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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

Posts Tagged ‘greenwich park

Sunday smog from Greenwich Park

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Greenwich Park, 17 February 2013
Yuck. Still, what Greenwich needs is even more traffic, eh?

Written by Darryl

17 February, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Greenwich Park: Where they’d rather cyclists didn’t exist?

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Here are some arsey tweets from the police.

What brought those about, then? Well, these “burglars, we’re coming to get you”-style messages (can’t wait to see the same tactics used for ALL car drivers because a few arseholes use their mobile phones behind the wheel) came as a result of Greenwich Park being closed as a through route for motorists, but most of all, cyclists.

The Avenue (the hill which runs into Greenwich town centre) was closed suddenly a couple of weeks ago for repairs to be carried out to repair damage caused by the heavy vehicles used when the Olympic equestrian stadium was being constructed.

LOCOG is coughing up for the repairs, and the all-new road will open at the end of March – which should also be roughly the time the stadium site will be fully back in use, too. So it’s fair enough the road should be shut. And since no pedestrian is going to want to share a pavement with a downhill cyclist (and neither is a downhill cyclist going to want to share a path with pedestrians), then it’s understandable the whole thing’s shut – although whether or not the whole thing could have been planned better is another issue. Royal Parks only gave about a week’s notice of the closure, and seems to have allowed its contractors to dictate the timetable.

The loss of The Avenue only affects car drivers for a few hours each weekday. But it’s a cycle route throughout the day, weekdays and weekends – something which seems to have been lost in the planning of this closure.

So if you’re approaching the park from Blackheath, expecting your normal ride down the hill, what notice are you given of this closure? There’s nothing at all on the paths crossing the heath approaching the park. The best you’ll get is a sign like this on Charlton Way…

Charlton Way, Blackheath, 3 February 2013

…which is aimed at the tiny minority of motorists who drive through the park. If you’re on a bike, a diversion towards Blackheath Village is absurd, and you’ll probably think you can squeeze round the roadworks, which is what you can normally do – bikes being a bit more agile than cars – so you’ll enter the park with no warning signs at the gate, ride down, and then find a rude shock.

Greenwich Park, 3 February 2013

Well, at least it says “please”. But if you’re in a hurry, you’ll probably think you can get around this by nipping down the pavement – or, as the cyclists in the picture above did 30 seconds after I took the photo, riding down the other footpaths. And then that leads to the unpleasantness and bad feeling and, for some, £50 fines.

Yet if some warning signs had been put up before people cycled into the park expecting to ride down the hill, pointing people towards diversions, perhaps there’d be less need for the arsey messages, and fewer £50 fines. But even in Greenwich Park, the supposed needs of a tiny group of car drivers outweigh those of the hundreds of cyclists for whom this has become a reliable and safe route to travel along.

This isn’t a plea for special treatment – it’s simply a plea for the same treatment that drivers get. There’s been some interesting discussions going on in Westminster with an all-party inquiry into cycling, which is finding that cyclists are largely ignored when it comes to road planning. In Greenwich Park, cyclists have been ignored when it came to planning the road works, except for sticking the “no entry” signs up.

If a cycle route, which Greenwich Park effectively is (albeit shared with cars for a few hours), has to close, then some proper diversion signs should be put up – like cars get. Then nobody has the slightest excuse for breaking the law. This isn’t rocket science. But I can’t help thinking Royal Parks would rather not have cyclists spoiling their park, which is a shame bearing in mind it’s such a vital route for people from all over south-east London.

Written by Darryl

8 February, 2013 at 7:30 am

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

Not Greenwich Park, number 1: Hornfair Park

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So the gates are shut, and the countdown gets louder. Most of Greenwich Park has been closed to the public since Saturday, with only the flower gardens and children’s playground remaining open for business. At the foot of the hill, the equestrian stadium looks ever more impressive, and a cable camera is being strung up across the Thames, to provide a worldwide audience with a spectacular view across the park. Our temporary loss will be the world’s gain.

In the meantime, though, we’ve lost (most of) our park. But if you live within a couple of miles of Greenwich Park, you’re spoiled by green space compared with other parts of London. Chances are, though, there’s a few that you might not have explored. So over the next few weeks, I’ll be profiling some of those green spaces make this bit of the capital so special. Greenwich Park is great, but there’s much more besides around here.

And where better to start than in Hornfair Park? Because as the locks went up on Greenwich Park, the gates swung open on a long-lost favourite in SE7. Charlton’s got its lido back…

Run by: Greenwich Council (Lido by GLL)
Distance from Greenwich Park: 1.3 miles (map)
Hornfair Park in a sentence: Stop everything – we’ve found the Olympic legacy!

Whisper it, but there’s a quiet revolution going on in the bottom corner of SE7. And for all the stick it gets on this site, it’s fair to say that Greenwich Council is quietly playing a blinder here – although it’s taken its time about it. Three years ago, Hornfair Park had seen better days – unloved, neglected, and a haven for after-dark crime. Definitely the poor relation to neighbouring Charlton Park, its decline was capped by the tatty state of Charlton Lido, left clinging to life after council cutbacks. A botched plan to redevelop the lido as a diving centre didn’t help matters.

Opened in 1936 as Charlton Playing Fields on land originally bought by the old London County Council from the old lords of the manor of Charlton, the Maryon-Wilson family (more of them later), with the lido coming three years later. It was the last of four LCC lidos – the others being at Parliament Hill, Brockwell Park and Victoria Park. All but the latter survive today.

Renamed Hornfair Park in 1948, a long decline started in the 1970s when a cash-strapped Greenwich Council was forced to take it on from the Greater London Council, with opening hours at the lido cut back and it even became a skateboard park for a short spell. A swimming club kept the lido alive for some years, until Greenwich Council embarked on the ill-fated diving centre plan.

It was the BMX bikers that heralded the rebirth of Hornfair Park. Controversial when it opened in summer 2011, the BMX track has brought new life to the flat, featureless field at the rear of the park, which backs onto the edge of Woolwich Common. A revolutionary decision to, er, lock the park gates at night helped cut crime. The tennis courts and paddling pool are being upgraded, and Charlton Lido finally reopened its doors on Monday after a two-year closure, boasting a heated 50m-long pool. More work will continue when the summer is over, and next year a fitness centre and cafe will be added.

Things still aren’t perfect – much of the park still needs a lot of work as the council battles to overcome years of its own neglect. There’ll also no doubt be more tension with local residents as the council seeks to use Hornfair Park as somewhere to inspire young people to take up sport – an issue not helped by Greenwich’s attitude to “consultation”. But while a lot of the talk of “Olympic legacy” in this area is bunkum – in Hornfair Park, if the council can get it right, it’ll be real enough.

Written by Darryl

10 July, 2012 at 7:30 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

Greenwich Park bike ban – is this the anti-cycling Olympics?

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With construction work stepping up around Greenwich Park, Monday marks the first day it’s closed to through traffic for the Olympics period, with The Avenue (the hill down to Greenwich town centre) being shut off. Frankly, I’d like to see traffic banned from the park altogether – parks shouldn’t be used as traffic short cuts. That won’t win me any friends from the streets around the park, mind.

But something dumb has been sneaked out along with this – even cycling through the park is going to largely outlawed as of today, except between 6am-8.30am, and after 5pm. As Francis Sedgemore writes: “Cyclists are buggered whichever way you look at it.”

It’s not the first time LOCOG and the Olympic Delivery Authority have stuck a finger up at cyclists in their haste to get venues ready – on Woolwich Common, the cycle route at Circular Way has been closed without replacement, while there’s been well-documented problems around the Olympic Park, partly down to Newham Council’s obstinate attitude.

But the Greenwich Park cycling ban feels like a legacy of the horrible polarised “debate” over the Games in the Park – the stubborn NIMBYs of NOGOE on one side, an over-eager and arrogant council on the other, and no common sense in between, leading to bad decisions, bad feeling and a lack of consultation all around.

Of course, cycling will be one of Team GB’s big medal hopes this year. If only London 2012′s organisers could show the same respect and pride the less illustrious cyclists who coast down and puff up Greenwich Park’s hill every day, who’ll now be forced to take awkward diversion routes.

Written by Darryl

11 June, 2012 at 8:30 am

Greenwich’s Olympic sunset

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You know what? It might not be such a bad summer after all…

Written by Darryl

28 May, 2012 at 7:30 am

Greenwich Park: Police recommend raising speed limits

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One of the best things about Greenwich Park in recent years is how it’s largely stopped being a through route for cars. On Sundays, crowds can meander up the hill safe in the knowledge they won’t get squashed by some berk speeding down in four wheels. The closure of the park at the top of The Avenue (the hill) as a through route during weekday daytimes and at weekends has played a big part in this; so has the park’s 20mph speed limit. Indeed, I know one cyclist who was stopped by police for doing 30mph down the hill one morning.

So it’s baffling to hear that the park police have been considering raising the limit back up to 30mph. A report from a meeting posted to the Greenwich Cyclists e-mail list says an outside police traffic unit recommended raising the limit “to improve safety”. Quite how allowing cars to drive faster in an area used by thousands of pedestrians, many of them small children, was not recorded. Happily, it was decided this would not be carried out “for the time being”.

But when councils up and down the land are implementing 20mph schemes on their side roads, it seems bizarre that anyone would even consider this. Many of east Greenwich’s back streets are already 20mph zones, and Greenwich Council is thinking about implementing it borough-wide (surely it should just get on with it rather than fart about with a “best value review”, but never mind). So Greenwich Park could end up being the fastest route down the hill for some miles around. Hopefully this idea won’t just sit on the back-burner, but fall off and quietly disappear.


Meanwhile, it’s all change at the top of the park as the new Blackheath Gate (English to NOGOE translation: “Olympic vandalism”) takes shape. Unfortunately, this has meant the park’s become a through route again, hosting one way traffic from Blackheath down to Greenwich. At the top of the park, nobody’s quite worked out what cyclists are meant to do to exit. Squeeze out with the pedestrians, or take your chances going against the flow of cars. Ah, sod it, take a chance with the cars…


The arrival of spring also means the start of the hard work in transforming the park into an Olympic venue. The Circus Field on Blackheath has already been taken over by LOCOG (the circus itself will be across the other side of Shooters Hill Road as usual this Easter), but the real work begins on Monday when the Queen’s Field – the land in front of the Queen’s House – is taken over for construction work on the equestrian stadium. If you want to enjoy the classic view from the Wolfe statue without a stadium or building works being there – you’ve six days left.

But will there be any NOGOE activists chaining themselves to construction vehicles next week? Not so, for it appears the anti-equestrian lobby has finally raised the white flag. An email sent out to media contacts yesterday says the group “is evolving into a monitoring group to hold the Olympic organisers, LOCOG, to their promises to reinstate Greenwich Park after the damage they cause, and to provide a record and running commentary of the activity and disruption that will interest the media, conservation groups, Park users and local residents”.

More tellingly, remembering the fiasco of the anti-Irish Twitter messages posted by its unofficial spokesperson Rachel “Indigo” Mawhood, is this line: “Also please note that Rachel Mawhood has parted company with NOGOE.” First broken here last month, the story eventually made it into the Mail on Sunday.

Considering the pitiful turnout for their July demonstration against the test events, and the damage done to their Olympics cause by their unofficial spokesperson, perhaps if the NOGOE-rs care about the park so much, they could turn their energies to ensuring it doesn’t become Greenwich’s fastest rat run in future.

Update 9.20am Tuesday: Thanks to Duncan Borrowman for reminding me of one sad reason why the speed limit should not be increased.

Written by Darryl

27 March, 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.

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