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news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Archive for March 2010

The Great Bear of Charlton

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Somewhere in SE7, someone’s lost their bear… if it was you, as of 4pm, he/she was in Littlecombe.

Written by Darryl

29 March, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Posted in local stuff

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Alex Neil estate agents still can’t stop spamming

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Rogue estate agent Alex Neil has now got up the nose of The Greenwich Phantom with its spam comments – so I thought I’d have a look in the spam comments box. And yes, along with the sex aids, anxiety pills and loan sharks, are more barely coherent gems.


It is, by the way, illegal for companies to pose as satisified customers when advertising.

Written by Darryl

26 March, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Charlton station users’ group launches

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One of the bonuses of living in Charlton is having access to a relatively decent train service – eight trains per hour, including trains to the must-visit destinations of Blackheath and Lewisham. Hell, there was even a train which called at St Johns for a while, and there’s not many people who have had the privilege of one of those. Charlton station even has its own unoffical cat, although it’s dawned on me that I haven’t seen it prowling the platforms for a while – is it still around? In a better world, all stations would have cats.

In a better world, you’d also have more say about what goes on at your local station. Charlton station’s often left a mess at the weekend, and information posters are often placed in spots that many of its users do not even pass. Luckily, it looks like there’s a chance to get involved, with an inaugural meeting of the Charlton Station Users’ Group on on Tuesday 30th March at 7pm, at Charlton Liberal Club on Charlton Church Lane. (Like the Conservative Club almost next door, the days when these places had anything to do with politics are long gone.) “The club and the group will be strictly non party political and the three proposed objectives are improving Charlton station and its environment; monitoring the rail service and being a formal timetable consultee and improving public transport connectivity,” it says here.

Me? I’d like to see the placed staffed day and night – as London Overground stations are – but I can’t see that being on the agenda under the current franchise. Making sure the place is clean and attractive would be a start, though. How about tweaking the 472 bus so it stops outside the station, boosting the service up to North Greenwich? And I’d like to see the Lewisham trains stop at New Cross, for easy interchange with the East London line. That’s my wish list. I might even bring it along on Tuesday.

Written by Darryl

26 March, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Squeeze at Greenwich Borough Halls

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Squeeze were honoured with a plaque at Greenwich Borough Halls on Royal Hill on Tuesday – I went along and managed to sneak into the acoustic show they did for fans and press after the unveiling.

And you know what? It was damn good. Here’s my chat with Glenn on greenwich.co.uk.

Altogether now: “I never thought it would happen/ With me and the girl from Clapham…”

Written by Darryl

24 March, 2010 at 9:08 am

Greenwich Park Olympics get green light

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As you may (or may not) have seen elsewhere, Greenwich Council’s planning committee backed plans to hold the Olympic equestrian events in Greenwich Park by 10 votes to two on Tuesday night, after a meeting which went on for four-and-three-quarter hours. The dissenters were two out of the committee’s three Conservative councillors, Geoffrey Brighty and Dermot Poston.

I was there, I’m now exhausted and wondering why anyone would want to be a councill-… er, oh.

Actually, though, for me it was proof of why these meetings need to let cameras in – this decision affects hundreds of thousands of people, and the only coverage I can see at the moment was me and Adam Bienkov tweeting it, and greenwich.co.uk‘s write-up. (The News Shopper published just after 1am.)It’s a shame people can’t see important decisions like this being made for themselves.

Anyway, if you see me tomorrow and start off by saying “I’ve lived in Greenwich for 30 years and I’ve always loved the park…”, I may just have to run away screaming.

Written by Darryl

24 March, 2010 at 1:09 am

Olympics: Greenwich Time jumps the gun

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With less than seven hours to go until tonight’s huge barney planning meeting to decide what happens in Greenwich Park in 2012, Greenwich Council’s propaganda weekly Greenwich Time has piled in. Looks like a done deal, doesn’t it? Head on over to Green Greenwich to for more.

Discover Greenwich and the Old Brewery – it’s smashing

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Discover Greenwich

If you’re in Greenwich town centre tonight, keep an eye out for a familiar blond mop, as Mayor Boris rocks up to tonight’s launch of the spanking new Discover Greenwich visitor centre. The £6m centre is Greenwich’s first proper attempt at a place that’ll welcome tourists and attempt to explain just why they’ve the place they’ve found themselves in is known around the world. Previous efforts have just been small tourist information offices – this is the real deal.

Discover Greenwich

The Old Brewery - smash!The best thing for us locals, though, is that from tomorrow the Greenwich Union’s new sister venue, The Old Brewery, opens alongside Discover Greenwich. More cafe/restaurant than pub, it’s already brewing its own beers alongside Meantime’s other tipples.

That’s where today’s press preview got off to a dramatic start – as a glass food counter on the bar suddenly collapsed and smashed as hungry hacks were swarming around for croissants. Thankfully, nobody was injured, although a few morning pastries did bite the dust. Good to get something like that out of the way before you open the doors to the public!

Discover Greenwich

Discover Greenwich’s aim is admirable – to bring together information on Greenwich’s various sites, although with the emphasis on the royal connections with the Naval College, and the National Maritime Museum. It does a very good job of it – much of Greenwich’s history has only really been available in dusty history tomes, or delivered in slightly embarassing reconstructions for the benefit of Americans.

Discover Greenwich

But here it comes alive – from the reconstruction of a window at the Tudor Greenwich Palace, to the recreation of the accommodation on offer to seamen at the old Greenwich Hospital. Recent excavation on the Naval College site has informed and embellished the collection of items on show, while displays put the old royal town into a modern context. One display explains the architectural influence of Wren and Hawksmoor across London, another compares Greenwich with similar World Heritage Sites across the globe.

Discover Greenwich

More recent developments in Greenwich are marked with displays and videos from 20th century Naval College events and a model of JASON, the reactor which punched a hole in Greenwich Council’s 1980s nuclear-free zone. A display about industrial Greenwich is a little easy to miss – unless I’m mistaken, it doesn’t mention the gas works, which seems a huge omission, but you can use a touch-screen map to track where the bombs fell in Greenwich borough in World War II. Both my current house in Charlton and my old one in Greenwich sustained minor damage, I discovered.

Discover Greenwich

Upstairs might just be Discover Greenwich’s real gem – the Clore Learning Centre, where there’ll be courses held for both adults and children. For local kids, it’ll be a great opportunity to bring them closer to the area’s heritage – my school career contained one solitary early-1980s trip to the National Maritime Museum, which I remember more for my teacher giving us all personalised notebooks he’d made himself than anything we learned that day. (Captain Cook and scurvy. That was it.) Adults can get courses and lectures in local history, archaelogy, photography, and beer tasting. Yes. BEER.

The Old Brewery

Back to the Old Brewery for an 11am sip of Meantime’s Hospital Porter. It’s smooth, smoky, and incredibly drinkable for an 8% brew. Meantime founder Alistair Hook spoke of his sadness that London’s brewing history – once “the world’s greatest brewing city” – was now being neglected with breweries closing. The Old Brewery corrects some of this – wonderful wall displays tell the history of the capital’s beer, pubs and brewing. A tiny photo on the wall shows what’s now the Greenwich Union and its neighbour, the Tolly (Richard I) – the two bars separated by the Tolly’s then off-licence. It looks like it’s from another era. In fact, it’s from 1972.

The Old Brewery

The venture also gives Meantime the chance to experiment with old brews – Hospital Porter is a recreation of a style familiar to the old sailors who lived at Greenwich Hospital. Just as enticing is Kellerbier – a lager brewed in the cellar. We’re three weeks or so away from a taste of this – interestingly, it’ll be dispensed without extra gas, which could make it palatable to the strict Campaign for Real Ale types. It’ll be interesting to see what they make of it.

The Old Brewery cellar

I’ve mentioned before how many locals have an ambivalent relationship with Greenwich as a tourist attraction, but Discover Greenwich goes a long way to bridging that gap. As a primer on just why it became such a favourite of royalty, and how it stayed that way, it’s wonderful. It could do with some more on Greenwich’s other aspects, but perhaps that’s a challenge for others to take up. And I think I’ll be back to the Old Brewery for some Hospital Porter very soon…

Discover Greenwich

Written by Darryl

22 March, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Greenwich Sainsburys Olympics shock

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Crikey, I never realised Sainsburys was that unhappy about John Lewis being named a 2012 sponsor

We’re now two days away from Tuesday night’s planning board meeting which will decide whether the Greenwich Park equestrian events get the go-ahead. It’s almost the last possible date Greenwich Council can decide anything mildly contentious before May 6′s election.

Planning officials have recommended acceptance with a string of conditions, including the creation of an “advisory board” to monitor the site (which does not seem to have very much resident involvement, which is disappointing) and that LOCOG will need separate council approval for various individual elements (like the materials to be used). With demonstrators planning to picket the meeting, Lord Coe is reportedly going to address councillors himself.

Regular readers will know I’ve not been impressed with either side of the debate and it’s shown the council at its worst. If approval is given – which is by no means certain – I hope residents get to have a closer say in what’s going on. Too many things in Greenwich get imposed on people without thought for the people who have to live with them, and 2012 feels like yet another one of them. If approval isn’t given – well, Greenwich can still benefit from the Games, although there are many who will rue missing out on seeing our park in the global spotlight, just the same as there are others who fear what might happen that summer.

I do hope, though, that the way forward will be clear from Tuesday and some of the nonsense that’s surrounded the prospect of the Olympics in Greenwich Park will cease.

I don’t think life will be that simple, though…

Written by Darryl

21 March, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Decent pubs? In Charlton? Can it be so?

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Let’s face it, nobody moves to Charlton for the nightlife. SE7 isn’t exactly blessed with wonderful pubs. There’s only eight left and few go out of their way to tempt you inside. Trade is skewed by fortnightly football crowds and social clubs compete for their business (the neighbouring Conservative and Liberal Clubs defy the times by doing alright for themselves).

But there’s a few signs of life. The riverside secret that’s the Anchor and Hope has regular live music and seems to be thriving. There’s new people at the Royal Oak trying to bring it back to life after a disastrous refurbishment. The Antigallican has gained a restaurant in the back. But now, most audaciously… a pub revamp in Charlton Village?

Yup, the White Swan. I’ve been there a few times, and wonder how good it would be if someone gave the place a wipe-down. It felt and smelled like a pub that’d already closed. Somehow, that was part of its charm – but beyond the admirably rubbish Friday night karaoke sessions, it was obvious that there was some potential there. Especially with its decent-sized back garden, a perfect place to hide on a summer’s day.

Finally, someone’s seen it – it’s been taken on by a chap called Vito, and he’s torn out the worn-out carpet, taken down the scaffolding in the back garden and is hard at work transforming the place. A coffee machine’s gone in, there’s wine and plans for yoga classes (!) in an upstairs room. Innovation unheard of in Charlton. And even the promise of… yummy mummies? Good heavens. If you want to know more, the White Swan’s Facebook page has more details.

Charlton Village has certainly struggled over the years, which is a shame – it’s sometimes called the only true village in London (on account of the street being called “The Village”), but it’s certainly down-at-heel when compared with its posher neighbour in Blackheath. Many of the everyday shops have gone, although the Co-Op’s improved over the past few years, and there’s no real advocates for Charlton compared with the loud voices promoting and worrying about various parts of Greenwich and Blackheath.

Hopefully the new-look Swan will give the old place a much-needed lift – if the new guv’nor gets wi-fi in, I can add it to my little list of local “offices” to get some work done in…

Written by Darryl

20 March, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in local stuff, pubs

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Charlton scrubbed off the tourist map

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A lovely idea from Greenwich Council to take a week to promote the borough’s various attractions – obviously Greenwich is known around the world, but there’s a lot more to the borough than SE10, something that isn’t always appreciated even by the people who live there.

So what better than to issue a leaflet extolling the virtue of the diverse districts of the borough, and distributing it with propaganda weekly Greenwich Time?

After else, who else knows the borough better than the council? Especially with attractions in Woolwich such as Charlton Hou-… eh? Charlton House? Woolwich? Isn’t there a clue in the name “Charlton House”? It’s not even an easy walk from Woolwich, for heaven’s sake. The Thames Barrier’s forgiveable since it sits right on the SE7/SE18 border, but for heaven’s sake, don’t they know what’s in their own borough?

Okay, so they cocked up there, but what about laughing it off with Comedy On The Common? Except that’s in Plumstead. Not Woolwich. Which basically leaves Firepower as Woolwich’s one and only bona fide representative in the “highlights in Woolwich” column. Ooops.

Which is a shame, actually, because there’s plenty of things to see in Woolwich – the Arsenal (and Dial Square) is well worth a wander, there’s great 30s architecture around the west end of the town centre, the stunning Royal Artillery Barracks and the bombed-out St George’s Garrison Church opposite. But somehow the council’s taken on an estate agents’ enthusiasm in its desire to simply the borough down to just three districts – Greenwich, Eltham and Woolwich.

A poor show. Actually, Charlton’s got enough to peer at on its own with the barely-promoted “Explore Charlton” walk from the Thames Barrier up to Charlton House, while further east Plumstead Common and Winns Common provide good walking and wonderful views. And, of course, Plumstead played host to the formative years of (Woolwich) Arsenal FC and Steve Davis.

Be A Local Tourist
is a great idea, clearly aimed at generating economic spin-offs. But it only scratches the surface of the borough’s diversity. Perhaps next time, a local rather than a tourist could come up with its publicity…

Written by Darryl

18 March, 2010 at 4:43 pm

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