The Secret Market

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 Secret Market

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.

Meeting point: Oxleas Cafe, Crown Woods Lane, off Kenilworth Gardens SE18 3JB

Please note:

  • 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.

Thanks to stu for finding this.

The Silver Wind

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Interzone 233 cover

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.

Shooters Hill, the Cupcake

jamosie sweet
jamosie sweet's enchanted garden cupcakes
Well, so far there’s been the comic, the poster, and the painting, and here’s another example of the inspiration that can be found on shooters hill, and it takes the form of a cupcake! It’s made by jamosie sweet, who has recently started to sell these decorations.

Inspired by the walks we take in the forest every Saturday morning up on Shooters Hill […] Theres only one thing missing and thats some little garden fairies.

via Jamosie Sweet: whimsical enchanted garden cupcakes!.

The Art of Sledding

Back to the Top by stumayhew
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+

New Photo Up

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Oxleas Meadow 20/9/2006

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.

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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.

Got any Nuts?

Sweet Chestnut from Oxleas Woods
Sweet Chestnut from Oxleas Woods
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.

Good Dog (Owner)

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.

Green Chain Walking Festival

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.

Special Scientific Interest

oxleas_woodland_sssi

Oxleas Woods Parklands

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.

In parts there is a well developed woodland structure with a variety of trees and in particular, shrubs. Some of these shrubs have a restricted distribution in the London area such as guelder rose Viburnum opulus, midland thorn Crataegus laevigata and buckthorn Rhamnus cartharticus; several of the species are more usually associated with outcrops of chalk. These include wayfaring tree Viburnum lantana and dogwood Cornus sanguinea. The woods are also noteworthy for the large mature wild cherry Prunus avium, and the wild service tree Sorbus torminalis. The latter occurs in unusual abundance: no other London woodland is known to contain such a large population and size range of wild service tree.

In general the herb layer is typical of woodland on the London Clay; however there is a substantial number of plants which are associated with long established woodland. The spring flora includes bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta in abundance with wood anemone Anemone nemorosa and wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella. Along streams and ditches remote sedge Carex remota, wood sedge Carex sylvatica, yellow pimpernel Lysimachia nemorum, a number of ferns and the uncommon Forster’s woodrush Luzula forsteri are found. The lower damper slopes, particularly where there is an undisturbed litter layer, support a rich variety of fungi. Several locally uncommon species are present and more notable species such as Otidea alutacea, Russula pseudointegra, Ciboria batschiana and Podoscypha multizonata.

Past records indicate the prescence of a diverse and interesting insect fauna – particularly beetles (Coleoptera), bugs (Hemiptera), and flies (Diptera). More recent sampling records several notable species such as the beetles Oligota flavicornis, Oak Bark Beetle and the fly Dolichopus wahlbergi. In addition the Lepidoptera fauna includes a number of interesting species such as the festoon Apoda avellana, oak lutestring Cymatophorima diluta and the seraphim Lobophora halterata amongst the largest moths. The breeding bird community contains a range of woodland birds and has several species which are typically associated with the mature timber habitat: tree creeper, nuthatch, woodpecker, chiffchaff and wood warbler. Wood warbler is a notably scarce and declining breeding species in Greater London.