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Free Eucalyptus

Post Boxes of Greenwich (3)

Flatpacks and Fisticuffs

Free Eucalyptus

Posted in: Free Stuff | Comments (1)

This would normally go in Parish News but since I don’t have time just to do that at the moment and time is of the essence, does anyone want a free Eucalyptus? John’s going to have some work done and has to get rid of it.

It’s 15ft high, very healthy and in a pot.

My only warning is: keep it in that pot – they grow to ENORMOUS heights if you’re not careful.

Email me and I’ll pass you on to John if you’re interested.

Generally, if you have stuff to give away, it’s probably best to use Freecycle.

The Greenwich Phantom @ April 22, 2014

Post Boxes of Greenwich (3)

Posted in: Favourite front gardens, Green Greenwich, Postboxes of Greenwich | Comments (1)

Photo: Daniel Markham

Another VR post box today. We don’t seem to have any freestanding Victorian boxes left in Greenwich (ahem, Blackheath), but the wall versions (or in this case, literal pillar boxes – was this once a wall or always a gatepost?) have lasted well. This one is on the corner of Angerstein Lane and St John’s Park, a beautiful, leafy passageway leading through Langton Way onto the heath. It’s worth visiting for another reason too:

Long term readers will know I’ve been banging on about this fabulous ‘secret’ front garden since 2007 and periodically revisit it. Daniel, whilst seeking out phoneboxes, took a couple of update shots for us – they’re clearly working on it at the moment:

Photo: Daniel Markham

I really recommend this little lane in spring – it’s leafy, countryfied and bursting with new life. An Easter morning walk taking in Angerstein Lane would not be a wasted experience…

The Greenwich Phantom @ April 16, 2014

Flatpacks and Fisticuffs

Posted in: Development in Greenwich, Green Greenwich, Peninsula, Planning | Comments (12)

If you don’t know where this is, it’s probably not a surprise. It’s possibly the most secret ‘eco park’ Greenwich has. I wrote about it back in 2007 when it was still relatively young; it’s filled out a little now, but not for much longer if Bad People have their way.

When I heard Sainsburys were moving, I was fed up on a personal level – where I currently walk to the supermarket in future it’s a bus, a drive or a long walk with heavy shopping.

It annoyed me that they were definitely not going to let the space out to a food retailer – for obvious reasons, of course, but still very irritating. Selfishly, I wanted a retailer there that I’d actually use on a regular basis.

Of course I’m able-bodied and can easily shift my sorry carcass over to the new place if I have to (though actually it will probably prove to be a boost for all the smaller places, as frankly I’ll be going there in future, which I guess I should have done anyway. Sainsburys are showing me no loyalty, so I’ll take my own elsewhere) but for anyone with mobility issues, it’s going to be a (literal) pain.

But I’d made my peace with that. I’ll just go to the smaller places. It’s not the end of the world. And if Sainsburys are refusing to have a food retailer there, I do accept that someone else will fill the gap.

But IKEA? The place that creates traffic chaos wherever it is even when it’s out of town? When we already have a flyover/roundabout so congested it creates angry people on a daily basis and sprouts ghost bikes like flowers? It’s already not safe. It’s already a nightmare to go round. I’ve had an accident there myself – not life-threatening but definitely car-threatening.

I guess I should say I don’t have anything intrinsically bad to say about IKEA over any other multinational blandity. I don’t shop there myself but then I don’t shop at a lot of sheds. But they are infamous for their queues and to site a store within yards of a traffic blackspot (the Blackwall Tunnel takes centre stage in pretty much every traffic report on every radio station every day…) is just asking for trouble.

Their argument to a council which is either gullible beyond measure, greedy beyond measure or corrupt beyond measure is the most disingenuous you can imagine. People will, apparently, take public transport to the superstore, then pay to have it all delivered to them.

Yeah, right. So someone with a car is going to say one Saturday morning: ‘You know what? I think I’ll take three buses to IKEA today, pick out a flat pack wardrobe I could get in the back of the Maestro I’m leaving behind, pay thirty five quid to have it delivered in two weeks’s time, enjoy a slap up meatball feast then take three buses home again.”

And yet outgoing Council Leader Chris Roberts and his cohorts thought that was a viable argument. They have approved a scheme to put a major traffic hazard next to a major traffic blackspot.

It’s nuts. The amount of car-parking available, even when they’ve bulldozed the Micro Eco Park above (which IKEA apparently say is ‘regrettable’ – big bloomin’ deal), is tiny. The lorries delivering to the shop alone will clog up the roads and if you get angry people on that roundabout now imagine the fisticuffs every week once IKEA arrive.

Of course they’ll argue it’s nothing to do with them. All their customers came by bike.

You may disagree with me, think it’s a great idea and that flattening the park is just a sign of Progress.

But if you don’t there’s a group starting up saying No to IKEA with petitions and an event on 26th April in the Eco Park behind Sainsburys. There’s an open letter I was sent in PDF form but I’m useless at hosting PDFs so it’s probably best just to go to their Facebook page. Boris still has to ratify Greenwich Council’s decision – so there’s a slim (very slim, frankly given his track record…) chance that if there’s enough local opposition, it will get refused yet.

The Greenwich Phantom @ April 15, 2014

Gen. Wolfe’s Stump

Posted in: Green Greenwich, Greenwich Park | Comments (10)

Now you see it…

…now you don’t.

There seems to be a whole spate of people cutting down healthy trees in Greenwich just now and this is the latest victim – a seemingly just-fine chestnut in the avenue right up where all the tourists go, next to the Greenwich Phantom General Wolfe, spotted by Stephen, who, like me, is worried. I have written to Royal Parks to see if I can find out what’s been going on and will let you know when I do.


I received this about ten minutes ago from the Royal Parks Press Office:

We regret that the Horse Chestnut had to be removed for safety reasons. During the winter storms the tree lost a large limb, it also suffered with the Bacterial Canker disease which causes structural weakness and eventually death. With its proximity to an extremely popular and busy location in the park it was seen as necessary to remove it. We will be replanting this autumn.

The Greenwich Phantom @ April 11, 2014

Postboxes of Greenwich (2)

Posted in: Postboxes of Greenwich, Streets | Comments (2)

Just to get the ball well and truly on the road, two Greenwich postboxes in one week. Whoaaa! Steady there, Phantom…

The second in our ‘collect ‘em all’ quest for historic (and otherwise) postboxes is on the wall at MacCartney House in Crooms Hill and would have been Gen. Wolfe’s PO Box of choice for letters to his lovely Lizzie – had the Post Office actually existed when he was around. Stephen remembered it instantly when we started the series on Monday, and it means we now have at least one VR example – though given the responses, there are more to come.

Hold onto your hats, chaps.

The Greenwich Phantom @ April 10, 2014

The Fox and Hounds Union…

Posted in: Ask The Phantom, Mostly-Accurate History, Pubs, Pubs greenwich | Comments (6)

Photo: Alex Brooks

This post started with a question from Alex, who passed the Greenwich Union as it was having a refurb, revealing the Charrington’s sign below. It made him wonder how long ago that was, and what the pub was before it was the Union.

I confess I’m a lazy Phantom. Why bother reinventing the wheel when there’s a Phantophile on brew-tap who knows all about these things? I did what any self-respecting idle Phantom would do – I contacted Phantom brewmaster Rod. And since there was such a fine reaction to Raymond’s glorious Wood Wharf memories, I decided to be even lazier and give this to you straight from the Rod’s mouth…

My recollection of the Union (and precursors) dates back only to the late 70′s, when I first came to Greenwich.

Earlier history is hard to find, but this link gives a little bit

When I first darkened the doors, the pub was called the Fox and Hounds, and still had some Charringtons’ signage, although I’m fairly sure it was a free house by then. It was run by an Irish couple, as a proper local pub – good atmosphere, proper Sunday roasts, days out at the races, etc etc. There was folk music from time to time. All seemed well.

However, one day the pub stayed locked and remained that way for a long time. The Royal Hill rumour was that the Irish couple had, literally, done a moonlight flit. Dark stories of huge gambling debts circulated…

After, I don’t know exactly, a year or so, serious work began on the old Fox. Lots of skips full of wood and rubble got filled and taken away. Work would be erratic – activity stopping and starting seemingly at random (although money presumably had something to do with it, as ever…..).

Eventually, after being closed for, I would think, at least 18 months, it re-opened as the Observatory. On the opening launch night, le tout de Greenwich was there to see what it was like.
Unfortunately that was the busiest night the Observatory ever had, as most of the people who came to have a look didn’t much like what they saw…

Some of what had been done was good – the current conservatory replaced the never-very-pristine Gents bog. Fine, but some of the other improvements were less successful. The stone floor, which still remains was (arguably) better that the previous patterned carpet.

The building is (still) an inherently cold one, and painting the walls a frigid dove/oyster grey exacerbated this badly. The heavy, carved teak furniture would perhaps have looked better in a Thai restaurant. The 18th Century engraving of the Thames, which bizarrely didn’t feature any of the Greenwich riverfront, didn’t really go with anything else. Certainly not the furniture.

One beautiful Summer Saturday afternoon, when the Richard I was chocker, my wife and I had an admittedly very nice lunch in the Observatory. We had the place entirely to ourselves, and ate to the strains of a James Last-type orchestral recording of arrangements of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Greatest Hits. Not cool.

The Observatory closed within a year, if memory serves and Meantime snapped it up. It re-opened about a week later, and I walked in the first day, to find *no* big brand beers at all – just Meantime. Some proper German-styles, a Wheat beer, a Raspberry beer etc etc.

I liked it so much I joined the company.


So  there you have it, Alex. All the news on the Fox & Hounds that’s fit to print. Rather less exciting news, however, for its next door neighbour. I understand the Tolly’s having a ‘refurb’ and from what I’ve been hearing it’s of the most ghastly kind imaginable.

Honestly – don’t the owners get why people go to the Richard I? It’s precisely for all the things they’re about to obliterate. Sigh.

The Greenwich Phantom @ April 9, 2014

Short Lets

Posted in: Ask The Phantom | Comments (3)

By rights, this should be in the Parish News, but since it’s a bit on the urgent side, just this once I’m putting it here:

Capability Bowes’s freeholders are having to move him out temporarily while they do some major repair works, meaning he has to move out for around six weeks.

The relocation agents keep suggesting properties well above the price range the loss adjusters have agreed to, and also unfurnished ones when his furniture collection is minimal…

Does anyone have place to let? All rent and expenses will be met by the Freeholders’ insurance and although he’s only going to be away for six weeks or so, up to six months rent will be covered. It has to be furnished, it has to be relatively local to Eltham/Greenwich and it has to be soon!

Two bedrooms would be nice, but one sufficient.


The Greenwich Phantom @ April 9, 2014

Box Ticking

Posted in: Postboxes of Greenwich, Streets | Comments (9)

Okay – first in a new occasional series today, folks. Hold onto your seats – this will really blow your socks…

Yes, it’s Postboxes of Greenwich. Nothing too small or insignificant for the Phantom. Seriously, though, sometimes the least-significant things turn out to have a fascinating side to them, as when we started spotting phone boxes and now I can’t pass one without noticing which model it is…

So this is Frank’s picture of the one set into the wall in Park Vista. It’s Edwardian (ER – Edward Rex – on the front) and Frank’s wondering if we can find any older ones (VR – Victoria Regina). I seem to remember there’s one in Blackheath but I don’t know of any in Greenwich. Please prove me wrong – or – and I can’t decide if this makes me curious or just plain tragic – I’d like to see any other interesting letterboxes of Greenwich. Let’s see if we can collect the full set. It’s unlikely, of course, given the sheer variety but trying will provide a wealth of moderate fun…

The Greenwich Phantom @ April 7, 2014

Now You See Him…

Posted in: Art, Nelson robbery | Comments (6)

Photo: Michael Graham Smith

… and Michael for one is delighted and has sent me photos of the wandering prodigal.

For anyone who doesn’t know the shenanigans, Greenwich’s ugliest statue disappeared some time ago, not long before Greenwich Inc, who had taken over much many of Greenwich’s once-great eateries and run them into the ground, went bust.

All kinds of rumours abounded over what had happened to the sculpture, most of which surrounded its ideal candidacy for being melted down to resemble that Henry Moore piece on Millbank and its projected value in metal form. If you missed it all, Greenwich Visitor covers it nicely in its Jan edition.

But then suddenly last Thursday, Jonathan at the Greenwich Society sent me this:

Photo: Jonathan Chandler

…and all the cards were back on the table.

In a very short time, he was right back where he’d been upsetting me for several years.

Photo: Jonathan Chandler

So what the hell’s been going on there, then..?

If he was taken away for cleaning/mending/whatever why were Greenwich Inc so bloomin’ cagey about it? They could have saved themselves a lot of aggro if they’d just given us a bit of proof of Nelson’s continuing existence. Perhaps a photo of him tied up in the workshop with a current edition of Greenwich Visitor tucked under his arm?

Everyone knows what I think of this particular bit of ‘art.’I am entirely neutral about the return of the ugliest interpretation of one of history’s sexiest men, but I am pleased that at least it doesn’t appear anything sinister went on with it.

What I am much gladder about is what’s going on in the background. See that scaffolding? It’s about bloomin’ time – there were cracks all over the venerable building paint peeling and buddlia growing out of the roof. I’ve been hearing very encouraging rumours about who might be moving in there. Fingers crossed my source is right but the main thing is that money is being spent on the old girl for the first time in ages. Too late for the little nautically-themed bar that was lost under Inc’s ownership, but perhaps in time to save the rest of the historic building.

And so, for people like Micheal who sent me this, who like the statue, I leave you with another image of the returned hero. As he says – all kinds of rumours circulated but “What the Hell! Let’s rejoice at its reinstatement – welcome back Horatio!”

Photo: Michael Graham Smith

For the rest of us I leave you with the image of that scaffolding and a ray of hope for the Trafalgar itself.

The Greenwich Phantom @ March 31, 2014

Create Your Own Secret Sundial

Posted in: sundials, Things to do Events | Comments Off

I know – this should really be in the Parish News section, but hey – my blog, my rules. Besides, I feel like a little bit of a midwife on this one as I helped play Cupid between the collaborators on this project…

Remember the fabulous Secret Sundial? Here it is again:

Well, after Cathy from Stereochron got in touch with me about said Secret Sundial, I put her together with the very splendid and generally-up-for-interesting-stuff Marek Kukula at the Royal Observatory, suggesting that they created a festival of sundials so people could learn to make their own and spread sunshine and time around Greenwich.

And they’re doing it! At Summer Solstice, no less!

Cathy is actually artisit in residence at Chisenhale Gallery in Victoria Park over in trendy Hackney which makes it all the cooler that ‘our’ happening is the grand culmination of the events for  her wider project. You can see all the events on the website, but this is the Greenwich one I’m puffing out my Phantom chest about…

Making Midsummer Solar Clocks
Saturday 21 June, 11am-4pm. The Royal Observatory, Greenwich Park, London SE10 8XJ
Sunday 22 June, 11am-4pm. The Hub Building, Victoria Park, London E9 5DU 

Immerse yourself in the vital link between sunlight and time by spending Midsummer learning how to make clocks from the shadows of ordinary objects. For Stereochron Island, Chisenhale Gallery and Victoria Park are collaborating with The Royal Observatory to run two day-long workshops over the Summer Solstice weekend led by Public Astronomer Marek Kukula. Both workshops explore how to tell time by the Sun, how the movements in the solar system affect shifts on Earth and how time in Greenwich Park is different from Victoria Park time.

These two day-long events are for ages 16 and up. They include moving about on uneven parkland. You may attend one or both days. 

I’ll be updating the regular Parish News this weekend, so listings in by then please…

The Greenwich Phantom @ March 28, 2014