Easter Holiday Activities at Woodlands Farm

Woodlands Farm Easter Events poster

Woodlands Farm‘s Easter holiday activities for children include a craft day, a guided farm tour and an Easter trail. Hannah, the Education Officer, sent me the details:

Easter Holiday Activities 2015
Tuesday 31st March 10am-12pm Craft Day!
Come along for the morning to design and decorate your own item to take home.  Choose between photo frames, money boxes and lots more. Prices between £3- £5 per child depending what you make.  No need to book just drop in.
Wednesday 1st April 10am, 12pm and 2pm Guided Farm Tour
Want to find out more about our animals and visit our new born lambs?  Then come along for a guided farm tour to find out what it takes to look after our animals.  Booking is essential, to book call 020 8319 8900.  £1 per person.
Thursday 2nd April 10am-2pm Egg-cellent Easter Trail
Drop in for our annual Easter trail with a twist.  We all know that chickens lay eggs but what other animals in the world also lay eggs?  Find all the hidden animals and you will get your own chocolate egg to take home.  £2 per child.  No need to book, just drop in anytime between 10am and 2pm.
For more information, see our website or contact Hannah Forshaw on education@thewoodlandsfarmtrust.org

While down on the farm, take the opportunity to visit the refurbished dipping pond which was opened by the Mayors of Greenwich and Bexley last Friday. Work on the pond was funded by a grant from HSBC and volunteers from the bank helped to clear the old pond which was very overgrown. Most of the rest of the refurbishment was done by the farm’s regular volunteers. The Bexley Wildlife web site has more about the official opening including photographs of the event.

You may also be able to see Rufus, the farm’s visiting boar, provided he hasn’t succeeded in his task of getting the two sows pregnant, and the first lamb of the season which was born yesterday. There will be many more lambs before Lambing Day at the farm on Sunday 12 April 2015.

Woodlands Farm's new dipping pond
Woodlands Farm’s new dipping pond
Rufus, Woodlands Farm's visiting boar
Rufus, Woodlands Farm’s visiting boar

Eaglesfield Park Lilly Pond 2015

Friends of Eaglesfield Park 2015 poster

The colourful display of crocuses in Eaglesfield Park tells us that spring has arrived, and the Friends of the park are planning their monthly pond maintenance and pond dipping sessions for the year ahead. Madeleine wrote:

We are continuing with our “last Sunday of the month” pond and meadow maintenance, beginning 29th March. Attached is a poster we will be displaying on the Eaglesfield Park noticeboard and I wondered if you could use it. (I admit it is a bit colourful !). We really do need more folk to help us and to become involved with the park We would like to hear the views and comments of park visitors.

The Friends will be meeting at the park between 10.30am and 1.00pm on the last Sunday of the month from March to November. At the first meeting of the year they will be probably be thinning out unwanted plants such as docks, stinging nettles and brambles, cutting back shrubs,  thinning out the pond margins and litter picking, and there will be an opportunity to do some pond dipping. There has already been frog action in the pond. After the March meeting they will be getting together, weather permitting,  on 26th April, 31st May, 28th June, 26th July, 30th August, 27th September, 25th October and 22nd or 29th November.
The Friends now have a very comprehensive, regularly updated blog, eaglesfieldpark.org which is well worth a visit – there are lots of interesting topics, photos and videos. They have also changed their email address to: foepshootershill@aol.co.uk.

Crocuses in Eaglesfield Park
Crocuses in Eaglesfield Park

Learn beekeeping at Oxleas Wood Apiary

Oxleas Wood Apiary Bee Courses poster
Good news for bee keepers, and honey lovers. A new apiary, the Oxleas Wood Apiary, has been established in the Royal Greenwich Parks & Open Spaces Depot, Crown Woods Lane, and they are running an Introduction to Beekeeping course and apiary days through 2015. The 8-week course starts on 29th April, and  the evening classroom sessions will be held in the nearby Oxleas Cafe.
John Large, who set up the apiary wrote to let me know about his new venture and the course:
Details of the course are available on the Oxleas Wood Apiary website under the tab 2015 Beekeeping Season and registration is available via the online enrolment form.  The 2015 Introduction to Beekeeping course commences on 29 April and the Apiary Days are bookable throughout the beekeeping season (May through to September).
For enquiries about the wonderful world of the honey bee I can contacted direct at oxleaswoodapiary@oxleaswoodapiary.com and/or johnlarge@oxleaswoodapiary.com.
John praised the generosity of the Greenwich Parks and Open Spaces Department who “virtually jumped at the opportunity to provide the present Crown Lane Depot site for the Apiary.” The apiary’s aims are to be self-sufficient, and also to promote knowledge of bees (and other pollinators) and beekeeping in the Borough.

The apiary at Woodllands Farm will also continue with, I understand, support from Sidcup Beekeepers. So that’s twice as much honey coming from the wild flowers of  Shooters Hill.

The hives of Oxleas Apiary
The hives of Oxleas Apiary
The beehives at Woodlands Farm
The beehives at Woodlands Farm

Community Spring Cleaning

Shrewsbury Park
Shrewsbury Park

Local community groups from Shrewsbury Park, Mayplace Lane and Cantwell Road will each be getting together over this weekend to spruce up their areas, then the following weekend the Friends of Eaglesfield Park will be starting their regular maintenance sessions at the lilly pond (about which more in a later post ). Plus the Friends of the Pet Cemetery Charlton are holding gardening sessions on the second Sunday of each month at the cemetery. All of these groups would welcome volunteers to help.

The Friends of Shrewsbury Park are meeting on Saturday. Kathy from the Friends wrote with details:

We will be holding a clearing session on Saturday 21st March, from 11am – 12 noon. We will be taking ivy off trees and picking up litter.
If you can spare an hour, please meet at the Garland Road entrance to Dothill at 11am. You will need to wear stout gloves and sensible shoes. Please bring your own secateurs/loppers.
We look forward to seeing you there.

On Sunday morning between 10:30-12:00 the Mayplace Lane group will be planting some fruit hedging bought with money donated by local residents and also building bug houses and litter picking. Any materials suitable for bug houses would be appreciated, for example: bricks, air bricks, clay pots, tiles and wood. Nicola has arranged for Greenwich Council to provide litter pickers and rubbish bags, and to pick up the rubbish on Monday morning.

Then on Sunday afternoon the Cantwell Road residents will be meeting for a community spring clean. Geoff wrote:

Now that Spring is here Ivanhoe Norona from Maple Court has suggested that anyone interested  in a “Community Spring Clean” of various areas including the Cantwell Triangle and the wooded area between Eglinton Hill and Cantwell meet at 2pm on Sunday 22nd March at the Cantwell Triangle (opposite junction of Brent and Cantwell). He says, “We might even be able to invite our local councillors and see if the council would like to be involved.”

So this weekend sees three good opportunities to meet neighbours and help improve the places we live in.

Mayplace Lane
Mayplace Lane

Green light for Gallions Reach Bridge, Red for the Woolwich Free Ferry

View towards Gallions Reach from Plum Lane
View towards Gallions Reach from Plum Lane

Transport for London are continuing with their plans to build a new bridge at Gallions Reach, but it’s the beginning of the end for the Woolwich Free Ferry following the results of the consultation into new river crossings east of the Blackwall Tunnel. TfL’s e-mail about the results said:

The majority of feedback supported the introduction of new fixed link crossings, rather than enhancement of existing or introduction of new ferry crossings. Having considered all of the issues raised in the consultation, we will now continue to develop the concepts of new bridges at Gallions Reach and Belvedere, and we will also consider whether tunnels would be more suitable by releasing greater land for development than would be possible with a bridge.


We will put our consideration of proposals for a new ferry at Woolwich and a ferry at Gallions Reach on hold, pending the outcome of this work.

65% of respondents to the consultation “strongly supported” the Gallions Reach bridge option and a further 15% “supported” it (80% total support), as you can see in TfL’s summary of the results below. In comparison the figures for improving the Woolwich Free Ferry were 19% and 18% respectively (37% total support). Opinion has hardened in favour of a Gallions Reach bridge and against the Free Ferry since the previous consultation in 2013: a Gallions bridge or tunnel  had the support of 71% and the Free Ferry 51% in that consultation.

The Consultation Report gives all the results and presents a selection of the comments made by the public about each of the options. Strangely it manages to find no comments in favour of the Woolwich Ferry option and a page and a half against. You would almost think that TfL were trying to present a particular point of view rather than impartially report on the results.

In the image at the top the new Gallions Reach bridge would cross the river roughly in the centre of the photo, this side of the Barking Creek tidal barrier – the high structure just to the right of centre,  on the river. The bridge would be higher than the Barking barrier.

Summary of support for different options from TfL Consultation Report
Summary of support for different options from TfL Consultation Report

The proposal for a new tunnel at Silvertown was not included in this consultation, in fact it is assumed in all the supporting documents that the Silvertown Tunnel will have been built by the time any of the consultation options are constructed. Additional traffic capacity at Silvertown is the main plank of TfL’s defence against the charge that the road infrastructure south of the river is inadequate for the expected traffic going to the new crossing at Gallions Reach.

As well as the Consultation Report, TfL have published a Response to the Issues Raised document which gives TfL’s opinion on specific objections raised about the different crossing options. It has sections on concerns about increased traffic and congestion, and about the threat to Oxleas Wood.

They have two responses on traffic increase and congestion: Paraphrasing, firstly they say they warned us that there would be more traffic on some roads, but they don’t know which roads will be affected. Part of their work in the next stage will be to work out what  impact a Gallions Reach Bridge will have on traffic flow and what they can do about it. The second response is that they think most non-local traffic will use the tunnels at Blackwall and Silvertown and not the new bridge because the tunnels have better links on the other side of the river.

Doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence that they’ve thought this through, and there is an implicit assumption that the crossing will go ahead and any problems will be “mitigated”: even if the future work shows that Plumstead will be gridlocked with traffic that will not stop the crossing’s construction. An almost identical response is given to concerns about the environmental impact: we’ll do some more work to understand the impact and how it can be “mitigated”.

TfL’s response on concerns about the threat to Oxleas Wood points out the differences between the current proposals and earlier schemes such as the East London River Crossing. In particular they say:

It is not the intent that the new crossings will provide a new strategic route for traffic with no local origin or destination, and it is not intended to carry traffic between the A2 and the North Circular, a journey which would remain more convenient via the Blackwall tunnel.

What does “local” mean in this context? TfL don’t say.

The response also mentions that the Gallions Reach Bridge would be one of three new crossings, with the Silvertown Tunnel and Belvedere Bridge, so the traffic load would be spread, and it asserts that tolling the crossings will allow TfL to manage how much traffic uses them.

Some of the details given about the new bridge are interesting. It will have two lanes of traffic, but one will be reserved for public transport and HGVs. There will be provision for pedestrians and cyclists to use the bridge, and they are considering whether it should carry the DLR over the river to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood.

As well as traffic and environmental impact assessments, TfL’s next steps include considering “whether we might need to take additional traffic management or other mitigation steps to ensure the new crossings operate successfully and sustainably” and “how we can make best advantage of the opportunities that new river crossings would give us to improve cross-river links for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport passengers”. They don’t say when the next stage will be complete.

Whatever emerges from the next steps the future doesn’t look good for the Woolwich Free Ferry.

Woolwich Free Ferry and tall ship
Woolwich Free Ferry and tall ship