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.
Bank Holiday Monday, 1st May, sees the second annual Kharny Day at Oxleas Wood Café from 11.00am to 5.00pm. This family fun day and dog show, which attracted over a thousand people last year, includes live music, a dog agility competition, bouncy castles, stalls, a BBQ, face painting and a Gladiator knock out for adults.
Kharny Day was set up by Rachael Webb to commemorate the death of her dog Kharn, killed by an illegally-ridden quad bike in Oxleas Woods on Bank Holiday Monday 2013. Kharn, a Staffie/Lab cross, was a special dog: Rachael is a disabled woman, and a qualified dog behaviour therapist, who personally trained Kharn to help her do things she found difficult like emptying the washing machine, supporting her getting up when she fell over and helping her feel more confident in going out. The loss of Kharn was devastating for Rachael.
As well as remembering Kharn, Rachael set up the event to raise awareness that it is illegal to ride bikes in public woodlands and open spaces and to raise funds for animal charities. Last year funds were raised for Battersea Dogs and Cats, this year it is for the Blue Cross Hospital for Animals and the Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery on Shooters Hill Road.
Good news for bee keepers, and honey lovers. A new apiary, the Oxleas Wood Apiary, has been established in the Royal Greenwich Parks & Open Spaces Depot, Crown Woods Lane, and they are running an Introduction to Beekeeping course and apiary days through 2015. The 8-week course starts on 29th April, and the evening classroom sessions will be held in the nearby Oxleas Cafe.
John Large, who set up the apiary wrote to let me know about his new venture and the course:
Details of the course are available on the Oxleas Wood Apiary website under the tab 2015 Beekeeping Season and registration is available via the online enrolment form. The 2015 Introduction to Beekeeping course commences on 29 April and the Apiary Days are bookable throughout the beekeeping season (May through to September).
For enquiries about the wonderful world of the honey bee I can contacted direct at email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org.
John praised the generosity of the Greenwich Parks and Open Spaces Department who “virtually jumped at the opportunity to provide the present Crown Lane Depot site for the Apiary.” The apiary’s aims are to be self-sufficient, and also to promote knowledge of bees (and other pollinators) and beekeeping in the Borough.
The apiary at Woodllands Farm will also continue with, I understand, support from Sidcup Beekeepers. So that’s twice as much honey coming from the wild flowers of Shooters Hill.
The Greenwich Draft Core Strategy policy protecting local views has been inherited almost unchanged from its predecessor, the Unitary Development Plan. As well as the two “strategic views” of St. Paul’s Cathedral from Greenwich Park and Blackheath Point it provides protection for 11 specified local views, listed below, which are deemed essential to the character of the borough, especially where they include the River Thames and its banks.
Policy DH(g) Local Views
Planning permission will be given for development which would not have a materially adverse effect on the overall perspective and essential quality of the Local Views as listed below and as identified on Map 1:
1. Shooter’s Hill to Central London;
2. Shrewsbury Park towards the Lower Thames;
3. Castlewood towards S.E. London;
4. Eaglesfield Recreation Ground towards Bexley and the Lower Thames;
5. Eltham Park (North) to Central London;
6. Winns Common to the Lower Thames;
7. Thames side panorama from the Thames Barrier open space;
8. St. Mary’s Churchyard towards Mast Pond Wharf and beyond;
9. Docklands panorama from the Wolfe Monument;
10. King John’s Walk to Central London;
11. Millennium Dome from Central Park.
12. Others as set out in the Conservation Area Appraisals
Number 12 is the only addition to the list in the Unitary Development Plan.
The first four views on the list are from various points on Shooters Hill. Number 1, Shooters Hill to Central London, is the breathtaking view, now dominated by the distant Shard, towards the iconic skyline of London. I think the panorama is best seen as it is gradually revealed from the upper deck of a number 89 bus, with the Shard and BT Tower first, followed by the emerging Walkie-Talkie and Cheese Grater as you go down the hill.
A similar view, and one I find more impressive even though it isn’t listed in the Core Strategy, is that from the top of Occupation Lane towards Central London. Here the horizon stretches from the Strata SE1 building via the London Eye, Guys, the Shard, BT Tower, City of London buildings such as the Walkie-Talkie, Cheese Grater, and Gherkin round to Canary Wharf’s ever multiplying set of towers. I’m looking forward to the reopening of Severndroog Castle, the panoramic view from the top is just amazing.
There are several views from Shrewsbury Park towards the Lower Thames (number 2 on the list). Up at the top of the hill, looking north-west-ish there is a long view over towards Abbey Wood, Dagenham and the rolling hills of Essex beyond. Further round, on the Rowton Road side just up the hill from the allotments there’s the prospect of Woolwich shown below. Over to the left the new, strangely decorated, Tesco-fronted monolith of Woolwich Central has started to spoil the view. To the mid-right the towers over the Crossrail station box are growing, and someday approximately in the centre of the view will be the 21-storey towers of the Berkeley Homes’ Royal Arsenal development.
Will this have a “materially adverse effect on the overall perspective and essential quality” of the view? Clearly the Council Planning Committee don’t think so.
From the map I think Local View number 3, Castlewood towards S.E. London, is the superb wide-open misty vista, pictured below, from the Oxleas Cafe over a wide area of south-east London and Kent, towards Sidcup and Orpington. Then there’s the fourth protected view, Eaglesfield Recreation Ground towards Bexley and the Lower Thames, eastwards in the direction of the Dartford Crossing.
Should more local views be protected? Does the policy condition that a development should not have a “materially adverse effect on the overall perspective and essential quality” of a view make it clear what’s acceptable? We have until midnight on the 14th May to comment on the Greenwich Draft Core Strategy, which will guide all planning decisions until 2027. This can be done through the council’s consultation portal, or by e-mail to email@example.com (ensure you add “in response to Royal Greenwich Core Strategy and Development Management Policies” in the subject section), or by using the council’s representation form.
My favourite views from Shooters Hill are the those I can see from my bedroom window, especially the dramatically colourful sunsets over the city such as the one shown below, and the different but equally dramatic colours when the sunrise catches canary wharf’s towers. I don’t think the Planning Inspectorate will allow that in the Core Strategy.
Spring has sprung at last and our green spaces are shooting and blooming. Parts of Oxleas Wood are carpeted with Wood Anemones, and the first Bluebells have appeared. Next Sunday, 5th May, there are two opportunities to enjoy a walk in our woodlands guided by experts.
In the morning, starting at 10.15am Woodlands Farm are hosting a Late Spring Wildlife Walk. As their poster says:
Sunday 5th May 2013 10.15am – 12.30pm
Winter was not behind us when we had our last spring walk. But at last the blossom is out in the hedgerows and lambing is finished! So put a spring in your step and enjoy a community countryside and wildlife walk around Woodlands Farm. Led by members of the Woodlands Farm Trust. Please wear appropriate clothing including sensible footwear. The walk will probably be a bit challenging for buggies but supervised children are very welcome.
£1 per person (under 18’s free)
Free for farm volunteers and members
Meet at the Education Centre
The Woodlands Farm Trust
331 Shooters Hill, Welling, Kent DA16 3RP
Tel: 020 8319 8900
Then in the afternoon, meeting at 2.00pm at the Oxleas Cafe, there’s a Bluebell Walk guided by the London Wildlife Trust. If it’s anything like last year’s walk participants will learn about much more of the flora and fauna of Oxleas Wood than just the Bluebells. It is expected that the walk will last 1 to 2 hours, but participants can join or leave at any time.
Those who have lots of energy could do both walks, maybe fortified by a bacon butty from the Oxlea Wood Cafe.
A battery of Rapier surface-to-air missiles together with other components of a Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) System was set up on Oxleas Meadows, just below the Oxlea Wood Cafe this morning as part of the MoD’s exercise Olympic Guardian. The exercise to test security preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games also includes deployment of a similar GBAD System on Blackheath, the berthing of the Royal Navy’s largest ship, HMS Ocean, at Greenwich and activity by helicopters, jets and other military hardware in and over the royal borough.
The Blackheath Bugle blog has a good set of links to news items explaining how the GBAD systems on Blackheath would be used. The campaign against the missiles – No Missiles in Oxleas Wood – have a Facebook page with details of their campaign. Their letter from the MoD about the deployment says that the MoD have taken advice from Natural England over any measures they would need to take to protect the Oxleas Wood Site of Special Scientific Interest. It doesn’t specifically mention the Corky Fruited Water Dropwort, but I hope that will be covered as I’m looking forward to some dropwort spotting later in the year.
The recently launched Oxleas Wood web site says that the deployment is part of an MoD Community Engagement Day and that local residents can express their concerns between 4.00 and 6.00pm today.
The Olympic Guardian exercise runs from 2nd to 10th May, so it’s possible the GBAD system will still be on Oxleas Meadows when the Bluebell Walk convenes on Sunday. In the meantime here’s some more photographs.
Update: I’ve just wandered over to Oxleas Wood again and the missile battery will be open for members of the public to have a look round and ask any questions until 7.00pm this evening. The armed forces personnel were very friendly and open to answering questions, describing the different parts of the battery, explaining their manning routine if the missiles are deployed and even letting me manouver the missiles using their fall-back manual aiming system. They mentioned that the decision on whether the GBAD system would be deployed during the Olympics was still open. The battery will be in place until Monday, so there will be an additional attraction for people on the Bluebell Walk, as well as the bluebells and Woodlands Farm.
There’s a great opportunity to see the bluebells in Oxleas Wood this Sunday, 6th May when the London Wildlife Trust have arranged a Bluebell Walk. The walk will be led by Mary O’Sullivan of the LWT and Dr Barry Gray, who is Chair of the Trustees of Woodlands Farm. It is expected that the walk will last 1 to 2 hours, but people can join or leave at any time. It starts at 2.15pm (meet at 2.00pm) at the Oxleas café and finishes opposite Woodlands farm on Shooters Hill Road, so there’s a chance to visit the farm and see their new lambs as well.
If you’re looking for something to do tomorrow, there may still be a chance to see the Secret Market, a play put on by Greenwich Theatre in Oxleas Woods. Allocating free tickets significantly reduced the scope of the production (no effects, no musicians, minimal scenery and props), but the production nonetheless comes close to filling the large shoes left vacant by London Bubble, who appear to have been a casualty of the cuts in the Arts Council portfolio, yet have become much loved for turning South East London’s green spaces into a roving auditorium.
One good thing about the show is that incorporates the castle, which it is pleasing to report has recently moved a step closer to being re-opened to the public. Whilst it may still be a short while before the restoration begins in earnest, it’s still encouraging to hear on the grapevine that things are coming along, and the trust, council, and heritage lottery fund are working together towards one goal.
The London Bubble Theatre Company have in previous years offered show after show of hilarious and inventive twilight performances that promenade around Oxleas Woods, however this summer they are going to be noticeably absent, which is a terrible shame…but these are hard times after all, and so on and so forth…anyway, live performance fans fret not, because Greenwich Theatre are going to be bringing their own outdoor show to the woods in a couple of weeks time!
Greenwich Theatre have got some form in the outdoor performance department, having recently helped to stage the hugely entertaining (if slightly under promoted) Greenwich World Cultural Festival, featuring the delights of Woolwich’s own Aircraft Circus, Greenwich’s Taiko Meantime Jumping Dragon, Zil’OKa” (a French Caribbean performance), Bhangra, the Lindy Hop, Ballroom, Steel Drumming, and Juggling, so whilst this may not be a like-for-like replacement for the way London Bubble use the change from day to night to make their shows so special, it should still be skilfully pulled off, if not amazing.
Sat 23 & Sun 24 July, 11am, 2pm and 5pm
Following the success of The Visit at Charlton House in 2009 and The Finders at Well Hall Pleasaunce last year, we are thrilled to invite you to our latest free outdoor summer show, which this year takes us to Oxleas Wood for The Secret Market.
The Secret Market follows our previous shows in uncovering a magical world in one of Greenwich’s most celebrated outdoor locations. Oxleas Wood itself dates back over 8000 years, and at its heart stands the impressive, gothic Severndroog Castle. It is here that we will meet the salesmen of the secret market, foraging for their wares. Ever moving, never sleeping, all they really want is a rest, but will the terrible queen who set them in motion ever let them be … ?
The family production will be directed by Amelia Bird, artistic director of Gomito Productions and director of last year’s production of The Finders – so audiences can expect a healthy dose of comedy, puppetry, magic and music.
The show will lead you on a journey through the woods, finishing at the castle. All tickets are free but we have strict limitations on audience size, so please book in advance by calling Greenwich Theatre on 02088584447 or visiting the box office. Tickets are not available online.
certain areas of the wood and certain sections of the route are relatively steep, and wheelchair users and those with pushchairs might experience some difficulties.
the show will go ahead regardless of weather conditions, so please dress accordingly.
there is limited parking available at Oxleas Cafe. Alternatively, buses servicing shooters Hill Road are numbers 89, 486 and 244.
the production will depart from the meeting place promptly, so latecomers may struggle to find the action and therefore may miss out altogether. Please arrange to arrive 10 minutes before the show is scheduled to start.
A new novella set in an Oxleas Woods of the future has recently been published as part of Interzone, a science fiction & fantasy magazine (issue 233, March-April 2011).
Shooter’s Hill had a rough reputation. The reforestation policy had returned the place to its original state, and the tract of woodland between Blackheath and Woolwich was now as dense and extensive as it had once been in the years and centuries before the first industrial revolution. The woods were rife with carjackers and highwaymen, and scarcely a week went by without reports of some new atrocity. The situation had become so serious that there were moves in parliament to reinstate the death penalty for highway robbery as it had already been reinstated for high treason. During the course of certain conversations I noticed that local people had taken to calling Oxleas Woods by its old name, the Hanging Wood, although no hangings had occurred there as yet. At least not officially.