Plumstead Pickle Festival IV – hard cheese !

Pickle 17 table

The fourth Plumstead Pickle Festival took place on the same first Tuesday of December at the same venue (The Old Mill) but there were a few changes to simplify the process. There was no distinction between pickles and chutneys this year, and only one jar was required per entrant instead of an additional display jar for appearance. This meant anyone with a leftover single jar lurking in the back of the sideboard from a previous year could try their luck with a more mature offering, since chutney benefits from being at least 3 months old before opening.

Pickle 17 queue

Each entry was judged on its appearance on the plate and its taste, unlike in previous years when texture and recipe were appraised as well. Bread, butter, cubes of mature Cheddar cheese, paper plates and pens were issued to each table along with the voting slips for appearance, before everyone present was invited to come to the table in an orderly manner and begin sampling. There were 16 anonymous jars identified only by a letter, which meant there were a variety of ways to arrange the samples and number them for tasting.

Pickle 17 plate

Pickle 17 judges

In another simplification of the voting process there were only up to five marks per category to be awarded by each taster as they wished across up to five chutneys or pickles in any combination of points. Halfway through the evening the results for appearance were announced before the voting slips for taste were sent round. In theory, it might be possible for an entrant to get all their supporters to give their entry 5 points in each category and unduly influence the result, but with well over 60 people in the pub, voting for anonymous jars that doesn’t seem likely. It means the highest scoring recipes really are the people’s favourite – and conversely the least popular are not appreciated which is a bitter pill to swallow as an unsuccessful entrant (hence the hard cheese reference in the title) but I was there on the night, and while not everything I tasted was entirely to my taste, there was nothing too horrible to eat!  It was certainly a suitable setting to promote Good Food In Greenwich and The Spiral Garden, the local community garden in Vicarage Park.

Pickle 17 Ray writes certificates

Pickle 17 3rd Appearance

Pickle 17 2nd Appearance

Pickle 1st Appearance

Pickle 17 3rd pos

Pickle 2nd pos

Pickle 17 1st pos

Pickle 17 table close up







Midsummer Crawl 2017- Oak to Holly

IMAG0058IMG_1100What did you do on the hottest June day for 40 years? No-one knew exactly what to expect for the second Midsummer Crawl, even those who were in on the planning, but the outline of events was in place. As before, we convened at the Apni Haveli (formerly the Woodman) opposite an oak tree for initial mingling before the assembled party read out snippets of information about how Midsummer is celebrated in various countries round the world. These gave an inkling of what was to follow. Then came the adorning of the willow headdresses which culminated in revealing John as the Oak King, with Dee as his consort, The Goddess. It was explained that tonight they would consummate their union in an act so overwhelming that the Oak King would perish and be replaced by the Holly King who would steadily gain in power until midwinter. Needless to say, there was a fair amount of innuendo throughout the evening.

Midsummer 2017 blowing bubblesMidsummer 2017 walking by Sladeimag0059.jpgThereupon all set off, blowing bubbles on the way, to the Who’d a Thought It up the road. The activity here was for the women to gather names of 9 sacred herbs written on small cards which The Goddess had strewn around the garden. Meanwhile, the men drew lots. On the women’s return the couples were matched up, willow rings were exchanged and the Oak King declared them married, since fake marriages are a Midsummer custom in some parts of the world. Meanwhile, the other customers looked on with amusement, and one bloke came over to introduce himself, see above. Once Dee had shown everyone how to dance a simple dance step, the parade danced via the back roads towards The Star, to the accompaniment of wrist bells for the ladies and The King’s Knee Tremblers* for the men, and with natural confetti showering all around. Here, we picked up a few extra punters and chatted up the locals who wondered what on earth we were doing.

Midsummer 2107 Erik reading poetry The Star


Feasting Swedish-style on herring, new potatoes and sour cream with dill

At The Star, Erik read several Midsummer poems in the garden, including audience participation, then joss sticks were lit for the journey to The Ship. Here, the activity was to draw effigies of witches, bulls, cocks and cats. These were duly burnt in a small tin, and while the women practiced jumping, the men prepared the Midsummer Fire. In reality, this was a trio of tealights in a facsimile of a fire pit, but it served the purpose. Once everyone had jumped over the fire thrice, The Oak King led us to the holly tree that stands adjacent to the Rugby Club. After a quick group rendition of various animal noises with an ‘authentic’ Swedish accent, the old year was wound down by walking three times clockwise round the holly tree, before the new year was wound up by walking three times anticlockwise, accompanied by the hullabaloo of bellowing animal cries. As with so many Art Plumstead open air events, those who wished to, adjourned to The Old Mill.


Preparing to jump the fire

*these are made from can lids lashed together like castanets and secured to the knee with knicker elastic from the £1 shop. They make a splendid clattering noise and are ideal for drawing attention to oneself.

Plumstead Make Merry 2017

Plumstead Make Merry (40)Art Plumstead showcased the creative skills of regular attendees of Andrew’s Watercolour classes with a selection of hand-painted cards and local scenes which flew off the stall; sometimes literally, since the weather, although gloriously hot, had occasional gusts of wind. Luckily, there were enough volunteers to keep an eye on the stall and its contents, and retrieve any stray works.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPicMonkey Collage Plumstead Make Merry 6Later they were joined by Liz who entertained the children with a puppet show depicting the adventures of a crab who found the courage to make a journey to the blinged up crystal rocks at the bottom of the sea. It was an original and amusing way to deliver the message of respect for the environment.

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp AllMake Merry 2017 Veg Comp All JudgingMeanwhile, in the information tent, Erik and Dee had been receiving entries for the vegetable carving competition. The theme was local people and places. The new, streamlined ballot system was aimed at encouraging voters to choose only one sculpture as their favourite piece, then move away so others could make their selection.

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp Helicopter

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp John de Morgan

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp Steve Davis

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp hand sculpture

Make Merry 2017 Veg Comp MPs

There were any number of local stalls and activities, hordes of visitors and anyone involved will say it was a very successful Make Merry 2017.

PicMonkey Collage Plumstead Make Merry 4



The Ten Trees of Workhouse Wood

IMG_0705It was a beautiful sunny day when Kevin and Andrew met John and Dee at the top of the steps into Workhouse Wood. In a short while, more explorers had joined them. They were going to have an adventure!

Down, down, down they went into Workhouse Wood. No sooner had they gone down a few steps than they found a scattering of petals on the ground – dainty white elderflowers, bright yellow hawkweed and pretty pink dog roses.

A tiny, tinkling bell rang out. Ting-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling! They looked up. A queer piece of golden yarn had been tied to the first tree in the Tree Trail, an English Oak. It was rather mysterious.

Kevin said, “I know what has happened. The elves must have seen me walking around the wood last week. I expect they have tied golden yarn to all the trees on the Tree Trail.”

IMG_0725Sure enough, when they arrived at the next tree, the merry, tinkling bells rang out, and there was – yes, a tiny piece of golden yarn on the old Hawthorn Tree, tied in a bow. The mischievous elves were playing a trick. They had even tied a thread to a tree that was not on the trail, a Field Maple.

Kevin said, “The elves are laughing at us, but they have helped us, too. Do you see how the leaves are similar to the Sycamore next to it, but they are not the same. They are more rounded.”

They walked further on. The woods were lovely and cool. Presently, they came to a sort of clearing. The sun shone down on the path. It was simply enchanting. Soon they had reached the great Horse Chestnut Tree, then a dear little Cherry Tree. In a trice they had tied a card to the branches to help visitors know more about the trees.

IMG_0732They rubbed the leaves of the Western Red Cedar Tree. They smelt of delicious pineapple! At every tree they visited, the merry, tinkling bells rang out. (It was the elves laughing). Try as they might, they could not see the elves. They were hiding.

When they had walked past the Holly Tree and the Elder Tree, they looked over and saw that some of the logs in the Forest Schools clearing had been scorched rather badly. Some naughty children must have set fire to them. I think their nannies ought to smack them, don’t you?

At last they came to the end of the Trail. It had been good fun and they had had a busy day. They had learned a lot about trees and Workhouse Wood. It was time to go to the pub. They went to The Old Mill and talked about politics and the education system. They made plans for the Make Merry and the Midsummer Crawl. Then it was time to go home.


More Treasures Unknown

IMG_20170416_160556590_HDREvery Community Market since January has seen the monthly watercolour workshop move from ‘beginners’ to ‘improvers’ – they will be selling a selection of their cards and paintings at the Make Merry – but the 5th annual Easter Quiz Crawl (see pics of the gleeful winners) launched the warm weather season of Art Plumstead activities and reminded those who have been in at the start that we will have reached our 5th Anniversary on September 2nd, right in the middle of Plumstravaganza 2017.

IMG_20170416_160604160_HDROnce again, Karen managed to find a different part of Plumstead to be the setting of a trail combining anagrams of local streets and questions to answer about places seen en route. There were also a few random sights to be spotted and identified. To make it slightly easier they were all in sequence, but no team managed to spot all of them. The teams set off from The Star and meandered round the back streets to journey’s end. At the final count, there was only one point between the scores of the first and second teams. For the second team, it was a bitter pill to swallow, but it was metaphorically washed down with a few pints in The Old Mill.

IMG_20170416_160610672It is about to get busy in the Art Plumstead Calendar, starting with the Tree Trail in Workhouse Wood, and if you aren’t already on the mailing list, the simplest way to be kept informed is to sign up using the contact form at the bottom of the Art Plumstead home page.


Easter Quiz Crawl Sunday 16 April 2017

You would hardly believe its possible but another slew of interesting, challenging clues await all participants in this year’s Quiz Crawl on Sunday 16 April. The Quiz Crawl is a walk around Plumstead according to a set of directions leading to questions based on the buildings. street names and general oddities of Plumstead Town. For a flavour of last year’s event click here

Full details in the image below. See you there.






Relishing the Challenge – Plumstead Pickle Festival III

wp_20161206_21_33_00_proArt Plumstead’s 3rd Pickle Festival took place a little later than in previous years but with the same keen sense of anticipation. Each entry was judged against the same criteria as before – appearance, recipe, texture, taste, favourite pickle and favourite chutney – but this year entrants were allowed to include a 20 character description of their pickle or chutney, to be written on a label provided by Art Plumstead for the benefit of anyone who didn’t see the recipe beforehand. Andy provided a stash of bread and cheese to accompany the competition entries.

wp_20161206_20_41_40_proAs usual, anonymous peer voting was used as the fairest means of obtaining a valid result. There was a mixture of previous entrants and first-timers pitting their culinary skills against one another. Plenty of beer was consumed to accompany the food on offer, with seconds and thirds being sampled to allow the tasters to make an informed decision. The favourite chutneys and pickles proved so popular that some jars were scraped clean.

sam_3267By the time the first, second and third entrants were announced, there was barely a scrap of cheese, biscuit or bread left and the protective cellophane over the Art Plumstead tablecloth was liberally spattered with the remnants of over 20 jars of pickle and chutney. It had been another sumptuous night of community feasting at The Old Mill, based on the Annual Pickle Festival at the Dog and Bell in Deptford.