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  • hilly 5:08 pm on October 15, 2015
    Tags: , , walks   

    Green Chain Mega-amble again this weekend 

    Green Chain Mega-walkers gather at Crystal Palace Station

    Green Chain Mega-walkers gather at Crystal Palace Station

    If you fancy a 16.5 mile, 8 hour walk through some of south-east London’s greenest scenery then this Saturday provides an opportunity. Once again Ian Bull is leading the Green Chain Megawalk as part of Walk London’s Autumn Ambles weekend. It’s a slightly different route than last time, taking in Charlton’s parks and ending at the Thames Barrier rather than Bostall Woods and the Thames at Erith, which cuts some five miles off the distance. Walkers will meet at 9.15am outside Crystal Palace station, and the walk finishes at Charlton Station. The Walk London website has more details:

    Walk Description:
    A packed lunch is essential as is water to drink along the way. There is a small supermarket at the beginning but opportunities to re-stock along the way are very limited.
    No other London walk offers such a pleasant challenge.
    The Green Chain Megawalk is by a considerable margin the longest established long-distance guided walk in London and many hundreds have participated. Some thought they wouldn’t complete such a distance, yet the camaraderie and expert guidance have seen all but a handful achieve an on-time finish. Every one of the participants has taken wonderful memories from the day. Here’s your chance to join the institution!
    South East London possesses London’s finest landscape but in places the remarkably bucolic components of that landscape are not quite contiguous. The ‘Green Chain Walk’ was laid-out in 1977 to link those Pearls together becoming the Capital’s first long distance footpath in the process. Today the Green Chain network is over 50 miles long and the many thousands of acres of open space and woodland it joins are deservedly to be considered for Regional Park status. The Megawalk carefully balances distance, gradient, landscape, and views to bring a true taste of this exceptional system into one day.
    We’ll gently climb to some of the highest points in the city, suburbia giving way to outstanding views and much woodland, some established for 8,000 years. For lengthy sections you won’t know you are in a town, let alone the Metropolis, as well over half the route is off-road. After lunch we descend through woodland and across heaths to a splendid complex of parks in Charlton that were a principle location in the 1960s cult film ‘Blow Up’. From there it’s a short distance to our destination at the remarkable Thames Barrier, hopefully glinting in the setting sun. Excellent transport into central London is close-by.
    The route is steep in places, a packed lunch is essential, and of course you must be reasonably fit. You must also be able to sustain three miles per hour for most of a day and if you think you can, this particularly friendly event is the one Walk London walk that you should do. There is no need to book, just turn up and go, a remarkable day awaits you.
    The Megawalk is never, ever, allowed to finish late. Should the necessary pace prove wearisome there’s plentiful public transport throughout for a comfortable return home. You are also most welcome to join the walk at any point.
    The walk leader is the Green Chain Walk’s surveying contractor and will be delighted to share his extensive knowledge both along the way and in advance. Feel very free to contact him, Ian Bull, for further information.  T. 020 7223 3572,  E. ianbull@btinternet.com

    The Autumn Ambles programme includes lots of other great walks, though Ian’s walk on Sunday which takes in Severndroog Castle is unfortunately already fully booked. However Seafaring London – Tower Bridge to Greenwich sounds interesting, as do some of the shorter walks in central London such as The Real West End – Soho, Chinatown and Covent Garden which is just 1.5miles, the same distance as Secret Diaries and Public Spaces – The Legacy of Pepys and Wren.

    Time to brush off those walking boots.

    View from Cox's Mount, Maryon Park

    View from Cox’s Mount, Maryon Park

     

     
  • hilly 12:46 pm on September 13, 2015
    Tags: , , , , walks,   

    Open House Weekend 

    St George mosaic at St George's Garrison Church after first phase of restoration

    St George mosaic at St George’s Garrison Church after first phase of restoration

    St George’s Garrison Church will be open for London Open House weekend, despite not appearing in the Open House brochure. Between 10am and 5pm on the 19th and 20th September we’ll be able to see the marvellous mosaics after phase 1 of their restoration and the new tensile fabric roof that protects them. It is planned to have a mini-autumn festival at the church, with food and arts and craft stalls. There is no charge for stalls, if you’d like to take part contact Julie Ricketts, the Heritage Project Officer, on hpostgeorgeswoolwich@gmail.com. Also contact Julie if you’re interested in helping other Friends of St George’s to show visitors round on either of the two days.

    It’s a mystery why the restored church isn’t included in the Open House brochure, especially when an article about the restoration and the new roof appeared in the RIBA journal. The only reason I’ve heard is that they “had too many churches already”.

    New tensile roof protecting  St George's Garrison Church

    New tensile roof protecting St George’s Garrison Church

    The weekend of 19th and 20th September looks like being packed with interesting local events. As well as St George’s Garrison Church and London Open House, Shrewsbury House is hosting its own open house on the Saturday, there’s the Woolwich Carnival also on Saturday, Severndroog Castle are holding an autumn festival as part of their Open House on Sunday,  and The Walking Time Machine has a Battle of Britain Anniversary Special walk on Sunday. More about all of these below.

    Shrewsbury House‘s Open House is free and runs from 12 ’til 4 on Saturday. It includes:

    Activities & Presentations by User Groups
    Photography, Yoga, Keep Fit, Singing, Fencing, Wine Making, Short Matt Bowls, Tai Chi, Beavers, Jujitsu, Pilates, etc etc
    Children’s & Family Activities
    Toddler & Pre-School activities, Face Painting, Ballet & Street Dance.
    Live Music & Dance
    in the Princess Charlotte Room
    Bubbly & Cake on the Kent View Balcony
    A Pop Up Indulgent Cafe with a View complete with Millinery, Hand Made Jewellery & More
    Tours of the House
    with Spoken Guide by Local Historian

    There is also a “What do you want your Shooters Hill to be?” wall chart quiz which sounds interesting.

     

    Shrewsbury House open house poster

    Woolwich Carnival is on Saturday 19th between midday and 5.00pm. Sounds good from their description:

    Inspired by the diverse and active community groups in the Greenwich area the Woolwich Community Carnival Committee are bringing back carnival to Woolwich this summer on Saturday 19th September.
    Woolwich Carnival will be a celebration of local culture and community. There will be a parade, costumes, live music, dance, community stalls, food and crafts, steel drums and plenty of good vibes – a great way to bring neighbouring communities together for a day of collective summer festivities.
    This year’s theme is Feeling Good – all things that make us happy.

    The local highlights of London Open House for me are the Gordon Square walk and talk and the opening of the Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral (formerly Granada Cinema), both on Saturday, and the Severndroog Castle Autumn Festival on Sunday.

    The Gordon Square walk and talk is intriguingly entitled “Many Ways to Sit: The Social Dynamics of Gordon Square“.

    Meet: Sat 10.30am next to the big TV screen, General Gordon Square SE18 6HX. First come basis. N D T
    A tour and talk looking at the problems and potential of seating in public places, focusing on Gordon Square, Woolwich. A ten minute documentary film will be shown in a nearby venue, made in collaboration with users of Gordon Square.
    Gustafson Porter 2011.

    An unexpected highlight of Open House a couple of years ago was a walk and talk about the Woolwich Squares. This gave a fascinating insight into the challenges of designing and developing Gordon and Beresford Square and the solutions that were adopted, often with tricky negotiations, such as the late addition of a requirement to have the large screen in Gordon Square. The description of the project to transform the square has some fascinating snippets:

    This project aims to transform Woolwich into one of London’s best-connected, most sought-after riverside areas. Developed with the local community, the landscape masterplan draws on the town’s rich architectural and military heritage to create two multi-functional, fully-accessible spaces called ‘Garden’ and ‘Ballroom’, connected by Greens End’s revitalised streetscape.
    Gordon Square is a daytime garden which can be layered with different uses, including specialist markets and public events. A scrim of water in its lawned amphitheatre can also be transformed into an ice rink. Beresford Square is a more formal space supporting a daily market. Its east side illuminates with the setting sun and changing patterns of light encourage local residents to linger and meet against the dramatic backdrop of Arsenal Gate.

    I’ve never heard the water feature called a “scrim of water” before, and love the thought that it could be turned into an ice rink, though the slope might make it interesting!

    The former Granada Cinema at the end of Powis Street, which is now the Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, is a very welcome new addition to Open House this year. It will be open on Saturday between 1.00pm and 5.00pm. Its description in the Open House guide barely does it justice: “Lavish and atmospheric former cinema with interior by Theodore Komisarjevsky, converted to Bingo Hall in 1960s. Grade II* listed.” Komisarjevsky, once a stage designer for the Russian ballet, designed the interior in gothic style and used motifs from European cathedral buildings such as Amiens, Rouen and Lyons in the auditorium, so it doesn’t seem inappropriate that it is now used as a cathedral. I was allowed to have a look round the cathedral last year, some of my photos are here on Flickr, and was very impressed both by the building itself and by the care with which it had been restored. Well worth a visit.

     Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly Woolwich Granada Cinema


    Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly Woolwich Granada Cinema

    Detail of auditorium at Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly Woolwich Granada Cinema

    Detail of auditorium at Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly Woolwich Granada Cinema

    Severndroog Castle is always worth a visit, both for the building itself and the excellent views from the top. For this years Open House the volunteer team are also planning an Autumn Festival, with “singers, musicians and folk or Morris dancers. Also, local food producers, in particular fruit and vegetables or cheese.” The castle will be open on Sunday between 10.30am and 4.30pm, with tours every half hour.

    On Sunday it would easily be possible to combine a visit to St George’s Garrison Church and Severndroog Castle with an afternoon guided walk, the Walking Time Machine Battle of Britain Anniversary Special, led by local archaeologist Andy Brockman. Andy’s last guided walk was fascinating, and this one promises to be equally so. It starts at at 2.00pm at the Oxleas Wood Cafe, and is described in the History Mill Facebook group:

    To remember the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz the History Mill invites you take take part in a special guided walk to see how in the Autumn of 1940 Shooters Hill and Plumstead prepared to face the Luftwaffe and a possible German Invasion.
    Where: Meet at the Oxleas Wood Cafe
    When: 2pm Sunday 20 September 2015
    Duration: Approximately two hours ending at the Old Mill Pub, Plumstead Common.
    The Battle of Britain and the Blitz are part of the mythology of modern Britain but seventy five years ago they were all too real.
    In September 1940 the sky above London was criss crossed with the vapour trails of Luftwaffe bombers and British Spitfire and Hurricane fighters while down below the ARP Service, the Home Guard and other civilian services worked with the anti-aircraft and barrage balloon crews to help protect London and its civilian population from the German onslaught.
    At the back of everyone’s mind was the fear of a German invasion which could come at any moment and would inflict on London the damage wrought in Madrid and Warsaw.
    This special anniversary History Mill timewalk will be led by conflict archaeologist Andy Brockman and will visit the sites associated with that momentous Summer of 1940 on Shooters Hill, including some of the sites seen in the Time Team “Blitzkrieg on Shooters Hill”, and demonstrate how the local landscape was taken over by a Total War, the effects of which we are still seeing today.
    Families and well behaved dogs welcome.
    Please dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable footwear suitable for a two hour walk on pavements and through local parks.
    Free: Donations to the Plumstead Make Merry welcome.

    What a great weekend in prospect, I feel exhausted just thinking about how to get round everything. Oh, and I almost forgot that Woodlands Farm has its Autumn Equinox Walk on Sunday at 10.00am too.

    Detail of decoration at Severndroog Castle

    Detail of decoration at Severndroog Castle

     
  • hilly 6:22 pm on April 24, 2015
    Tags: , , walks,   

    Bluebell Walk on Sunday May 3rd 

    Bluebell Walk poster

    If you’re interested in the ecology and history of Oxleas Woods then make sure you go on the Bluebell Walk through the woods and Woodlands Farm on Sunday May 3rd. Hannah from the farm wrote with details:

    Enjoy a leisurely walk through ancient Oxleas Woodlands on the bank holiday Sunday May 3rd. The walk is led by staff of the Woodlands Farm Trust and starts at the historic Severndroog Castle on Shooters Hill and end at Woodlands Farm. Barry Gray, Chair of the Woodlands Farm Trust said ‘Oxleas Woodlands are a riot of new growth at present, with bluebells, wood anenomes, wood violets and many other plants coming into flower. Perfect for a walk describing some of the interesting ecology, history and uses of Oxleas over the years’.

    The walk starts at Severndroog Castle at 1.30pm and ends at Woodlands Farm, and should take between 1 ½ – 2 hours. Why not get to Severndroog early for a guided visit and a coffee or brunch in the café. The café at Woodlands Farm will be open for further refreshments at the end of the walk.

    For more information please contact Woodlands Farm on 020 8319 8900 or email admin@thewoodlandsfarmtrust.org

    The last time this walk took place we saw not only bluebells but many other wild flowers, including Stitchwort, Ladies Smock, Wood Sorrel, Wild Garlic and Wood Anemones. We learned about and saw plants that are rarely seen outside ancient woodland, such as the Wild Service Tree and  Butchers Broom – species that would be threatened if a road was ever built through the woods. You can see photographs of the plants and wild flowers of Oxleas Woods in a Flickr album here. We also walked by the historic cants of coppiced Hazels and Chestnuts deep in the wood and heard about their place in medieval life.

    Very highly recommended.

    Bluebells  in Oxleas Wood

    Bluebells in Oxleas Wood

    Ladies Smock (Cardamine pratensis) in Oxleas Wood

    Ladies Smock in Oxleas Wood

     
  • hilly 10:48 am on April 16, 2015
    Tags: , , , walks, ,   

    Young Shoots & Local History Walks on Sunday 

    Woodlands Farm Monthly Walks 2014-15 poster

    If you are interested in nature or in local history there is a walk for you on Sunday. Woodlands Farm are hosting the last of their series of guided walks at 10.00am, and the Shooters Hill Local History Group have a circular walk round Woolwich Common starting at 11.00am.

    Hannah, Woodlands Farm’s Education Officer, wrote with details of their Young Shoots Guided Walk:

    Spring has firmly arrived at Woodlands Farm with lots of blossom and fields full of lambs. Join us for a guided walk round the farm to find out more about this wonderful time of the farming season. The walk starts at 10am, meeting in the green building. Sturdy footwear and suitable outdoor clothing is required, the walk does include climbing a stile, so is not suitable for young children or buggies. The walk is free, but donations are welcome.

    Pussy Willow at Woodlands Farm

    Pussy Willow at Woodlands Farm

    Steve sent details of the Local History Group walk. It starts at the former Shooters Hill Police Station on the corner of Shooters Hill and Well Hall Road at 11.00am and is expected to take about one and a half hours at a leisurely pace. It will include: the historical background to the Herbert and Brook Hospitals; the Greenwich Free School site; the Queen Elizabeth Hospital; the former Woolwich Stadium site; the Ha Ha; the  historical use of Woolwich Common; former site of General Gordon’s home; former Royal Military Academy. Steve says there will be some good photo opportunities along the way.

    Sounds like a pair of very interesting walks, Let’s hope the good weather holds out till Sunday.

    The Woolwich Ha-ha on Ha-ha Road

    The Woolwich Ha-ha on Ha-ha Road

     
  • hilly 11:26 am on February 1, 2015
    Tags: , , walks   

    Military Rule 

    One of the new signs on the Castlewood footpath

    One of the new signs on the Castlewood footpath

    Clive Barbour, who has been campaigning, successfully, to have the Castlewood footpath reopened has also been checking up on the by-laws mentioned on the new signs put up by the MoD. I’ll let Clive describe what he discovered:

    Your readers will remember that the main reason that the MOD closed the path was because the students from the Sixth Form College in Red Lion Lane were causing a nuisance and leaving rubbish. Well, it turns out that the MOD, courtesy of the Woolwich Military Lands Byelaws, already had all the necessary powers to prevent nuisance and depositing rubbish so there was absolutely no need to deprive us of our footpath for 18 months.
    The Statutory Instrument is well worth a look though and can be accessed here:
    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/39285/20120727WoolwichByelaw.pdf
    First of all the SI presumes use of the lands by the public in paragraph 2 which provides that “any use of or entry upon the Military Lands by the public shall be subject always to the restrictions, prohibitions and other provisions of these Byelaws.” And most significantly of all it provides that “nothing in these bylaws shall interfere with the lawful exercise by any person of any public right of way”.  I shall be reminding the MOD and the Royal Borough of Greenwich of that in the coming months…
    But we should take notice though that there are some things that it is totally illegal to do upon the Military Lands. These include:
    – engaging in or carrying on any trade or business;
    – engaging in prostitution (surely not on Shooters Hill…!);
    – looking for casual employment, and very interestingly it specifies “whether by way of carrying soldiers’ kits or otherwise howsoever”;
    – loitering or committing a nuisance or behaving in an indecent or unseemly manner (students take note…);
    – engaging in gaming, betting or wagering.
    The curry houses and kebab shops will be very shocked to note that distributing any handbills leaflets and other literature or printed matter on the military lands is an offence. It is also forbidden to assemble any number of persons for the purpose of the public and private meeting of any kind or address such persons when assembled.  I suspect this probably precludes picnics but I am uncertain if two people walking dogs constitutes a meeting.  Readers may wish to take legal advice!
    Other prohibited activities include camping, grazing animals, growing crops, removing timber or wild flower roots, (but interestingly not wildflowers themselves) and fishing.
    We should also note carefully that any person who rides a horse or cycle or drives of horse-drawn on mechanically propelled vehicle must stop if a military policeman in uniform or a War Department Constable in uniform requests “by the holding up of his hand to do so and shall not proceed further until the policeman or constable gives him the signal to proceed”. And should we be rushing off to commit any of these offences then be warned that it is possible for a constable to take us into custody and bring us before the Magistrates’ Court where, if convicted, we would face a fine not exceeding £5 pounds.   Although a more modern footnote to the SI says this now has been updated  to £500 as the fine levels go up periodically.
    The SI also includes a map of the Military Lands which is very interesting to look at as it shows the extent of the land is owned by the Ministry of Defence after the Second World War. These include parts of Red Lion Lane that are now privately owned and what appears to be part of the new Tesco in Woolwich along with the newly built flats complex behind it. There are also lots of references to interesting places I am not sure if they continue to survive in a different guise including the Municipal Gardens, Cambridge Cottages, the Military Families’ hospital, the Shrapnel Barracks, the Nursing Sisters’ Quarters Sportsground Number Five and St John’s Passage.
    And if you wish to have a personal copy of the Byelaws, apparently they can be obtained at the price of one shilling for each copy from Government House, New Road, Woolwich.  I hope someone has told the residents of the Governor’s Place development…

    I’ve included a copy of the map of the Military Lands that Clive mentions below; it’s an interesting historical record of streets that have been erased by all the development in the intervening 56 years.

    Good Luck to Clive in his continuing efforts to protect the path for future walkers.

    Map of Areas of Military Land in "The Woolwich Military Lands Byelaws"

    Map of Areas of Military Land in “The Woolwich Military Lands Byelaws”

     
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