Archive for the ‘Green Greenwich’ Category

A Quiet Corner

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

I know I bang on about gardens a lot, but let’s face it, if you can’t bang on about gardens in the sunshine in June when can you?

This lovely little corner has been created from a nasty mess left by the removal of a telephone box – if you remember The Call Box of Shame. Presumably so few people used it BT just got rid of it.

It’s still a bit of an eyesore – that paint on the wall’s a bit nasty:

but the guerilla gardener(s) of Dinsdale Road/Vanbrugh Hill have done their darnedest and it’s charming.

Thank you, whoever you are.

Secret Gardens

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Hands up if you recognise this garden. If you do, congratulate yourself. You have immersed yourself in Greenwich well enough to confidently enter the Phantom Pub Quiz (if it existed, which sadly it doesn’t…) and you will have almost certainly met one of the town’s most fascinating characters. (scroll to the bottom for two more…)

If you’re still scratching your head, worry not. Your chance will come. Every other year, St Alfege’s church restoration fund holds a magnificent Open Gardens Scheme where fabulous back yards are opened for one weekend only.

2014 is an ‘off year’ though and I was a bit deflated – until I got an email from Greenwich and Bexley Coomunity Hospice about THEIR weekend which is Glorious Greenwich Gardens and then some…

I am staggered by the amount of gardens open next weekend (15th & 16th June) and, unlike the St Alfege one which is fantastic but only (generally) within the Parish, this one covers a much, much wider area.

The visits are in ‘clusters’ – in West Greenwich, Blackheath, Eltham Park and Charlton and frankly, I don’t know where to tell you to start. There’s no way you could enjoy all these gardens (I guess you could SEE them all, but not enjoy them…) but you can have a good go.

Maybe G&BCH could create a ‘passport’ so people can collect all the gardens over the years??? Being a kid at heart there’s nothing this Phantom enjoys more than a little booklet and a rubber stamp…

It’s fantastic value – £3 a garden – but £10 for an unlimited ‘festival ticket’.

St Alfege’s is still the best if you just want to see Greenwich Gardens – but hey – if these two worthy projects can do alternate years, then we don’t have to choose.

There is one other project on next weekend, in the same vein, that you must not miss.

You’ll need to squeeze in, alongside all those other gardens, the fabulous riverside corner at Ballast Quay. Designed and built by Hilary Peters in the 1960s, she’ll be there, as will be sculpture by Brian Greaves, the blacksmith who lives on a boat and and Kevin Herlihy who designed and built the Foot & Mouth Memorial, home made teas by the neighbours and an exhibition of Ballast Quay history in THAT shed.

And for anyone interested in Lovell’s Wharf there will be a rare opportunity to snaffle a copy of Mary Mills’s new pamphlet on the history of the immediate area. It’s not actually available anywhere else at the moment, so get your backside over to Ballast Quay if you want one.

The event is from 10.00am to 5.00pm on Saturday and Sunday (my advice: go there before the Greenwich & Bexley Hospice shindig in the afternoon).

And if that isn’t enoug open gardens for one weekend, you can always travel further afield to Open Garden Squares, throughout South East London the same couple of days…

What’s I hear you gardeners saying about ‘feast and famine’?

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.

UPDATE:

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.

Tree Felling in Greenwich Town Centre – and Greenwich Park…

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Sorry folks – a depressing one today. I bring you, courtesy of Rod, a set of grim pictures of Bardsley Green, which is about to be green for not much longer…

After a long fight, the developers are moving in after all.

I’ve lost track of the scope of the demolition – whether we are to lose Up the Creek Comedy venue completely or just everything but the front – I suspect we won’t see that thinking chap sitting on the bog much longer if it’s to be luxury flats…

…or whether the delightfully eccentric Greenwich Bookplace and its equally delightfully eccentric owner will finally be homeless.


I seem to remember the Lord Hood is safe now…

But if anyone can fill me in on exactly what’s going on, I’d be grateful. I sometimes wonder whether one of the most powerful weapons in developers’ armory is to string everything out and make things so confusing locals just get confuddled and give up.

In the meanwhile I also hear that there’s a planning application going through at the moment that will allow St Mary’s Lodge Cafe just inside the gates of Greenwich Park to start selling alcohol.

I confess that I don’t personally have a big issue with enjoying a nice glass of wine on a summer’s day in the park and I disagree that it’s going to lead to any more drunken disruption in the park than might already happen given the number of straightforward pubs in the area – if you really want to get tanked before you go through the park gates you only need to cross the road (and I can’t see that the drink on sale in the cafe is going to be anything other than the usual overpriced fare on sale in Greenwich Park venues) – but what concerns residents is that the application also makes provision for after-hours drinking for private events which would involve security staff at the gates etc. They’re concerned that the noise will be intrusive.

I’ve heard rumour that the park keeper is planning to clear away trees and shrubs there – presumably to increase the drinking area so it looks as though Royal Parks is supportive of the plan. I am assuming that the trees and shrubs concered aren’t going to be fabulous specimens given the way they did actually protect important trees during the Olympics, but I’d be keen to be sure of that and if they include those amazing limes that smell so heavenly every May/June I’ll erect the barricades myself.

I shall be interested to see how Greenwich Council deal with this application. I know they’ve been turning down applications in the centre of town because of potential disruption and disorder – I wonder if they’ll be dazzled by the gilding on those park gates and give the Park itself special treatment…

There’s only a week to object (if you do) but although I have seen the application I can’t find it on Greenwich Council’s website and I don’t have time to attach it as a PDF. If you want to know more email me and I’ll pass you onto the residents who are organising objections.

Signs of Change…

Monday, March 10th, 2014

…that are for once welcome. After the grimness of my thoughts on the future of the theatre (which still loom dark in my mind) Stephen’s daffs have cheered me up on this bright morning.

Still ridiculously busy, but hope to be properly blogging again soon.

The Kairos Project Garden

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

I know nothing more about the Kairos Project than its poster on the side of one of the beds tells us – that it’s part of a collaboration with the pain management department of the Vanbrugh health centre next door – but I love the joyful little garden the group have created and have been watching it as it’s gone through the seasons this year.

Even now, when most places are beginning to look a bit on the sad side, there are bright cosmos, cabbages, carrots, nasturtiums and bamboos. I love it and recommend a little trip up Vanbrugh Hill to enjoy it while you still can.

While I’m talking about enjoying things while you can, take a look at the building too. I am possibly alone in loving this 1976 Aztec Gem. Certainly Pevsner is very sniffy about it: “an ugly A-Frame with forceful raking struts.” But I’ve grown to love the Vanbrugh Health Centre. If it was just given a little TLC it could really shine as something unusual and special. As it is, it is to go, and I’m sad about that.

Favourite Front Gardens (17)

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Photo Mike Purdy

Haven’t had a Favourite Front Gardens for ages. This is for several reasons – the weather in the last 18 months has been god-awful, people haven’t been inspired to create gorgeous greenery in their gardens and I confess I haven’t been inspired to see it. But Mike reminded me of a chap that goes that extra rod every year.

I’ve often walked through Gloucester Circus and wondered which side I’d like to live – the ‘posh side’ but with the view of the 1960s flats out of the window – or the flats – with the posh view.

With this particular apartment, the smart side gets the best of both worlds – this guy comes up, every year, with fabulous display that lifts even a Phantom’s spirits and this year he’s outdone himself. It takes a huge amount of work to keep container plants like this – especially in the kind of temperatures we’re enjoying just now. It’s not just the watering several times a day, it’s the sheer logistics of lugging soil upstairs and having to pot stuff up in such a small space.

But he’s done it and he does it every year.

No idea who he is but I tip my tricorn to him on behalf of everyone who’s cheered up by the sight of jolly bedding in giant hanging baskets.

Photo: Mike Purdy

Water Turn Off

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Photo: Graham Dolan

One of the most common things that crops up in the Phantom Postbag is the ‘water feature’ in Cutty Sark Gardens which, frankly, has to be one of the least-exciting fountains in the universe. Most of the time it looks like the photo above, but on high days and holidays it occasionally gets some fluid in it. Here it is in full, glorious, gushing flow:

Photo: Jeremy Eaton

Now I absolutely love fountains, water features, cascades, waterfalls – anything to do with decorative, tinkling ornamental displays. I always thought that given the choice I’d go for a water feature every time but this is not what I expected when they said we were getting one at Cutty Sark Gardens. I knew it wouldn’t be Versailles but I did expect SOME water.

When I walked past the other day with a visitor, which must have been the same day Jeremy took his pic, my pal thought there was a leak somewhere. Except, of course, water main leaks actually have some poke to them and given past experience last longer than a few hours.

Trouble is, when the thing’s switched off, it leaves weird lumps, bumps and cracks in the pavement, which some have complained is a trip-hazard. The council’s answer to potential court-cases is to cordon it off with scruffy bits of tape and a few metal fences. Classy.

Photo: Graham Dolan

Personally I don’t buy the trip-hazard thing, being a Phantom that believes in individuals actually taking responsibility for their own safety, but really – is this the best Greenwich could do for its shop window? Cutty Sark Gardens cost a packet and though I do like the little bits of greenery they’ve dotted around the place, I find myself wondering if the whole is really much better than what it replaced – and whether that water feature was worth bothering with at all.