More Vandalism at Woodlands Farm

Woodlands Farm Front Gate
Woodlands Farm Front Gate

There has been more vandalism at Woodlands Farm. Just a few weeks after the last incident when a fence was broken down and a volunteer threatened, the fence has been broken again and a mini-motorbike ridden around one of the fields where sheep are often kept. Maggie from the farm sent me details of what happened:

Following the incident on 30 December, when the metal fence at the far end of the farm was broken into twice on one day, yesterday the bolts were cropped once again and metal staves removed. This time, however, we discovered it after two people were heard with a motorbike riding round the top of Hillview Field late in the afternoon.

When they realised they had been spotted they made a quick exit, the motorbike rider got through the hole in the fence first. The second youth was challenged as he hurried to the gap. He denied making the break in the fence and said that as the fields were part of the Green Chain Walk they could ride a motorcycle there. He then threatened the elderly volunteer with violence and the farm with further vandalism.

Fence was repaired before end of day and police informed.

The Sketch of Jackwood

Jackwood House from The Sketch
Jackwood, Shooters Hill, the home of Nat C. Goodwin and his wife

Many thanks to reader Mike Smith for sending me a copy of an article entitled “The Splendour of the Modern Actor” from a weekly newspaper called The Sketch dated August 2nd 1899. The article was about the American actor Nat C. Goodwin and his wife, the actress Maxine Elliot, who lived in Jackwood at the end of the 19th Century and who I mentioned in a previous post about Jackwood. It includes a number of fascinating photographs of Jackwood as it was in 1899. The appearance of the house, shown in the photograph above, is the same as the Old English style mansion that was put up for sale in 1874.

Maxine Elliot and her sister Gertrude in their carriage in front of Jackwood House
Maxine Elliot and her sister Gertrude in their carriage in front of Jackwood House

The author of the article describes their journey by horse drawn buggy from Blackheath station up to the mansion in the woods of Shooters Hill.  The description of the interior of the house matches that in the sales literature:

The interior  is entirely lined with polished pitch-pine, and the great staircase with its open gallery is a triumph of workmanship, while the overmantels are of dark wood handsomely carved, many displaying the Arms of the first tenant, Sir William Plasted Wilde, whose crest and motto decorate the richly moulded ceilings, especially that in the drawing room, which is adorned with heavy pendants.

I think the Sir William Plasted Wilde mentioned should be really be Sir James Plaisted Wilde who became Lord Penzance, of the Mysterious P atop the gate leading into the walled garden in Jack Wood. Some of the details of the drawing room can just about be made out in the photograph below.

The drawing room at Jackwood: Miss Maxine Elliot and Mr. N.C. Goodwin
The drawing room at Jackwood: Miss Maxine Elliot and Mr. N.C. Goodwin

Much of the Sketch article is about the lifestyle of the tenants of Jackwood, and the way in which they had decorated the house, for example with Nat’s collection of native American artefacts which included the feathered head-dress of Indian chief Big Mouth and a selection of leather belts, one of which was fringed with a number of human scalps. There is a brief mention of the gardens:

But your hostess is insistent on showing you the grounds before luncheon, for the charming pleasances and the terraced rose gardens, enclosed on one side by a dwarf wall adorned by rounded Kentish gables and copied from Haddon Hall, are amongst the sights at Jackwood. These pleasant walks, paved in places with smooth red tiling, overlook the lawn tennis ground, at one end of which a mighty oak gives agreeable shade to onlookers, while further down the hillside the thistle-grown slopes are the playground of wild rabbits, which emerge from the thick underwood around in the cool of the evening. Through a vista in the forest, a favourite resort of the family, you may watch on Thursday nights Brock’s fireworks at the Crystal Palace far away in the distance.

Parts of the terrace shown in the photograph below are amongst the few remnants of Jackwood that survive today.

A fascinating glimpse into “society” life in Shooters Hill at the end of the nineteenth century. Thanks again Mike.

Maxine Elliot and her sister Gertrude on the terrace at Jackwood
Miss Maxine Elliot and her sister Gertrude on the terrace at Jackwood
From photographs by Thomas, Cheapside

Big Curry at Shrewsbury House

2nd Battalion of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment march through Woolwich
2nd Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment march through Woolwich

Shrewsbury House are holding a Big Curry evening in April to raise money for the Army Benevolent Fund, a charity that supports soldiers, former soldiers and their families. The Soldier’s Charity Big Curry has been running for 6 years and is supported by a number of celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver, Brian Turner and Heston Blumenthal. Since it started it has raised £860,000 for the ABF.

Len’s e-mail with details of the Shrewsbury House event said:

Shrewsbury House are holding a charity night for the Army Benevolent Fund, this charity has been going since the early 1900’s and they have been holding charity events all over the Country to raise money for those that need it.

We are restricted to 70 tickets which are on sale at £16.50 pp, this includes Curry, Entertainment, Complimentary drink on arrival and entry into a prize draw. The dress is smart casual and is to be held on Saturday 20th April from 7 pm to 11 pm. We have tried to make this coincide with St George’s Day and will hopefully bring out the best of British and aid and assist our soldiers that need that little bit extra.

If you wish to purchase tickets, either let me know by email or by going into Shrewsbury House.

Sounds like a great evening for a very good cause.

Big Curry at Shrewsbury House Leaflet

2nd Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment march through Woolwich
2nd Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment march through Woolwich

Lewisham Hospital March on Saturday

Save Lewisham A & E Leaflet

The campaign to save Lewisham Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department have organised a march to object to the SLHT Administrator’s recommendation to close it to help sort out financial issues at the South London Healthcare Trust,  which includes our local Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Why should we be concerned? Well apart from the effect on the health of people living near Lewisham Hospital who will have to travel much further if they need emergency medical help, and apart from the outrageous unfairness of closing a facility in a financially stable hospital to solve a problem elsewhere, and apart from the real terms reduction of the health care budget for south-east London and the flawed consultation process it will also add to the pressure on Queen Elizabeth A&E and increase the waiting time for patients there.

There is widespread support for the campaign,  including health professionals, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Millwall football club and many others detailed on the Save Lewisham Hospital web site, which also gives the arrangements for Saturday’s march:

The demonstration will assemble at the main roundabout outside Lewisham Rail/DLR/Bus station at 12 noon on Saturday 26th January.

March through Lewisham shopping centre along to Lewisham Hospital, then up Davenport Road to Mountsfield Park for rally, music and giant petition. Details of the route will be available here shortly.

This will take place in Mountsfield Park in Catford. There will be speeches, music, food, and other entertainments.

The web site also gives details of other actions we can take to support the campaign, such as writing to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and to our local MP and signing the petition supporting Lewisham A&E and maternity services.

The best landscape and views in London

Deer at Maryon Wilson Park
Deer at Maryon Wilson Park

Ian Bull, who led the Midnight Megawalk on the Green Chain last July, sent me details of another walk that he’s leading this Saturday, 26th January starting at 12 O’Clock. His e-mail said:

Thanks to renewed funding from TfL Walk London is able to resume its programme of free guided walks around the Capital’s footpath network.

On Saturday 26th I’ll be leading a walk on the Green Chain from Charlton to Plumstead via Maryon Park, Charlton House, Woolwich Common, Severndroog Castle, and Shooters Hill etc. All are welcome, no need to book. Meet 12.00 at Charlton railway station. Finish 17.00 at Plumstead railway station, seven miles long. Packed lunch essential.

The walk is one of a series being organised by WalkLondon this weekend – their Winter Wanders Weekend. The title of Ian’s walk is “The best landscape and views in London“, and the Walk 4 Life web site describes it as follows:

Many mistakenly believe that London’s best landscapes and views are found on Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park and, Epping Forest. This walk proves otherwise as it introduces you to the Capital’s remarkable South Eastern corner. It’s no surprise to participants that this is one of Walk London’s most popular walks. You won’t know you are in a City for much of this splendid course as we gently climb from Sea Level to almost the highest point in London. Through parkland, ancient woodland, and the principle location of the cult 60s film ‘Blow Up’, we’ll ascend Shooters Hill through wonderful scenery and one of the British Isles most important geological sites. On our descent to the hidden gem of Plumstead Common we’ll look down the Thames Estuary right out to the North Sea. Bring your binoculars! A packed lunch is essential. There’s no need to book but feel free to ask the Walk Leader, Ian Bull, for more details.

Email,  Phone, 020 7223 3572.

Ian's photo taken in Shrewsbury Park when he led the walk in 2009
Ian’s photo taken in Shrewsbury Park when he led the walk in 2009
Kings Troop exercising their horses on Woolwich Common
Kings Troop exercising their horses on Woolwich Common

Woodlands Farm: February Half Term and Conservation Activities

Sheep number 1 in the snow
Sheep number 1 in the snow

Woodlands Farm seem to be very busy organising events for the public. I’ve received three communications from them recently, two about conservation related events and one about activities for children during the February half term break.

Hannah, the farm’s Education Officer, sent me details of the half term activities. Her e-mail included the flyer below and the activity details.

February  2013 Half term Events at Woodlands Farm

Tuesday 19th February ? Felt Making
10am-3pm 50p
Did you know that felt is made from sheep?s wool? Join us at Woodlands Farm as we make some amazing felt flowers, butterflies and other animals using just wool. This is a fun and messy activity which everyone can enjoy. No need to book just come along.

Wednesday 20th February ? Get Wild in the Woods
11am-3pm FREE
Come and join us in the woods as we learn how to survive in the wild. Have a go at shelter building, wild cooking over a fire and learn what animals need to survive. Age 6+. No need to book just come along.

Friday 22nd February ? Help the sparrows: Build a Bird Box Day
10am-2pm £5 per box
Help the birds in your garden by putting up a bird box for them ready for the nesting season. In London the number of house sparrows is dramatically decreasing so make a box to encourage them back into your garden. Booking is essential for this event, to book call 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 GreenwichNearest 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.

Hannah Forshaw

I also received information from Lorraine, the farm’s Wildlife Officer,  about a Winter Wildlife Walk to find out about the farm’s hedges, thickets and fields  which is scheduled for  Sunday 3rd February 2013  at 10.30am, and  future Conservation Workdays at the farm. The workdays will provide an opportunity to get involved with hedge laying.

Woodlands Winter Wildlife Walk

Woodlands Farm Conservation Workdays

The farm is covered in snow at the moment, and a lot of the animals are in the barns. Even Aerial the farm cat is snuggled into the hay for warmth. I’m glad to see that a shelter has been built for Bob the pony so he can get out of the cold, though his thick coat should help keep him warm.

Bob the pony in the snow
Bob the pony in the snow
Bob the pony
Bob the pony

Bridge Going Nowhere

The Ski Jump in Beckton
The Ski Jump in Beckton

The bridge going nowhere in the photo above is known as the ski jump.  It’s a section of road over in Beckton that was built in preparation for the Thames Gateway Bridge, but  currently leads to nowhere apart from a dangerous drop.  Maybe it’s a metaphor …

I’ve been enjoying reading about the  various attempts to create a river crossing between Thamesmead and Beckton over the last few days. It’s a fascinating tale: from  the Ringway suggestion back in the 1930s which became Ringway 2 in the 1960s, then the East London River Crossing in the 1980s and 90s, the Thames Gateway Bridge early this century and now TfL’s Gallions Reach Ferry proposal and the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s campaign for a bridge.

The historical background and  story of People Against the River Crossing is well told in David Black’s “The Campaign to Save Oxleas Wood” which details the inquiries and court cases, both UK and European, that eventually led in 1995 to the dropping of plans to put a motorway through Oxleas Wood and Plumstead and build the East London River Crossing. A group of local residents known as the Oxleas Nine risked financial ruin from  huge legal fees to appeal to the High Court against the compulsory purchase orders needed to allow the roads and crossings to be built.

Unfortunately the documents relating to the 2005 Thames Gateway Bridge Public Enquiry are no longer available online, but those I have seen show a similar level of opposition from local residents concerned about issues such as the health effects of air pollution and the risk to Oxleas Wood from the need for improved road links to the A2.

My reading about the bridge also led me to the Beckton ski jump. It can be seen circled in red on the Google Maps snippet below; it is also one of the possible routes for traffic to TfL’s proposed Gallions Reach Ferry.  Its other claim to fame is that it appeared in a car chase in the TV series Bugs, which culminated in a car driving off the end of the ski jump to explode in the waste land beyond. It’s on YouTube here, starting at about 46minutes in.

Google Map snippet showing the Beckton ski jump
Google Map snippet showing the Beckton ski jump

The map also shows another complication to building a bridge here – the proximity and orientation of the runway at London City Airport, which limits the possible height of the bridge. Campaigners in favour of east London river crossings make much of the disparity in the number of crossings to the west and east of Tower Bridge. Two obvious reasons for the difference are that the Thames is wider the nearer it gets to the sea, and large ships sail up the Thames to Central London (and potentially to a cruise liner terminal in Greenwich). Consequently bridges need to be wider and higher and  are more expensive to build, which seems to lead to them having to carry more traffic. The artists impressions of the proposed Thames Gateway Bridge, below,  from TfL’s brochure show the likely size of a bridge at this location.

Artists impressions of bridge from TfL's The Thames Gateway Bridge A new bridge for East London
Artists impressions of bridge from TfL’s The Thames Gateway Bridge A new bridge for East London

The required height of the bridge means that it has to have longer run-up roads so the overall length is much longer than just the distance across the river, making it very pedestrian unfriendly. Not to mention the high winds in the middle.

When I started writing this post I intended to focus on traffic modelling. I’m not an expert, but it seems to me that changes to the road infrastructure need to consider the whole network because increasing capacity in one place will simply move the bottlenecks to somewhere else in the network, so improvements should be across multiple sites to try to even out the flows.  Also traffic management measures need to be included to discourage cars and lorries from small, residential roads. I’m still searching for some comprehensible detail on modelling, but I notice that the recently released East London River Crossings Assessment of Options mentions this issue and confirms my feelings about the impact that a Gallions Reach bridge would have on roads through Plumstead and Bexley:

6.285. The modelling for TGB suggested that it would provide relief for the Blackwall tunnel as well as opening up new travel opportunities further to the east. However, a  key issue is that the road network on the southern side is much less developed than on the northern side, where the road would meet the grade separated A406 and A13 as well as linking (via the A406) to the M11.
6.286. To the south, the road would meet the east-west South Thames Development Route, a useful distributor road along the southern side of the Thames, but this is lower capacity than the northern access routes, and is generally not grade separated, with congested junctions in Plumstead, Woolwich and Erith.
6.287. Other routes on the southern side are poorer still, with the roads south into Bexley being largely two lane single carriageway roads, fronted by suburban housing. There was some strong local opposition to the scheme arising from concerns over the impacts in these areas. This led ultimately to the opposition of the London Borough of  Bexley to the scheme.

This suggests that a ferry at Gallions Reach would be a better option than a bridge because there is a natural capacity limiting effect from a ferry  that will reduce the amount of traffic heading in that direction, though additional action to encourage traffic along suitable roads and away from smaller roads may be needed too. And by analogy with west London perhaps having many smaller scale crossings would be better than one or two  massive congestion generating grand projects like multi-lane bridges and tunnels; an argument in favour of  keeping the Woolwich Free Ferry as well as the new one. I’d be interested to see the results of traffic modelling with this scenario.

Are there any other possibilities for small east London river crossings, I wonder, and what is the current state of technology for swing bridges?

We have until 1st February to make any comments on the Transport for London  proposals using an online survey with just 14 questions, or by e-mail to There is also an online petition against the Silvertown tunnel.

Friends of the Earth have arranged two public meetings  about the crossings  – one north of the Thames tonight and another at the Forum in Greenwich next Monday, 28th. They e-mailed with the details:

North side of the river:
Monday 21 January 2013, 7-9 p.m.
St Matthias Community Centre, 113 Poplar High Street, E14 OAE
Nearest station: Poplar DLR
South side of the river:
Monday 28 January 2013, 6.30-8.30 p.m.
Forum@Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9EQ

Contact us

Nearest station: Maze Hill station

-Air Pollution expert Dr Ian Mudway of Kings College London
-Transport expert John Elliott, Transport Consultant

Underneath the ski jump at Beckton
Underneath the ski jump at Beckton
On top of the ski jump at Beckton
On top of the ski jump at Beckton

French Evening at City View

Shooters Hill Campus
Shooters Hill Campus

City View Restaurant at Shooters Hill Post 16 Campus are holding a fund raising event on the evening of 7th February  to help pay for a  trip to Paris in April for their level 2 & 3 students. Most of the food will be donated by their suppliers, 3663, and other suppliers have either donated a raffle prize or given a discount. The Paris trip will also be funded by diners’ tips over the last year.

While in Paris the students will be having a go at croissant and baguette making, as well as seeing the sights of the city.

The evening costs £30, and starts with a tasting of some of the college’s French wines, with the opportunity to buy some to drink with your meal. The menu has a very French theme:

Wine tasting Reception
Escargots a l’ail
Snails in Garlic Butter
Cuisses de Grenouilles Provençale
Frogs Legs Provençale

Second Course

Quenelles de Brochet avec Bisque Sc
Quenelles of Pike with Bisque Sauce

Main course

Coq au vin

Plateau de Fromage
Selection French Cheeses


Tarte aux Citron
Lemon Tart

Chocolat Tarte
Chocolate Tart

Pot au Chocolat avec Madeleines
Chocolate pot with Madeleines
Café & Petit Fours

Tables can can be booked through the City View web pages or by phone on 020 8319 9790. If the food is anything like my recent visit to City View then it will be an excellent evening, though best approached with an empty tummy.

Crossness Public Steaming Days 2013

Decorative Ironwork in the Octagon at the Crossness Pumping Station
Decorative Ironwork in the Octagon at the Crossness Pumping Station

I notice that the episode of Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys,  London Victoria to Abbey Wood, on BBC 2 tonight (Wednesday) includes a sequence about the “Victorian cathedral of ironwork” that is Crossness Pumping Station. As I’ve mentioned before, seeing this amazing example of Victorian engineering fully steamed up and in action is an awe-inspiring sight and well worth a visit on one of their public steaming days.

However there will be fewer opportunities to see it in action this year because the volunteers of the Crossness Engines Trust are starting work on a number of improvements to the site funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant: there are pictures of the volunteers in action on their Facebook page. The Trust have announced just 5 public steaming days for 2013. As they say on their website:

… despite the ongoing building works, the Trust has decided that there will several public steaming days during 2013. The dates currently agreed are as follows:
Sunday April 21st  – Local History Fair (in association with Bexley Civic Society)
Sunday June 23rd – Model Engineering
Sunday July 28th – Transport
Sunday September 1st – Local History
Sunday October 13th – Local History

Admission will be from 10.30am until 4.00pm and the admission charge will be £5.00.
No booking is required. People under 16: free.
It is recommended that visitors wear flat shoes. Please note that the Trust can only accept payment in cash or by cheque.
There will be no mini-bus service in operation from/to Abbey Wood BR station.

To whet your appetite here’s a brief video sequence of the massive steam engines in action from my visit on London Open House day a couple of years ago:

Bird Watching Walks at Woodlands Farm

Bird Watching Walks at Woodlands Farm Poster

A series of monthly bird watching walks at Woodlands Farm starts tomorrow (Saturday) at 2.00pm. An e-mail from Lorraine Parish, the farm’s Wildlife Officer, gave the details:

Join us for a bird watching walk at Woodlands Farm on:

Sat 12 Jan – 2.00pm
Sat 9 Feb – 2.00pm
Sat 9 Mar – 2.00pm
Sun 14 Apr – 10.00am
Sun 21 Apr – 5.30am (Dawn Chorus)
Sun 28 Apr – 10.00am

(Plus monthly walks between May and Dec – keep
checking the farm website for future dates)

£2 per person, £1 for those under 18, free for Woodlands Farm Trust members and active Trust volunteers. You will need sturdy footwear and suitable outdoors clothing. The walks will include climbing a small style. (The events are not suitable for young children but keep checking the farm website for future family events.) In the event of unsuitable weather (such as heavy rain or strong winds) the walks will be cancelled. Meeting place: Meet in the farmyard outside the second building on the left, except for the dawn chorus walk when we will meet at the Education Building.

The farm is home to a wide variety of birds. Their bird watching reports have mentioned sightings at different times of the year of Swallows, House Martins, Whitethroats, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Jackdaws, male Redstart, a Redwing, Red Kite, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Hobby, Common Buzzard, a Peregrine Falcon, a Greater Black Backed Gull, 60 Black Headed Gulls, Wood Pigeons, Stock Dove, a female Whinchat and a Barn Owl. Plus there are the usual garden birds around the feeders near the hide such as different types of Tit and Robins plus quite a few Ring Necked Parakeets.

It promises to be an interesting series of walks.

 Robin at Woodlands Farm
Robin at Woodlands Farm