Archive for the ‘Greenwich Park Olympics Equestrian events’ Category

The Green, Green Acid Grass…

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

I’m a bit disturbed by a little piece in Private Eye this week.

It basically claims that the Sports Turf Research Institute (sounds grand enough, doesn’t it…) who was put in charge of reinstating the grass in Greenwich Park after the Olympic Equestrian events did sow a special mix of seed suitable for acid soil over in the west of the park, but despite being told by Natural England not to water the soil with alkaline mains water (anyone who’s got a kettle round here will know just how alkaline that is…) they proceeded to do so for weeks on end and consequently nothing at all grows there.

The watering was, apparently, approved by Jeremy Hunt who was culture secretary at the time.

PI also claims a ‘surfactant’ (whatever that is) that contains chemicals that killed every living thing to a depth of a metre was also applied. I can’t imagine why they’d do that, but hey, that’s what it says. Traces will apparently hang around for 50 years.

Now, generally, I think that the Park’s come back together pretty nicely – it’s looking utterly gorgeous at the moment.  But Private Eye reckons ‘a lot of turf still needs to be reinstated at the foot of the park‘ – I haven’t actually noticed that; I thought it was all done and dusted down the bottom.

But this is about the acid grassland. PI says that ‘campaigner Rachael Mawhood (from NOGOE – TGP) has sent Natural England photos she took last month of the track on which nothing now grows.’

I was shaken by this so, for once – and I’m not known for verifying my facts before I write about things – I decided to take a peek myself.

TBH I couldn’t find anything much wrong at all. The acid grassland looks gloriously golden and Autumnal, speckled with hawthorn and rowans laden with berries, chestnuts laden with – well, chestnuts and a whole bunch of parakeets waiting to pounce on all of them before the humans get there.

I didn’t really see much bare soil at all – though of course I could have missed that particular bit – I’d be keen to see photographic evidence of bare soil. Some of it was a bit scrubby:

What I did see, though, was this:

Trouble is, I can’t remember the exact route the course took. If it was up here, past Knife Edge (which is also looking good just now) then there is an area in amongst the acid grassland that is just bog-standard turf – which would indicate that if it has been watered with ordinary water, the acid-loving plants have died, leaving just ordinary grass.

Can anyone remember if the course actually covered this area, or if the boring grass has just encroached over the years?

If it is a recent thing I guess  it might be worth scrubbing it up again, re-sowing with acid-loving plant seed and hoping the rains come before it all gets too far gone but I get the feeling this is quite old.

There’s still a fair amount of acid-grassland  and it does look wonderful just now. Shame those poor old Anglo Saxon tumuli get flatter every year…

First Decent Day of Spring…

Monday, April 15th, 2013

…in the middle of April. Just look at those trees – still bare as February.


But as Mike snapped, around 2.15 yesterday, on the first day we actually got into reasonable temperatures, it became clear the new turf is holding up and looking good. It’s taken a little while (thought frankly no less time than I’d expect) but the park’s looking good. In fact I’d say  there was more long term damage done by the tobogganeers during the snow than the Olympics (those Giant Steps are definitely less giant these days…) I didn’t think I’d be saying that this time last year. I am very, very glad to have been wrong.

Collect ‘Em All

Friday, August 10th, 2012

When I said this about the Shot Put installation Gifts From the Olympic Gods (using the spelling on the work’s title, CB ;-) ) outside Discover Greenwich, I knew it was part of a set, but for some reason I expected the pieces to be different.

But I was in Sloane Square yesterday (don’t ask…) and found its twin:

This made me actually look up the work, and I discovered you really can collect ‘em all (if you have absolutely nothing else in your life).

You can concentrate on looking at large metal-alike balls fallen from the sky (I like the broken concrete, as though Zeus himself threw it from Mt Olympus), or branch out to javelins or bows and arrows.

Or you could just sit and watch the tall ships go by of an evening. Honestly – I waited for bloomin’ hours in the midday sun for that flotilla a week or so ago (doesn’t it feel like forever?) and got nothing but sunstroke, when all I needed to do was sit with a pint at the Cutty Sark of a warm summer evening and watch the whole lot go by…

It’s going to be a great weekend, folks.

Empty Market

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Glad to see that BBC London have picked up on the rubbish way Greenwich has been laid out for visitors. True – they can get very easily from the station to the venue without real bother, and I guess that’s an achoevement of sorts – but the flip side is that they don’t have to come in contact with Greenwich itself at all.

It’s hardly surprising with whopping great barriers like this that no one’s going to the market – if they know there’s a market/ interesting shops there at all they’ll probably assume it’s all closed or something, especially with the cheery foam-handed stewards waving them through in a ‘nothing to see here’ kind of way.

I can’t say it’s a bad atmosphere – even spectacularly failing yesterday by taking my bike into town at 5.30pm (I know, whatever was I thinking) I was surrounded by happy people (both spectators and volunteers) who had spent all day in the sun and by rights should be grumpy by that point. In fact it’s an excellent atmosphere – it’s just damn hard to get to the market even if you’re actively trying.

I’m willing to bet that a large proportion of event goers didn’t even know about the market. So we need to make a fuss, make a visit and dig into our pockets, folks.

On a similar thread, I’ve been down the past couple of days planning to eat out locally at least a few times over the ‘Lympic period (in the places that haven’t raised their prices, natch) and I have to say that yesterday evening absolutely everywhere was full, even the places I wouldn’t piss on if they were burning, but I suspect that once the Equestrian events are over the tumbleweed may blow back in if us locals don’t get out and at least have a go.

So, I’m collecting a list of places that haven’t put up prices. I know Inside haven’t, and Kum Luang (where I ended up last night because I’d thought they were empty only to find them as full as everywhere else) but where else hasn’t put prices up?

Just Where Do We Stand?

Monday, July 30th, 2012

I’ve just had a comment in my last post that I felt needed addressing as a separate post, as I suspect everyone on here will have a view and it may well not be my own. That’s okay. That’s what debate is for.

Park Keeper said:

“I don’t mind the park being closed…..” (quoting TGP)

“…..view of a park-loving local?”

Make up your phantom mind!

Just what do you care about and what would you protect? Fenced in Disneyland or open to all park and precious but fragile World Heritage Site?

Like many others can’t wait to see the back of Coe and all this half arsed chaos.”

Park keeper – like many people I have watched what has been going on, listened to what everyone – on all sides – has to say and gradually adjusted my feelings about this event as facts change, concessions are made, goalposts are moved and realities faced.

Seven years ago, when the park was first mooted as a venue I was apoplectic because I genuinely thought that LOCOG could not be trusted to keep the park in the kind of condition that Greenwich deserves. I still don’t think that without being forced, it could have been.

I was absolutely sure that holding the event there wasn’t the right thing to do and, yes, I backed the people trying to stop it.

I feel that something really good came out of that campaign, even if it was not what many of those people actually wanted.

What they – and various amenity groups, friends, Parks officials, council etc. – got was far more positive than just cancelling the equestrian events.

What has happened, through negotiation, compromise and actually listening to people, is that we get a games that will look fantastic, be good in the long-term, if not in the short, for Greenwich, hasn’t lost any ancient trees, has avoided the really delicate areas and that has a genuine commitment to put the park right afterwards.

Of course I am concerned to see that this commitment is honoured and I am not entirely without worries on that account. It’s up to all of us to ensure that LOCOG and their legacy-based successor (the name escapes me) does do the right thing.

And yes, there is a tonne of stuff that I’m not wild about to do with the games coming here. I don’t like the fortress the town has turned into. I don’t like the petty power-mongers in hi-viz vests who are ordering people around. I don’t like that the heath is going to be a right old mess. I don’t like…well, I could write another thousand things I don’t care for about the games being here.

But there comes a point where we have to be realistic about something that will happen anyway whether we like it or not and there is much that I DO like about the games being on my doorstep, not least the thing that yes, I pooh-poohed seven years ago – the way the thing looks on TV.

The brave thing is to get behind it, enjoy the bits that are enjoyable, highlight the bits that need scrutiny and judge everything on its own merits rather than taking one hard line or other and sticking to it despite whatever other evidence might be presented.

None of anything I’ve just said even here is set in stone. It’s entirely possible that my opinions will change again. I don’t see why I should ‘make my mind up’ for once and all on a subject that changes with the wind.

What do I care about? Greenwich, of course, but not at the expense of sanity.

The Big One

Monday, July 30th, 2012

So – today’s the day it all happens – Greenwich Park gets its moment of glory and is either ruined forever or just used for a day then allowed to go back to sleep (yeah, yeah, I know there are other days, but this is the one that grabbed all the attention from the start.)

What will the course be like? Will it be muddy underfoot? Will they run out of food? Will the toilets get blocked? And will I get enough work done to sneak away and watch it on the telly? I have no interest in the outcome of the actual event, but I’d like to see which bits eventually got used and how glorious the park’s going to look in sparkling sunshine. I also want to see that whizzy camera thing swooping up and down across the Thames from Gen. Wolfe.

Anyone got tickets and fancy reporting back on the events from the point of view of a park-loving local?

The Flower Garden’s closed today (otherwise we’d get a freebie) so unless you’ve got tickets the TV’s probably best, though we do need to get into the centre of town and have a nice cup of tea in the cafes that haven’t put up their prices – Red Door, Trafalgar Cafe, Royal Teas and Peter de Wits spring to mind but there are others – they’re suffering just now – loads of footfall, no one actually stopping. Let’s give ‘em a bit of support…

PS – wasn’t the Opening Ceremony amazing? All hail to the Phantom Webmaster whose bucket-bashing was clearly the secret of the event’s success.

Will Do Better

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Huzzah – I am wrong, wrong, wrong. I am delighted to have been put right about the last post – the gates are indeed temporary and we WILL get something grander.

I have indeed missed much.

It’s always embarrassing to be wrong, but on this I am really pleased to be so. Thank you Mat and James.

The Phantom blushes.

Could Do Better

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Okay – so yesterday the first of the horses arrived on Blackheath for the Big Old Games. It’s hard to tell what’s happening/has happened to Greenwich Park in general because it’s all fenced off, but I have confidence that the hoo-ha  created by various people over the last few years will have forced LOCOG to more or less do the right thing by it and that apart from some scary hoof marks in the soft mud (all that rain and giant studs – erk) ultimately the park itself will mostly go back to normal within a couple of years.

I guess its a shame that the same sort of focus wasn’t put on Blackheath (though of course initially we were told the heath wouldn’t be affected. Yeah, right.)  There’s a slag-heap of earth as tall as a coal mine and when I went by the other day the diggers were still adding to it. I’m assumiung slurry tanks for all that poo and wee.

To be honest, though, I’m less worried about the heath – it’s hardly the classic panorama that’s been around for millennia, full of bumps and hollows, scorched bushes and wind-tortured trees (if you want to know what it all used to be like, just take a look at the Dips at the top of Maze Hill)  after having been effectively ‘filled-in’ with bomb-rubble after the last war, but I would like to know that that, too, will be returned to rude flat-green health afterwards

To many, the ideal legacy for the Park and the heath would be – well, nothing, really. For it to go back to how it was, and for as little damage as possible to be done, but we have gained one thing, upon which, frankly, I think we could have done better.

I don’t have a picture of the old Blackheath gates, which were bulldozed so that heavy vehicles could get in and out of the Park more easily, but I didn’t have massive objections to the change – the old gates weren’t that historic and though pretty, not something that couldn’t have been improved upon.

However I don’t consider this:

to be an improvement.

Honestly – we’re getting precious little else in the way of legacy from the games – surely a set of gates to one of the most beautiful and historic parks in the world that were removed so that developers could build stuff could have been replaced with something that looked just a tiny bit less like the checkpoint for a high security prison? All we bloomin’ need are watchtowers and surface to air missiles and the scene will be compl- oh, hang on, we’ve already them.

I absolutely get that it’s an honour to have the games here and that whatever disruption we get over the next few weeks is nothing in comparison to the prestige of having the eye of the world on us. I don’t mind the traffic, the parking issues (especially as Greenwich Council has sent me twice as many parking permits than they said, mwaha,ha). I don’t mind the park being closed and I’m actually quite excited about looking out for the Phantom Webmaster in the opening ceremony.   Greenwich will cope, stuff will get done and it will be an incredible experience.

But really – those gates. Would it have been so hard to get something just a teeny bit prettier, wrought-ironier or squirlier -or even to put the old ones (with temp extensions) back?

Form an Orderly Queue

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Now calm down, calm down. Just because the hospitality packages for the Olympic Equestrian events are now on sale doesn’t mean we have to forget our manners and barge-in.

I can understand why there’s going to be such a rush, of course. That £534 per person (entry-level deal) does include fresh-baked pastries and morning coffee, and if ten people book together you get your own table!

Of course you get the other things too, like Champagne and a souvenir programme.

Oh, sod it, it’s just too good a deal for politeness. Watch out. The Phantom elbows are growing sharper. I’m getting to the front of that line, £534 in sweaty paw, by any means necessary…

HMS Ocean

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Talk about Chinese whispers. It seems that everyone, including me – and the Royal Navy – who was told about the open day on HMS Ocean yesterday got a different story about who was allowed on board.

The very chirpy personnel (they were all incredibly friendly; I can only assume that they’d given the grumpy characters sump-duty or something) talking to the (enormous) queue told us that they had been told every possible variant on who was allowed, ranging from SE10 residents only, through to all Greenwich Borough residents (the Greenwich Council website said borough residents, with priority given to most local, which I took to be SE10)  and ‘local’ residents (i.e. Lewisham and Tower Hamlets) to a TV programme, I don’t know which, telling everyone on earth to turn up.

Given the extremely mixed messages and the compounding factors of the pier entrance being next door to a very busy bank holiday Clipper service and the ugly restaurants bang  in the way, I think the Navy did pretty well, really. They gave borough residents prority but kept a ‘general public’ queue, taken from the main queue when you got so far) and every so often did a run for them.

I did have to smirk at the bolshy bloke who strode up to the front of the queue (when the people I was with had waited two and a half hours) brandished his council tax bill and demanded to be given priority “But I’m a Greenwich Resident,” he announced as he was told that 98% of the queue were residents and (much more gently than I would have done it) directed to the back…

By the time I got in the queue, it covered the entire frontage of the Old Royal Naval College and was right round the corner, almost to the central path (see above). The atmosphere was Britishly stoic; even when the rain came, people stayed and I didn’t hear much in the way of moaning, bar a few grizzling children. I also notice there seem to have been a muddle about baby carriages – the Greenwich council website said there would be nowhere to leave pushchairs, but there was a fairly large corral of them by the ubitquitous recruitment tent in the ORNC.

Of course the queue did allow us to take closer looks at stuff going on on the river – I was particularly entertained by the barge tugging the newly-spruced up podule for the London Eye:

They’d hired a couple of City Tours boats to ferry people across. I’m guessing different people had different experiences but I waited about two and a half hours to get on Ocean and about half an hour to get off. If it had been a nicer day I’d have enjoyed being a bit less cold, but I wouldn’t have swapped the experience.

We were allowed to wander as we liked through the ‘big’ areas of the ship – two levels of cargo-carrying deck and the main deck on top, which they’d put several helicopters, troop carriers and vehicles that I have no recollection of what they do but was very interested at the time

As I mentioned I’m sure they chose the jovial crew members to talk with us, but all the people I met were only too delighted to talk or show us what stuff did (I spent some time chatting with the woman who packs the survival kits – I love that they include a condom in them…)

One of the most popular displays was of the food rations you get at different stages of engagement – I couldn’t actually get close to that stand but I understand they have ginger beer:

I suspect what the Navy achieved from this day is a lot more intangible than much in the way of recruitments (no one around me seemed remotely interested in joining up) but that was never the point.

They’re going to be here for several weeks now and again during the Olympics and they are only too aware of the rubbish way we’ve been informed about the placement of missiles around our houses, on our commons and, in the case of some TH residents, on our roofs. LOCOG and whichever government departments in charge of this, have been utterly useless in informing residents what will happen, leading to a load of fear and anger.

If we’d thought about it, of course we were going to need some kind of security around the games – ever since Munich they’ve been essential –  and scary though seeing SAMs on Blackheath is, the problem with having an urban Olympics is that there’s always going to be someone who has the security on their doorstep. Certainly my beef is more with the way we’ve been told so late, as a fait-accompli and so badly – I got a letter through my door that included only one of the leaflets  it said it did,  and an invitation to a similar open day at Oxleas Wood the day after it had been and gone.

What I got from yesterday’s event was the human element – that this ship is staffed by actual people with actual lives whom I got the feeling actually knew what they were doing.  I enjoyed talking with them and If I see them around town I won’t be looking at them as intruders, but as people who live on the big boat I can see from the shore.

I’ve seen where they live (well, okay, I haven’t, we didn’t get to poke around the cabins or the mess rooms or the day to day living areas which, although fair enough, being a nosy old Phantom I’d have loved) and I’m cool with the fact that they have to be here.

I’m curious to know what you thought of it (I’m assuming you went – half of Greenwich must have been there) and what you got from it. I did get a couple of other things – not least the feeling that the Naval Lady is protesting just a leeetle too much that she is ‘relevant’ – I’m not sure I saw a single banner that didn’t pronounce the fact – and that the chaps at HMSO don’t proof-read their leaflets – ‘birth cabins’ anyone?

But for me the Navy’s real achievement for me yesterday was its people – thanks, guys. It was fun.