Wildlife & Woodlands Walks

Wood Anenomes in Oxleas Wood
Wood Anemones in Oxleas Wood

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
Website: www.thewoodlandsfarmtrust.org
Email: wildlife@thewoodlandsfarmtrust.org
Tel: 020 8319 8900

Late Spring Wildlife Walk Poster

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.

Bluebell Walk Poster

Those who have lots of energy could do both walks, maybe fortified by a bacon butty from the Oxlea Wood Cafe.

Wood Anemones in Oxleas Wood
Wood Anemones in Oxleas Wood

Oxleas Meadows Missiles

Rapier Missile Battery on Oxleas Meadows
Rapier Missile Battery on Oxleas Meadows

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.

Missile Battery and Oxleas Cafe
Missile Battery and Oxleas Cafe
Rapier Missile Battery on Oxleas Meadows
Rapier Missile Battery on Oxleas Meadows
Rapier Missile Battery on Oxleas Meadows
Rapier Missile Battery on Oxleas Meadows

Bluebell Walk in Oxleas Wood on Sunday

Bluebell Walk PosterThere’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.

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


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


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.


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.