Woolwich Common: Then, now, and the future?

Remember the Olympics and Paralympics on Woolwich Common?


The big shooting halls are starting to come down this week. Hey, some idiot’s already pulled up the cycle path across there, long before Circular Way reopens. But the common’s felt different for the past few weeks anyway – bleaker, sadder.


The north side of Woolwich Common is a terrific piece of wild land, a real slice of the country in the city. But the rest of it’s always felt sad and neglected to me. It deserves to be treated better than being part of a miserable rat-run between Charlton and Plumstead.


Yet the Olympics showed that so much more could be done with the common. There’s a whole chunk of land the Army keeps to itself, which the Games used too (it made a terrific archery venue during the Paralympics, too) – is it time they gave it up, and allowed it to be used for sport?

The transformation of Ha Ha Road from sad rat-run to a parade of food stalls was most striking for me. Last year, at a community meeting about the On Blackheath festival, a woman piped up: “Why don’t you put it on Woolwich Common instead?” I wrote this off as some NIMBY nonsense, but seeing how well Woolwich Common worked as an small-capacity Olympic venue… why couldn’t it hold some kind of community festival?

As before, all the attention will be on Greenwich Park, but there’ll also have to be a bit of work – and a lot of tree-planting – to go before the common’s ship-shape again. But once the grass is growing again, and it’s starting to look green once more, is it time to think of a new future for Woolwich Common?

10 comments

  1. Steve

    I do remember a few times getting a bit of a surprise when running across Woolwich Common – seeing an elephant. You might remember that they used to have animal circuses there. Then of course there were the fun fairs. It’s always intrigued me that there used to be a stadium there too (hence Stadium Road). I’ve never seen any photos of it. has anybody else?

  2. Brenda

    Often cross it when doing the Green Chain Walk and it just always feels barren. You dont see many people sitting on the grass in the sunshine or people playing football, just a few dog walkers. Apart from the Olympics the last exciting thing on there was the giant snow willy!

  3. Douglas

    For me, Woolwich Common is at its best when it’s allowed to go a little wild – thistles and flowers springing up, bees buzzing around and so on. It makes a pleasant change from the roads and housing nearby. So I’d like to see some part of it managed in this way.

    Definitely looking forward to Circular Way re-opening too – cycling across the four-way junction on the eastern side is not fun.

  4. John Fahy

    A very thoughtful piece on the Common. Worth some further consideration as to how future events might fit in. Important to have regard for all our open spaces,not simply those that exist in central Greenwich.

  5. pinking shears

    There was a great family event hosted by the Royal Artillery near the barracks in the summer of 2011, which I would love to see happen again. I thought it was nice that the Army people were able to put on this event on their part of the common, the space really worked, with well-organised car parking. As for the public land of the common, I think we need to wait until the restoration works and tree planting is finished before deciding on other uses. Woolwich Common is a precious area of land, and we should be very careful with it. Hopefully we shall see lots of good ideas coming forward from all age groups in the community.

  6. Darryl

    Funnily enough, it was the council’s Great Get Together event of 2011. It was canned this year to pay for Royal Borough parties.

  7. fahy

    The Great Get Together event could not happen this year because of he Olympic lockdown on the site. No reason wh these events n future years

  8. Brett

    I love the common too and live nearby and I agree that their should be a ‘wild’ aspect to it but I also think that the bottom half of it just looks sad and neglected…Personally I think judicious planting of trees and better drainage and regrassing would help…Another idea might be better delineation between the roads and the park.

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