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

Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich Park Olympics

Should Greenwich Park keep its new water feature?

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I think I’ve overdosed on the Paralympics. I went to the opening ceremony, I saw Oscar Pistorius beaten, and Ellie Simmonds win her second gold. I was there when Team GB got its first gold in the velodrome, and been wowed by judo, sitting volleyball and powerlifting. I’ve seen wheelchair basketball in the North Greenwich Arena, and yesterday I got sunburnt at the Royal Artillery Barracks taking in the archery. More about that later in the week, hopefully.

And on Saturday, I went to see the dressage in Greenwich Park. Tuesday’s the final day of competition, and if you haven’t seen the park as a London 2012 venue yet, then this advice from Kate might be useful. Bear in mind I’ve not been able to verify it, but I’ve heard about tickets being available on the gate from elsewhere too…

Was told at the Paralympic equestrian dressage at Greenwich Park today that tickets are most probably available from 1 hour before the sessions, from the box offices. They only know how many on the day itself.

They are not being pre-sold online as Greenwich Council has apparently put a block on the no of tickets sold, as believe with schools going back, that local transport would not be able to cope. That was the reason given to me by an official at ticketing at the venue today.

Hope this is useful info for anyone wanting to go.

It’s fair to say this summer has had a lasting effect on many of us, although hopefully its impact on Greenwich Park will be minimal. But there’s one thing that intrigues me.

If you’ve been, and walked down from Blackheath, you may have seen this water feature that’s gone in below the Observatory. I imagine it was a water jump on the cross-country, and it’s stayed in place while most of the others have been removed.

The funny thing is – it looks like it’s been there for years. There’s been a few “hold on, that wasn’t there before” reactions to it. So, I wonder – should it stay there? Would having a small, shallow, water feature be a benefit to the park?

Then again, it’s also in the park’s best spot for sledging when it snows, so probably not. That said, it’s interesting that one small change to the park can make you think of it in a different way. I know that one of the equestrian jumps is staying (which one is it?), but are there any changes to Greenwich from the summer of 2012 – aside from an upsurge in local pride – that we really should be keeping?

Written by Darryl

4 September, 2012 at 7:31 am

Is Greenwich Park open again? Here’s how to find out…

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If, like me, you don’t know your Vanburgh Park Gate from your Maze Hill Gate, then Niall has created this rather nifty map to guide people through the park’s delayed reopening.

He also adds: “The observatory has reopened (but looks very busy if you were thinking of visiting). The viewpoint is not yet open as the pylon for the high-wire camera is still there. You can also now cross the park from Crooms Hill Gate to Vanburgh Gate (on Maze Hill). Most of the south of the park including the Flower Garden is now accessible.”

Written by Darryl

15 August, 2012 at 8:47 am

39 days to go: Olympic countdown in Greenwich and Blackheath

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The first set of Olympic flags have appeared on Blackheath. These are on the route spectators are meant to take from Blackheath station to Greenwich Park.

Notice the new “heritage” lamp posts on the heath? I wasn’t a fan when they first went in, although now some work’s been done to the path they seem to make a bit of sense. Just on the right, you can see where a footbridge over Shooters Hill Road is being built.

This sign will proclaim the Olympic Route Network soon.

Bit by bit, the builders are taking over Greenwich Park…

…including the closure of The Avenue. Incidentally, here’s the sort of fat-faced pillock who makes it so easy for people to ban bikes in parks, here caught on a narrow footpath down the side of the park on Sunday just after hitting a mum’s pram. Does anyone know this tool?

Ah, here’s what it’s all about. Looking impressive.

Ah, here’s an Olympic legacy. More heritage lamp posts – this time on Crooms Hill, down the side of the park. Probably to shut the neighbours up. Where’s our fancy lamp posts, then?

Finally, a footbridge is going up over Romney Road. This resulted in the road being shut overnight, with most buses diverted well away from Greenwich. There’ll be another closure next Sunday at 8pm, until 5am on Monday morning, to get the job done.

Written by Darryl

18 June, 2012 at 7:30 am

No horses, no Irish – NOGOE goes back to the 70s

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The latest communiques from NOGOE, the always open-minded opponents of the Olympics in Greenwich Park. If they’re trying to work out why nobody’s listening to their claims that the rebuilding of the Blackheath gates (and the remodelling of an iffy junction) is “Olympic vandalism”, then these might provide an answer…

9pm update: I’ve tidied the original, mobile-uploaded, post up and swapped the image for a one showing four of this morning’s tweets from the NOGOE account, run by activist Rachel “Indigo” Mawhood, who sent me this charming missive last summer. Most have since been deleted, but not before they were widely seen, and also captured by tweeter @pekingspring.

The “7 November 1974″ reference is to the IRA bombing of the King’s Arms in Frances Street, in which two people died. Nine years later, a second bomb at the barracks opposite injured four people.

NOGOE’s patrons include historian Dr David Starkey, who who caused outrage following last summer’s London riots when he said “the whites have become black”, author Blake Morrison and recently-appointed Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption.

Greenwich and Blackheath Olympic traffic plans now online

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They’ve been a bit late in coming, but full plans for what’ll happen to traffic in Greenwich and Blackheath during the Olympic Games – as well as parking in an area from Deptford to Plumstead – are now on the London 2012 website. It’s worth a look, even if you’re a non-driver like me – there’s big changes planned.

There’s also a page on the Greenwich Council website which is intended to simply all this information, but confuses matters by making odd claims like “many people are saying that penalties should be as much as £1,000 if a vehicle is parked illegally within a one-kilometre radius of the Greenwich Park venues”. Those would be the £1,000 fines Greenwich says elsewhere on its website that it is “not proposing”.

Clear as mud, then.

There’s also a link to a questionnaire about the proposals, but at the time of writing it wasn’t working. (Update: It is working now.)

After the Olympic test events: A walk around Greenwich Park

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LOCOG has been showing off some of the restoration works in Greenwich Park following last month’s Olympic test events. The last pieces of the arena were being taken away yesterday, with the handover of the area back to Royal Parks expected any day soon. Derrick Spurr – the former park manager who’s now overseeing the Olympic preparations – is confident that the grass will recover by next month, and work is already taking place to cut it to the same length, scarifying it (to allow it to get air and water), and planting new seeds.

Some small areas are likely to stay fenced off for a little longer to give the grass a chance to grow back, and staff will continue to work on the equestrian course itself; which is likely to continue to appear greener since it is getting regularly watered, while Royal Parks generally just relies on rain to replenish its grounds. Today’s downpours can only help matters.

Walking around the park, it was interesting to notice some of the work that had been done – an extra 50cm of soil around the Roman remains near Maze Hill, for example. Derrick Spurr said he had trouble picking out where trees had been pruned for the events.

“When we were working on the trees, a woman marched up to us furiously, asking, ‘you’re going to do this to the whole avenue?’

“But we’d actually already finished, and she couldn’t tell what we’d actually done to the trees.”

Work is now under way on final stadium design issues for next year, as well as finalising volunteer recruitment. Issues around communication will be worked on, with some park users caught by surprise by this summer’s closures thanks to a lack of notice boards around the eastern side of the park.

But as for big screens, they’re the responsibility of the boroughs – so if you want to see them in Greenwich or Blackheath, best get onto Greenwich or Lewisham councils.

Written by Darryl

4 August, 2011 at 2:14 pm

A year to go: Can London 2012 keep (or get) Greenwich on side?

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The one-year countdown to the Olympics started around here in predictable fashion – with North Greenwich station being briefly closed because of a fire alert. Despite millions being thrown at Tube upgrades, new rail lines and a boosted Docklands Light Railway, transport remains next summer’s biggest worry.

With the test event arena still being dismantled in Greenwich Park, how can next summer be made easier and – heck, enjoyable – for locals who are going to have their lives turned upside down for a fortnight. Let’s get one thing straight – there’s a significant core of people who don’t want to enjoy next summer, who are going to make our lives a misery by complaining the Olympics will make their lives a misery. Not even a free ticket to the 100m final, with free helicopter ride there, will change these people’s minds.

But what about the rest of us? It’s a different situation in Greenwich to the main site in Stratford – or even Woolwich, which is seeing spin-offs such as its new square – as the physical legacy from the Games will be minimal. The hope is for private investment – like hotels – rather than creating permanent sporting reminders. So we’re in the odd situation of knowing the Olympics will change Greenwich – but we’re not quite sure how.

Here’s some thoughts about how people in this part of London can be kept happy – or a little bit less disgruntled – as the eyes of the world (© all media outlets) gaze upon our fair capital city. Your constructive suggestions to add to these thoughts would be welcome.

1. Information, information, information. The test events went off well, with much of the park opening ahead of schedule. But some of the information was still faulty – a surprise gate closure and a lack of information displays on the worst-affected east side of Greenwich Park didn’t help. This isn’t tough – put up notice boards at every entrance to the park, and update them fortnightly or monthly with the latest news.

2. Common sense closures. Speaking of the east side of the park, closing all of that side of the park – and denying access to the flower garden except from the Blackheath gate – was hugely inconvenient. Yes, as much of the park should stay open as possible – but access to what’s open should be kept as wide as possible.

3. Tell us more about our park. Another problem with the information given is that nobody knows the names of the gates and roads within the park. Anyone know where Lovers’ Walk is? With three gates on Maze Hill and one just off it, which one is Maze Hill Gate? And then which is Maze Hill House Gate? With months of small-scale closures coming up, perhaps it’s time for Royal Parks to invest in some tasteful signage so we know our Great Cross Avenue from The Avenue. (Here’s a map.)

4. Alternative parks. I’m looking forward to the Olympics, but even I found myself feeling bereft at losing a chunk of the park for the test events. I’m not sure Olympics organisers, or some of the local decision-makers who live elsewhere in Greenwich borough, have really though through the impact of having the park padlocked for a month will have. But Greenwich Park is not the only green space in south-east London. Greenwich borough has some wonderful green spaces, as does neighbouring Lewisham. Never been to Manor House Gardens in Lee? Or checked out the wetlands in Sutcliffe Park? You’re missing out. It’s time to promote these green spaces.

5. Let us see what’s going on. One great omission from the test events? A big screen so those without tickets could see what was going on inside. As we know, there’s hundreds of thousands of people who were let down by the 2012 ticket sale – yet they deserve to be part of the action too. I’ve still got fond memories of the fan park in the centre of Berlin during the 2006 World Cup – while a massive effort on that scale is going to be impractical, there’s no excuse for not peppering Greenwich and its neighbouring areas with screens.

I understand a big screen is planned for Cutty Sark Gardens. But the equestrian and pentathlon will have to become Greenwich events to win people over – so as many people as possible should be able to see what’s going on inside. Keep that screen in Cutty Sark Gardens, but have one on the peninsula too. Why not screens in East Greenwich Pleasaunce and St Alfege Park as well? Lewisham Council should get in on the act too – a screen on Blackheath would be a big draw.

6. Think again about the Olympic route network. This has been done to death elsewhere, and I’ve a funny feeling the ORN will collapse as the games go on. But the Blackwall Tunnel approach aside, the Greenwich area actually gets off pretty lightly – the biggest pinch point, as far as I can tell, will be on Shooters Hill Road between Charlton and Kidbrooke. But losing a lane on the Blackwall Tunnel approach will have knock-on effects elsewhere in the area. Short of flying a plane over Kent telling motorists to bugger off if their journeys aren’t necessary, it’s going to be one of the weakest links in the whole Olympic jigsaw. Ken Livingstone is right – the ORN should be opened up to buses and taxis. And extra buses should be laid on to get people through the A102 bottlenecks. It could be the best advert that the public transport network has ever had. An idle thought – could the ORN work as a contraflow on the approach road?

7. Reverse the Southeastern Olympic service cuts. The train company still plans to cut services at Deptford, Maze Hill, Westcombe Park, Woolwich Dockyard and Kidbrooke. If you’re telling people to take the fortnight off, and telling people to stay out of their cars, don’t make it more difficult for them to take trains to go about the rest of their business. The worst example of pig-headed idiocy in Olympics planning – and our mayor doesn’t seem to care.

8. Let’s have a party. Sat in the Old Brewery late last night, listening to the Divine Comedy waft over the walls, it dawned on me – why not have a free concert in the week before the Olympics? The Greenwich Summer Sessions may not happen next year because of the Games, which would be a great shame – but what’s really needed is a show for everyone to enjoy. We should be planning as many free things – like Sail Royal Greenwich – as possible to attract visitors who might be deterred by the loss of the park and museum.

9. Neighbourhood pride. A renewed commitment to keeping the streets of Greenwich clean would be nice. This isn’t the council’s strongest point – but if we’re meant to be feeling proud of our neighbourhood, more effort should be made to sort out the area’s tatty streets. Incidentally, we should go to town on putting banners up – costs can be recouped by selling them afterwards.

10. Free tickets for schoolchildren. Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts is right – it’s a disgrace that most local children are being locked out of events. It’s not too late to change this.

11. Be visible and listen to local residents’ ideas. Open up that 2012 shop in the market. Have a suggestion box in there. Just listen to people. This has to be a Greenwich event (and I mean Greenwich itself, not the borough), instead of feeling like an event imposed on Greenwich by outside forces and local politicians. Leaving Greenwich Park untouched will be a challenge – but so will leaving the people of Greenwich feeling like it’s all been worth it. It can be done, though.

Any more ideas? Your suggestions – as opposed to complaints – would be appreciated.

Want more? The latest In The Meantime podcast discusses Olympics issues across the whole borough.

Written by Darryl

27 July, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Greenwich Park opens up again with a slow cycle fantasy

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Good to see much of the east side of Greenwich Park open up again ahead of schedule following the equestrian test events. This weekend sees the pentathlon World Cup Final, which you can apparently watch via pentathlon.org. Saturday’s men’s event kicks off at Crystal Palace at 9am, moving to Greenwich Park for 2.55pm, with the women’s event starting an just over an hour earlier at both venues on Sunday.

In the meantime, with the foot of the park still disrupted, who at Royal Parks thought sticking some pointless signs for “cyclist’s” on the hill down through the park was a good idea? Yes, stick to a cycle lane which doesn’t exist – and go at no more than five miles per hour down a steep hill? (Even a slowcoach like me will generally notch up 20mph down there.) Whoever put these in place is living in a fantasy land.

Considering these weird signs, and the lack of information about Olympic closures at the park entrances local residents use (as opposed to sticking them up wherever tourists go), I can’t help thinking that Royal Parks is the weak link in Greenwich’s Olympic chain. Only a year left to fix it…

Bored on the 4th of July: That Greenwich Park protest in full

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London’s only evening newspaper last Friday:

“Hundreds of protesters” at Greenwich Park, 8:45am this morning:

I counted no more than 25 people outside Greenwich Park – requiring a load of security fencing and four police officers to keep an eye on them. NOGOE tell me that at its peak, the protest hit 30 people, and claim some 50 passed through. Either way, this looked like a display of English eccentricity rather than deep-seated anger at the horsey takeover of the park. One passer-by I spoke to had some sympathy for them, a man taking his kids to school heckled them: “It’s a public park, it’s what it’s there for!”

Which goes to the nub of it. These are people who regard the park as their back garden. Beyond that immediate area around the park, and beyond those who think the Olympics as a whole will be awful, far fewer people share their point of view that this will be a disaster.

But the photographers lapped it up, and no doubt NOGOE will get its day in the sun. The protesters aren’t giving up, claim it’s actually illegal to ride horses through Greenwich Park, and there’s talk of trying to get a judicial review of the planning decision (surely a bit late now). It’s all very well claiming the support of 5,000 locals, but if only 25 show up to your demonstration – huddle together now, it’ll look good on the telly if they zoom in – what happens next?

Even the placards were perplexing. If you don’t know the backstory to the Greenwich Park saga, holding banners with pictures of stag beetles just makes you look like members of a strange, secret society rather than a mass protest movement. The most baffling banner read “go Piggy go!” – a reference to British rider Piggy French.

Especially the day after a man was shot dead ten minutes’ walk from the gates, proving there’s more pressing issues around here, the park protest looks ever more like a niche interest.

With the argument arguably lost, there’s still room to spread misinformation around the place. NOGOE handed The Greenwich Phantom some photos implying the cross country course was running via the Saxon burial mounds to the west of the park. Not so.

There’s a course laid out for the horses to walk around – they were having a gentle trot around on Sunday – but it’s not the cross country course, and it skirts around the edge of the burial mounds. No big horror there.

In the meantime, LOCOG have lucked out with the weather, with day one of the test events taking place under blue skies. LOCOG could do more to tell people it’s still business as usual in the park – the closure to through traffic is wonderful, but it’s not clear that walkers and cyclists are still welcome in. These are minor gripes, though – a bit like complaining about a trotting route around the park.

Rob at greenwich.co.uk is in the arena today. For those of us without tickets, Tuesday’s cross-country event will provide the best chance to grab a glimpse of the action. If you’re free, I’ll join you peering through fences…

Behind the scenes at Greenwich Park’s temporary stadium

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On Friday, the first occupants will be filling these stables ahead of Monday’s Greenwich Park Eventing Invitational, the test events for next year’s Olympic equestrian contests. Friday will also see the closure of the footways through most of the east side of the park as preparations step up a gear.

I joined a media tour on Wednesday morning to get a look behind the scenes of what’s been going on behind the fences in the park over the past six weeks or so. Here’s some photos – firstly of the stadium. It sits on 2,100 legs – which have also helped to prop up a Tesco store as well as athletics competitions.

The white structure beneath the observatory is where the judges will be based. During our visit, the stadium was being fitted out with the technology needed for the judges, including the scoreboard.

You can see a better view of the legs above. The arena itself is only slightly smaller than the one which will be used next year – the main difference will be in the seating. Just 2,000 people can be accommodated in the current temporary grandstand – there’ll be more than 10 times that next year.

One of the challenges the team will face next week will be in converting the equestrian arena into one suitable for the modern pentathlon event, the UPIM World Cup Final, which will take place on 9/10 July, featuring 36 men and 36 women from 20 countries. The action will be split between Greenwich (riding, running and shooting) and Crystal Palace (fencing and swimming), as the facilities at the Olympic aquatic centre are not yet ready.

As well as the challenge of getting athletes from Crystal Palace to Greenwich on time, organisers have to find 55 horses for the event – unlike equestrian disciplines, pentathletes get a random horse to ride on, and just 15 minutes to get to know their steeds. Also, for the first time in a major event, the pentathlon athletes will be shooting with lasers.

This is where spectators will enter the temporary arena – between the stadium and the Queen’s House. Greenwich Council gave away 1,000 tickets to residents. “We had 12,000 applicants before we stopped counting,” council leader Chris Roberts told reporters.

The grass on the sections which have been closed since mid-May looks as good as you’d expect from an area that’s had few visitors and huge amounts of rain. But the course itself – which is being looked after by the Sports Turf Research Institute – is especially soft and bouncy.

The boating pond has become a water jump, and has gained a fish and a turtle. Organisers hope to get this back in public use within days. There’s no word on whether the fish stays for 2012.

The bedding’s already waiting for the horses, and when the bins are full, they will be taken away and composted off-site. For the equestrian events, all athletes will bring their own feed for the horses, who will be younger animals than the ones expected to be the stars next year. Jeremy Edwards, the venue general manager for Greenwich Park, explained that the stables on an easy-to-drain deck to prevent the soil from being polluted. He said organisers would be learning how best to keep the horses cool.

“In the 2008 Olympics I worked for the Hong Kong Jockey Club and we built a a magnificent set of stables, but unfortunately they were built by racehorse people and not equestrian people – and we had multiple countries in the barns. So one of the problems we had there – and it’s not widely spoken about much – is that different countries had different ideas of what temperature they wanted it to be set at. Here, what we’re looking at is whether we’ll need some circulation of air – that could simply be some ceiling fans in the roof.”

Behind the stables are vet and anti-doping facilities, where organisers hope to test how long it takes to get samples to labs for testing.

Some 70-80 staff have been employed since 16 May on turning the park into a sporting venue, with construction work only completed on 20 June. A meerkat mascot is looking after one of the hard hats for now…

The first 10 horses arrive on Friday, with the other 30 coming on Saturday, with an inspection planned for 2.45pm on Sunday.

The dressage kicks off on Monday morning, while cross-country will take place on Tuesday. Showjumping will round off the event on Wednesday. Over the next two days, the arena will be converted for the pentathletes, with men competing on Saturday 9 July and women in action the following day.

If you’re lucky enough to get into either test event, you’ll be amazed – and I think, reassured – at what’s been done with the park in such a short space of time. (You also may be in royal company.) But many more will be shut out of the events, and remain shut out of much of the park, and I think LOCOG’s challenge is to show as many people as it can just what’s happening behind the fences to demonstrate that it’s all worth the hassle. Not an easy job around here with an emasculated local media – and the demonstrators will be sure to get some national publicity on a slow Monday morning.

Will next summer be a time of fun, a time to make money renting your home out, or a time of hassle? By next week, many people will get an idea of what it’ll be like for them – if they haven’t made their minds up already.

Written by Darryl

30 June, 2011 at 3:15 pm


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