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.
On saturday I went to Oxleas Meadow for a bit of sledding, it was madness out there! Maddest of all were the grown men, many enjoying their second, or third childhood. Some of them were even breaking with latterday gender apartheid protocol and whizzing down the slopes on pink sleds they had borrowed from little girls. Adults by no means had the monopoly on winter madness though, in fact at moments it felt like the hill had turned into an inventive mess of tea trays, lilos, car parts, plastic bags, baby baths, signs[1. photo by stumayhew.], hub caps, dinghys, and even a kitchen worktop.
I myself had, after a search that began on the infamous snow day last february, obtained a plastic sled from ruxley manor garden centre, and spent a few minutes figuring out how to steer, or at least alert those in my path they were about the experience the ultimate sliding tackle.
Having seen one chap take a running jump and ride head first (on a pink sled of course), I began to appreciate the finer points of sledding technique, and as it turns out an alaskan has committed most of this to the web at instructables.com. This particular individual claims to have reached speeds of 45mph+
At last, rather than appropriating (well, cloning) pictures by other people, I’ve finally managed to use one of my own as a site header. This one is a panorama taken in september 2006 using a sony phone, which is brilliant mainly because it can make panoramas on the fly, has a torch, and has outlasted several phones that I’ve bought since – many of them exhibiting suspicious signs of inbuilt obsolescence such as falling apart when being dropped, or konking out after a sledging trip… Yes I know, that’s ridiculous, but in my defence, when the technician at the local sony repair shop wrote off my phone on grounds of water damage, I reasoned they might have been right on account of all the snow that got into my pockets, however, on closer inspection of the phone, the water marker (a little white sticker on the battery that goes red when it comes into contact with water) was as dry as the corbett estate, and furthermore, the technician’s comment that the circuit board was rusty also set alarm bells ringing as I don’t think there’s anything inside mobile phones that actually rusts. Needless to say I won’t be going back there.
Anyway, this is admittedly a bad photo, I did try to do something about the join marks, mainly by changing it into black and white, but then missed the greens, so reverted back to the patchy-but-verdant look, besides greyness didn’t help much. I quite like the lense flare beaming down on the two people though.
Incidentally, stumayhew one of my favourite local photographers and member of aperture, really does take good pictures, and recently had a photo featured in the guardian.
It was a lovely sunny day yesterday and lots of dogs were out taking their people for a walk and cavorting around the woods at this time of the changing seasons. In august I remarked on the bumper crop of blackberries to be found on the hill, and it’s also been a good year for the Sweet Chestnut trees in Oxleas Woods, with their crop in full swing around about now.
In just a few prickly minutes, my pockets were full, and before long the nostalgic aroma of roasting chestnuts filled the kitchen (luckily this wasn’t joined by the sound of explosions as they had their tips cut off before going under the grill), I also saved a few to plant in pots. Italian chestnuts, which are about twice the size, are also in season, and can be bought in the run up to Christmas; and the west-end chestnut sellers will probably be setting up their little fires around this time.
I’m now looking forward to the first frost, which will be the cue to make sheperdleas sloe gin, this time of year is also a busy one for fungi, who make a strong showing in Oxleas Woods in autumn, especially on the lower, damper slopes, although I’m not really sure which ones are poisonous/hallucinogenic/inedible/edible, perhaps the rangers might be able to answer this kind of question on one of their parkland rambles.
It might not quite be a banksy, but the council dog stencil does seem to be fairly effective at keeping the hill clean and safe, at least in the bits it appears; I certainly would tread carefully walking across the roundabout lawns on the wimpey estate, or certain parts of eaglesfield or shrewsbury park or the woods, although things are getting better.
Anyway it seems to be a fairly serious initiative with its own enforcement officials being geared up to hit anti-social dog-owners where it hurts, i.e. the purse.
I’m not sure what kind of dog the stencilhound is? I once saw a similar street painting in paris, and it was definitely a lapdog of some sort, you know the type that fits in a handbag, but the Greenwich version appears to be modelled on a cross between a Poodle and an Alsation, I call it a Poosation.
As part of the south east london Green Chain Walking Festival , a guided walk from Eltham Palace to the Thames Barrier is taking place that visits in Oxleas Woods and Severndroog Castle en route, tieing in with the Open House events there and at other stops along the way.
Walk London Audio Guides have been provided for the different sections of the chain, including those that make this pathway; although they go clockwise, this particular trek is being done the other way, presumably as it involves more downhill walking, well it is seven miles long after all! The guides make for curious listening, and even feature cameo appearances from boycie. I’ve put the audio alongside the maps, which include the Green Chain in red lines, and the Capital Ring route in yellow.
Here comes part two in a series of maps, once again inspiration came from the “draft” woodland management plan submitted to Greenwich Council.
This time it’s the designation of Scientific Interest that has been mapped out, which is taken from an ordnance survey version including real boundaries, footpaths, and drains (not sure if that means woodland ditches or victorian plumbing): at natureonthemap.org.uk. Some of Jackwood and Oxleas Wood, and the whole of the Sheperdleas Wood were granted protection from 1984 – almost ten years before the government wanted to replace the woodlands with a traffic bypass – which goes to show how safe an SSSI actually is: not very (Twyford Down is also an SSSI and look what happened there) – anyway, Oxleas is probably safe, so here’s a bit of the Scientific Interest:
The whole of the notification document is decorated with an impressive sounding collection of flora and fauna names and is copied out below, with the addition of painstakingly embedded media – mainly from wikipedia for flora and uk wildlife sites for fauna – plus some bird protection links where birdsong and videos can be observed. A more recent check up stresses the importance of lying dead wood for invertebrates to use (presumably the dogs enjoy this aspect of woodland preservation too):
Oxleas, Jack and Shepherdleas Woods are one of the most extensive areas of long established woodland on the London Clay in Greater London. The woodland has a rich mixture of tree and shrub species within which several woodland types can be recognised. The woods contain a number of species with a restricted distribution in Greater London.
Most of the woodland lies on a south-east facing slope of the London Clay. In parts the former coppice system of management is evident, and this traditional management has been reinstated recently. The majority of the woodland comprises stands of hazel-sessile oak, hazel-pedunculate oak, and birch-pedunculate oak woodland. These stands tend to lie on the more acid base-poor soils and carry a ground flora of predominantly bramble and bracken, with wood sage Teucrium scorodonia. Pedunculate oak-hazel-ash and pedunculate oak-hornbeam woodland over bramble occurs mainly on the heavier richer soils, often on the lower slopes. In places the drainage is impeded and there is a small stand of alder. Plants characteristic of these wetter conditions include wild angelica Angelica sylvestris, broad buckler fern Dryopteris dilatata and pendulous sedge Carex pendula.
Title: The Odyssey Location: Oxleas Woods Link out: http://www.londonbubble.org.uk/fanmadetheatre Description: London Bubble’s acclaimed promenade performances take audiences on a journey through parks or woodlands, involving them in an unfolding story. Hugely popular with a wide range of ages, previous shows have included Greek myths, classics such as the Arabian Nights, the surreal The Crock of Gold as well as Alice in Wonderland, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Dates
Tuesday 14 July, 7:30pm
Wednesday 15 July, 7:30pm
Thursday 16 July, 7:30pm
Saturday 18 July, 7:30pm
Sunday 19 July, 7:30pm
Monday 20 July, 7:30pm
Tuesday 21 July, 7:30pm
Full Price: £15
*Concessions available to children under 16, students, over 60’s, disabled people, unemployed family credit and leisure cardholders (proof must be shown).
Group discounts are available for parties of 6 people or more. Please call the Box Office on: 020 7237 1663.