Archive for the ‘Green Greenwich’ Category
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
If you’ve walked along Old Woolwich Road, opposite the garage and auction rooms, you will prabably have ‘zoned out’ the ghastly little strip of nothing that runs along the outside of Stone interiors’ yard. It’s been like it for years (though I do vaguely remember mosaic made from broken stone a few years ago – maybe ten? I could be mistaken…)
In the spirit of Guerilla gardening, though perhaps a tad more official, a few E.Greenwich residents have decided to do something about this dreary little strip of rubbish, dog-poo and fly-tippery, and make it into a micro-garden. Stone Interiors will be donating some stone to make it all nice…
Ian, who told me about the project, has got some local big-hitters to contribute – Greenwich Parks, the garden design course at the University and, of course, our own Mary Mills, and they’ve got to the initial design stage (personally I’d just build a raised bed and stick some flowers and a few veg in – but what do I know…)
If you’d like to be involved, the design workshop will be on the 22nd June, at the stone yard. The room they’ll be in only fits a limited number of people so if you fancy joining, let Ian know – either by emailing him on email@example.com or calling 077125 86923.
I have been noticing teeny-tiny gardens turning up all over the place in East Greenwich. My favourite is at Westcombe Park Station where, at the moment, there is a profusion of wild strawberry flowers, but later on will turn into what is essentially a herbaceous border. I don’t know who does it, but I tip my tricorn to the Ooompa-Loompas that come out in the dead of night and make little corners of Greenwich a little bit more beautiful.
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..
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…
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.
At last it’s open. Yet another secret garden of Greenwich is revealed. I took these photos just a couple of weeks ago on the first official day of opening for what we must now call The Queen’s Orchard (formerly the Dwarf Orchard, which was, frankly comical) in the north-east corner of Greenwich Park, but anyone would have thought I took them a couple of months ago, so fit-to-burst were all the trees and flowers – this was probably the first day of ‘nice’ and since then it’s all gone mad, even if the weather’s still a bit iffy.
We’ve been watching – or rather not watching this project for years now. The tiny, secret sliver of land that even people who knew it was there forgot it was there. High walls, dense greenery and a quiet part of the park, lurking behind the kiddies’ playground, meant that we were intrigued, but left almost completely in the dark, save for a few grainy pics sent to me by kindly phantophiles living in Park Vista…
What we’re seeing here is the bare bones of what will be a stunning garden. Still pleasingly wild in parts, it’s like seeing a beautiful princess in her knickers, just before she puts on the gown to be the belle of the ball. Volunteers and park gardeners have cleared the ghastly sycamore weed-trees and thick undergrowth to reveal what was left of the little formal garden.
Sadly that’s very little – any landscaping is pretty much long-gone, though there is a fabulous (and very elderly) mulberry tree which, come to think of it, I didn’t see when I went a couple of weeks ago. I can’t believe it’s not there; I must have been too busy looking at everything else.
They have done a lovely job with the old well that was unearthed. Personally I preferred the first wrought iron well cover that artist Heather Burrell came up with but this one is very fine indeed and when it mellows in and stops looking quite so ‘new’ it’s going to be lovely.
In fact you could say that about pretty much all of the new park – it’s just very ‘new.’ The delightful rounded pond with its high, brick raised beds, the pristine ogee-shaped arches, still naked, the fabulous wooden railway-sleeper style raised veg beds – it all looks a bit clean and fresh – which is hardly a surprise given that it is.
Ditto the lovely wild bit with the re-planted dwarf fruit trees that gave the orchard its former name – they’re young, cute, local and with ancient ancestry but a bit on the stark side. Give it all a couple of years though and this is going to be one of my favourite corners of the park. In the meanwhile it’s a delight to be able to watch it develop.
The park is currently open between 1.00pm and 3.00pm on Sundays – though I found that to be a generous estimate – no one seemed to be in a hurry to chuck anyone out. The gardener I talked with told me that they’re planning to stretch the opening hours gradually throughout the coming months.
I need to go back now there are actual leaves on actual trees.
Okay – I know that sounds a bit dramatic, especially when I tell you that what I’m telling you to clear your diary for is a set of open gardens, but stay with me. I have my reasons. This is for all Greenwich lovers, gardeners or not.
St Alfege’s parishioners ran this project a couple of years ago, to raise funds for the ever-burgeoning restoration costs of a 300 year-old church. Over a couple of Sundays around a dozen gardens in West Greenwich were open to the public in exchange for cash (and not a lot of cash at that.)
As a fan of beautiful gardens and as even more of a fan of nosing around other people’s back gardens (why else do you think I run the Rear Window section?) I was in there like the proverbial Flynn – it was in Parish News – hopefully a few of you managed to make it too.
If you did you will know what I am speaking about. Each of the gardens is exquisite in its own way – and June is a wonderful time to see them. They range from the lavishly formal – a particular favourite is the Manor House at the top of Crooms Hill (see above) – and the exquisitely bijou (see the delightfully narrow, be-mirrored jewel at 27 Maidstone Hill, which comes complete with the fanciest chickens I’ve ever seen…) through to marvellous, unexpected jungles. I am deeply intrigued by one that opening this year described as “Dangerously steep and thorny terraced garden, entered at the visitor’s own risk”.
There is even genuine woodland – Westcombe Woodlands at Maze Hill will enjoy a rare opening – worth seeing for so many reasons – not least to nose around what all the fuss was over a few years ago. It’s also a real pleasure to enter as you have to go through someone’s garden, a secret, quietly-landscaped series of nooks, on several levels and a joy in itself.
There are so many brilliant gardens open I don’t have time to describe them all, but I promised something for all Greenwich lovers, gardeners or not. There is one house you MUST see.
Number 14 Crooms Hill is a gem in every single respect. As nutty as it is historic, as exuberant as it is lavish, as eccentric as it is joyful, as mysterious as it is ever so slightly creepy, this deceptively large confection leads out to a deceptively larger and delightfully unkempt back garden. I won’t even begin to try to describe Ann Broadbent’s extraordinary home – I will just say that if you don’t go on one of her tours of the house you will sincerely regret it later. This is an example of Greenwich at its secretive best. Go. Just go.
Sold yet? Then scrawl Sundays 2 and 9th June, 2-5pm in your diaries. You’ll need both dates as different places are open on each day.
Break open your piggy banks to get the money required – a whopping £3 per garden or £10 for the lot on a single day. Just pay the tenner. I’m telling you now, you’ll need to see them all – pay at the first garden you visit. It’s worth bringing a bit more money too, as there’s tea and cake to be had at some venues.
I have forgotten how to attach PDFs (well, okay, I wrote down the instructions wrong) so I’m going to copy the details here for you, with the descriptions by the owners in italics.
Seriously – you need to go to this one…
Sunday 2nd June:
1. Tim and Patricia Barnes, The White House, Crooms Hill, SE10 8HH TEAS
A walled garden laid out when the house belonged to the Astronomer Royal. Lots of climbers, good-sized lawn and flowers planted in a rather haphazard but hopefully cottagey way. And a mulberry tree as old as the house.
2. Ian and Susan Pawlby, 22 West Grove Lane, SE10 8QP WINE
Come and explore a hidden garden in a hidden lane.
3. Jane Custance Baker and Peter Gingold, 51 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QQ
Dangerously steep and thorny terraced garden entered at the visitor’s own risk. Designed to be viewed from the house, the owner and inept gardener will do house tours to show the exceptionally varied and challenging site from different (and safe) vantage points.
4. Ann Broadbent, 14 Crooms Hill, SE10 8ER
A very large and peaceful garden, it contains nothing much except wonderful mature trees including a plane as big as the ones in Berkeley Square. Tours of the house, which is much more interesting, are also on offer.
5. Susan and Jimmy Gaston, 119 Maze Hill, SE10 8XQ TEAS
North-east facing garden lying under Vanbrugh Castle; raised beds with shrubs, a pergola covered in Albertine and Brides Veil roses, and a beautiful dovecote as the centre piece.
6. Alan Bartlett and Simon Gallie, 27 Maidenstone Hill, SE10 8SY TEAS
This narrow hillside garden forms part of Point Hill and features some of Alan’s RHS medal-winning garden items as well as his chickens. There are many unusual plants in the garden. Due to the many steps, slopes and limited accessibility of this garden, it may not be suitable for people requiring walking assistance.
7. Westcombe Woodlands, Lasseter Place (off Vanbrugh Hill), SE3 7UX
A contrast to other gardens, this is mature woodland, hidden away from the public eye, but recently improved to be a better wildlife habitat. There are wild bulbs and newly-planted fruit trees, but today there is simply access to a small clearing and a winding path with nest and bat boxes – and views towards Canary Wharf.
Sunday 9th June:
1. Clare and Mark Hatcher, 41 Gloucester Circus, SE10 8RY PIMMS
A walled garden in a late Georgian terrace, the garden comprises formal elements with herbaceous borders, a beech hedge and a woodland garden under a horse chestnut tree.
2. Penny and David Matheson, 30 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QH PIMMS
The garden of an 1830s tea-caddy house with a lawn in front and, behind, two shallow flower-filled terrace beds backed by rose-covered arches through which one sees a round lawn surrounded by a stone path and banks of shrubs, ivy and large trees.
3. Teresa and Jonathan Sumption, The Manor House, Crooms Hill, SE10 8HG
A large garden standing on the edge of the hill comprising two small formal gardens, a flower garden surrounded by trellis and pleached apple trees divided by a parterre of lavender, and a sunken garden with a geometrical box parterre planted with herbs.
4. Caroline and Richard Newton Price, 3 Hyde Vale, SE10 8QQ TEAS
New garden, old garden, tea and cake.
5. Geoff and Paula Nuttall, 124 King George Street, SE10 8PX
A small, south-facing walled garden that can be entered by a side gate.
6. John and Helene Mitchell, 4 Orchard Drive, SE3 0QP
Views from the house (wisteria and jasmine) and rear terrace (camellias) lead, via the croquet lawn and yew hedge, to the orchard (apples, pears, plums and quince) and a wild area (silver birch, oak and walnut).