The Spice Trail

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Because of the topography of Plumstead, it is the case that some residents don’t visit certain parts of the High Street while others never go there. For some people who don’t know what they are talking about, often because they don’t even live in Plumstead, the perception is that ‘it is all full of chicken shops and hairdressers’. To counter this, Jess of Positive Plumstead Project organised a walk to showcase her favourite shopping and eating places along the way, as well as some other items of architectural interest. Keen Plum Trailers who availed themselves of a pre-printed question sheet provided by Art Plumstead had the chance to find answers to questions displayed in some of the shops at the same time and kill two birds with one stone. A few diced with death trying to flit across the road to find some of the plums, but as the closing comment on Hammy the Hamster used to have it, that’s another story.

An impressive 16 people gathered for the start of the walk at 6.30 pm. Equally impressive was the fact that a good number of businesses were still open, serving the community, with the working day not yet over for them, while others had opened for the evening with a late night finishing time ahead of them.

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First stop was the Plume of Feathers in the garden of which is a Z shelter (not an Anderson shelter) which during the war was a communication centre linked to a larger site on Shooters Hill. It is in the process of being restored by the owners of the pub.

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There was a shout out to Plumstead Children’s Centre in Purrett Road before proceeding to M A Electrical Repairs who is hosting one of our plums for the trail.

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At Expo International Supermarket, we were encouraged to walk right to the back of the shop to see the bakery section where Jess especially mentioned the pide bread (2 for £1). On the way out we saw the extensive array of ingredients less easily available in supermarkets such as different types of halloumi cheese and pulses to buy in glass jars which reduces use of plastic. It is open 24 hours a day.

We passed the former Kinara Children’s Centre which is closed and has been for a number of years, pending sale. The council might have used it while Plumstead Library is closed instead of putting a temporary facility on the Abery Street car park, thus negatively affecting local businesses – but they didn’t.

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Soon afterwards we came to Plumstead Library, recently saved from destruction at the hands of Greenwich Council by being listed by Historic England. The last time it was threatened with demolition was in 1988. Whilst drawing attention to the fine brass plaque in the entrance lobby, John described how during the protests then, the erstwhile vicar of St Nicholas got a bit carried away in his enthusiasm and had to be calmed down by his fellow protesters.

Angels Bakery is an African family bakery business, one of a small chain in London, founded in Plumstead.

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Alpharm is a late night chemist open 9 am – 11 pm including Sundays, and stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

At Fineway Cash and Carry next door the more adventurous went into the shop to see what was on offer. It can be daunting to go into an unknown shop full of unfamiliar goods but Jess was on hand to point out certain things she found particularly of interest, such as tinned Undhiu, frozen paratha which take up next to no space in the freezer (just dry fry for 3 minutes and serve), organic coconut oil and mustard oil when needed for a particular dish.

Next door to that, Dadoos had gungo peas in large bags as well as other foodstuffs which like the other food stores on Plumstead High Street make it an Alladin’s cave for vegetarians and anyone seeking to reduce their meat consumption.

Across the way, the owner of The Glass Shop was just shutting up shop for the evening. It is recommended for any pieces of glass needed for picture framing. Although it displays a plum, the shutters had come down over the windows.

We then came to “The Famous 64” which is a local bone of contention as can be seen here and here. It is an example of why High Streets need investment and support from the local council. Currently this isn’t happening and a building in this condition wouldn’t be tolerated in some other parts of the borough.

Ambala nearby is part of a chain that sells very calorific and hence, delicious Indian sweets but this branch also serves curry upstairs at an affordable price with the option to bring in alcohol. Soft drinks must be bought on the premises, though. Before Ambala moved in, it had been a vegetarian restaurant.

Chatauri is a Nepalese restaurant and hosts another plum in the Plum Trail.

At the corner of the street Danfe, another Nepalese restaurant was recommended by people who had been there for its momo and chicken noodles, and Jess pointed out, that although there is a bar, it also serves coffee.

Plumstead Radical Club is still impressive although you have to be a member to drink there.

D Nmaste is another Nepalese Restaurant. As well as the seating area downstairs, food is also served upstairs in  the former bedrooms of the property so that it is like dining in a private room. It overlooks the station where the Victorian steel footbridge is also under threat of demolition by the Council as part of a plan to increase accessibility, although there are other solutions which would preserve the historical features of the site.

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Last stop was Cafe Royal, where it is possible to buy a borek pastry for £1.50 and add a salad to have a light meal for £3, a fraction of the price in other parts of London. Here, some stayed for a coffee and a bite to eat while 7 others doubled back to D Namaste to tuck into a selection of  Nepalese food. Here, the conversation was a heady mix of politics and reminiscences of times past, all spiced up with a touch of vulgarity.  Not food for the soul in the strictest sense, but plenty of food for the belly and a jolly outing.

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Plumstead High Street – Come and walk with us!

August 30, 2018 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Starts outside the Plume of Feathers, 282 Plumstead High St, SE18 1JT

Why not join locals from voluntary group Positive Plumstead Project (find us on Facebook and Twitter) on a walk of Plumstead High Street, visiting some shops you may not have noticed before? We will show you our favourite places to shop and eat. It starts from outside the Plume of Feathers on Plumstead High Street and finishes at the Café Royal on Plumstead Road

No charge and no need to book – just turn up on the day.

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