It’s not often I head out as far as Abbey Wood, but an email from Emma suggested I should investigate strange goings-on in SE2. Greenwich Council were planting trees as an Olympic legacy on a green used for playing football, she said. Or, in her own words…
On the Co-Op estate in Abbey Wood there’s a rectangular green which is a fenced off area. It’s just grass, not remotely attractive, but is used by kids playing football and cricket and I’ve seen organised football group stuff there occasionally too. It’s pretty well used and, as far as I know, very peacefully.
About 6-8 weeks ago groups of very small saplings appeared all around the edge of the green.. They were then mulched a few weeks later so that there are now beds all around the edge. At the time I was curious, and thought maybe the council were bringing them on to plant them elsewhere. As far as I was aware there had been no notification/consultation about this and I did a bit of googling, but could find no reference to the trees being planted. I admit I gave up and carried on with stuff.
Yesterday a sign went up on the fence around the green: apparently they are part of a programme to plant trees in the borough for the Olympics. Personally I think the notice is slightly hysterical: the saplings are tiny and planted in groups as shrubs so hardly likely to ‘grow tall and shade the area killing off the grass and making it useless for a play area’ (at least not for 50 years or so…), but it does seem a bit rich that a playing field has been planted up with shrubs or trees: there’s a bloody great wood less than 5 mins up the road, and although there’s a playground not far off as far as I know it’s the only stretch of green which ball games are officially allowed on in the area.
I’m sure they could have found somewhere more appropriate to plant them (such as the stretch of green just up the road where ball games are not allowed). I wish I knew who’d put up the notice, there’s nothing on it saying who unfortunately.
Over the sumer there were notices about the green being closed on Sundays because of noise nuisance, so if I were a cynical person I might wonder if the council were trying to discourage the playing of games there.
By the time I got to visit, the notice had gone, but the shrubs were still around. Greening Street Green won’t win any Green Flag Awards soon – it’s a non-descript, fenced-off patch of grass with a sign forbidding the use of motorcycles. It’s easy to see why it’s a favourite for football or cricket – it’s just the right size for a decent knockabout.
But now the space available has shrunk thanks to these saplings, sat in their rubbish-strewn beds. It’s unclear just what Greenwich is hoping to achieve here – in an area crying out for some decent sports facilities, perhaps it could do with some goalposts, or even one of the outdoor gyms that have sprung up around the place.
Instead, the idea seems to be to turn this place into a little shady grove – but perhaps at the expense of young footballers and cricket players. Whatever the plan, it’s clear Greening Street Green is going to need a bit more love over the years than it gets now. Which surely should have involved bringing local people in from the start, instead of suddenly plonking some trees down.
Olympic legacy cock-up or a brave plan to transform a manky bit of green? It’s probably a bit of both, but it’s a beautiful example of how dire Greenwich Council’s communication skills are. It’s a nice idea to plant 2,012 trees to mark the Olympics – but it’s worthless if you don’t carry people with you.
The 2,012 trees wheeze has been around for a little while, having been launched in 2009 with “consultations” at the council’s Great Get Together jamborees, and again in Greenwich Time last year. But all’s gone fairly quiet since then, apart from the odd photo of Chris Roberts with a spade in his hand.
Happily, thanks to the good old Freedom of Information Act, I have a list of locations. They are… (descriptions as supplied by Greenwich Council)
Lower Paget Rise, (Woolwich, SE18)
Creek Road (from Gonson Street to Deptford Church Street, SE8)
Greenwich High Rd (Junction of Merryweather Place, SE10)
Chevening Road, (East Greenwich, SE10)
Porcupine Close, (Mottingham, SE9)
Bexley Road (from Alderwood Rd to Avery hill Rd, SE9)
Green Chain Walk, (Eltham, SE9)
Eynsham Drive, (Abbey Wood, SE2)
Burrage Road opposite Crescent Rd, (Plumstead, SE18)
Villas Road/Sandbach Place, (Plumstead, SE18)
Elliston House, Grand Depot Road, (Woolwich, SE18)
Defiance Walk, (Woolwich, SE18)
Ridgebrook Road / junction with Rochester Way, (Kidbrooke, SE3)
Eltham Road/ junction with Horn Park Lane SE12
Greening Street Open Space, (Abbey Wood, SE2)
The Slade, (Plumstead Common Rd, SE18)
The Point, West Grove and Vanbrugh pits, Blackheath, SE10)
Horn Park, (Eltham, SE12)
Queenscroft Park, (Queenscroft Rd, Eltham, SE9)
Other trees have been planted at sheltered accommodation sites (bracketed bits added by me)
Minnie Bennett House (Shooters Hill Road, Kidbrooke)
176 Shooters Hill
162 Shooters Hill
40 Littleheath (Charlton)
Ann Stroud Court (Eltham Road, Lee)
Bill Walden House (Wellington Street, Woolwich)
Wentworth House (Charlton Road, Blackheath)
Mandela House (Pendrell Street, Plumstead)
1 Garnet Close (Eltham)
133 Langton Way (Blackheath)
Strand Court (Strandfield Close, Plumstead)
Eltham Road (Lee)
Hyder Court (Hervey Road, Kidbrooke)
Colliston House (Woolwich Road, Greenwich)
Have you seen any of the 2012 trees out and about? Did you take part in the consultation process – and what was the response? I’d be interested to find out.