A worrying little moment a short while back when the bench in the Rose Garden that the elderly homeless lady Maria Bennett, also affectionately known as Rose, used to spend sunny days was suddenly removed along with all but one of the tributes left after her tragic death. Stephen and I were a little concerned, but it would seem that the bench is back, and still has a little memorial wreath to her.
The original collection of memorials included a copy of a painting by, I presume, a local artist. It was utterly charming; Stephen and I can’t help wondering whether there might be some way of returning it, perhaps during the summer months, or finding another way to link that little area of the park with this gentle Greenwich character.
The Greenwich Phantom @ May 23, 2013
Blimey. I don’t know – nothing’s going on for years, you turn your back for a couple of months and wham! There’s an entire new estate gone up. I hadn’t been around New Capital Quay area for a while until Jeremy sent me a bunch of pics and told me I really needed to see just how fast the whole thing’s happening now – last I saw of this thing, it was a shell. When I went yesterday, it looked like – well – like Jeremy’s pic (without the sun of course – where’s that gone?) Not totally sure I love it but boy it’s been chucked up fast.
I guess what’s made this company so fast is that the last guys did all the really hard work – the clearing and the foundations which go down really deep and are surrounded by water. That was all going on when the bottom had fallen out of Britain – the rest of us might still be in recession but judging by the way Greenwich is reaching for the skies, the developers seem to be doing fine now.
Eight hundred and fifty flats going here, apparently. Not sure quite how, presumably most of ‘em are teeny except for a couple of penthouses at the top. Still, at least they’ll be able to buy posh groceries – Waitrose is on its way:
In general I am reasonably pleased that this is happening at last. It’s been a corner of Greenwich that’s been a bit of a mess. I’d have preferred something a little more interesting but hey – something finished will always be better than a building site.
I didn’t have time to check whether they’re actually doing that bridge to link the two bits of the Thames Path – I bloomin’ hope so – that will make the whole thing much more accessible and not just for nosey Phantoms, for people who live there. Maybe with the added footfall that would bring, places like Wood Wharf won’t be so cut off and if someone wanted to make a nice restaurant (rather than a dodgy nightclub) there it will actually have some passing trade rather than being a slightly creepy cul-de-sac.
Talking of watering holes, I wonder what will become of the old Thames Pub (which, if memory serves, was once actually yet another Rose & Crown?) I have always cherished a little dream that someone will take it over and turn it into a sort of other-side-ofthe-Creek Dog & Bell. I am sure with 850 new flats – not to mention the scores of others on the ‘other side’ a decent pub selling decent beer would be welcomed. I just hope it’s not going for even more apartments. The worst thing that could happen would be its demolition for a new block. We have precious little ‘Old Greenwich’ left round there. I am still mourning the unnecessary loss of that little bit of Faded Greenwich we lost a year or so ago, just up the street. Don’t these developers realise that a lot of people come to Greenwich precisely for its quirkiness?
One thing, however will never change. However posh those apartments, however cool the view, however convenient the upmarket superstore, the peninsula will always have one thing – one hell of a pong…
Wonder if they’re carefully arranging viewing times for prospective tenents…
The Greenwich Phantom @ May 22, 2013
Barbara has just moved to Greenwich and like so many of us has decided to do the declutter after the move. She asks:
I’m trying to declutter and get rid of stuff, and that’s what I want to ask you: I’m trying to find out where I can recycle electronics. I’ve a couple of old phones, clocks, broken toys, stuff like that, and I don’t know where to recycle them. I’ve looked on the Greenwich Council site, but they say to look for the bright pink rubbish bins – but so far I haven’t found any of them, so have no idea where to look.
I have donated clothes and things to the Save the Children shop in Trafalgar Road and freecycled quite a few things, but I’m stuck with the electronics. Can you help me with that?
The Phantom replies:
I vaguely remember a pink bin over at Sainsburys on the peninsula, though it’s a bit of a long way to lug your toaster only to find the bin’s gone. There used to be one near you (Woodland Heights) on the pavement next to the ‘heart of East Greenwich’ but like everything else (including said pavement) it’s gone now.
There is one charity shop that takes electronic stuff – is it the Hospice? I vaguely remember red and white livery – perhaps someone can help.
Failing that, Freecycle is your friend – it’s helped me offload all sorts of stuff. It’s basically a Yahoo group aimed at keeping useable stuff out of landfill, where you post what you’re offering and people come round and take it off your hands. Most people who use it are lovely, but you do get the odd rude person or character that doesn’t turn up (several times, ahem…)
I’ve found that if you don’t answer the first person who replies, but review the replies after a day or so, you can choose the one that sounds least flaky, most likely to actually turn up and not be rude.
If you have access to a car, you can take your stuff to the council dump at Nathan Way in Thamesmead, where they will, I understand, recycle stuff for you. Office furniture, as a by the by, (and I know you weren’t asking) can be recycled (and purchased, very cheaply) by Greenworks also in Nathan Way.
But I’d be very keen to know who else takes electronics for recycling. Any good suggestions, folks?
The Greenwich Phantom @ May 20, 2013
I didn’t know that this was on yesterday – must be seriously losing my touch. But both Stephen and Mike attended the Aston Martin Owners’ Club Concours d’Etat yesterday (don’t you just love that it’s called that? Reliant Robin owners are just as keen but they call their shindigs plain old ‘rallies’) and I at least have photos to share…
I love this 1959 DB3 but by all accounts there was much to choose from. Stephen reckons there must have been about 250 Astons there, sadly I wasn’t so I don’t know.
I am, like Stephen, particulaly taken with the toolkit for the DB3 – which includes a rather alarming hammer – for loosening the wheel nuts, aparently, rather than for duffing up henchmen.
It appears to have been used rather a lot.
Stephen’s favourite – and I suspect mine, too – is this fabulous 1948 Lagonda coupe:
If you, like myself, are fed up you missed it, here’s Mike’s video of the event…
The Greenwich Phantom @ May 20, 2013
Haven’t had one of these for ages, so I thought I’d go with a parklet that looks much smaller than it actually is today.
It’s in the area just north of Maze Hill station, around Tyler Street/ Walnut Tree Road (which is bisected by it) and Columb Street and manages to encompass open grassland, mature trees and a kiddies playground in an area that in my memory at least is always teeny.
It’s clearly the result of bomb damage and what has always amazed me is that there is a park there at all; that the whole of it wasn’t just subsumed into new builds. I am sure it would be now.
I was curious to know just which bombs it might have been, so I enlisted the help of resident Phantom Blitz Expert, Stepen Hunnisett, who gave me a rundown of just how flattened the area had got by the end of World War II:
- 8/9/1940 (no time given) – Tyler Street/Trafalgar Row – High Explosive /Incendiary Bombs – Fire at Francis Campion’s premises
- 17/10/40 @ 16:58 – 16-18 Tyler Street – High Explosive Bomb – no casualties
- 10/01/41 @ 00:15 – Tyler Street – numerous Incendiary Bombs – no casualties
- 8/9/40 no time given – Maze Hill Station – Incendiary Bombs on line
- 9/9/40 no time given – 99 Maze Hill – Incendiary Bomb – fire in house
- 9/9/40 @ 23:11 – 111 Maze Hill – Incendiary Bomb – fire in house
- 9/9/40 @ 23:15 – Maze Hill Station – Incendiary Bomb on down line
- 17/10/40 @ 17:20 – 75 Maze Hill – High Explosive – no casualties
- 18/10/40 @ 23:59 – 139 Maze Hill – High Explosive – 1 walking casualty
- 18/10/40 @ 09:19 – Maze Hill Station – 2 Delayed Action Bombs discovered in Goods Yard
- 18/10/40 @ 10:12 – 37 Maze Hill – UXAA Shell
- 20/10/40 @ 22:50 – 139 Maze Hill (again) – High Explosive Bomb
Blimey – after that little lot it’s hardly surprising there’s so much post-war new-build. Of course they were aiming for (among other things) the railway line – and sometimes actually hit it – but it’s clear living round Maze Hill in 1940 was a dangerous occupation.
The area is still pretty darn cute (I’ve always loved Walnut Tree Road) but it must have been even cuter before 1940. Still – respect to whoever decided not to cover every single inch with what must have been much-needed housing and instead pay attention to the social needs of the people who were going to live in the new homes.
If you’d like to know more about wartime Greenwich and Blackheath, Stephen has two of his occasional Blitzwalks coming up. The first is this Sunday, May 19th, at 11.00am, the second, unusually, on a Friday 28th June at 6.30 p.m.
Both walks meet outside All Saints Church, Blackheath Village, cost £9 per head and last 2 hours 45 minutes. You can pay on the day but pre-booking is strongly advised as they’re always popular, via the website.
The Greenwich Phantom @ May 17, 2013
At last it’s open. Yet another secret garden of Greenwich is revealed. I took these photos just a couple of weeks ago on the first official day of opening for what we must now call The Queen’s Orchard (formerly the Dwarf Orchard, which was, frankly comical) in the north-east corner of Greenwich Park, but anyone would have thought I took them a couple of months ago, so fit-to-burst were all the trees and flowers – this was probably the first day of ‘nice’ and since then it’s all gone mad, even if the weather’s still a bit iffy.
We’ve been watching – or rather not watching this project for years now. The tiny, secret sliver of land that even people who knew it was there forgot it was there. High walls, dense greenery and a quiet part of the park, lurking behind the kiddies’ playground, meant that we were intrigued, but left almost completely in the dark, save for a few grainy pics sent to me by kindly phantophiles living in Park Vista…
What we’re seeing here is the bare bones of what will be a stunning garden. Still pleasingly wild in parts, it’s like seeing a beautiful princess in her knickers, just before she puts on the gown to be the belle of the ball. Volunteers and park gardeners have cleared the ghastly sycamore weed-trees and thick undergrowth to reveal what was left of the little formal garden.
Sadly that’s very little – any landscaping is pretty much long-gone, though there is a fabulous (and very elderly) mulberry tree which, come to think of it, I didn’t see when I went a couple of weeks ago. I can’t believe it’s not there; I must have been too busy looking at everything else.
They have done a lovely job with the old well that was unearthed. Personally I preferred the first wrought iron well cover that artist Heather Burrell came up with but this one is very fine indeed and when it mellows in and stops looking quite so ‘new’ it’s going to be lovely.
In fact you could say that about pretty much all of the new park – it’s just very ‘new.’ The delightful rounded pond with its high, brick raised beds, the pristine ogee-shaped arches, still naked, the fabulous wooden railway-sleeper style raised veg beds – it all looks a bit clean and fresh – which is hardly a surprise given that it is.
Ditto the lovely wild bit with the re-planted dwarf fruit trees that gave the orchard its former name – they’re young, cute, local and with ancient ancestry but a bit on the stark side. Give it all a couple of years though and this is going to be one of my favourite corners of the park. In the meanwhile it’s a delight to be able to watch it develop.
The park is currently open between 1.00pm and 3.00pm on Sundays – though I found that to be a generous estimate – no one seemed to be in a hurry to chuck anyone out. The gardener I talked with told me that they’re planning to stretch the opening hours gradually throughout the coming months.
I need to go back now there are actual leaves on actual trees.
The Greenwich Phantom @ May 16, 2013
Okay – I know that sounds a bit dramatic, especially when I tell you that what I’m telling you to clear your diary for is a set of open gardens, but stay with me. I have my reasons. This is for all Greenwich lovers, gardeners or not.
St Alfege’s parishioners ran this project a couple of years ago, to raise funds for the ever-burgeoning restoration costs of a 300 year-old church. Over a couple of Sundays around a dozen gardens in West Greenwich were open to the public in exchange for cash (and not a lot of cash at that.)
As a fan of beautiful gardens and as even more of a fan of nosing around other people’s back gardens (why else do you think I run the Rear Window section?) I was in there like the proverbial Flynn – it was in Parish News – hopefully a few of you managed to make it too.
If you did you will know what I am speaking about. Each of the gardens is exquisite in its own way – and June is a wonderful time to see them. They range from the lavishly formal – a particular favourite is the Manor House at the top of Crooms Hill (see above) – and the exquisitely bijou (see the delightfully narrow, be-mirrored jewel at 27 Maidstone Hill, which comes complete with the fanciest chickens I’ve ever seen…) through to marvellous, unexpected jungles. I am deeply intrigued by one that opening this year described as “Dangerously steep and thorny terraced garden, entered at the visitor’s own risk”.
There is even genuine woodland – Westcombe Woodlands at Maze Hill will enjoy a rare opening – worth seeing for so many reasons – not least to nose around what all the fuss was over a few years ago. It’s also a real pleasure to enter as you have to go through someone’s garden, a secret, quietly-landscaped series of nooks, on several levels and a joy in itself.
There are so many brilliant gardens open I don’t have time to describe them all, but I promised something for all Greenwich lovers, gardeners or not. There is one house you MUST see.
Number 14 Crooms Hill is a gem in every single respect. As nutty as it is historic, as exuberant as it is lavish, as eccentric as it is joyful, as mysterious as it is ever so slightly creepy, this deceptively large confection leads out to a deceptively larger and delightfully unkempt back garden. I won’t even begin to try to describe Ann Broadbent’s extraordinary home – I will just say that if you don’t go on one of her tours of the house you will sincerely regret it later. This is an example of Greenwich at its secretive best. Go. Just go.
Sold yet? Then scrawl Sundays 2 and 9th June, 2-5pm in your diaries. You’ll need both dates as different places are open on each day.
Break open your piggy banks to get the money required – a whopping £3 per garden or £10 for the lot on a single day. Just pay the tenner. I’m telling you now, you’ll need to see them all – pay at the first garden you visit. It’s worth bringing a bit more money too, as there’s tea and cake to be had at some venues.
I have forgotten how to attach PDFs (well, okay, I wrote down the instructions wrong) so I’m going to copy the details here for you, with the descriptions by the owners in italics.
Seriously – you need to go to this one…
Sunday 2nd June:
1. Tim and Patricia Barnes, The White House, Crooms Hill, SE10 8HH TEAS
A walled garden laid out when the house belonged to the Astronomer Royal. Lots of climbers, good-sized lawn and flowers planted in a rather haphazard but hopefully cottagey way. And a mulberry tree as old as the house.
2. Ian and Susan Pawlby, 22 West Grove Lane, SE10 8QP WINE
Come and explore a hidden garden in a hidden lane.
3. Jane Custance Baker and Peter Gingold, 51 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QQ
Dangerously steep and thorny terraced garden entered at the visitor’s own risk. Designed to be viewed from the house, the owner and inept gardener will do house tours to show the exceptionally varied and challenging site from different (and safe) vantage points.
4. Ann Broadbent, 14 Crooms Hill, SE10 8ER
A very large and peaceful garden, it contains nothing much except wonderful mature trees including a plane as big as the ones in Berkeley Square. Tours of the house, which is much more interesting, are also on offer.
5. Susan and Jimmy Gaston, 119 Maze Hill, SE10 8XQ TEAS
North-east facing garden lying under Vanbrugh Castle; raised beds with shrubs, a pergola covered in Albertine and Brides Veil roses, and a beautiful dovecote as the centre piece.
6. Alan Bartlett and Simon Gallie, 27 Maidenstone Hill, SE10 8SY TEAS
This narrow hillside garden forms part of Point Hill and features some of Alan’s RHS medal-winning garden items as well as his chickens. There are many unusual plants in the garden. Due to the many steps, slopes and limited accessibility of this garden, it may not be suitable for people requiring walking assistance.
7. Westcombe Woodlands, Lasseter Place (off Vanbrugh Hill), SE3 7UX
A contrast to other gardens, this is mature woodland, hidden away from the public eye, but recently improved to be a better wildlife habitat. There are wild bulbs and newly-planted fruit trees, but today there is simply access to a small clearing and a winding path with nest and bat boxes – and views towards Canary Wharf.
Sunday 9th June:
1. Clare and Mark Hatcher, 41 Gloucester Circus, SE10 8RY PIMMS
A walled garden in a late Georgian terrace, the garden comprises formal elements with herbaceous borders, a beech hedge and a woodland garden under a horse chestnut tree.
2. Penny and David Matheson, 30 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QH PIMMS
The garden of an 1830s tea-caddy house with a lawn in front and, behind, two shallow flower-filled terrace beds backed by rose-covered arches through which one sees a round lawn surrounded by a stone path and banks of shrubs, ivy and large trees.
3. Teresa and Jonathan Sumption, The Manor House, Crooms Hill, SE10 8HG
A large garden standing on the edge of the hill comprising two small formal gardens, a flower garden surrounded by trellis and pleached apple trees divided by a parterre of lavender, and a sunken garden with a geometrical box parterre planted with herbs.
4. Caroline and Richard Newton Price, 3 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QQ TEAS
New garden, old garden, tea and cake.
5. Geoff and Paula Nuttall, 124 King George Street, SE10 8PX
A small, south-facing walled garden that can be entered by a side gate.
6. John and Helene Mitchell, 4 Orchard Drive, SE3 0QP
Views from the house (wisteria and jasmine) and rear terrace (camellias) lead, via the croquet lawn and yew hedge, to the orchard (apples, pears, plums and quince) and a wild area (silver birch, oak and walnut).
The Greenwich Phantom @ May 15, 2013
Anyone remember Faulkners carpets? I confess I don’t – but then this Faded Greenwich on the east end of Traf Road could be from any time before such vulgar things as advertisement hoardings were slapped up anywhere they’d fit. Stephen was passing and noticed that they must be in between ads or, no – come to think of it – actually I believe it was an ad for the bike shop. Whatever it was, it’s gone, at least for the moment, and Greenwich is currently Faded.
Graphic Design geeks – what sort of period would you reckon this is from, given the lettering and arrow design? Early 1960s? I’d say that or maybe 1930s. Hell, I don’t know.
I’m guessing the arrow points to inside the ex-offie, cafe and Save the Children shop – if it was just one of those, the carpets must have been quite a squash, but I certainly remember small shops full of carpets when I was a kid, before the giant sheds took over. I just can’t remember where any of them were.
I doubt this few square inches of space will remain un-advertised for long so enjoy it while you can. It will never be as glorious as the much-mourned-at-Phantom-Towers AND GUT YOUR FIRST OCTOPUS (and let’s face it, what could be…?) but it is still a little secret part of Old Greenwich.
The Greenwich Phantom @ May 14, 2013
I have noticed that a lot more planes are now flying over Greenwich, which wake up my girlfriend and I at 6 in the morning. I know there was a trial that London Heathrow ran a few months ago, but it does seem that the number of flights over Greenwich have risen over time.
Has anyone else noticed this to be case? Do you know of a group that is currently organising protests against this?
The Phantom replies:
Perhaps a little – and I guess as the weather gets warmer and we keep our windows open at night it’s going to get more intrusive. Certainly there are a load of helicopters that hang over us, circling in the holding pattern waiting for permission to enter London-proper. Occasionally when they hover directly overhead I panic and assume an escaped serial killer is hiding in the back yard. And those Chinooks can be damn loud.
Thing is, I find it really hard to get worked up about this one. We live in a city and cities create noise. Yeah, I get woken up occasionally by a plane, and quite a lot by helicopters. But I also get woken up by neighbours’ parties, tipper trucks, dust carts, the ex-mysterious siren, police cars, teenage boy-racers and the warehouse depot near Phantom Towers where the trucks seem to be in permanent reverse mode. They are all irritating, even rage-inducing, but when we live cheek-by-jowl with each other I don’t really see any real way round it.
It’s not like Greenwich used to be a quiet haven of tranquility. It’s always been noisy – whether you’re looking at dinosaurs crashing their way through the primordial jungle, the glassworks, the armour workshops, the factories, the trams, the aggregates yards or the constant foghorns of the ships that have been replaced by the aircraft.
Our government is convinced that the only way ahead for Great Britain PLC is to increase airport capacity – and frankly they are not going to stop until they get their way. As a vaguely green-leaning enviro-Phantom I detest the idea of a fourth runway/new airport – I don’t believe that if we aren’t the giantest air-hub in the universe people will forget we exist and stop trading with us.
So, personally I do actually oppose extra flights/ runways/ airports, but more as a general thing – and not because of the noise. While the Chicago Convention of 1944 remains in place and the world continues to subsidise aviation fuel, air travel will continue to fly asparagus from Peru in September and French beans from Kenya in January, and I find that difficult to deal with, not the noise.
I know I am alone here and that many are getting really angry with the aircraft noise, but it’s a Monday morning, I’m in a right old mood and it’s my blog.
In the interests of balance, however – and to acknowlege the fact that I’m on me tod here, yes, there is a pressure group – HACAN Clear Skies who campaign across the South East against aircraft noise in general and especially around Heathrow.
I guess I’ll get a lot of flack from this one – let the turkey shoot begin…
The Greenwich Phantom @ May 13, 2013
Lovely, isn’t it. Shame it isn’t an oak.
Reading between the lines, it seems to me that the crime this beautiful Copper Maple tree that shades the garden at The British Oak has committed is that it isn’t – well, a British Oak. The landlord has applied for permission to fell it, claiming that “The foliage canopy covers the whole seating area of the garden allowing no light into it”.
Thing is, judging from this photo, taken at 3.00pm last Monday afternoon, that just patently isn’t true. The seating area is clearly in plain sun. His other claim is that the tree attracts pigeons and squirrels, which upset the customers.
NEWSFLASH: Phantom Towers has a surfeit of pigeons and squirrels too, which is quite incredible, since I am not aware of a Copper Maple anywhere nearby.
Peter tells me that far from being ‘upset’, the customers he sees seem to enjoy the wildlife – and even feed them, which probably has rather more of an alluring effect than a tree.
The landlord intends to replace it with a ‘suitable specimen’ but, um, hang on, wouldn’t a sapling eventually have the same shady, pigeony, squirrel-magnet effect as a mature tree? And if he’s hoping to replace it with a British Oak sapling, he’s in trouble – they don’t exist (and the Oak varieties that do exist get BIIIIIIG).
It’s true that maintenance can be pricey – and the pruning that’s been done in the past has been of the somewhat crude variety, which makes it worse in the long run, but this is an important tree in a lovely garden that would be the poorer without it.
Indeed, Peter reckons it’s “one of the most significant trees in The Rectory Field Conservation area and has been loved by generations of users of the British Oak and is fully deserving of a Tree Preservation Order to protect it until a more sympathetic custodian takes over the Pub. This tree requires careful and responsible husbandry when it will continue to bring pleasure and be a valuable environmental asset. For many its loss would be a local tragedy.”
If you agree (or even if you don’t) by all means comment here, but though I will be delighted to know someone reads the blog I can’t guarantee that those comments will actually get to the person who can make a difference.
The email I gave out for Debi Rogers, the Tree Officer, is bouncing back, so my best suggestion for being able to comment is to go to the link at the top of the post and make a public comment there. The reference is 13/1006/TC British Oak, 109 Old Dover Road, SE38SU - and you don’t have long – you need to do it by Tuesday 21st. May 2013.
Everywhere I look we are losing our mature trees – mainly in streets and new developments, to be replaced by pathetic, weedy excuses for trees because they’re less bother. I still mourn the loss of the fabulous limes at what we must now call Greenwich Square. Greenwich – and the entire country is the poorer without them, and I believe that we have got to the stage where each individual needs to be fought for.
The Greenwich Phantom @ May 10, 2013