Summer Holiday Activities at Woodlands Farm

  Ring-necked Parakeet at Woodlands Farm
Ring-necked Parakeet at Woodlands Farm

Hannah, the Education Officer at Woodlands Farm, sent me details of their summer holiday activities for children:

The Woodlands Farm Games

Tuesday 31st July — Wildlife Challenge

Are you wild enough to face our wildlife challenge and become a wildlife champion. Sessions from 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm. Booking is essential, call 0208 319 8900.  FREE

Wednesday 1st August — The Big Orienteering Challenge

Drop by between 10am and 3pm to join our big challenge.  Can you navigate your way round the farm using only a compass and a map? £1 per child.

Friday 3rd August— The Farm Games

Can you face our farming challenges—cow milking, welly throwing and egg and spoon races.  Will you be the winner? Contests start at 11am, 12pm, 2pm and 3pm.  Meet at the bottom of the farm yard. FREE.

Tuesday 7th August — The Big Orienteering Challenge

Drop by between 10am and 3pm to join our big challenge.  Can you navigate your way round the farm using only a compass and a map? £1 per child.

Wednesday 8th August—The Farm Games

Can you face our farming challenges—cow milking, welly throwing and egg and spoon races.  Will you be the winner? Contests start at 11am, 12pm, 2pm and 3pm.  Meet at the bottom of the farm yard. FREE.

Friday 10th August—Wildlife Challenge

Are you wild enough to face our wildlife challenge and become a  wildlife champion. Sessions from 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm. Booking is essential, call 0208 319 8900. FREE

Summer Activities for over 8’s.

Tuesday 21st August — Wild about Wildlife

Are you wild about the different wildlife on the farm, and love searching for different animals around you.  Then join us for a day of wildlife surveys and see what you can find.  Sessions from 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm.  £2 per child. Booking is essential, call 0208 319 8900.

Wednesday 22nd August – Bush craft

Join us for a number of bush craft activities including shelter building and making nettle cord. Sessions from 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm.  £2 per child. Booking is essential, call 0208 319 8900

Friday 24th August — Fascinated about Farming

Ever fancied being a farmer?  Well this is your chance.  Get involved with a day in the life on the Woodlands Farm team.  As well as seeing the daily jobs there will also be a chance to get involved with lamb weighing.  Sessions from 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm.  £2 per child. Booking is essential, call 0208 319 8900

Parking is limited, please use public transport where possible.

For further details visit our website: or Tel: 020 8319 8900

Woodlands Farm is located on the borders of the London boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich.  At 89 acres, it is the largest city farm in the UK.  Our priorities are education and conservation, and we are part of the Natural England Higher Level Stewardship Scheme.  Our education programme attracts visitors from pre-school to third-age groups.  The Trust aims to involve local community groups, schools, volunteers and businesses in farming and conservation, helping to bridge the current town-country divide.

We are open 9.30am-4.30pm, Tuesday-Sunday (except Christmas Day).  There is no entry charge except for special events, though donations are always welcome.

Nearest tube: North Greenwich

Nearest BR: Welling

Buses: 486 and 89

We are a farm so sensible shoes and clothing are recommended!  We do allow dogs, but please note that these must be kept on a lead and not taken into any farm buildings.

If you visit the farm, there are some more new arrivals to see  – some Irish Moiled cattle – “one of our rarest and most distinctive native cattle breeds”.  One of them is in calf – due any day. I haven’t got any pictures of them (yet), but here are the Saddleback piglets in training for the Olympic synchronised sleeping event.

Saddleback piglets relaxing
Saddleback piglets relaxing

What Next for Eaglesfield Pond?

Eaglesfield Pond tidy up and pond dipping poster

This summer’s record-breaking rainfall has had at least one benefit – The Eaglesfield Park Lilly Pond is thriving. The wild flower meadow around the pond, planted by volunteers earlier in the year, has grown tall and the Lilly plants in the pond seem to be well established, though no sign of flowers (yet).

The Friends of Eaglesfield Park are planning to hold a regular tidy up and pond dipping session at the pond on the last Sunday of the month, staring on the 29th July. Madeleine from the Friends e-mailed me the poster and details:

Following on from the official opening of the restored pond we received a lot of comments from people indicating they would like to become involved in the future development of the pond and surrounding wildflower meadow. We will obviously be talking to the appropriate Council Departments regarding continued maintenance of the area, but to begin the process and to maintain the interest of local residents and park visitors we would like to propose regular “tidy up and pond dipping sessions” on the last Sunday of the month between 11.00 am and 1.00 pm (weather permitting!).

Due to the wet weather in Spring, we were unable to seed about a third of the meadow area and we will catch up with this at a later date. The remainder of the meadow that was seeded has had varying degrees of success and will need to have invasive “weeds” reduced. The pond may well require “blanket weed” management and, of course, generally I am sure we will always have to combat litter and debris. We would also like to ensure that pond dipping activities are accessible to as many children (and adults) as possible and look forward to receiving suggestions as to how this could be achieved.

We hope that by meeting regularly we hope to ensure more people will be able to enjoy this wonderful new focal point within the park, and that it will also provide an opportunity to meet other park visitors and to receive their comments and suggestions.

Hopefully the weather will be dry and sunny on the 29th, unlike the recent heavy rain – captured in the latest photograph for the Flickr set showing the changing pond.

The Lilly Pond July 2012
The Lilly Pond July 2012

Midnight Megawalk on the Green Chain

View towards Central London from Green Chain Walk in Eltham
View towards Central London from Green Chain Walk in Eltham

Keen walkers among you will jump at the chance of a 22 mile night hike along the length of the Green Chain Walk from Crystal Palace to Erith, arriving at Shooters Hill in time for sunrise. Ian Bull who’s organising the “Midnight Megawalk” sent me the following details:

* Friday 20th July – The ‘Midnight Megawalk’.

A very leisurely 22 mile stroll over the most popular sections of the Green Chain Walk from Crystal Palace to Erith, but with a difference, the walk is nocturnal!

Meet outside Crystal Palace railway station at 22.30pm. After the first five miles we enter woodland for a pitch black stroll. Quite amazing! By the time we get to Eltham we’ll see wonderful views of London at first-light. This was so good last year that we spent about 20 minutes watching. At 05.00, after much more dark woodland we arrive at Shooters Hill for sunrise, and there’s no where better to see it as the view extends right over Essex and the estuary. The rest of the walk is almost entirely in woodland and I assure you, it does look lovely at that time of the morning. We arrive at Erith and the Thames at about 07.30 for plenty of trains home.

The walk was very successful last year but I must stress that the  event is wholly unofficial and just for fun. If you take part you do so entirely at your own risk. For further information please contact Ian Bull – ianbull at btinternet dot com

Ian is also organising the seventh daylight version of the walk for Saturday 29th September and will send more details when they are available.

Interactive map from Green Chain Walk web site
Map from Green Chain Walk web site – click to go to interactive map

Bat Walks at Woodlands Farm

Bat Walk Poster

Another opportunity for bat enthusiasts, following the successful Shrewsbury Park bat walk, Woodlands Farm are holding a series of bat walks over the next few months, part of their recently launched  Heritage Lottery Funded Farm Conservation project.

The walks will be held on the evenings of:

  • 19th July at 8.30p
  • 14th August at 7.45pm and
  • 6th September at 7.00pm

and will cost £1 per person. Contact the farm Wildlife Officer, Lorraine, on 020 8319 8900 to book a place, or e-mail the farm at

Incidentally this weekend is the Bat Conservation Trust‘s Sunset/Sunrise Survey weekend. This is a survey that anyone can take part in, and doesn’t need any specialist equipment such as a bat detector. Details are on the BCT website:

The Sunset Survey couldn’t be easier! Simply spend the evening in your garden and watch out for any bats that fly past. Record how many bats you see, which species they are (if you think you know) and, most importantly, which direction they are flying from.

The Sunrise Survey involves going out just before dawn to look for bats swarming before they return to their roost. If you have already done the Sunset Survey and saw bats flying past, you should walk in the direction from which most of them seemed to be coming.

This survey is aimed at beginners and is an excellent way of contributing to the monitoring programme if you don’t have any previous experience of bat surveying.

I’ve heard that one of the bat species that can be seen at Woodlands Farm is the Daubenton’s Bat, which hunts its insect prey over the ponds there. So here, to whet your appetite for bat viewing, is a fascinating clip from Springwatch of Simon King filming Daubenton’s Bats hunting.

St George's Garrison Church Restoration

The dragon shown in the Victoria Cross Memorial mosaic in St George's Garrison Church
The dragon shown in the Victoria Cross Memorial mosaic in St George’s Garrison Church

I see work has started on the restoration of the grade II listed St George’s Garrison Church, another “Heritage at Risk” building close to the Olympics shooting and archery venue. Hopefully this will  result in more people being able to see its marvellous mosaics. The organisation responsible for the restoration, Heritage of London Trust Operations, aims to make the church suitable for use as a small scale venue for appropriate events. It “intends to run occasional events at the chapel that will cater for fifty to a hundred people” as well as to provide access for “formal and informal educational visits”. A local friends group of volunteers will be established to help co-ordinate the running of the venue.

The first step of the work, currently underway,  is to convert two rooms near the entrance to the chapel into a kitchen and toilet, but the major change is to construct a new cover for the apse, which is where the memorial mosaics are located together with the marble tablets listing the names of Royal Artillery soldiers who were awarded the VC and the war in which they won it. APEC Architects, who prepared the planning documents, considered various options for the new canopy but the final decision was for a free-standing glulam timber-framed arch with a tensile fabric covering as envisioned in the picture below.

APEC Architects' vision of the new apse canopy
APEC Architects’ vision of the new apse canopy

Restoration work will take place in slower time than the contruction, which is not surprising as it does include specialist restoration of the mosaics themselves. Another of the planning documents contains photographs and details of the proposed internal restoration work:

Remnants of steel framed glazed roof (damaged in high winds)

Proposal: Remove the damaged roof as it is no longer required. Repairs to brickwork at the top of the walls to be carried out as required.

Victoria Cross memorial mosaic

Proposal: Mosaic to be restored by appropriate specialist

Other memorial mosaics/remnants of glazed roof structure

Proposal: Mosaics to be fully restored by appropriate specialist. Remnants of glazed roof structure to be removed and brickwork repaired as appropriate.

Memorial mosaics/damage to brickwork

Proposal: Mosaics to be fully restored by appropriate specialist. Damaged brickwork to be repaired.

Entrance gates

Proposal:All gates to be removed for X-ray inspection. Any defects are to be repaired before the gates are reinstated.

Undercroft access

Proposal:The bricked up access to the undercroft space is to be opened up to provide a space for storage. A timber plank door, within a timber frame, is to be installed within the arch. Steel reinforcement is to be in place on the inside face of the timber door for security reasons.

It doesn’t sound like it will all be done in time for the Olympics, though the initial work may be, but at least the process of  preserving the ruin and making it more accessible has started.

Vine mosaic in St George's Garrison Church
Vine mosaic in St George’s Garrison Church

Who was Major Robert John Little?

Major Robert John Little Memorial
Major Robert John Little Memorial

The restoration of parts of our urban environment prompted by the prospect of thousands of visitors is one of the positive side-effects of Greenwich being an Olympic borough. Major Robert John Little’s Memorial Obelisk was an obvious candidate for refurbishment; it is located right in front of the shooting/archery stadium on Woolwich Common, and on the recommended route from Woolwich Arsenal station to the Olympic events. Some might say that its location on the English Heritage “Buildings at Risk” list should have been reason enough to restore the memorial, but …. whatever, it has been restored.

The description of the restoration of the memorial says that the new brass plaques installed on each face of the obelisk are “inscribed with details of Robert John Little’s Life.”  However when I visited I found that apart from the front plaque they are all blank, so I thought I’d help out by finding out something about the life Major Robert John Little. Plus I was curious about who he was and why he had a memorial on the edge of Woolwich Common.

The English Heritage draft Survey of London on Woolwich gives some background on the creation of the obelisk, as part of an elaborate drinking fountain:

After the formation of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association in 1858, London was peppered with drinking fountains. This one, in the form of a grey-granite obelisk, was given by Anna Victoria Little, in memory of her late husband, Maj. Robert John Little, barrack-master at the Royal Marine Barracks and formerly a resident of Adelaide Place across the road. It was designed by a civil engineer, E. Gregory, and built by William Tongue, who, ironically, was responsible for enclosing part of Plumstead Common at this time. The obelisk survives, without its faucets, basins, twenty-one encircling cannon bollards or a trough for dogs, but restored with new bollards by Greenwich Council in 2011.

Detail of Major Little's memorial obelisk
Detail of Major Little’s memorial obelisk

However Major Little was much more than the Barrack Master at the Royal Marine Barracks. For a start he had a distinguished and heroic military career, summarised in Major H.G. Hart’s The New Army List 1849:

Capt Little served in the channel fleet and at the blockade of Ferrol and Corunna in 1803-4. Appointed to the Royal Marine Artillery on the formation of that corps in 1804, and was employed in various bomb vessels on the enemy’s coast co-operating with the land forces, or on detached service. In command of the mortars in the Vesuvius bomb at the attack of Boulogne. Defence of Cadiz in 1809; and subsequently at the blockade of Rochfort, where he commanded a storming party in a successful night attack on the coast, on which occasion he received the particular thanks of the Admiralty, and was rewarded by the Patriotic Fund:- at the commencement of this attack he was severely wounded by a musket ball shattering the wrist which rendered amputation of the right hand necessary.

The 1810 action which led to Major Little losing his right hand was part of the British blockade of the French fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. The story of the battle was recounted  in a number of historical books, for example The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV by William James and  the Historical Record of the Royal Marine Forces. Vol II. by Paul Harris Nicholas:

On the night of the 27th of September, the boats of the 120-gun ship Caledonia and 74-gun ship Valiant, lying at anchor in   Basque roads, were detached under lieutenant A. P. Hamilton to destroy three brigs lying under the protection of a battery at Pointe du Ché ; and as the enemy had a strong detachment of troops in the adjoining village of Angoulin, a party of 130 marines under captains Thomas Sherman and Archibald McLachlan, lieutenants John Coulter and John Couche, and lieutenant Robert John Little of the marine artillery, were added to the division of seamen from the squadron.

At about 2 h. 30 m. a. m. on the 28th the marines were landed under the Pointe du Ché, and the alarm having been given by the brigs, an ineffectual fire was opened from the enemy’s guns. Lieutenant Little, with his detachment of artillery-men, pushed forward with the bayonet to the assault, supported by captain McLachlan’s division, and by a detachment under lieutenants Coulter and Couche; and having gallantly carried the battery, spiked the guns. Lieutenant Little, in leading his men, on entering the fort received the contents of the french sentry’s musket in his right hand as he was in the act of cutting him down, and the wrist was so much shattered as to render amputation necessary. Whilst the attack was making on the fort, captain Sherman, with his division, took post on the main road by the sea side, having his front to the village, and his right protected by a launch with an eighteen-pounder carronade. A party of the enemy succeeded, under cover of the night, in bringing a field-piece to bear with some effect, but the marines instantly charged, and captured the gun. Two of the brigs were brought off, and the third destroyed ; and the marines were now re-embarked, having sustained no greater loss than lieutenant Little and one private wounded. In the defence of the battery on Pointe du Ché, the enemy had 14 men killed.

Lieutenant Little’s battle injury didn’t end his military career, and the Navy Lists indicate that  he was promoted first to Captain  and again to Major and that he was awarded the Silver Naval Medal with one clasp. He became Barrack Master on 12th September 1829 on a salary of £183 per annum.

Crystal Palace from the northeast from Dickinson's Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
Wikimedia Commons picture of Crystal Palace, home of the Great Exhibition of 1851

In addition to his military career Major Little also seems to have been an inventor, exhibiting his improved watercock  at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in the Great Exhibition in 1851. As the Exhibition Catalogue says:

476. LITTLE, Major ROBERT J., 4 Queen’s Terrace, Woolwich Common — Inventor.

An improved watercock, with double plug, for connecting pipes without breaking joints, with sectional drawings of the same. Designed by the exhibitor, and manufactured by Frost, Noakes, and Vincent, 195 Brick Lane, Whitechapel.

Was Major Little a one-hit-wonder with his watercock, or did he have a successful career as an inventor? I’d love to find out.

Interestingly Major Little’s 1851 home in Queen’s Terrace was, according to the draft Survey of London, next to Adelaide Place where he also lived. By my reading of the 1866 OS map both  of these addresses faced onto Woolwich Common, roughly between where Jackson Street and Engineer Close are now,  just over the road from his memorial fountain.

The citation on Major Little’s obelisk says that he “devoted himself to honour of God and to the relief of human suffering.”  One way in which he would have achieved this was through his contribution to  the Executive and Finance Committee of the Royal Patriotic Fund. The Fund was instigated by Queen Victoria’s 1854 appeal for public donations to assist the widows and orphans of military personnel who were killed in the Crimean War. The appeal was a huge success, collecting over a million pounds in its first six months, and was able to found two schools in Wandsworth as well as providing grants to military widows and orphans. The Patriotic Fund continued in one form or another until just a couple of years ago when it was merged with the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help charity.

I suspect that Major Little was also involved in other charitable work for the Royal Marines Artillery – for two reasons. Firstly the Charity Commission website mentions a charity named “Major Robert John Little“. It gives hardly any details, other than it has been amalgamated with the Royal Marines Welfare Fund. But secondly because, after his death in 1865, his widow, Mrs. Anna Victoria Little, donated the income from £100 to Royal Marine Artillery Benevolent Fund for the “distribution of bread and coals among the wives and families of corporals, gunners, and drummers in H.M. corps of Royal Marine Artillery resident at Portsmouth”. I wonder if Major Little was also associated with the Benevolent Fund. Another topic to keep an eye out for when visiting libraries!

Major Little died on 6th October 1861; The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical review for November 1861 simply reported:

Oct. 6.  At his residence, Bloomfield, Old Charlton, aged 74, Robert John Little, esq., late Major and Barrackmaster of the Royal Marines, Woolwich.”

He was buried in a family vault at St Lukes Church, Charlton. According to the Kent Archeological Society the inscription on the monument in 1908 was:

 164. LITTLE (26). Caroline, wife of Robert John LITTLE, of the Royal Marines, died January 12, 1832, aged 42 years. Richard Rosdew Little, late Captain of the Madras Horse Artillery and Commissary of Ordnance, there died August 23, 1861, aged 46 years. Robert John Little, died October 6, 1861, aged 74 years. He had served in the Corps of the Royal Marines nearly 55 years, joining the R.M.A. in early life and returning in 1837 as Major and Barrack Master of the Woolwich Division, which appointment he held for 28 years. Anna Victoria, relict of the above-named Major Little and daughter of Capt. Henry INMAN, R.N., and sometime Naval Commander at Madras, died March 5, 1866, aged 72 years.

The plan of the churchyard indicates that Major Little’s family grave was just to the left of the church entrance; was, unfortunately, because it’s no longer there, just some remains of brick foundations showing where the grave used to be. Interesting that there is a difference in dates between the monument inscription and the Naval Lists for when Major Little became Barrack Master.

St Lukes Charlton
St Lukes Charlton

So, still lots of unanswered questions about the Major, but hopefully  there is now enough to fill the remaining three brass plaques on his memorial.

Oxleas Missile Deployment Confirmed

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

The Ministry of Defence has decided that a Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) System will be deployed in Oxleas Meadows, on Blackheath and 4 other sites across East London during this summer’s Olympics. The MoD announcement said that the Rapier missiles will be in put place in the middle of July.

The announcement was made despite opposition from people living near the missile sites, including a protest march from Oxleas Wood to Blackheath and the ongoing legal action by the residents of Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone. This is due to be heard next Monday, July 9th, at the Royal Courts of Justice.

It seems that even the power of the Corky Fruited Water Dropwort was not enough to stop the missiles.

Dance for Severndroog Castle

Severndroog barn dance poster

A barn dance in aid of the Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust will be held on Saturday 7th July 2012 in the barn at Woodlands Farm. Tickets are £10.00, obtainable through the Woodlands Farm Office on 020 8319 8900 or via the trust at .

The SCBPT has successfully raised the significant sum of money needed to restore the castle, but needs further funds for ongoing running costs. The barn dance is part of the fund-raising campaign. As Dr Barry Gray, Chair SCBPT, says:

The Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust have the funding in place for the restoration and are very close to clearing the last legal hurdles. We hope to sign the lease on the castle with Greenwich council in the very near future. The tendering process for restoration can then begin. We have raised and have promised almost £900,000 for the restoration, including an extremely generous grant promise of more than half a million pounds, from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  However, we are still in desperate need of more funds to sustain the project and the barn dance is one of a series of events to allow the local community to make their financial contribution to the restoration. We hope to make further announcements about the signing of the lease at the barn dance, and we are very confident that  within the next couple of weeks Severndroog will once again belong to the community when the Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust obtain the lease on the castle. Donors can find out more about giving to the restoration fund by going to our website at

The band  for the dance is the very entertaining Skinners Rats, who have performed at other Woodlands Farm events, so it should be a lively affair. Bring your own food and drink.

Severndroog Castle
Severndroog Castle
Inside Severndroog Castle
Inside Severndroog Castle