This has to be one of the wierdest open spaces in the area. Surrounded on three sides by housing, edged by the “iconic” (ahem) Mr Fast Fry and every inch of it clearly visible from the road, it is, inexplicably, one of the creepiest parks I know of.
I have definitely never ventured in, for a very good reason, which I will explain in a moment, but I walk past it on a regular basis and I can now confirm that I have NEVER SEEN ANYONE ELSE IN THERE EITHER. I have a theory about that too.
Could it be because it’s poorly lit? Certainly not. It was part of the grand “improvements” of East Greenwich which I suspect somebody’s Section 106 paid for, and which gave it random paths (I went to the “consultation – ha-bloody-ha – and listened to the “consultant” who designed it talking about what the paths all meant – the usual arty bullshit which makes you nod in puzzled agreement at the time and think “what the bloody hell was that all about” later.) As far as I can make out, the paths make people walk in specific directions which deliberately avoid the quickest route so they can enjoy the open space, which frankly gives more of a labyrinthine feel than any kind of pleasure of the countryside.
The consultant also gave it copious lighting – halogen, which are very low and directional – presumably to prevent light pollution, which I am actually very much in favour of. The “transformation is completed with suspicious-looking litter bins and the re-erected mural that used to be on the wall of Greenwich District Hospital. I’m all for saving it – and am glad to see it back, but they’ve put it together again with such gaps between the panels that it has an odd, disjointed feel about it. They’ve saved the trees, the place’s best (read “only”) feature but there is no grass – merely large patches of ankle-height weeds, which are at least green.
It’s taken me a long while to work out exactly why I find this place so eerie – especially when it is SO visible and SO well-lit. Then it struck me – it’s the transformation itself that’s done it. There’s something deeply unhealthy about those low pools of street light – where anything can happen – where you could find yourself, not being able to see beyond the light into the darkness, swallowed up into some nightmarish vision – a parallel Universe of Doom.
If I were to walk in there might I reach some kind of mythical centre and disappear for ever into a dimensional timeshift bigger than the one in Cardiff? Could I one day actually witness an unsuspecting stranger walking through the park and suddenly disappear off the face of the earth or even spontaneously combust? I calm myself with the thought that no one would voluntarily walk into this trap.
I guess it’s possible that Glenister Green doesn’t exist at all – that it’s a hologram – hiding a portal to another world. Perhaps that mural is merely a cover for a control panel – press the sailor’s duffle bag and you’ll find yourself on the operating table of a visiting alien ship.
I find it hard to believe that anywhere as small, weedy and, well – visible – could be so sinister but somehow that place makes my blood run cold. And I can’t be alone in this – no one goes there. You might think it would be a meeting ground for the local youth – but even they steer clear. One of these days I will, saveloy in hand, lie in wait in Mr Fast Fry watching for unsuspecting mothers with pushchairs, men with dogs or teenagers with spraycans to walk into the Venus Flytrap that is Glenister Green. If I see them come out again, whole and un-gibbering, I will feel it is safe to venture in myself. If they disappear before my very eyes I will become a full-time conspiracy theorist and start staking out the Superloo next to the Cutty Sark. Only if I hear grating sounds and see a police box materialise under those halogen lamps I will relax.
Until then there is something deeply wrong down Woolwich Road. I intend to keep walking on the other side of the main road, well away from those innocent park railings and creepy pools of harsh neon light.
The post office opposite has just been refurbished – I am told there is to be a basement “internet café.” A likely story. It’s clearly the public front of the Greenwich branch of Torchwood monitoring the activity at Glenister Green.