City View Restaurant

City View Restaurant at lunch time
City View Restaurant at lunch time

It’s not often that a meal out ends with the chefs coming out of the kitchen to hear what you thought of their cooking  and to share the tricks of their trade, but that’s what happened at the end of my Fine Dining evening at the City View Restaurant. In fact everyone in the crowded restaurant gave the young chefs a round of applause in appreciation of their cooking skills.

Before I visited City View I didn’t know what a Lemon Liaison was, now I know how to prepare one.

The chefs at the restaurant at the Shooters Hill Campus on Red Lion Lane are students studying for NVQs in catering and hospitality. At the Thursday Fine Dining Evening they all wear the red caps showing they are advanced, level 3 catering students – the level 2s wear black caps and level 1s white caps.  As well as preparing and cooking food for City View, students take on the role of greeters and waiters at the restaurant and prepare food for the campus canteens which cater for up to 250 students a day. Last year 100% of the students passed their NVQs;  work destinations for alumni include the Ivy, the Tate Modern restaurant and the Tudor Barn.

Earlier this year students had the opportunity to work with Michelin-starred chefs Richard Corrigan and Ron Blaauw on the catering for Sail Royal Greenwich Olympic tall ships cruises on the Thames. The London Calling  web site explained their task:

Michelin-starred chefs Richard Corrigan and Ron Blaauw (from Holland) have combined their skills to create recipes and menus designed specifically for the Sail Greenwich Ltd Olympic cruises. Under Corrigan’s and Blaauw’s guidance and supervision, three choices of menus (Walking Dinner, Gourmet Buffet or Buffet – each with a lunch and dinner variant) are produced by catering and hospitality students at Shooters Hill Post 16 Campus college. These students are already famous for their successful City View Restaurant, and the food served on Thalassa promises to be equally appetizing.

There are some great pictures of Richard Corrigan and Ron Blaauw with Shooters Hill students on the Uretopia Flickr site.

The menu for the evening looked interesting; it included several dishes I hadn’t tried before:

Tomato & Basil Soup

Garnished with Chicken Quenelles and Lemon Liaison


Smoked Salmon and Prawn Parcels

Lime and Dill Mayonnaise


Pan Fried Calves Liver with Crispy Pancetta with Lime Butter and Raspberry Vinegar

Served with Boursin, Sage & Potato Beignets

Grilled Parrot Fish with Ginger Garlic Dill & Turmeric Marinade

Served Creamed Potatoes

Cassette of Baby Vegetables

& Wild Mushroom “Choron”

Followed by

A Choice of Dessert, Fresh Fruit Salad or Cheese from the Sweet Trolley


The food was really very good; my only criticism was that the portions were too generous, and I had no room to try any of the amazing looking confections on the well-stocked dessert trolley. Our menu started with Tomato & Basil Soup garnished with Chicken Quenelles and Lemon Liaison which was delicious. The quenelle was surprisingly light, with a definite lemony nip to the chicken filling. A  bottle of Australian Chardonnay, costing a fraction of the price charged by most restaurants, matched it well. The Smoked Salmon and Prawn Parcel had a generous portion of creamy prawns with a tang of lime, wrapped in smoked salmon.
Smoked Salmon and Prawn Parcels with Lime and Dill Mayonnaise at City View Restaurant
Smoked Salmon and Prawn Parcels with Lime and Dill Mayonnaise at City View Restaurant
Then the delicately flavoured fish,  perfectly cooked, on a mound of smoothly creamed potato, with a creamy dill, prawn and caper sauce. And was it my imagination or had the sauce been shaped into a picture of a blue whale? When the post-prandial cup of decaffeinated coffee was accompanied  by a dish of chocolate-swirled cinder toffee I was starting to feel like my “waffer thin mint” moment was approaching.
Grilled Parrot Fish with Ginger Garlic Dill & Turmeric Marinade served with Creamed Potatoes
Grilled Parrot Fish with Ginger Garlic Dill & Turmeric Marinade served with Creamed Potatoes

The Fine Dining Evening costs £20 per person excluding drinks, which  just about covers the cost of the ingredients. The restaurant is decorated with photographs and art work produced by students and has great views over the city.  There’s been some changes since City View was last mentioned on e-shootershill: they now accept payment by card and cheque and they have relocated the smoking area. There are plenty of car-parking places in the evening, though we enjoyed the walk  down the hill.

City View also opens at lunch time from Tuesday to Friday. A full four course menu is available, but it is possible to choose which courses you have – for example just the soup course. When I visited at lunch time the main course was a generously portioned slow cooked braised lamb shanks served with buttered mash and greens, but I stuck to a starter of polenta crusted salmon goujons with spiced tomato and red pepper relish, which was delicious and enough for lunch.

Both lunch and the Fine Dining Evening can be booked through the City View web pages or by phone on 020 8319 9790. The web site has been redesigned recently and now includes a City View blog page for diners’ comments. If you want to really spoil yourself the college also have very reasonably priced, well equipped  hair and beauty salons.

City View Restaurant is well worth a visit, and you never know you may have a meal prepared by a future celebrity chef.

Shooters Hill Campus
Shooters Hill Campus
City View Restaurant in the evening
City View Restaurant in the evening

London's Oldest Operational Fire Station

Woolwich Fire Station - London's oldest operational fire station
Woolwich Fire Station – London’s oldest operational fire station

I wasn’t aware of Woolwich fire station until recently when the story about the proposed closure of London fire stations was reported, and at about the same time it was mentioned by Peter Guillery in his talk about the Survey of London’s new volume about Woolwich. Peter said that  it was London’s oldest operational fire station, and that it was an architectural gem. He was right, it’s a beautiful building,  as can be seen in the photograph above, hidden away in Sunbury Street. It was designed by Metropolitan Board of Works’ architect Robert Pearsall who was responsible for many London fire stations, including Tooley Street, Bishopsgate, Stoke Newington and the West Norwood fire station which now houses the South London Theatre.

The draft of the Survey of London’s volume on Woolwich gives some background to the building:

Hidden away, this is London’s oldest fire station still in operational use (an older part of Southwark Station is a museum). Its architect was Robert Pearsall, working under Alfred Mott in the Fire Brigade Branch of the MBW’s Architect’s Department. The builders were Lonergan Brothers of Plumstead.  Few of Pearsall’s stations survive, but here his characteristic free-Gothic style still provides a striking profile, pinnacled buttresses leading the eye to tall chimneystacks and the prominent five-storey round watchtower, itself a rare survival. The polychromatic-brick façade incorporates ornamental terracotta spandrels and Portland stone dressings. Internally the engine room is open under composite iron girders, supplied by Archibald Dawnay. The staircase in the tower winds neatly round a matchboard-lined hose-drying cupboard. The upper storeys housed a mess room, bedrooms and apartments – twelve men were stationed here.

The British Listed Buildings web page gives a detailed description of the architecture with its “terracotta diapering in the spandrels” and “five-storey, round tower on an octagonal base”. The fire station was once the base for horse-drawn fire engines, as shown in this photograph on Flickr.

Robert Pearsall wasn’t just an accomplished architect. He was appointed a  life member of the British Museum in recognition of his work as an architect and artist, and served on “The Committee for the Survey of the Memorials of Greater London”. He was also a keen genealogist, contributing to a history and genealogy of the Pearsall family.

The current regime of austerity and budget cuts means that  our fire services are under threat in south-east London as well as our local health service, and Woolwich fire station is one of  up to 31 stations facing closure with the possible loss of 28 jobs. A London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) report models the impact of various options for saving up to £75 million from the London Fire Brigade budget. All the options include the closure of Woolwich fire station.

Since 2003 the number of fires in London has been decreasing each year, as can be seen in the graph below which combines data taken from two London Fire Brigade reports: long term fire trends for Greater London which provides data from 1966 to 2008 and a Quarterly Monitoring of Performance Indicators report which brings the data up to the end of 2011. Ironically part of the reason for this decrease in fires is the safety and campaigning work carried out by the London Fire Brigade.
Closure of Woolwich fire station is particularly annoying for Shooters Hill residents as one of the justifications for closing the Eaglesfield Road fire station was that there was another station just down the hill in Woolwich. If Woolwich is closed our nearest fire stations will be  Eltham and Plumstead. Intuitively it would seem safer to have more stations, maybe with fewer appliances, so that the stations were closer to people’s homes. The Fire Brigade have a target of getting a first fire engine to a fire within 6 minutes; the LFEPA report indicates that for the Royal Borough of Greenwich, where the Fire Brigade currently get a first appliance to a fire in an average of 5 minutes 28 seconds, the response time would increase by between 14 seconds and 1 minute  and 24 seconds in the six closure scenarios modelled, missing the 6 minute target in three of the six scenarios. Some boroughs fare even worse than Greenwich.

Another worry, though not a safety issue, is that Woolwich Fire Station has been identified as a “high value site” in the LFEPA report. I hope that doesn’t indicate that they are planning to do anything other than preserve this historic building.

Woolwich Fire Station – five-storey, round tower on an octagonal base
Woolwich Fire Station – five-storey, round tower on an octagonal base
Woolwich Fire Station – note the terracotta diapering on the spandrels
Woolwich Fire Station – note the terracotta diapering on the spandrels

Jazz at the Grand

Woolwich Grand Theatre
Woolwich Grand Theatre

Those of us who didn’t make it to the Jazz Evening at the Woolwich Grand Theatre last Friday missed a real treat, as you can see from the video below. The music was performed by the Nick Ereaut Band, who the Grand describe as:

Hosted by The Nick Ereaut Band with Rachel Bennett – Voice, Theo Erskine – Tenor Saxophone, Sam James – Piano, Nick Ereaut – Double Bass, Harry Pope – Drums
The Nick Ereaut Band formed early in 2012 and have since been taking on London with their unique sound. Their influences include Miles Davis, Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix, Nik Bartsch, Ahmad Jamal and Jean-Michel Basquiat. They are currently planning a tour for January 2012.

I hear that they may be playing at the Grand again in the future. That will definitely be an event not to be missed.

Nick Ereaut Band Live at the Woolwich Grand

Christmas Shopping Sunday – 2nd December 2012

Tarts and Crafts Poster

Both Shrewsbury House and Woodlands Farm have their Christmas Fairs on Sunday 2nd December, and as they are only about 10 minutes walk apart it’s easily possible to visit both to enjoy the festive atmosphere and do some Christmas shopping.

Shrewsbury House is running its successful Tarts & Crafts event for the third time. Previous Tarts & Crafts have been very popular, with a wide range of  stalls. As they say on their web site:

Sunday 2 December 11am to 4pm:

Our third Tarts and Crafts event is taking place on 2nd December with stalls selling homemade cookies, chocolates, cakes, jams & chutneys. In addition hand made craftwork, decorations, photographs, ceramics, jewellery, textiles, gifts and cards. Ideal for Christmas presents. Come along and have fun. Face painting, live music, mulled wine and mince pies plus a raffle for great prizes. Free entry – all proceeds go to Shrewsbury House.

Tarts & Crafts will be opened by the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Greenwich at 10.50am.

Bob the pony at Woodlands Farm
Bob the pony

Woodlands Farm Christmas Fair has become a regular fixture in the Shooters Hill calendar. All the usual attractions will be there – Father Chistmas’ Grotto, stalls selling craft, food and gifts, pony rides with Bob the pony and  entertainment from the CCRA Singing Group.  As the farm say on their web site:

All are welcome at the Woodlands Farm Trust Christmas Fair. Sip mulled wine whilst browsing stalls of local produce and crafts for early Christmas present ideas, or relax in our café while the kids enjoy crafts and games. A great festive day out for all the family. Entry is free, but donations are welcome – all money raised helps us to care for our animals.

Last year Shrewsbury House and Woodlands Farm held  their Christmas Fairs on the same day, and both were very well attended – lots of people taking the opportunity to go along to both events. Hopefully  this year will be as successful in raising money for these two local, volunteer-run  groups.

Woodlands Farm Christmas Fair Poster

Health Matters

Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The proposed closure of the Accident and Emergency Department at Lewisham Hospital has provoked the most concern of the proposals in the 373 page draft document from the Office of the Trust Special Administrator (TSA). The document was supposed to address the budget problems of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, which includes our local Queen Elizabeth Hospital, but has instead addressed the south east London health system as a whole.  A campaign to save Lewisham A&E has been started and has held its first meetings; it is organising a “Link Hands Round Lewisham Hospital” protest event to be held on 24th November meeting at 2.00pm in Loampit Vale. A petition supporting Lewisham A&E and maternity services  has been started by MP Heidi Alexander. It  currently has over 12,000 signatures, and the number is increasing by  hundreds every day.

The TSA proposals have been well covered  by mainstream media such as BBC News,  and local bloggers such as Transpontine, 853 and the Blackheath Bugle. The Bugle includes guidance on how to answer the sometimes leading and sometimes misleading questions in the TSA online response form. For example Question 13 doesn’t explicitly ask if you are in favour of the closure of Lewisham A&E, rather:

Q13. How far do you support or oppose the proposed plans for delivering urgent and emergency care in south east London? The following shows how urgent and emergency care would be delivered:
Emergency care for the most critically unwell – King’s College Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Princess Royal University Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital
Urgent care – Guy’s Hospital, Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup, University Hospital Lewisham

Save Lewisham A&E poster

I’ve tried to read the TSA report, but it’s very hard going, full of  acronyms and terms that are meaningful to NHS insiders but not to others. It’s disappointing because as  a numerate, reasonably well educated person I expect to be able to understand such documents.  It’s also full of bean-counter management speak – I lost count of how many times the phrase “financial challenge” was used – and totally based on the concept that the NHS is a market with hospitals represented by a profit and loss account and expected to return a surplus of 1% of their budget each year. Why on earth would a hospital have a surplus – to give it back to George Osborne? And how can a hospital accumulate debt from year to year – the only way it can pay it back is by reducing its spending on treating patients. It’s the kind of approach Michael Sandel criticised in “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets” – wider questions aren’t considered, and for a national institution like the NHS, which is part of some of our most painful and saddest and sometimes most joyful experiences, an analysis that considers the beans more than the humans is incomplete.

The data tables in the report contained a few facts that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere:

  • The TSA is proposing cuts in the numbers of doctors and nurses in the South London Healthcare Trust hospitals – on page 51 it proposes cutting 140 out of 862 doctors and £14m out of the £98m budget for nurses pay. By my reckoning this equates to about 320 nurses losing their jobs, based on the headcount in the Trust’s latest accounts. The accounts also show that they had lost 144, or 6%, of their nursing staff between 2011 and 2012.
  • The health budget for  south-east London seems to be decreasing in real terms over the next five years – at least that is my reading of the table at the bottom of page 37 – at the same time as the population is expected to grow by 6%. The annual increases on the £3 billion budget are less than 2% a year – less than the rate of inflation and with no allowance for population growth. This when the government has pledged to increase health spending by 1% a year above inflation.
  • The income that hospitals receive will decrease each year as a result of a government imposed nation-wide “tariff deflation” of about 1 to 1.5%. The tariff is the amount the hospitals receive for each admission or medical procedure and they are expected to improve efficiency each year to cope with this reduction in their money.
  • The justification for recommending Queen Elizabeth Hospital gets an extra £12.2 million a year towards its £33.7 million PFI costs seems to be that QEH spends 16% of its budget on PFI contracts compared to a national average of 10.3%. So the additional money brings the cost to the national average percentage.

I was slightly surprised that health budgets are decreasing – my understanding was that efficiencies are needed because health service inflation is higher than  RPI inflation, but I thought that money saved from efficiencies would be used to compensate for this excess inflation. Apparently not – there seems to be less money each year for the next five years.

Another big surprise was the report’s findings about how closing Lewisham A&E would affect the time it would take patients to get to an alternative Accident and Emergency department. It says on page 68:

173. The proposals for emergency care outlined in this draft recommendation would increase the journey time to reach an A&E across south east London by an average of approximately 1 minute for those in an ambulance, 2 minutes for those using private transport and 3 minutes for those using public transport.

Three minutes extra using public transport – I just don’t believe it. Admittedly the report does hedge its bets on travel time – on page 69 it says that public transport travel time for Lewisham residents would be 40.8 minutes, whereas on page 25 of Appendix H it says the incremental travel time from Lewisham to Queen Elizabeth Hospital is 37 minutes by public transport with no traffic.

Overall the impression given by the report is that it is trying to justify its chosen option for the future of the health service in south-east London. The appointment of someone to manage the merger of  Lewisham Hospital with Queen Elizabeth before the consultation has completed doesn’t give confidence that our comments will be listened to.

Snippet from A Junior Doctor’s Guide to the NHS
Snippet from A Junior Doctor’s Guide to the NHS

Ploughing through various turgid documents about NHS funding made me wonder how the £105.9 billion NHS budget is distributed to the different areas and hospitals – how is it decided that the NHS in south east London should have £3 billion to spend? Google wasn’t my friend, so I contacted Her Majesty’s Treasury, who replied within a couple of hours saying that I would need to contact the Department of Health for details of the method used to distribute the NHS budget, but pointing me to two documents that might help explain NHS funding.

The first document was  A Junior Doctor’s Guide to the NHS, which included the diagram to the right. The DH is the Department of Health, SHA is Strategic Health Authority – in our case London SHA – and PCT is Primary Care Trust – for us this is Greenwich PCT, which controls the budget and commissions services from the NHS Trusts, such as the South London Healthcare NHS Trust that this whole thing is all about. I assume there should be a blue line showing money flowing to the NHS Trusts. I know this is a gross oversimplification, just from the list of different organisations in the TSA report, but it gives the broad flow of money to the hospitals.

Of course it’s already out-of-date because the PCTs will be replaced by GP-led CCGs – Clinical Commissioning Groups – under the current government’s NHS reorganisation.

The second document was the Department of Health Annual Report and Accounts 2011-12 – 230 pages of figures and bean-counter language. However it does include some information about how the NHS budget for different regions (and countries) in the UK is decided. It says on page 61:

A weighted capitation formula determines each PCT’s target share of available resources, to enable them to commission similar levels of health services for populations in similar need, and to reduce avoidable health inequalities. The formula calculates PCTs’ target shares of available resources based on PCT populations adjusted for their age distribution, additional need above that accounted for by age, and unavoidable geographical variations in the cost of providing services.

So broadly it’s based on the number of people who live in an area, how old they are and any special needs – this sounds very like the “health needs target index” mentioned in Appendix H of the TSA report (the Health and Equalities Impact Assessment – scoping report). But it doesn’t say how these factors are taken into account in the distribution, and it only goes to Strategic Health Authority level, i.e. it gives the budget for London but not south east London. Interestingly in 2010/11 the budget for each person in london was the highest in the country at £2163 per person per year.

I’m still waiting to hear from the Department of Health – they give themselves 18 working days to respond to any questions.

If you want to comment on the Trust Special Administrator’s proposals for health care in south east London you can do so using an online response form, by e-mail to or by post to Freepost Plus RSHB-CGKA-RYHK, TSA Consultation, Ipsos MORI, Research Services House, Elmgrove Road, Harrow, HA1 2QG. The deadline for submitting comments is midnight on 13th December 2012. There are a series of consultation meetings before then, though the Royal Greenwich website lists more than the OTSA website. The nearest to us are:

  • Monday 19 November, 7pm to 9pm: Woolwich Town Hall, Wellington Street, London SE18 6PW
  • Wednesday, November 21, 2012 – 10:00 to 12:00 at Greenwich Forum, Trafalgar Road, London, SE10 9EQ
  • Monday 26 November, 7pm to 9pm: St Mary’s Community Centre, 180 Eltham High Street,  London,   SE9 1BJ
  • Monday, December 3, 2012 – 19:00 to 21:00 at Charlton Football Club, The Valley, Floyd Road, London’ SE7 8BL
  • Tuesday, November 13, 2012 – 19:00 to 21:00 at The Boathouse, Danson Park, Danson Road, Bexleyheath, Kent, DA6 8HL
Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Survey of London 48: Woolwich – Talks and Exhibition

Greenwich Heritage Centre exhibition and event flyer

The launch of the Woolwich volume of English Heritage’s Survey of London will be marked by an exhibition at the Greenwich Heritage Centre and talks by Peter Guillery, Senior Historian at the Survey of London.

The free exhibition starts tomorrow and runs until 9th February, and there is a talk at the Heritage Centre tomorrow at 2pm – you need to book by phone (020 8854 2452) or e-mail ( – and also a Greenwich Industrial History Society talk at 7.30pm on 20th November at the Age Exchange Bakehouse.

The book isn’t out yet, according to amazon it will be released on 26th November, but the draft version on the English Heritage website shows that it will be an essential source of detailed information for anyone interested in the history and development of the area. I’ve found lots of fascinating background information there already. The draft version doesn’t include any graphics, but we’re promised that the final version  “will be a fully illustrated book, with around 100 new drawings, a similar number of new photographs, and altogether more than 400 illustrations.” My only (slight) disappointment is that  it doesn’t quite cover Shooters Hill, just the parish of Woolwich (and that it’s an expensive book – maybe Woolwich Library will get a few copies).

I’m looking forward to hearing how the historians researched the huge amount of detailed information in the Survey.

Front cover of Survey of London volume 48 Woolwich on
Front cover of Survey of London volume 48 Woolwich on

Shooters Hill Poets

The Lord Clyde - Wordsworth's Local?
The Lord Clyde – Wordsworth’s Local?

“Slowly, Moore punting along on his stick, pausing to point out the cottage where Wordsworth stayed, we made the ascent of the old coaching road of Shooters Hill.”: an intriguing aside in a Diary meditation on the Olympics by Iain Sinclair set me off on another quest. Where did the Lake Poet William Wordsworth stay in Shooters Hill, and what other poets have hilly associations? Google didn’t reveal very much – just a non-committal mention in Chapter 10 of the Survey of London explaining the name of a block of flats near Woolwich Common. Neither did a scan through several biographies of Wordsworth in the British Library provide any illumination.

In the Woolwich Library W.T. Vincent gave me an answer in a chapter entitled Genius in his Records of the Woolwich District:

William Wordsworth the poet dwelt for a while in Nightingale Vale, Woolwich, just by the boundary line which divides Woolwich and Plumstead. The house in which he resided is now No 3, Nightingale Place, and stands facing Brook Hill Road looking north. The adjoining houses, opposite the Lord Clyde, have been rebuilt but this remains undisturbed, the easternmost of the old buildings.

The snippet from Alan Godfrey Maps‘ reprint of the 1866 Ordnance Survey map of Woolwich below shows the Lord Clyde and the row of cottages opposite – you may need to click to enlarge the map to see them. I assume the easternmost of the row of cottages in the centre of the red circle is the one Vincent was referring to: unfortunately it has since been replaced by a block of flats. The map also shows Brookhill Park, just across the road from No 3, Nightingale Place, behind the Lord Clyde – also now covered with housing.

Snippet from 1866 Ordnance Survey Map of Woolwich
Snippet from 1866 Ordnance Survey Map of Woolwich

Vincent reports that Wordsworth stayed in Nightingale Place in about 1835 with his close friend, and future son-in-law, Edward Quillinan who was himself a poet. Both Quillinan and Wordsworth wrote poems about Nightingales, and they appear in many of Wordsworth’s poems. for example “The Nightingale“, “O Nightingale! Thou Surely Art“, “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale“, “To The Skylark” and one of his best known poems, “The Solitary Reaper“. Vincent implies that Wordsworth was inspired by the many Nightingales that sang in Brookhill Park  and quotes from “The Nightingale”:

So many Nightingales: and far and nearWikimedia Commons Portrait of William Wordsworth by William Shuter
In wood and thicket over the wide grove
They answer and provoke each other’s songs –
With skirmish and capricious passagings,
And murmurs musical and swift jug jug
And one low piping sound more sweet than all –
Stirring the air with such an harmony,
That should you close your eyes, you might almost
Forget it was not day!

However it seems a little unlikely that Wordsworth’s poem was inspired by our local Nightingales: “The Nightingale” was written in 1798 and  Vincent’s source Sir Edward Perrott says he met Wordsworth in Nightingale Place in 1835.

William Wordsworth and Shooters Hill make an appearance in a poem by a modern Greenwich-based poet, Fraser Southey, in  “On Westminster Bridge (I had that Wordsworth in my cab this morning)” –  imagining the irate reactions of Wordsworth’s cab driver when William stops the cab in busy traffic on Westminster Bridge to compose the famous poem, “Upon Westminster Bridge“, before being driven back to Shooters Hill. Local locales – Eltham, Lee Green and especially Blackheath – appear regularly in Fraser’s poetry.

W.T. Vincent’s article about Genius  also mentions Woolwich-born cavalier poet Richard Lovelace from the 17th century and Robert Bloomfield  who married a Woolwich girl and Vincent says lived near Nightingale Vale. Lovelace’s best known poem, “To Althea, from Prison” was written when he was held in Gatehouse Prison in 1641 for presenting a pro-royalist petition to the House of Commons, and includes the famous lines “:

Wikipedia Commons image of Richard Lovelace by William Dobson from Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

To Althea, from Prison was set to a delicate melody by Dave Swarbrick and appeared on Fairport Convention’s 1973 album “Nine”. It provides the soundtrack to the YouTube video below.

I haven’t been able to confirm that Robert Bloomfield lived in the vicinity of Nightingale vale, but he was clearly very familiar with Shooters Hill , which was the title of one of his poems. It includes this verse about Sevendroog Castle:

Wikimedia Commons image of Robert Bloomfield

This far-seen monumental tower
Records th’ achievements of the brave,
And Angria’s subjugated power,
Who plunder’d on the eastern wave.
I would not that such turrets rise
To point out where my bones are laid;
Save that some wandering bard might prize
The comforts of its broad cool shade.

Angria, also known as Tology Angrier, was the name of the cruel pirate king that Sir William James defeated at Suvarnadurg.

Shooters Hill has appeared in the title of poems by modern poets too. For example “walking over / Shooters Hill” by  M Lewis Redford, who grew up in the area and also wrote a poem called “46 Eglinton Hill“. Another is “When I lived on Shooters Hill…“, a video performance of part of a poem by David Marshall.

But my favourite current poem related to Shooters Hill is Suzanna Fitzpatrick’s intimately observed and vividly expressed poem Lamb 001 inspired by her lambing experience at Woodlands Farm. Lamb 001 was commended in the Poetry London Poetry Competition 2012.

It’s time.  Nudged by some internal clock
the first ewe shifts, distracted suddenly;
eyes on the middle distance, focussing
on something coming nearer.  She avoids

the others, huddles up against a wall,
paws at the straw to make herself a nest
but can’t get comfortable; lies down, gets up,
lies down again.  She lifts her nose

as if the sky has just occurred to her;
top lip curling in an effortful sneer,
stargazing.  Below her tail, a globe
of amber liquid grows like a balloon

with life’s imperative: two hooves, a head,
eyes tightly sealed against the rapid slide
from womb to straw.  Her birth trance snapped, she turns
and licks him; murmuring, oblivious

of the flock, which gathers as if magnetised
into a semicircle; each head bowed
in concentration, waiting for that first
uncertain, commanding bleat.

Ewe and Her Lambs at Woodlands Farm
Ewe and Her Lambs at Woodlands Farm


Winter Open Studios at Second Floor Studios & Arts

Second Floor Studios & Arts Winter Open Studios flyer

Second Floor Studios & Arts are holding another open studio weekend on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th November. Their last open studios in May was engrossing – such a variety of different artists and craftspeople – but I only managed to visit a fraction of the 200 or so studios, and of course the excellent Canteen. Nichole Herbert e-mailed details of the event:

Our opening night is Thursday 15th November and we are open all weekend (17th and 18th).

– It’s a perfect opportunity for you to discover unique gifts for those hard to buy for people.
– We now have 230 artists, craftspeople and designer makers on site, there is no other single site in the UK with so many practitioners.
– no format will open on the same night with the Thames Barrier Print Studio’s inaugural show – Freedom of the Press – a group show celebrating the art of print.
– We are introducing an art trail this year to keep the little people busy and to make navigation of our ever expanding site more fun.
– We have a number of demonstrations running over open studios both by our practitioners and at the Thames Barrier Print Studio.
– Our CANTEEN, will of course be open during open studios serving a hearty Irish stew, coffee, tea, homemade cakes and mulled wine.

Please bring your friends and family and enjoy time by the river being inspired by creativity.

SFSA is located near the river in the Mellish Industrial Estate, Harrington Way, (off Warspite Road),  SE18 5NR. I had no problem parking there in May.

Second Floor Studios & Arts Winter Open Studios flyer