Woolwich is getting “Back to Business” after the riots, and in response to calls to support local enterprise, it occurred that one way to do so might be to make a beeline for the Nigerian businesses that have, in some ways, helped to keep local commerce alive in the years between the exodus of the Woolwich Building Society, Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society et al, and the arrival of new investment from the council, Berkeley Homes and Tesco.
For several years now there’s been more and more Nigerian shops in the SE18 area, and having followed the food related ponderings of local musicians Afrikan Boy and Tinie Tempah, the time seemed right to try out some West African cooking.
I went to Palm Beach, which is opposite the swimming pool. The reception there was possibly the most good-natured I’ve ever had at a restaurant in this country, and the family that run the place provided a fun and detailed explanation of Nigerian eating and drinking. Broadly speaking there seems to be no wheat or potatoes, and key ingredients include eba (cassava), yam, egusi (melon seeds), beef (nkwobi is hoof stew), tropical fish, and enough scotch bonnet pepper to give you a long and pleasant afterglow. For drinks I tried Palm Wine and Nigerian Guinness, which is much stronger than the Irish type. Overall, I found the intensity of this style of cooking very enjoyable, and am looking forward to trying some more West African fare in the near future, probably at one of the other Woolwich restaurants. At Palm Beach, the cost of mains and drinks was £10-15 per person.
Following today’s midday downpour, which coincided with the start of the Eaglesfield park Fête, there wasn’t much water left in the sky, and the rest of the afternoon was mostly warm and sunny, hence the rather painful pun of a title for this post. The organisers of today’s event could be pretty pleased with how they avoided the worst of the elements today, and the crowd was a happy one.
The main bit of news today was that the Friends of Eaglesfield Park announced that their bid to restore the Lilypond has been a successful one, and they have secured the money required to complete the works, which will be going ahead this summer. As well as relining the pond, other park improvements will include better access at the Eaglesfield road entrance (i.e. a ramp), and better (less crumbly) paths. Improved signs may also be installed, which may help to encourage new visitors to the park.
The Lilypond itself is something of an historical gem according to local archaeologist Andy Brockman, who is investigating the hypothesis that it was part of an ornamental pleasure gardens attached to the old site of the Bull Inn. The Bull used to be a much larger enterprise, which would also have had much larger grounds in which guests could promenade and take in the country air and views of the surrounding counties. Thus, the Lilypond may have been enjoyed as an attractive water feature as long ago as the late 1700’s (due to Andy’s discovery of 18th century ceramics in the pond), and its reinstatement gives the local area something to be really proud of, continuity with its rich historical tradition.
In other park news…the proposed installation of gym equipment in the park remains an open question a year after the first round of consultations took place, with apparently little enthusiasm locally. Having seen the “legacy gym” in Oxleas Woods, a gaudy day-glo affair that mainly seems to get used by children, it’s apparent that such a thing wouldn’t blend so well into the surroundings. Having said that, the current swing park (built in 1994) is made of similarly unsustainable materials, and is the central feature of the whole park; so would a bit more metal and concrete really make such a difference to the overall feel of the park? And would encouraging exercise enthusiasts into the park be a price worth paying – provided they do actually come. This is aside from the fact that there’s apparently no contingency money to maintain these Olympic legacy gyms in the long-term, so this being the case, these gyms could end up being something of a blight on the public space if no-one steps in the care for them.
Recently I went down to try our local bowling green at the Woolwich and Plumstead Bowling club as part of their early season free bowling offer. The free games lasted for two weeks, and to bowl from this point on, one would have to join the club (£55 in the first year, £110 thereafter), with matches at weekends and open sessions in the week.
The idea of inviting people in for a try was to reach out to potential members, and during my go I felt very comfortable and welcome, and could easily imagine myself playing bowls to unwind after a long day.
The only downside from my point of view was the dress-code…but apart from that, £55 to be able to bowl any day of the week seems very reasonable.
Although I previously blamed my batteries, it actually turns out that I haven’t got much to say about the Woodlands Farm Summer Show after all: I arrived in time for the extreme falconry, to see a harris hawk surfing on a mock rabbit with accompanying sardonic commentary, plus the tug-o-war to sound of ‘eye of the tiger ‘, but I did miss the bakewell cupcakes, w.h robinson steam machines, sheep shearing, and the blacksmith, plus I noticed the bromley bee keepers weren’t there, perhaps as a result of woodlands farm’s own bee keeping operation turning out to be better than theirs? The next barn dance, on June the 19th was being promoted, this time in aid of Severndroog castle.
As community spirits go this weekend probably marked the high point of the year, with the Plumstead Make Merry yesterday and the farm’s summer show today, and I went along to both to see what was going on, but my computer’s battery is just about to run out, so here’s a few thoughts on the make merry for now.
Unfortunately I missed a lot of the early action, and can’t confirm if the man who does a fantastic punch and judy with incredible sound effects who also doubles up as a balloon contortionist was there – I fear not. The terrifying clown was also possibly not there, and neither were the blackheath morris men, so my expectations were dampened a bit.
However things obviously change at these events, and there were some great newcomers too: including Stepz School of Dance, who were promoted on this site in winter, and have been successful so far and are now offering evening classes on Wednesdays at St Josephs on Herbert Road.
It was also nice to see Mariama Samba a promising local singer songwriter who recently supported Youssou N’dour at the dome as well as winning a ‘Spirit of London’ award. She’s so charismatic that by the end of her show a spontaneous crowd of admirers gathered around her on stage, and she thanked them all for being her new backing dancers.
Speaking of award winners, the multi award winning Plumstead Common Environment Group had a nice stall there, selling attractive postcards and giving out copies of their quarterly newsletter. It’s a full colour printed and bound publication and alone justifies the annual membership fee of £2/4, and demonstrates very effectively how their care of public spaces has benefited the area – they have also produced an excellent glossy book. It’s not all good news from them though, and things take a turn for the worse when they describe the limited resources and motivation of the council and police when it comes to littering, dog control orders and vandalism. The group were also promoting the newly released third volume of colin weightman’s plumstead-stories, a collection of reminiscences and pictures, which comes ‘sprinkled with nostalgia’.
Well this is not exactly hot off the press, and the digging dad’s army blog gives the full scoop (groan, shameful pun) on what transpired, but the main message I got from the Eaglesfield dig was that the ww1 gun emplacement for bringing down zeppelins could perhaps be put on display, with an information panel like the one at the mayplace lane bronze age barrow.
down at the woodlands farm today it was bliss: as we lazed around on straw bales in the back field the sun streamed down on us and we tucked into ice creams and watched the sheep getting their summer haircuts. the golden fleeces would have pleased jason and the argonauts i’m sure.
the bromley beekeepers were out in their masses selling jars of woodlands honey for £4 a go which the local hayfever sufferers were snapping up in readiness for next year. aside from it’s rumoured medicinal benefits, woodlands honey is also extremely sweet.
the woodlands willow grove was also getting a haircut today with garden obelisks on sale for £8 which would make a lovely gift for a sweet pea or a clematis. fine willow baskets were also on offer.
there were all sorts of other things going on too; wool spinning, kid crafts, an adventure playground, pony rides, owl stroking, giant rabbits, tugs of war, and information on the history of the farm, which is, i believe, london’s last real farm.
this was a bit more low key than previous events, such as the last lambing day, which was a complete roadblock and had all the atmosphere of oxford street on christmas eve; but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing as it was a very calm and enjoyable way to spend a lazy sunday afternoon.