Archive for May, 2013

Alphabet of Greenwich (R)

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Should be like shooting the proverbial fish in a barrel today, folks with the letter R as our theme.

I’ll set you off with a few ideas

but generally I think we’ll have no problem with this one>

So, from Rotunda to Royal Hill,

Railway arches to Royal Teas

Let’s be having your Royal Greenwich ‘Rs’…

The Queen’s Paper House

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Okay – so I know this doesn’t look like a house and you know it doesn’t look like a house, but this is the University of Greenwich’s School of Architecture so you have to cut them some slack.

A paper landscape of real and fictitious structures constructed from paper and air, the Paper House is part of the London Festival of Architecture and looks, apparently, to underlying mathematical systems underpinning the Palladian and Modernist Villa. It’s a proposal for a giant inflatable structure as a temporary annex, extension and theatrical masque to Inigo Jones’s Queens House.

I’ll buy ‘temporary annex’ and ‘extension’. Not quite so sure that the concept of its being a ‘theatrical masque’ wears so well, though if they’d care to hold a theatrical masque inside it, I’ll go. Actually, I’m going anyway as the stuff that’s being organised looks really interesting.

No need to tell you where this 9X9X9m cube’s going to be, but you might like to know that it’s made from paper and 729m3 of air and will be full of said air between 11.0am and 4.00pm Friday 7th – Sunday 9th June.

The somewhat frustrating press release (on a non-interactive PDF – PR folks everywhere – JUST DON’T DO IT! CUT-AND-PASTE IS YOUR FRIEND!) fails to give a website where you can find more details about some amazing-looking events from the University, but after a lot of faff, I discovered that you can trawl through the Calendar for the London Festival of Archtiecture to find them.

I will just highlight one thing that looks very interesting and which you HAVE to book for (and sooner rather than later, ok?):

It’s a tour of the new buildings at Stockwell Street. 10 people at each of these times: 9.00, 10.00, 11.00 and 12.00, on Saturday 8th June, will get the opportunity to see the site, nose around what’s there so far and hear about what’s happening next. I’d quote the architects, Heneghan Peng, but I’ve had it with switching between documents for one day. To book, email

Okay, so I got out of the wrong side of the Phantom bed this morning, but seriously, this looks worth doing. Wade your way through the programme, there’s good stuff on.

A Secret Path

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

I’ve been trying for a week to think what I could usefully add to the hours of TV, yards of newspaper comment and terrabites of bloggery/tweeting about the terrible events in Woolwich a week ago today and have come to the conclusion that there is nothing I can add that doesn’t reiterate what has already been said. That wouldn’t just deepen the pain of a family, a town and a country in mourning.

So instead I thought I’d share with you a little path I found at the weekend when visiting a pal who’s just moved into a new flat at the Woolwich Academy (next time I visit I’ll take some pics for you, there are some really interesting old buildings – and some very dull new ones…) Perhaps it can bring a little joy in sad times.

Basically, if you take your bus of choice to Queen Elizabeth Hospital then walk a little further along away from Woolwich, past the car park, you’ll find a little wooded entrance, leading to a path heading east. You can follow the path through the woods right up into open common, knee-high in cow parsley and feeling for all the world somewhere that could be in the middle of the countryside.

Nobody seems to use it. My friend and I had the whole common to ourselves – there wasn’t a kid playing with a kite, a bloke walking a dog, a teenager sniffing glue, nothing. Just us. And it was wonderful.

If you follow the path across it comes out just by the Academy, but there are other paths that criss-cross, so you can choose your own adventure.

There’s a rather alarming headline on this week’s New’s Shopper about the state of Woolwich Common after its moment in the spotlight last year at the Olympics.

I’m not for a moment pretending that LOCOG – or whoever their clean-up guys are – have not seriously neglected this area of the common. I guess it just goes to show that the major fuss individuals, groups and the council made about insisting Greenwich Park was put back properly was justified. With only the MOD to look after Woolwich Common there are parts of it that still look like ploughed fields.

I went over to take a look and while, frankly, the News Shopper is slighty exaggerating, it’s still much more of a mess than it should be.

But with all the awful stuff that has been going on in Woolwich I wanted to show that not everything is grim in the place. There is sweetness and peace to be found.

BTW if you click on the long thin image at the top you’ll see what a marvellous view there is to be had..

Trees For All

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Anyone who reads this blog even occasionally will know that I’m a bit of a fan of Greenwich’s (sadly diminishing) tree population and am usually spending column pixels complaining about the loss of yet more mature specimens in the ever-increasing march by developers to cover every inch of the town in teeny-tiny concrete boxes.

So it’s rather refreshing to hear that someone’s planning to actually plant some trees. The London Parks & Green Spaces Forum have plans to plant 10,000 street trees across London and they’re currently talking to local groups (in this case the Greenwich Society) about where specicfically to do this.

I would love to see Greenwich getting her (do we think of Greenwich as a ‘her’ or a ‘his’? Hmmm….) share of the forestry, so today I’m asking for suggestions for public locations and streets where a few new trees wouldn’t go amiss. I’d love to see some of the varieties that get really big – much like the ones that are being removed just now (gnash, gnash…) but councils and utilities companies tend to put the kibosh on them. Frankly I’ll just settle for lovely native species.

I’ll pass your suggestions onto Franklin from the Greenwich Soc and local tree man Capability Bowes – though I suspect they’ll both be chipping-in anyway…

Alphabet of Greenwich (Q)

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Tough on for the Bank Holiday weekend. Once you’ve gone through everything with ‘Queen’ in it:

it all gets a lot tougher. I guess there’s

And for that matter

but apart from that – well – it’s going to be a rainy weekend, apparently. Plenty of time for thinking caps to be donned…

Rose’s Bench

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

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.


Wednesday, May 22nd, 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…

Keeping the Spark Alive

Monday, May 20th, 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?

Aston Martin Concours d’Etat

Monday, May 20th, 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…

Parklets Hiding in Plain Sight (4)

Friday, May 17th, 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.