds as they fill our ears with their morning songs, followed by an optional breakfast at the café. Booking your place on this walk is essential. Rose Garden Restoration: Saturday 4th at 10am. As well as weeding the beds we hope to be choosing the mix of rose varieties for the eleven beds that we will be planting in Autumn Walk in the Woods Celebration of Oxleas Monday 6th from 11am onwards. A range of Free activities for all the family. Including guided walks, maps, tree dressing, bark rubbing and lots more. Rose Garden Restoration: Friday 10th at 3pm. The weeds are really growing through now but together we can ensure the old roses take centre stage. Guided Walk: Bat Walk on Friday 10th, 8.30pm Join us as the sun sets to explore the darkening wood, listening for bats and identifying their calls. Booking your place on this walk is essential. Shooters Hill Working Party: Saturday 11th at 10am The Shooters Hill Working Party meets on the second Saturday of every month at Oxleas Café. Woodland Conservation: Friday 17th at 10am. We’ll get dirty hands and have fun doing woodland management activities to ensure a variety of flora and fauna flourish. Litter Pick: Saturday 25th at 10am There are always some incredibly strange finds on our litter pick days, and we have a surprising amount of fun working together in the thick of it.
Amongst the objectives of the Friends is to support the aims of the Woodland Trust’s Charter for Trees, Woods and People which includes ensuring that the woodlands continue to provide a rich ecosystem with habitat for a diverse range of animals, and to advocate and campaign for stronger legal protection for trees and woods, especially those which have SSSI status. Recent concerns, and action, have been about the type of rodenticide used to control rats near the old police station, and the felling by the council of mature oak trees at the back of Crookston Road at the behest of insurance companies dealing with subsidence claims. The oak trees have been in place much longer than the properties for which it is alleged they cause subsidence!
I’ll post again about the Friends’ Walk in the Woods month activities when I get more information, but now is a perfect time for a walk in the woods, with new leaves on the trees and the bluebells and many other wild flowers in bloom.
As you know we have had a couple of Bat walks and Houses in the woods walk; which we are planning to offer again, weather permitting. We also have our regular activities, the litter collection once a month; the Saturday and new weekday conservation sessions with the Shooters Hill Woodland working group and a new gardening project to re-establish the rose gardens at Jackwood and Castle woods. I have attached a poster about this project including the dates of forthcoming gardening sessions.
Our activities have been developed in response to our members’ requests and we are really fortunate to have knowledgeable members who have been able to lead walks and deliver interesting talks on a range of subjects.
Up until now we have been able to open up all our activities to non members as well as members but with our large and growing membership (currently we have 92 members), we are needing to prioritise some activities such as the Walks to members (their friends/families) only. So far, we have not had to turn people away; we have just had to repeat the walks! Needless to say, we are always grateful for volunteers to work with us on the regular gardening, litter collection and conservation activities.
The poster reads:
A massive thank you to all the volunteers who were able to help at short notice with clearing the rose beds at Jackwood Terrace (above). It took a total of 30 man & woman hours to weed the beds.
We have confirmation from the Council that they will add mulch when time allows, but volunteers may be needed to help with spreading.
Parks & Open Spaces did remove the roses from the Severndroog beds (below) with the intention of replacing them with wildflowers. They have now given permission for FOW to replace the roses in the autumn if funding can be secured. We have requested further information on sponsorship permission.
Whilst funding is secured for replacement roses (best planted in the autumn) we are looking for volunteers to help weed and prepare the Severndroog beds during August and September.
We will use this as an experiment to see what days and dates suit different people so please do let email@example.com know when you can join us (see purple box above).
PS. We will offer to find a good use for the wildflower seeds too.
The next event that the Friends have planned is this Sunday, 14th October, when the Friends’ Chair Tom Wareham will lead a repeat of the Houses in the Woods walk. This twilight wander through the woods visits the sites of some of the great houses that used to stand in the woodlands: Castle House; Castlewood; Jackwood; Wood Lodge; Warren Wood and Falconwood. Each participant on the walk is loaned an A4 folder with pictures of the houses before they were demolished. As the appropriate points on the walk it is possible to hold the pictures up against the current scenery and see where the houses stood. What a great way of presenting local history! The stories about the houses and gossip about their occupants are fascinating.
It’s very likely that Sunday’s walk is already fully booked, but contact Sue on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
The next dates for other planned Friends’ activities are:
Litter collection Saturday 27th October 10am – 12pm Shooters Hill Working Party Saturday 13th October 10am, Friday 19th October 10am – 3pm Rose beds & bulbs Sunday 4th November 10am-12pm, Friday 9th November 2pm-4pm
Again, contact Sue for more information. The next members’ meeting is planned for 7.30pm on Tuesday 4th December in Shrewsbury House.
The recently formed Friends of Oxleas Woodlands are holding a bat walk next Friday, 27th April starting at 8.00pm at the Crookston Road entrance to the woodlands. The walk is free, but places are limited and booking is necessary. Their poster gives the details:
Oxleas Woodlands Bat Walk.
Friday 27thApril at 8pm
Come along and meet our local Bat population.
Use bat detectors to hear the bats in action as they hunt for insects, and try to identify which species of Bat there are in the woods. Bat detectors will be provided. But dress warmly for the evening and wear footwear suitable for walking in the woods. You may want to bring a torch too!
Numbers will be limited to 40, including children. So BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL.
Email the Friends’ Secretary, Sue Reeve at email@example.com to book your place.
We will need to know your name and how many you are booking for; (Max 2 adults and three children per booking, but please contact us if you need to vary this or wish to book for friends too.) We will also need a telephone number to contact you in case there is a need to cancel due to bad weather. (Bat’s don’t like it when it’s raining!).
Meet at the Crookston Road entrance to the woods at 7.55pm.
We are planning another bat walk later in the year.
This is the Friends’ first event since their inaugural general meeting on 7th March, but they plan to hold other events such as history walks and wildlife and plant surveys. They have also held a number of litter picking sessions; the next one is on Saturday 21st April meeting at the café at 10am, or at the traffic lights at the Welling Way/Rochester Way Junction at about 10.15.
The bats should be out of hibernation now, feeling very hungry after the long winter, and trying to make up ground on their feeding schedule which will have been delayed by the poor weather. Usually the females will form maternity colonies in May before giving birth to a single pup during June.
Recent bat walks in the area, such as those at Shrewsbury Park and Woodlands Farm have also spotted hedgehogs as they looked for bats, so if you get a place on the walk keep a look out.
The Friends plan to hold another bat walk later in the year, so if you don’t get a place on this one there will be a further opportunity later on.
A new group, the Friends of Oxleas Woodlands has been set up to help look after our precious local woodlands. Tom wrote to tell me about the group:
The group is evolving out of and alongside the Shooters Hill Woods Working Party, and is a response to what we see as the growing threat to the woodlands from a wide range of sources, and to the Woodland Trust’s Charter for Trees initiative. We are working with the Council’s Parks and Open Spaces Dept. and are in the process of recruiting members.
The friends are actively looking for members and have been out in the woods and at the Oxleas Cafe encouraging people who use the woods to join. It is also possible to join through the contact page on their website.
The web site also lists the group’s objectives:
a) To assist with the general management of the woodlands
b) Undertake conservation and practical maintenance (through the Shooters Hill Woodlands Working Party)
c) Undertake activities to support the use and enjoyment of the woodlands, focussing on both adult and children’s engagement with the woodlands
d) Provide a focus for local (and wider) support for the woodlands and to build links with local residents, schools, businesses and other organisations
e) Undertake cultural activities to encourage knowledge, appreciation and personal investment in the history, flora and fauna and general environment of the woodlands
The Woodland Trust’s Charter for Trees initiative “was launched in Lincoln Castle on 6 November 2017; the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest.” This Charter signed in 1217 by Henry III protected common people’s rights such as ‘pannage’ (grazing for pigs), ‘estover’ (collecting firewood), ‘agistment’ (grazing) and ‘turbary’ (cutting of turf for fuel). The new one aims to celebrate the importance and value of woodlands to people today and to protect trees and woods from the threats of development, disease and climate change.
There are just a few days left to tell TfL our opinions about their proposed new river crossings at Gallions Reach and Belvedere: the consultation closes this Friday, 12th February. We can respond through an online survey with just 5 questions at:
It’s an opportunity to tell Transport for London of our concerns about the increased traffic congestion in our area that their own traffic models predict will come as a result of the new crossings: congestion that will lead to even more dangerous air pollution and the health problems that it causes. The excellent Bexley Against Road Crossings web site has many more suggestions about what to say to TfL.
The NO2 results map shows that the UK Air Quality Strategy and EU legislation 40 µg m³ limit for NO2 was exceeded at most measurement locations in Shooters Hill and Plumstead: at two sites along Plumstead Common Road and all sites along Shooters Hill and Shooters Hill Road. The cross roads at Shooters Hill Road and Academy Road, close to the Greenwich Free School and just down the hill from Christchurch Primary School had an NO2 level 162.5% of the limit. A similar level was detected down in Woolwich at the junction of John Wilson Street and Wellington Street, close to Mulgrave Primary School. The level near Greenslade Primary was only just below the limit. Children are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of NO2 from traffic pollution.
I’ve never really understood TfL’s argument justifying new crossings by the fact that there are many more road crossings to the west of tower bridge than to the east. It seems obvious to me that you would have fewer bridges closer to the sea because the river gets wider at it nears its estuary. A better comparison might be the difference in public transport, such as the tube, between north-west and south-east London. This is illustrated by the tube map variation from Geofftech, shown above, which reflects the tube map across to the south-east. If we were as well served as the other side of London we would have tube stations at the Rotunda, Woolwich Common, Shrewsbury Park and Plumstead Gardens, and the tube network would stretch as far as Tunbridge Wells.
TfL would have far more chance of reducing traffic congestion and pollution by improving our current very unreliable and overcrowded public transport and creating new public transport links than by building more roads which will attract more traffic. It’s well worth reading former Greenwich councillor Alex Grant’s very informative post: The supporters of new roads across the Thames are stuck in the past. Without rail links they’d be a disaster for east London for more on the history of east London river crossings, how other modern European cities have tackled the problem of congestion and the recurrent fears that a motorway will be built through Plumstead, Woodlands Farm and Oxleas Wood.
Transport for London seem determined to push ahead with their planned crossings: a recent e-mail from them said:
Last week Transport for London’s Board gave approval for us to submit a Development Consent Order to the Secretary of State for Transport for powers to implement the Silvertown Tunnel scheme. Our application will include a Consultation Report, which will set out our response to all of the issues raised in our recent consultation. We received more than 4,000 responses to the consultation and these are continuing to help inform our final plans.
We plan to submit an application for powers to implement the Silvertown Tunnel scheme in the spring 2016, and we will contact you again at this time once we are in a position to publish our Consultation Report.
If our application is accepted by the Secretary of State, there will be a public examination on the scheme managed by the Planning Inspectorate. In that case, you will have an opportunity to make written representations and take part in hearings as part of the examination. We will explain how you can take part in the examination when we write again, later this spring.
If you’re concerned about how these new crossings will affect traffic congestion and pollution in south-east London then you might like to attend the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign’s annual general meeting which is at Mycenae House, Blackheath, on Thursday 18 February at 8pm. They ask that anyone planning to attend sign up at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/no-to-silvertown-tunnel-agm-2016-tickets-21083026901
Oh, and complete the TfL East of Silvertown consultation before Friday.
The documentation includes a Traffic Impact Report: great, I thought, that’s where I’ll find the answer, but no, it turned out to be far more complicated to find what I was looking for.
The first complication is that the report assumes that the proposed Silvertown Tunnel has already been built. It doesn’t explicitly say so: it models the traffic effect of the new crossings compared with a Reference Case, which “reflects the highway network in 2031”. Reading through it quickly becomes clear that the traffic flow changes calculated are the effect of adding the Gallions and Belvedere crossings to a road system which includes the Silvertown Tunnel. Not the change from today’s traffic flows to those after the proposed crossings are developed.
No problem: there was a Silvertown Tunnel consultation recently, which included amongst its archive documents a Traffic Forecasting Report from 2014. This should let me see the changes to traffic as a consequence of the Silvertown Tunnel, I thought, which I can combine with the latest report to see what the total impact of all the proposed new crossings will be.
But again no. The Silvertown report also assumes a reference case which is the traffic in 2021. Why? They don’t seem to say. This reference case is defined as:
Reference case (2021)
6. The reference case represents 2021, and includes growth in population and employment from the 2009 London Plan. Population is expected to increase more rapidly in east and south east London than in other sub-regions.
7. The reference case also includes committed transport schemes. Public transport connectivity across east and southeast London improves because of planned investment including Crossrail. The Woolwich Ferry is assumed to have been enhanced with 30% additional capacity. The reference case does not include the Silvertown Tunnel.
8. From 2012 to 2021 the proportion of travel by car is expected to fall in Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets, but the growth in population and employment result in an increase in total car trips.
Why they think the Woolwich Ferry will have 30% more capacity is also unclear – a footnote in the report just says that “by 2031 Woolwich Ferry would need to either be upgraded at its existing location or replaced with a new crossing”. This upgrade is not a “committed transport scheme” as implied by the extract above. They also assume that the Woolwich Free Ferry will be charged, as would the Blackwall, Silvertown, Gallions Reach and Belvedere Crossings. The charges would be the same as for the Dartford Tunnel at peak times and half that rate at other times. TfL assert that these charges will counteract the “induced traffic effect” where new roads generate new traffic. However their rationale for this assertion is unconvincing and they say it “… is not modelled in the Assessed Case.”
The Silvertown Traffic Forecasting Report also considers in Appendix C the impact of the Gallions and Belvedere crossings on traffic flows. Interestingly it ends up with different results to those presented in the Gallions/Belvedere consultation Traffic Impact Report.
The reports contain a large number of tables, graphs and maps of the traffic modelling results. I’ve extracted four maps to try to give a flavour of the impact of the crossings on our local streets. All four are for the afternoon rush hour traffic:
The 2021 “Reference Case” from the Silvertown Tunnel Report;
The impact of the Silvertown Tunnel compared to the reference case from the Silvertown Tunnel Report;
The impact of the Gallions Reach and Belvedere crossings compared to the reference case and Silvertown Tunel from the Silvertown Tunnel Report;
The impact of the Gallions Reach and Belvedere crossings compared to the reference case from the Gallions/Belvedere Report.
Red on these maps indicates increased traffic flows and green reduced.
The scale and resolution of the maps make it difficult to work out which local roads suffer traffic increases, but it’s just about possible by zooming in and looking at the shape and orientation of the roads. The red/green bar method of showing traffic changes also tends to obscure rather than illuminate. Anyway, here’s my interpretation of what the modelling is showing.
The reference case, which just reflects population growth and an increase in Woolwich Ferry capacity, already has big increases – 100 cars per hour or more – along Shooters Hill Road, Shrewsbury Lane, Plum Lane and slightly surprisingly Donaldson Road too. The increase along Plumstead Common Road looks even bigger, and also along Kings Highway, Wickham Lane down towards Knee Hill.
Bringing the Silvertown Tunnel into the model there is a decrease in traffic flow along Shrewsbury Lane and Plum Lane, but an increase in Red Lion Lane which runs in a similar direction. Along Shooters Hill and Shooters Hill Road traffic flows increase again, and the route down through Charlton to the tunnel has more traffic, affecting Baker Road and Stadium Road past the hospital then Charlton Park Lane and Cemetery Lane.
In the Silvertown Tunnel report the impact of the additional crossings at Gallions Reach and Belvedere is a very slight reduction of traffic along Shrewsbury Lane, but an increase along Eaglesfield Road to Plum Lane which is unexpected (and unlikely I would have thought), and an increase in Plum Lane itself. Not unexpected are the additional increases in Plumstead Common Road and the route down to the High Street via Griffin Road, nor those from Plumstead Common down Kings Highway to Wickham Lane and Basildon Road and Eynsham Drive. There is lots of red showing big increases from the A2 over towards Gallions Reach and Belvedere, affecting Upper Wickham Lane, Lodge Hill, Okehampton Crescent, Brampton Road and Knee Hill (yet again).
It also predicts that traffic going along the bottom of Herbert Road, through the shops will increase. Can you imagine even more cars trying to negotiate the hazardous route between parked vans and oncoming buses in the rush hour?
The final map, from the current consultation, is similar to the previous one but now there is an increase in traffic along both Shrewsbury Lane and Eaglesfield Road. Other flows appear to be increasing less than in the Silvertown report. In the Gallions Reach/Belvedere report TfL admit to using an earlier version of the traffic model than in the Silvertown report, but don’t really explain why.
The striking feature of all of these maps is the amount of red on them, showing cumulative increases in traffic flows as each crossing is built.
The traffic modelling doesn’t seem to take account of how the roads actually are. For example, that nice straight red line showing increased traffic from Shooters Hill along Shrewsbury Lane and Plum Lane through to Plumstead Common Road. These are residential roads, not suitable to be used as a through route, with speed bumps, and a 20mph limit along Plum Lane. Very often the traffic is single file due to parking on either side of the road. Plum Lane passes close by Plumcroft Primary School. And at the bottom there’s that narrow one way stretch of Plum Lane, making traffic going down the hill turn left and then right along Kirk Lane to get through to Plumstead Common Road. The very sharp turning between Plum Lane and Plumstead Common Road doesn’t exist as far as TfL are concerned.
Similar points could be made about many of the other roads showing increased congestion on TfL’s maps. There are campaigns in Plumstead and Bexley to oppose the crossings, largely because of the devastating impacts on local residential roads.
The main effect of breathing in raised levels of nitrogen dioxide is the increased likelihood of respiratory problems. Nitrogen dioxide inflames the lining of the lungs, and it can reduce immunity to lung infections. This can cause problems such as wheezing, coughing, colds, flu and bronchitis.
Increased levels of nitrogen dioxide can have significant impacts on people with asthma because it can cause more frequent and more intense attacks. Children with asthma and older people with heart disease are most at risk.
The UK Air Quality Strategy and EU legislation both set an annual average limit for NO2 of 40 µg m-³. In London in 2013 only two local authorities met the limit for NO2, and Greenwich wasn’t one of them. Kings College’s London Air web site has mapped 2010 NO2 levels across London: I’ve included a snippet showing Shooters Hill below. The 40 µg m-³ is shown in yellow on the map, with higher concentrations in deeper shades of orange and red. As well as the major roads, there are high levels along Shrewsbury Lane and down Eglinton Hill, Sandy Hill Road, Burrage Road, Plumstead Common Road and Swingate Lane.
We have until Friday 12th February to respond to this latest consultation. The main themes of this consultation are whether it would be better to build a bridge or dig a tunnel at the two locations, and about how public transport might link to them. We can respond through an online survey, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to FREEPOST TfL CONSULTATIONS’.
As I’ve said before in posts about a previous consultation and about Oxleas Wood TfL need to say how they will solve the inadequacies of the transport network south of the Thames and demonstrate that new crossings will not cause congestion and pollution in residential roads. Otherwise people will think that they are cynically conspiring to cause chaos and compromise air quality in south-east London so as to be able to justify a new motorway from the A2 to the river through Oxleas Wood, Woodlands Farm and hundreds of Plumstead homes.
Transport for London are continuing with their plans to build a new bridge at Gallions Reach, but it’s the beginning of the end for the Woolwich Free Ferry following the results of the consultation into new river crossings east of the Blackwall Tunnel. TfL’s e-mail about the results said:
The majority of feedback supported the introduction of new fixed link crossings, rather than enhancement of existing or introduction of new ferry crossings. Having considered all of the issues raised in the consultation, we will now continue to develop the concepts of new bridges at Gallions Reach and Belvedere, and we will also consider whether tunnels would be more suitable by releasing greater land for development than would be possible with a bridge.
We will put our consideration of proposals for a new ferry at Woolwich and a ferry at Gallions Reach on hold, pending the outcome of this work.
65% of respondents to the consultation “strongly supported” the Gallions Reach bridge option and a further 15% “supported” it (80% total support), as you can see in TfL’s summary of the results below. In comparison the figures for improving the Woolwich Free Ferry were 19% and 18% respectively (37% total support). Opinion has hardened in favour of a Gallions Reach bridge and against the Free Ferry since the previous consultation in 2013: a Gallions bridge or tunnel had the support of 71% and the Free Ferry 51% in that consultation.
The Consultation Report gives all the results and presents a selection of the comments made by the public about each of the options. Strangely it manages to find no comments in favour of the Woolwich Ferry option and a page and a half against. You would almost think that TfL were trying to present a particular point of view rather than impartially report on the results.
In the image at the top the new Gallions Reach bridge would cross the river roughly in the centre of the photo, this side of the Barking Creek tidal barrier – the high structure just to the right of centre, on the river. The bridge would be higher than the Barking barrier.
The proposal for a new tunnel at Silvertown was not included in this consultation, in fact it is assumed in all the supporting documents that the Silvertown Tunnel will have been built by the time any of the consultation options are constructed. Additional traffic capacity at Silvertown is the main plank of TfL’s defence against the charge that the road infrastructure south of the river is inadequate for the expected traffic going to the new crossing at Gallions Reach.
As well as the Consultation Report, TfL have published a Response to the Issues Raised document which gives TfL’s opinion on specific objections raised about the different crossing options. It has sections on concerns about increased traffic and congestion, and about the threat to Oxleas Wood.
They have two responses on traffic increase and congestion: Paraphrasing, firstly they say they warned us that there would be more traffic on some roads, but they don’t know which roads will be affected. Part of their work in the next stage will be to work out what impact a Gallions Reach Bridge will have on traffic flow and what they can do about it. The second response is that they think most non-local traffic will use the tunnels at Blackwall and Silvertown and not the new bridge because the tunnels have better links on the other side of the river.
Doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence that they’ve thought this through, and there is an implicit assumption that the crossing will go ahead and any problems will be “mitigated”: even if the future work shows that Plumstead will be gridlocked with traffic that will not stop the crossing’s construction. An almost identical response is given to concerns about the environmental impact: we’ll do some more work to understand the impact and how it can be “mitigated”.
TfL’s response on concerns about the threat to Oxleas Wood points out the differences between the current proposals and earlier schemes such as the East London River Crossing. In particular they say:
It is not the intent that the new crossings will provide a new strategic route for traffic with no local origin or destination, and it is not intended to carry traffic between the A2 and the North Circular, a journey which would remain more convenient via the Blackwall tunnel.
What does “local” mean in this context? TfL don’t say.
The response also mentions that the Gallions Reach Bridge would be one of three new crossings, with the Silvertown Tunnel and Belvedere Bridge, so the traffic load would be spread, and it asserts that tolling the crossings will allow TfL to manage how much traffic uses them.
Some of the details given about the new bridge are interesting. It will have two lanes of traffic, but one will be reserved for public transport and HGVs. There will be provision for pedestrians and cyclists to use the bridge, and they are considering whether it should carry the DLR over the river to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood.
As well as traffic and environmental impact assessments, TfL’s next steps include considering “whether we might need to take additional traffic management or other mitigation steps to ensure the new crossings operate successfully and sustainably” and “how we can make best advantage of the opportunities that new river crossings would give us to improve cross-river links for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport passengers”. They don’t say when the next stage will be complete.
Whatever emerges from the next steps the future doesn’t look good for the Woolwich Free Ferry.
It’s hard to believe now that the little track running into Oxleas Wood from Shooters Hill was once the drive way to the Portland-stone Palladian mansion shown in the photograph above from Greenwich Heritage Centre. It was the home of Lords and Barons, painted by society artists and also once a hotel with 20 bedrooms. It was as grand inside as out, as shown in the set of photographs in the London Metropolitan Archive. These were taken in 1955 not that long before its demolition, and depict its elegant drawing rooms and a magnificent double-branched curved staircase as well as the boarded up exterior.
The site of Falconwood is today a butterfly-filled meadow surrounded by Oxleas Woods.
When the mansion was built in 1864-67 by the 2nd Lord Truro, Charles Robert Wilde, it was called Falconhurst. Lord Truro was related to Sir James Plaisted Wilde, who became Lord Penzance, and lived nearby at Jackwood. In the London Metropolitan Archive there is a typed sheet of reminiscences by Major C.E.S Phillips of Castle House about Falconwood. He has this to say about Lord Truro:
Falconwood was built by Lord Truro, reputed an illegitimate son of George IV. It is on Crown Land and was granted to him free of ground rent. Lord Truro had lived much in Italy and built Falconwood in purely Italian style. When his wife died (about 1880) she was buried under the lawn at mid-night by Lord Truro and his gardener Mr. Hart. The grave was surrounded by some beautiful wrought iron work, but after Lord Truro’s death in Italy this was removed and nobody knows now exactly where the grave is.
Lord Truro left the place and a strip of freehold land on the other side of the road to a very beautiful lady of limited virtue. They were a magnificent pair on horseback, both perfect riders. The legacy proved a nightmare for the legatee, for as soon as the Earl died, the Crown Office afixed a ground rent of £400 per annum on the property and she had no means of paying it. It was put up to auction but the first time there was not a bid for it. On the second auction it was bought by Sir Clarence Smith for I think £5000. It has cost £50,000.
I am indebted to our old Mr. Hart for the matter of the 1st part of this, it was he who helped bury Lady Truro, for all the rest I have relied on my memory only as I was familiar with all the facts at the time.
David Lloyd Bathe’s “Steeped In History” gives more details of the story: it reprints an article from the Daily Telegraph from 17th October 1879 which says that Lord Truro used a light coffin so as to “not arrest the process of natural decay”, and that the burial spot was chosen by Lady Truro. It also says that they understood that the Lady’s remains were later removed by her relatives. The burial in non-consecrated ground shocked the neighbourhood, and one resident said they could smell the emanation of sulphurous gases.
“Steeped In History” details the subsequent occupancy of the mansion. After Hull MP Clarence Smith moved out in 1908 he was unable to find a purchaser and the lease reverted to the crown. It was then let to Catherine (Kate) Rose Marie Antoinette d’Erlanger (née de Robert d’ Aqueria de Rochegude), wife of Baron Emile Beaumont d’Erlanger. Baroness d’Erlanger was known as “the Flame” because of the colour of her hair, and was renowned for her lavish entertaining. She was very well connected, as Philip Mershon says:
Catherine cultivated the most astonishingly irreverent continental society of bohemians, artists and aristocrats at salons in her homes. She was pals with Ravel, Debussy, Nijinsky and Proust. She was also financial patroness to Diaghilev, The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Cecil Beaton.
Catherine herself was photographed by Cecil Beaton, and also by Lafayette Ltd in the picture below from the National Portrait Gallery. It shows her in a “tableau vivant”, which was part of an entertainment called The Masque of War and Peace held in aid of the Widows and Orphans of the Household Troops during the Boer War.
Enid, turning her ‘ardent snobbish eyes, mad with interest’ on the beau monde, soon wandered through a hole in the hedge. Announcing her credentials boldly, she told the Baroness she was a journalist poised to write books. She knew that her inadequate clothes and schoolgirl fresh face were not enough. ‘Whatever I have looked like, and what my face has not carried, I have always had a sort of vitality that did instead’. She managed to put herself over. But the d’Erlangers were installing a hard tennis court and Enid’s immediate entry ticket was her facility with a tennis racket. She quickly became a daughter of the household.
The d’Erlangers left Falconwood at the time of the First World War. In June 1924 the Baroness applied to the London County Council for a licence to hold music and dancing entertainments in the drawing room on Falconwood’s ground floor. The licence committee notes in the London Metropolitan Archive say that it was proposed to use Falconwood as a private hotel. In 1932 the Baroness surrendered the lease and later moved to Hollywood.
Falconwood continued as a hotel under new management. In the archives there are Music and Dancing licence applications from Walter Frank Mills in 1933, Frederick Henry Clark in 1934 and F. Hugh Gough in 1936. The hotel seems to have continued in operation until after the war, but eventually failed. According to E.F.E. Jefferson’s “The Woolwich Story” Falconwood was acquired by Woolwich Borough Council in 1936 and was “laid out” in the 1950s and incorporated into Oxleas Wood. The house itself was demolished in 1959.
Falconwood Bexley. This district was developed in the 1930s as Falconwood Park on the site of a large wood called West Wood on the Ordinance Survey maps of 1805 and 1876 (earlier Westwood 1551). It is said to have been given this name to attract new residents.
Two thousand and twenty-eight pages in eighteen impenetrable documents have been published by Transport for London as part of their consultation on new river crossings in East London, and nowhere does it discuss the prospect of increased traffic in residential roads south of the river. A surprising omission since the poor road infrastructure south of the Thames was one of the major issues in earlier consultations, and could be seen as the reason that the previous Thames Gateway Bridge scheme was cancelled.
Also, bizarrely, all the traffic modelling assumes that the Silvertown Tunnel is already in place! Why? Not only is it not in place, but its construction is not even part of the current consultation: there will be a separate consultation later about Silvertown. Even if the tunnel is approved it will take longer to construct than a bridge or ferry at Gallions Reach so for several years we’ll be dealing with the impact on traffic in the absence of the tunnel, and that’s what the modelling should have shown.
This assumption that the Silvertown Tunnel has already been built pervades the Traffic Impact Report, to the extent that many of the traffic flow maps don’t show how traffic will change compared to today, but how they will change compared to the flow after the Silvertown Tunnel has been developed. They are useless for anyone trying to work out how traffic flows will change in the future.
The consultation asks for our opinions about four possible river crossings:
1. A new modern ferry at Woolwich
2. A ferry service at Gallions Reach
3. A bridge at Gallions Reach
4. A bridge at Belvedere
We have until 18th September 2014 to respond, and can do so using an online survey. It can be completed quite quickly; there are just 15 simple questions. Transport for London are holding some roadshows about the proposals where TfL say their staff will be able to answer any of our questions. There is one at Woolwich Library tomorrow (26th July) between 11.00am and 4.00pm and another at the Broadway Shopping centre, Bexleyheath on Saturday 30th August from 9.00am to 2.00pm.
I must admit I haven’t read all 2028 pages of TfL’s technical documentation, though I did search them all for mentions of Shooters Hill, Oxleas and Plumstead: I found barely a handful that were relevant, and only one on traffic impacts. This was in a footnote to a summary table at the end of “Report F Gallions Reach Ferry and Tunnel”, which indicated that there may be critical traffic impacts on the South side:
Particularly increased traffic on tunnel approach roads in Thamesmead, Plumstead & East Wickham (on A2016, A206, A209 & A205). Highways works and traffic management will mitigate but not necessarily eliminate negative impacts
The traffic flow map above comes from the Traffic Impact Report. Compared to the map in the London Borough of Newham’s report on the Economic Impact of Gallions Reach Crossings it seems to show lower flows through residential roads in Plumstead and Bexley. This may be because it uses a different traffic modelling tool to that used by Newham. It uses a model called the London Regional Demand Model (LoRDM) which models highways using TfL’s River Crossings Highway Assignment Model (RXHAM); Newham used another TfL model called ELHAM. However TfL do add the caveat:
It should be noted that the RXHAM is strategic in nature and is used to identify broad changes in traffic patterns across the highway network, as well as the magnitude of this change. The results should not be taken as a definitive forecast of future flows, especially on minor roads or at individual junctions. Also the models do not yet assume any mitigation measures that might be introduced such as changes to junction capacities or new traffic calming measures.
The map shows some traffic increase through Plumstead and Knee Hill, but surprisingly nothing coming from the South Circular at Woolwich. I wonder where all the traffic that currently crosses the river on the Woolwich Free Ferry goes to? Later in the document in the section about the routing of trips using an enhanced Woolwich Ferry it states that “the main roads used to access the ferry south the River Thames are Beresford Street, Western Way and Eastern Way.” Again no South Circular. Is something missing from the model?
TfL’s work on the traffic impacts of a Gallions Reach crossing will not, in my opinion, be complete unless they include a convincing, costed proposal for solving the inadequacies of the transport network south of the Thames that politicians commit to. Otherwise the additional traffic generated by the new crossing will overload local residential roads leading to pressure for new roads and a renewed threat to our heritage ancient woodland.
It’s still not complete, and as it stands will lead to increased traffic through residential roads that weren’t designed to take it, leading to pressure for more road building and threatening Plumstead and Oxleas Wood. Not to mention the end of the Woolwich Free Ferry. A campaign to oppose the Gallions Bridge is being set up.
I asked my questions at the roadshow in Woolwich on Saturday. As far as TfL is concerned the Silvertown Tunnel is going ahead so they felt it would be wrong to not include it in the traffic models, and they expect it to be complete before any of the other crossings. Of course if there were no Silvertown Tunnel, I was told, traffic flows over the other crossings would be significantly higher. They didn’t feel it was dishonest not to include the results of modelling without Silvertown. There will be two more consultations about the Silvertown Tunnel, but they would not be about whether it was built but how.
I expressed surprise at the results of the traffic modelling: in particular the predicted reduced traffic flows from the South Circular Road through Woolwich to a proposed Gallions Reach Bridge, and that the increased flows predicted seemed to show traffic would go along the M25 as far as the approach to the Dartford Crossing, and then turn off along the Thames to Gallions Rach to cross there. The only response was “that’s what the model shows”. There are no current plans for improved road infrastructure South of the Thames, and I was advised to express my concerns in the consultation.
Shooters Hill hasn’t been immune to tunnel planners’ dreams. An early proposal is included as an appendix to a slim 1947 monograph “Road Works at Shooters Hill, Kent, 1816”, by F.C Elliston-Erwood in the Greenwich Heritage Centre’s search room. Frank Elliston-Erwood, who lived on Shooters Hill, was a distinguished local historian. He was at different times president of the Greenwich and Lewisham Antiquarian Society and twice president of the Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society. He was a member of the WDAS for 70 years, first joining as a teenager and continuing until his death in 1968. One of his interests was the New Cross Turnpike Trust, and it was from their minute books that he extracted the information for his paper about road works on Shooters Hill.
The paper is mainly about how the New Cross Turnpike Trust tried to create employment in the economic depression which followed Wellington’s victory at Waterloo and the end of the Napoleonic Wars. It was “a period of commercial and industrial upheaval, coupled with misery, poverty and unemployment”. The Trust decided to allow £1000 out of their tolls at a rate of £50 per week to employ as many poor men as they could at a maximum wage of 10s (50p) a week in work such as the “the digging or quarrying of gravel or stones” and “the levelling or reducing of hills”. On Shooters Hill they moved gravel from the steeper parts and deposited it in hollows to smooth out the incline. The result can still be seen, for example on the western side of the hill on the road opposite Craigholm where the pavement rises above the road following the original slope of the hill. Similarly on the eastern slope there is an embankment on the Oxleas Wood side of the road.
The map and plan at the top concludes the paper. It shows a proposal for a road that bypasses the steep top of the hill, running parallel to Shooters Hill but on the Eltham side of Severndroog Castle. It was planned to run through a deep cutting and about 400 yards of lamp-lit tunnel. Needless to say the proposal was never implemented. The author of the plan clearly liked his pubs – the map includes the Bull, the Red Lion and the Fox and shows the bypass heading towards the Green Man in Blackheath. The Fox was the old Fox under the Hill, which subsequently was moved further down Shooters Hill Road.
A more recent proposal for a Shooters Hill tunnel was considered as one of the options for a new Thames Crossing which Transport for London consulted about last year. Option D6 in the Assessment of Options Report was for a Woolwich Tunnel joining the South Circular to the North Circular. The proposal is complicated by the presence of other tunnels in the vicinity – the Woolwich Foot Tunnel and Cross Rail, not to mention the DLR, so it would have to be a deep tunnel underneath all the others. Also the steep slope up from Woolwich towards Shooters Hill makes it difficult to start a tunnel close to the river, leading to the proposal shown below with a tunnel entrance all the way up at Eltham Common. This means that the tunnel would be some five or six kilometres in length, the longest road tunnel in Britain.
The South Circular at Eltham Common where the entrance to the tunnel would be is shown below. Just imagine this green scene replaced by a huge, 4-lane tunnel portal, like the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel. Fortunately the proposal was discounted. There were a number of factors leading to the decision not to take this option further. It was felt that Well Hall Road would become a bottleneck, limiting the tunnel’s capacity and reducing journey time improvements. It would be difficult to upgrade Well Hall Road because it is residential and has houses on both sides. Also it was “unlikely that the scheme could be built without negatively impacting on the housing lining the A205 through Eltham”.
The tunnel was felt to be too far away from the river to benefit residents closer to the Thames, for example in Woolwich, and would not connect to the major roads along the south side of the river, and so would not contribute to development along the river. Then there was the possible cost of up to 6km of bored tunnel, estimated at £1.5-2 billion. All things considered a Woolwich Tunnel doesn’t make sense.
The TfL East London River Crossings: Assessment of Options document mentions, very briefly, another tunnel under part of Shooters Hill. Section 6.234 on page 167, which discusses the proposal for a “local” bridge at Gallions Reach, says (my emboldening):
In the longer term, any fixed link provides the potential for the highway connections to be amended or improved over time, to best suit the prevailing traffic and regeneration needs of the area. For example, the connections to the strategic network could be improved in the long term, such as through the provision of a direct link to the North Circular together with a tunnel south to the A2. This could potentially address the local concerns about traffic on residential roads in Bexley by providing an effective by-pass, while delivering large journey time benefits to the wider area by providing a more easterly strategic orbital route. In time this could replace the Blackwall corridor as the main strategic route, and deliver benefits to regeneration in the Lower Lea Valley.
So once any Gallions Reach crossing is in place any changes in traffic level – the then prevailing traffic – could lead to the building of additional roads, such as one through Oxleas Wood, to create the major easterly strategic route.
Concern about increased traffic levels on residential roads south of the river as a result of a new river crossing at Gallions Reach were heightened by a report produced for the London Borough of Newham on the Economic Impact of Gallions Reach Crossings. It presents the results of traffic modelling of different options for a Gallions Reach crossing, generated using Transport for London’s highway model of East London known as ELHAM. Amongst the results was a map showing northbound traffic flows in 2021 assuming a bridge was built at Gallions Reach. The snippet below shows the area south of the river.
It’s a difficult map to read, and it took me some time to work out what it was saying. The green blocks represent high traffic flows, and the large block in the middle of the picture is the Gallions Bridge itself. Working southwards from the bridge, the high traffic flow roads seem to be: Western Way, down to the gyratory near Plumstead Station, then up residential Griffin Road, across Plumstead Common on Warwick Terrace and then along Swingate Road, Edison Lane, Wickham Street to meet Bellegrove Road: none of these roads is designed for large traffic flows. To the west there are also high flows in Plum Lane, and to the east large flows down narrow Knee Hill. And, as usual, the modelling doesn’t cover what would happen if one of the other Thames crossings was blocked, which seems a common occurrence at the moment, and all the traffic heading down the A2 to the Blackwall Tunnel turned off to Gallions Reach.
There is no analysis of the impact and costs of a tunnel from Gallions Reach to the A2 in the Assessment of Options document. As can be seen on the snippet from cbrd.co.uk web site’s superb UK roads database below, if the tunnel went from Gallions Reach all the way to the A2 at Falconwood it would have to be longer than a 5-6km tunnel from Eltham Common under the Thames, and well over twice the length of the UK’s longest road tunnel the 3.2 km Queensway tunnel in Merseyside. If it were a bored tunnel it would cost more than the £1.5-2 billion estimated for a Woolwich tunnel. Should a cheaper construction option be chosen then people’s homes in Plumstead and ancient Oxleas Wood would be threatened yet again.