Park Weekend

Eaglesfield Park Sunday 27th Sept 2015

The weather for the weekend is forecast  to be “Fine and dry with settled conditions,” so a good weekend to get out into our local parks. Both Shrewsbury Park and Eaglesfield Park have community activities this weekend.

On Saturday the Friends of Shrewsbury Park are having one of their regular tidy-up sessions. Kathy wrote with details:

If you can spare an hour to help clean up the park by picking up rubbish and cutting back brambles, please meet this Saturday at 11am at the Garland Road entrance to Dothill.  Please bring your gardening gloves and secateurs.

Then on Sunday the Friends of Eaglesfield Park have things going on all day. In the morning they have one of their clean-up sessions at the lilly pond, assisted from 11.00am by Youth Volunteers from NCS (National Citizen Service), then after lunch another free Tai Chi session led by Tai Chi  teacher Chew-Yeen. Following the Tai Chi, Chew-Yeen has organised a “cake sharing” for a donation of £2 in support of MacMillan Cancer Nurses. We’ll need to bring our own flask of tea or coffee

The details are all on the Friends’ blog, but the key times are:

10.30 am  –                     Monthly pond and meadow tidy up and weeding.
11.00 am – 3.30 pm      Youth volunteers from NCS (National Citizen Service)  weeding and community survey.
1.00 – 2.00 pm              Tai Chi session.

Let’s hope the met office are right for once.

Hawthorn berries in Eaglesfield Park
Hawthorn berries in Eaglesfield Park

Sloe down

Hedgerow liqueurs 2015 poster

It’s autumn and the wild fruit is ripe at Woodlands Farm: the season to slowly forage for sloes and damsons and prepare some sloe gin. Maureen from the farm wrote to tell us about a chance to make some Hedgerow Liqueurs next Saturday:

Hedgerow Liqueurs
Saturday 26 September 2015 10am-4pm
Price: £20 (£15 members) 18+ years only
Join us for a tramp and forage around the hedgerows, followed by sloe gin making. Bring your own gin or spirit of choice together with at least a one litre, wide-neck container. Alternatively, Kilner type jars, 1.5 litre, will be available at cost price. Sugar, sloes and wild damsons will be provided by Woodlands Farm. Book early as numbers are limited. Please dress appropriately for outdoor activities.
To book your tickets go to our website at:

Tickets are available through eventbrite:

Sloe Berries at Woodlands Farm
Sloe Berries at Woodlands Farm
Sloe Berries at Woodlands Farm
Sloe Berries at Woodlands Farm

Lot 220

Plot of land adjacent to Furze Lodge
Plot of land adjoining Furze Lodge

“Back to London for Lot 220, Land adjoining Furze Lodge, Plumstead  SE18″, the auctioneer said, “Lot of interest, someone on the phone, couple on the internet. Shall we start at £30,000?” The bidding quickly progressed to £60,000 in £5,000 steps when it was sold to a phone bidder.

I was watching the final stages of Allsop’s residential auction over the internet at home. I had dropped in for a while to the real thing at the Cumberland Hotel, in a large basement meeting room smelling of toast and hotel breakfasts, picking up a thick, glossy brochure and sheaf of addenda on the way in. There were probably a couple of hundred people there, sitting on a dozen long rows of chairs, loitering at the back and huddled against a wall that had been declared a TV-free zone for those who didn’t want to accidentally appear on a TV show that was being made about the auction. On the opposite side a raised dais hosted a set of be-suited phone bid takers. At the front alongside the auctioneer was a powerpoint slide showing the current property being bid for with the latest price. The auction was surprisingly slow; many times a new bid was announced seconds before the gavel descended for the third and final time taking the auction off again in decreasing increments. Unfortunately I couldn’t wait for lot 220, which was just as well as they didn’t get to it until some 7 hours later.

The catalogue description of the scrap of land that looks like a small, tree-filled garden area for Furze Lodge was:

A Freehold Site extending to Approximately 0.016 Hectares (0.040 Acres). Possible Development Potential subject to all necessary consents being obtained
The property is situated on the west side of Plum Lane close to Dallin Road, opposite Shrewsbury Park with views across London. Local amenities are available nearby, with the more extensive facilities of Woolwich town centre being within 1 mile to the north. Docklands Light Railway (London City Airport 10 minutes) and Overground services run from Woolwich Arsenal Rail Station. Road access is afforded by the A207 (Shooters Hill) and A205 (Academy Road). The open spaces of Shrewsbury Park and Shooters Hill Golf Club are close by.
The property comprises a broadly rectangular shaped site which extends to approximately 0.016 hectares (0.040 acres). The site has frontage to Plum Lane.
Site Area Approximately 0.016 Hectares (0.040 Acres)
Local Planning Authority: London Borough of Greenwich.
Tel: 020 8921 4661.
The property may afford possible development potential subject to obtaining all necessary consents.

The area of the plot, 0.016 hectares, is equivalent to a square of side 12.7 metres, so why would someone pay £60,000 for it? I can only assume that it’s because of that magic phrase “possible development potential”. Any development would, of course, require planning permission, and at the moment it seems unlikely that permission would be granted. The people who carried out the conversion of the former gas decontamination centre that expanded Furze Lodge applied for permission to build a tiny “two and half storey two-bed dwelling house” on this plot. Amongst the 8 reasons the Royal Borough planners gave for rejecting the application were that the proposed property would “be built on land previously set aside for the use of the flats at Furze Lodge as a communal garden space”, which was approved under the original Furze Lodge application. They also mentioned the adverse impact of the house on homes in Brinklow Crescent and the problem of overlooking neighbouring properties in Dallin Road and the new Furze Lodge flats, and that the density of the development was too high.

London’s housing shortage is the root cause of developers’ willingness to pay high prices for tiny plots of garden land like this. There are a number of other cut-off scraps of gardens in the area, particularly along Mayplace Lane, where multiple applications to build tiny houses have been rejected by the planners, following which the land has been neglected and in some cases has become an eyesore. I get the impression that the owners are waiting for political change or the pressure of increased demand before submitting yet another application to build, leading to uncertainty for neighbours who value their environment. At a time when tens of thousands of new homes are being built across Greenwich do we really need to squash little boxes into every gap on the hillside?

Open House Weekend

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

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

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

New tensile roof protecting  St George's Garrison Church
New tensile roof protecting St George’s Garrison Church

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

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

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

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


Shrewsbury House open house poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Christ Faith Tabernacle Cathedral, formerly Woolwich Granada Cinema

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

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

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

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

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

Detail of decoration at Severndroog Castle
Detail of decoration at Severndroog Castle

Shrewsbury Park Bat Walk

Friends of Shrewsbury Park‘s bat walk poster

September is the start of the breeding season for bats and also when they  start to build up their fat stores for the winter hibernation, so hopefully there will be plenty of them around for the Shrewsbury Park bat walk on Friday. Kathy from the Friends of Shrewsbury Park e-mailed the poster and details of the walk:

Please find poster attached giving details of the Bat Walk on 11 September, starting at 7.45pm in the car park.
It is free to you as you are a member of the Friends of Shrewsbury Park. You will see that we have decided to charge non-members for the walk. If non-members join the Friends, then the walk will be free to them. By charging non-members, we will increase the funding towards our drinking fountain. If they join, then we will increase our membership.
We will have to spend a few minutes at the beginning of the walk checking membership.
Just a reminder, if it is raining, the bats will not be out, nor will we.
Fingers crossed for a dry evening.

This is the last local bat walk for this year as far as I know. Lots of bats have been detected and sighted on all the others, let’s hope Friday maintains the record.

Brown Long Eared bat from Jenny Clark's education team at Batfest 2015
Brown Long Eared bat from Jenny Clark’s education team at Batfest 2015
Serotine bat from Jenny Clark's education team at Batfest 2015
Serotine bat from Jenny Clark’s education team at Batfest 2015