Winking Through the Chink

Thou Wall, O Wall, O sweet and lovely Wall,
Show me thy chink to blink through with mine eyne!

With all the hoo-ha about the Olympics it’s been very easy to miss the other thing that has been happening quietly in a once-forgotten part of Greenwich Park.

Michael took the photo above a little while before the games, through a gap in the  wall, that will soon have a rather snazzy gate in it. There’s a path leading to it now, and you can sneak a peek through the fence (Michael clearly poked his camera through the holes to get this pic) and see what they’re doing to the old well.

In fact it’s coming on apace – here’s a picture Jeremy took last week, through the same chink in the wall:

Dunno about you but it’s not quite what I was expecting, (I think I had an actual little orchard in my mind and this is looking rather ‘produced’) but it looks fun and I’m assuming they’re basing it on what was there once.

I saw a copy of the Friends of Greenwich Park Newsletter (I forget where, and I can’t find it again for you as they only put the front page on the website) where they had two drawings, one of the design for a new wrought iron gate (with a deer on it, if memory serves) which I quite liked and the Friends really liked, the other for a fancy wrought iron cover for the well-head, which I liked, but the Friends sent back for redesign.

Michael asked me if I know when it’s going to be open. Of course I don’t. I’ve no idea. But it’s looking pretty finished now – it can’t be long.

Anyone here know?

PS I’ve just realised that I’m guilty of assuming that everyone’s an old Phantonian and knows what we’re talking about. We’ve talked about the Dwarf Orchard on so many occasions I didn’t bother to say what it is.

Basically, it’s in the North East corner of the park, running parallel to Park Vista. You’ve almost certainly walked past it and not even been aware it’s there as there’s a high wall running along it on both sides – the street and the park, and it’s easy to assume that the two walls are one. In fact there’s a sliver of land in between them that used to be part of the formal gardens of the palace. For many, many years it was completely forgotten, and left to get totally overgrown and full of weed trees, but over the past few years it’s been quietly coming back to life – the original secret garden. It has an old well, some of the original plantings and an ancient Mulberry that’s survived 300-odd years. I can’t wait to see it.


the attachments to this post:

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dwarf orchard jeremy 2 low

dwarf orchard jeremy 4 low
dwarf orchard jeremy 4 low

dwarf orchard jeremy 4
dwarf orchard jeremy 4

dwarf orchard michael
dwarf orchard michael


14 Comments to “Winking Through the Chink”

  1. Do NOGOE approve? (LOL)

    Slight redefinition of terms here Phant: that’s no well, that’s a dipping pool. Basically a reservoir (sometimes filled by a stream or piped watercourse) with steps down into it so while watering the garden you can refill your watering can by dunking it in and not having to fill it from a tap.

    I think a well is filled by a deep-level watercourse and you lower a bucket down into it by means of a windlass and then you fill your container from the bucket. Never quite understood how one manages to ensure that the bucket actually goes below the level of the water so you don’t end up bringing it back up empty. Answers on a postcard?

  2. I’m not 100% certain but I think the thing you see in the pic may not be the well itself. Certainly there is/was a real well there – workmen told me it was 30 (might have been 50) metres deep. I believe it’s been filled in which I think is a shame. Surely covering it would have been good enough to stop accidents.

  3. Chris says:

    Thanks GP but it certainly is a forgotten corner….where is it?! North, south etc?

    Well, well (sorry, hat, coat etc).

  4. Capability Bowes says:

    Ah. Suppose its entirely possible that the conical bit in the middle is the cover of the well then. I assumed that there was a round enclosing wall, part of which was steps. Maybe my PC isnt showing me the entire picture. Of course, it wouldnt be able to hold water if there wasnt a retaining wall all round.

    Shut up, CB……

  5. Franklin says:

    About half of the dwarf orchard is indeed planted as, erm, orchard – the western half between the mulberry and the western boundary wall. Native fruit trees, I believe.

    And I *think* that the well you can see is the original one, with a brick lip built up three or four courses high, on top of which the wrought iron well-head is to sit (?).

    What makes you think the well was filled in Phant? I had really been looking forward to seeing this (www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/docs/Dwarf_Orchard_Archaeology_report%5B1%5D.pdf bottom of page 26) for myself – hope ‘elf and safety hasn’t buggered it up!

  6. Sorry Chris – I’m guilty of assuming that everyone’s an old Phantonian – we’ve talked about the Dwarf Orchard on so many occasions.

    Basically, it’s in the North East corner of the park, running parallel to Park Vista. You’ve almost certainly walked past it and not even been aware it’s there as there’s a high wall running along it on both sides – the street and the park, and it’s easy to assume that the two walls are one. In fact there’s a sliver of land in between them that used to be part of the formal gardens of the palace. For many, many years it was completely forgotten, and left to get totally overgrown and full of weed trees, but over the past few years it’s been quietly coming back to life – the original secret garden.

  7. Franklin says:

    Sorry, “heritage” fruit trees. From the Spring 2011 edition of Grass Roots, the Park’s newsletter:

    “On 16 March [2011] staff and volunteers at Greenwich Park joined representatives from local organisations to plant the new Dwarf Orchard near the children’s playground. … blah blah blah … Most of the new trees are heritage varieties of apples, pears, cherries and plums.”

  8. Franklin, I’d be delighted to be wrong about that. I was walking by one day last year when the gates were open and the workers said I could have a peek at the space (it was at a very early stage) He told me they were going to fill it in. Of course, that could have been overturned and nothing would delight me more. I can’t tell from Michael and Jeremy’s pics about the trees – but that’s good news.

  9. Franklin, I’d be delighted to be wrong about that. I was just walking by one day last year when the gates were open and the workers said I could have a peek at the space (it was at a very early stage) One told me they were going to fill it in. Of course, that original plan could have been overturned and nothing would delight me more. I can’t tell from Michael and Jeremy’s pics about the trees – but that’s good news.

  10. Franklin says:

    Oh no! :-( I was SO looking forward to peering down “9-10 metres” to see if I could espy myself a lesser spotted park troll…

    Hang on – there has to be at least a bit of ‘depth’ left, else why would the Park and Friends have commissioned that ornate wrought iron cover? It would be a bit silly to have a cover for a fully filled-in well.

    Oh well, we’ll soon see I guess. I’ve contacted the Friends to see if they know when it’s going to be opened to the public, will let you know what I learn. I suspect it’s dependent on getting the well-cover and gate in place.

  11. Well, admittedly it was just some workman telling me it was being filled in, and it was before that report came out – as I say, it could just be wrong.

    I would love to have it to its full 30 metre depth.

    And it could be a money-spinner – for some reason people love to throw coins into wells. All those pennies add up as I’m sure the authorities in charge of the Trevi fountain will tell you.

  12. Franklin says:

    Ooh ooh ooh! I went back to take a look at the 2009 planning application for the Dwarf Orchard and found that there have been two recent applications – one for the reopening of the gateway, approved in May, and the Submission of Details Pursuant application that was approved just over a week ago.

    The design and access statement for both states:

    “A buried well discovered during the archaeological investigations will be uncovered, cleaned, repaired and made safe. A new stepped gravel path to match existing paths will provide pedestrian access to the well and a new grill cover will be designed in conjunction with the entrance gates to prevent access and objects being thrown in. A low retaining wall will provide opportunity to sit beside the well.”

    Hopefully “made safe” in this instance does not mean “filled with dirt”.

    And the brick cone at the top is original. “Existing well to be exposed and cleaned, top 3no. courses of bricks
    only. Repairs to well as per
    engineers specification.”

    For anybody as spoddy as me – applications numbers are 12/0303/F and 12/1641/SD. The latter includes the (lovely) designs for the gate and well cover.

  13. Cool – thanks Franklin – just looked it up. I think that’s the well cover the Friends didn’t like. I do though…