Shooters Hill Stables?

Today i was lucky enough to come across a copy of senine, a glossy and entertaining magazine that also has some excellent features relevant to the wider area. One story in this month’s edition particularly caught my eye. In a piece entitled Horse Play they detail proposals that could markedly change the Shooters Hill area by a) placing lots of horses in what is currently the donkey field between woodlands farm and thompsons garden centre, b) by exercising those horses in Oxleas Wood, and c) by increasing the to- and fro-ing of their handlers and vehicles, which may include a new horseback regiment due to move into the garrison. The SSSI designation awarded to the eastern slopes of Oxleas Wood, the attempts to build ringway2 and elrc over it, and the fairly recent development on woodland of the extended café car park and the recently permitted mixed-mode play area for christchurch school and public use (post to follow) mean that the integrity of one of London and nwkent’s last surviving, and in some ways unique (number of wild service trees for instance), areas of ancient woodland continues to require continual and vigilant protection in order to sustain it’s distinct ecology and survival.

Proposals for a new ‘Olympic legacy’ horse riding centre are on course for opening in 2012, SEnine has learned.

The centre will provide stabling for more than 40 horses on the slopes of Shooters Hill.

Maney for the £1m plus centre will come from a variety of sources, including £250,000 from the British Equestrian Federation and match-funding from Greenwich Council Olympic Legacy project.

The location is expected to be between Thompson’s Garden Centre and Woodlands Farm on a council-owned site currently grazed by donkeys from Blackheath.

Detailed plans are expected to be ready for consultation in the New Year but will run into strong opposition from members of the Woodlands Farm Trust concerned at the over-development of open land.

The new centre is intended to increase access to horse riding across the borough and will also include provision for riding for the disabled.

There will also be a link-up with the relocation to Woolwich of the country’s foremost equestrian Army brigade, the King’s Troop, Officers from the Troop, who will move into the former Royal Artillery barracks, will give their time to training at Shooters Hill as part of their commitment to community engagement

As well as stabling, there will also be new indoor and outdoor exercise rings. However, plans to allow the horses to gallop on surrounding land are expected to be opposed by Woodlands Farm and conservationists. Oxleas Woods, are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and horse exercise would churn up paths and leave droppings which could change the area’s delicate ecology.

Chair of the Trust Dr Barry Gray said: “It would be a massive over-development of Metropolitan Open Land and lead to increased traffic in the area. The council seems to take no notice of its own policies for nature conservation and open space.”

I also found a relevant story from 17 December 2009 on the british equestrian federation site, so this is not a new idea at all. I’m not sure why it’s surfaced on the pages of senine now, and can’t find any planning applications on the council website, the land is apparently theirs, so I’m not sure what the consultation process would be, but presumably if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen some time this year.

Andrew Finding, Chief Executive of the British Equestrian Federation says: ” … The centre, which is proposed at Shooters Hill, just a stone’s throw from the Olympic equestrian venue [I’d like to see someone throw a stone to Greenwich Park, ed.], will provide a lasting sporting, community and educational legacy for the equestrian community in the city. This project will also be supported by significant local authority funding. ”

Councillor Chris Roberts, Leader of Greenwich Council said; “We see the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as a tremendous opportunity to inspire people to take up sports and are doing all we can to develop a new equestrian centre in Greenwich, as well as a host of other new sports facilities.

“A new equestrian centre will not only introduce thousands of London children to the thrill of horse riding, it will also provide educational and training opportunities for many people for years to come. Our plans are to provide a top quality training centre so that people can gain skills and qualifications in an area that will open up opportunities across the world.

“The Games aren’t just a 17-day sports event for London – they are a chance to create new opportunities and inspire people and we have to start now so that the benefits can last for generations to come.”

Green Legacy Gym


The New Oxleas Gym

There has been some talk on this site about the olympic legacy money that has been allocated for work on Eaglesfield park (gym or trim trail, plus path and signage improvements). Similar goings on are happening all over the borough[1. the new hyperlocal kidbrooke kite has also covered this], with at least one possibly negative outcome: the once tranquil haven of eltham pleasaunce has become something of a playpark since the mini adventure playground was introduced recently, and tensions have arisen between those seeking beautiful gardens, and those seeking a football pitch (who have access to several nearby sporty parks). Over in greenwich, the friends group at the pleasaunce have apparently managed to avoid this scenario by diverting their olympic money into other projects, nice touch! On hearing this, the thought did spring to mind that perhaps the eaglesfield park money might be better spent on updating the 15 year old swing park… anyway, consultations are going on via the hill’s councillors at the moment.

I had absolutely no idea that oxleas wood was going to get an olympic legacy, until today that is, when I stumbled across the gym in the picture, just near the café, by the conker trees. Currently it’s fenced off, but it looks like it could unveiled at any time soon.

Since seeing the gym, I’ve found out that whilst the olympic legacy fund has donated the money to install these new facilities, their upkeep has not yet been provided for. This may mean that once the facilities have been damaged by the elements, the joggers or the vandals, they will not be repaired!

Well, in an effort to lighten my mood after thinking about the potential olympic legacy shambles that has been unleashed on the area, I unearthed a cheerful anecdote about a free open air gym from a guyanese writer called sapodilla, here’s a clip:

Work out in sea-flavoured breeze, sunshine and the scent of sweet ixoria. Get all the benefits of indoor gym without pungent sweat and socks.

Stretch, bend, squat, pull, climb, lift, haul heavy equipment, oooerg, argh, grrr, &^%$!, moan an’ groan an’ complain just like in your indoor gym.

But unlike that indoor gym where the instructor punish you, torment you and holler Go, Go, Go like he is a wanna-be army man, in this gym your instructor gon work right alongside you, telling you stories about this plant, that plant…

Okay, back to work, please pull out all them weeds over there, aha, feel your legs getting stronger with all that stooping and squatting? Hold the plant cutter steady, yes, I know the iron pole is heavy, but think how firm your arms gon get, mm-hm, them pecs gon firm up too…fetch this bucket-load of compost and empty it over there…

Ahhh, thank you ladies and gentlemen for doing all this work in we jungle-garden…remember, one man’s jungle is another man’s gym…

Whilst reading this, it struck me that in a way Oxleas Wood does already have its own free outdoor gym, it’s called the Oxleas woodland working party.

I forwarded this story to kidbrookekite and gamesmonitor, mr kite unearthed a 2008 council document on the adidas gym in charlton [photo], which is available on gamesmonitor, see below for a snip of Clause 7.2 noting that the olympic ‘green legacy gyms’ are possibly going to be managed differently from the one described here which has initial contingency support from adidas:

Adidas will provide a 5 year warranty for the equipment from the time of installation dependent on the equipment being properly maintained to an agreed standard by the Council. It is understood that the cost of that annual maintenance will be in the region of £7,000 per annum. In addition, the Council will be responsible for the replacement cost any items of equipment damaged by vandalism and other misuse. It is understood that it is intended that the Council intends to negotiate a capped limit of 10% of the replacement cost of the equipment in any one year. This will limit the Council’s liability for repair and replacement costs.

— update —
The comments made about the olympic legacy at well hall pleasaunce have led to secretary of the friends of the pleasaunce to write in with a very detailed :


Hilly’s post on Green Gyms contains the following statment:

‘with at least one possibly negative outcome: the once tranquil haven of eltham pleasaunce has become something of a playpark since the mini adventure playground was introduced recently, and tensions have arisen between those seeking beautiful gardens, and those seeking a football pitch (who have access to several nearby sporty parks)’.

The idea that three pieces of equipment tucked away in a previously unused corner of Eltham (sic) or rather Well Hall Pleasaunce have turned it into ‘something of a playpark’ shows a strange sense of proportion.

The area is neither visible nor audible from any part of the formal gardens or informal woodland. The Pleasaunce is 13 acres in all and the play features occupy an area about 10 metres square.

The Friends did a survey of park users over the summer and found overwhelming support for the new play features, which were supported unanimously by the Friends committee.

There’s a reference to a football pitch? There are no proposals to this effect.

Well Hall Pleasaunce was, until a year or two ago, very under-used and it was a key objective of the Friends group to reverse this, making sure the park was as relevant today as it was when first planned in the 1930s.

At that time, it was provided with two bowling greens, four tennis courts and a putting green. Therefore, sport was always seen as an integral part of the design. The new playable space, therefore, is entirely consistent both with the park’s history and original objective.

It was designed by a leading play designer with experience of dealing with heritage environments. The vast majority of people consider it has been sympathically designed, sitting between mature trees. The atmosphere in and around the front of the Tudor Barn and Kidbrooke Lane has been transformed, making it a safe and pleasant family space, used by people of all ages and backgrounds. Anti-social behaviour has been steeply reduced, as the area has become more populated.

Neither the council’s Parks dept nor the Friends group have received any correspondence complaining about the development.

I hope this sets the comments in a proper context.

With thanks to the secretary for getting in touch. I should clear up things from this end: I relayed a grumble that play was spreading out from the adventure playground into football games on the lawn in front of the tudor barn. From what the above email said this must have been a fairly low-key grumble as it has not been made officially, and so it would be a shame if this site was to cast a negative light on what is one of the more sympathetic olympic installations around (low lying, natural materials, secluded location, landscaped surroundings etc). This is in contrast with the acid green metal gym that has landed on oxleas meadow.

Ringway 2

Ringway 2 Proposed Route
Ringway 2 Proposed Route
A recent discussion over on plummy mummy’s website, has reawakened my interest in the incredible story of the long (and so far successful) struggle of the residents of south east london against the urban motorway planners that just will not go away: the creators of the dreaded ringway2/elrc/tgb historical trilogy of vastly unpopular road building schemes.

In an effort to win favour with the people, the proposal has actually been watered down each time; starting out from a bold 1960’s dream/nightmare of a three carriageway bypass running through oxleas wood, the blueprint was gradually scaled down, ending up with the most recent suggestion that through-traffic could simply drive down residential streets to access the so-called ‘local’ bridge that the tgb was supposedly going to be.

Well, thinking back to the state of play in the 1970’s, if you are curious which parts of the area would have been concreted over if ringway2 been built, there is a website that can demonstrate! A motorway enthusiast, who runs an online road directory has painstakingly researched the history of the London Ringways, and has produced an accurate map showing what the route would have been. [click on the image to zoom].

Bluebells and Motorbikes


Bluebells in Oxleas Wood

The bluebells on the easternmost edge of Oxleas wood are reaching their greatest flowering intensity around about now. This photo is a week old, so they be will a lot more vivid by now (although I did increase the saturation a bit to try and bring it up to date). I’m not sure why the bluebells are so happy in that part of the wood, but there are some sections where the whole forest floor is covered in a dense blanket of flowers, and it’s quite a sight to behold. The farm were doing some special walks as well which were advertised in the neighbourhood watch site, I didn’t go but I imagine they knew all the best bits to go to.

Actually this photo doesn’t really show the best view of the bluebells, mainly because it also also shows some recently laid motorbike tracks. It’s not certain whether off roaders will be persuaded to leave the woods alone, but this does remind me that the Friends of Shrewsbury Park are holding an event to safeguard the park against invading cars on the 30th of May:

Put up bunding. We want to stop cars getting into the Park, so will re-install the bunding the Water Board removed from the Garland Road entrance last year. Please bring spades/shovels, stout gloves and wear strong boots – Meet at the junction of the Green Chain Walk with Dothill.

ps – this site is now mobile friendly, which has the added benefit of being much faster to load.

People Against the River Crossing: Were You There?

people against the river crossing
People Against the River Crossing

July the 8th 1993, central government withdraws the Oxleas Woods section of its infamous Roads to Prosperity scheme. The hill is saved!

I’ve been asked whether I’d like to investigate this, and since this is quite possibly one of the most significant things to ever happen here, it seems like a good idea for this site to cover this part of the Shooters Hill story.

Since this is a relatively recent episode, and an example of people power, I’m hoping to include some thoughts from those who participated in and observed the saving of the woods. So, if you were there, and would like to reminisce, I would like to hear from you. If you are interested please get in touch via the email address at the foot of the page.


The map shows how the bypass would have run right through woodlands farm, oxleas wood, and sheperdleas wood to meet the a2

At some point this year a post on this will appear, but for the time being, here’s the oxleas section of an alarm uk publication from 1995 (taken from the limited online information I’ve found so far):

“Whenever I used to visit Oxleas Wood I would visualise the proposed road cutting through it. It’s hard to believe that the woods are now safe. But safe they almost certainly are!

My involvement in the campaign against the East London River Crossing began in earnest in the late eighties. By this time the road had been scheduled for construction for many years and had already been approved by the longest Public Inquiry ever held into a road scheme. That inquiry had lasted 194 days; the transcripts of the proceedings contained 9.5 million words!

Local people, in the form of People Against the River Crossing (PARC) and Greenwich & Lewisham FOE, were fighting a determined and exhausting battle against a scheme which would not only cut a swathe through 8,000 year old Oxleas Woods but would also take out several hundred houses in the quiet and pleasant suburb of Plumstead. But with approval in principle granted, and with the Government, developers and some socialist local authorities strongly supporting the scheme, the odds against stopping it were getting bigger all the time. To achieve victory, a concerted strategy was needed to make Oxleas Wood a big issue locally and give it wider significance – a strategy to make it a symbol of the environmental damage that the road programme was causing and a rallying point for the environment movement. If that could be done, then, given Oxleas Wood’s proximity to Westminster, it might force the Government to back down rather than risk confrontation with a united community and environment movement, in its own “back yard”.

Like all the best campaigns we fought on every level. There were letter-writing stalls at the popular Greenwich market, politicians were systematically lobbied and a well-presented public transport alternative was drawn-up. We organised an “Adopt-a- Tree” scheme; the aim here was to get every tree in Oxleas Wood adopted. As well as bringing in funds and publicity, it would give supporters a real stake in the campaign. And if the worst came to the worst we could invite tree adopters to turn up to defend their tree.

In order to make Oxleas a “line in the sand” for the environment movement, we got some of the large environmental non-government organisations (for example the Wildlife Trusts and World Wide Fund for Nature) to take part in an Oxleas Strategy Group. This helped lock them into a campaign that was ultimately run by local people, but which made the best use of the resources of the national campaigns.

A couple of legal lines of last resort helped propel the campaign into the national news. The Government had failed to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment for the scheme, as required by European Community law. The heroic European Commissioner for the Environment, Carlo Ripa di Meana, took up this complaint causing Prime Minister Major to hit the roof and interrupt a Commonwealth conference to condemn the EC’s action. The complaint was never seen through by the EC, but the publicity was invaluable, as was that which resulted from a High Court case where the “Oxleas 9” (nine local people) put their assets on the line to take the Department of Transport to court over their failure to provide adequate land in exchange for the damage to Oxleas woods. The case was lost, but Oxleas had caught the public imagination and the pressure on the government was intensifying.

Meanwhile, campaigners were preparing for the worst. A “Beat the Bulldozer” pledge was launched, with the aim of getting 10,000 people to pledge to be there if the bulldozers went in. With the TV pictures of direct action at Twyford Down fresh in their minds, as well as the vivid pictures we had painted of what would happen if they violated Oxleas Wood, the Government backed down.

For me the Oxleas campaign had meant hours of hard work in meetings held in draughty halls on dark, rainy nights trying to get the best campaign that I could. For hundreds of local people it had been years of struggle. Was it worth it? Definitely. Oxleas was a turning point. We’d shown how people power could stop roads, a lesson that was quickly learnt right across the country. We’d shown that the environment movement, when it’s focused and working in harmony with local communities, could win. And of course the peace and beauty of OxleasWood has been preserved.

Jonathan Bray, founder and convenor of the Oxleas strategy group


East London River Crossing Trunk Road

From the oxleas woodland management plan:

The Hedgerow on the eastern side of the meadow is composed of mainly hawthorn (Crataegus spp) with some self-seeded oak. This hedgerow is rather special as it contains some examples of butchers broom (Ruscus aculeatus), which is used as an indicator of ancient woodland, as it rarely grows in regenerated woodland. It was the presence of this plant that aided the campaign to stop the East London River Crossing putting a road through Oxleas Wood. This hedgerow was re-laid in 2004 by the GLLAB New Deal project.