Archive for April, 2014

Postboxes of Greenwich (4)

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Photo: Paul Trynka

Cor! Another treat for all you postie fans…

This one’s in Hyde Vale and yet another wall-box. Perhaps these are the hardest to remove (though the freestanders must weigh a fair bit…

Keep ‘em coming, folks!

Students and Civvies

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

When I was at college there were two distinct sorts of town. There were the students – and there were the regular people who lived in the town. We virtually never met. We lived side by side and I although don’t recall falling out with anyone (though there was a rather good day when I went round to my next door neighbour to warn them I was going to hold a party only to have her pre-empt me with an apology about the amount of noise they were making themselves) we didn’t interact.

Greenwich is a bit like that. We have a massive student population – the univeristy, several colleges, Trinity/Laban and various business-y type colleges that I can’t keep track of – but we seem to have very little connection with each other. It’s not that we actively avoid each other, we just don’t have much reason to connect.

This seems to be a shame. And Alex, who is president of the university Student Union, agrees. He says “I love Greenwich and students love greenwich. I’m keen to work on more community cohesion.”

I don’t really know what we can do together but it could be fun to start thinking about it. Alex is keen to encourage people to contact him if they have issues they wish to discuss or any questions (his email is but maybe we should start a discussion about this.

Any suggestions for groovy stuff we can do without either side looking like it’s doing an ‘outreach project’? Whatever it is, it needs to be through a genuine wish to get to know each other.

Market Plans

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Okay, then, what do we all think of the most recent plans for Greenwich Market? After the ghastly Hopkins proposals were vigorously fought against by everyone except Nick Raynsford (who permanently lost my respect for that one action – an MP should represent his people, not his outside interestes, however much they pay him in comparison to his MP’s salary – that’s the deal he takes on when he’s elected) I am delighted to say that the new brooms at Greenwich Hospital have finally seen (most of) what makes Greenwich unique and are working with that je ne sais quois (and the local population) rather than trying to mould the town into something it’s not.

Take a look at the plans if you haven’t seen them already.

I find it hard to come up with anything I’m going to man the barricades for this time.

Now of course it’s easy to blame Hopkins for the dreadful plans which would have seen cobbles ripped up, a gigantic ’boutique’ hotel and the destruction of the historic banana warehouse for glorified wheelie bins, but architects only respond to their clients’ briefs. The old guard at Greenwich Hospital wanted these things; Hopkins’ plans might have been horrid and out of place, but I don’t see them as the villains here. It was the old mob at Greenwich Hospital and Nick Raynsford who tried to impose this on us despite unanimous rejection from all areas of the council (not usually known for backbone) and various local pressurisers.

The new guys at Greenwich Hospital seem to have listened. Instead of that horrid roof, the nasty niche ‘stalls’ the vile hotel and the destruction of history, these plans appear to modernise without going too far. On what I can see here, I like it. The banana warehouse – beyond saving according to the last lot – will be restored, the service yard (I don’t ever remember it being called ‘Fry’s Court’ before but hey…) will be a new bit of market and the cobbles will be cleaned and re-set.

In fact my only concern (currently, until I think of something else…) is that I’m hoping the new retail space won’t be so big it starts to attract giant multinational chains. Greenwich Hospital: keep ‘em small, keep ‘em affordable and the quirky individuals that bring tourists and locals alike will keep them coming. You may get more up-front cash from a chain, but you’ll lose infinitely more. You’ve come this far – stick with the individual character of Greenwich and it will repay you.

All this gives me hope for another inappropriate proposal the other end of Greenwich. While I wouldn’t dream of mentioning Jospeh Kay’s market and. Sorry I’m starting this again so I can mention Telly Tubby Sainsburys in a different sentence, there is potential for another popular uprising over an unsuitable development to bear fruit.

I don’t care for IKEA but I can tolerate them in the right place – a giant shed, out of town, with easy access and easy parking. Greenwich Peninsula is not the right place – a few hundred yards from a major river crossing and a few yards from a major traffic blackspot.

There’s an anti-development head of steam building over this and if you fancy joining them they’ll be in the eco park that will be bulldozed if the plans go ahead this Saturday between 12.00pm and 2.00pm for a picnic and petition signing. It’s not hard to find – just go behind Sainsburys and you’ll see this lovely little spot:

This is what we're set to lose, folks...

If you can’t make the picnic but you want to find out more, their facebook page is here

Free Eucalyptus

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

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.

Post Boxes of Greenwich (3)

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

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…

Flatpacks and Fisticuffs

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

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.

Gen. Wolfe’s Stump

Friday, April 11th, 2014

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.

Postboxes of Greenwich (2)

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

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 Fox and Hounds Union…

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

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 ┬áthere 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.

Short Lets

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

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.