Waxing Lyrical about Watercolours


A chance to mass-produce Christmas cards


All similar but all different

The theme for the last watercolour session of the year at St Marks during the Plumstead Community Market was how to capture winter scenes. It was a particularly well-attended session with just enough room for everyone who came. There was a selection of suitably snowy pictures for the benefit of anyone who hadn’t brought their own to work from. Several people used candles to create a wax resist while others used masking fluid as they had been taught several workshops ago. Luckily for us, the heating was working more effectively than in the main hall with the consequence that everyone who came into the room exclaimed at how warm it was.




Andrew showed how he had produced his Christmas card for this year by basing his composition on a standard landscape scene and then imagining it covered in snow, inventing the colours. Usually there is an air of intense concentration but as it was the last class of the year a more lighthearted atmosphere prevailed with a bit more good-natured chatter than usual. In spite of this a number of accomplished paintings were produced. Now that most regular attendees have built up a body of work, the idea of participating in the Open Studios during Plumstravaganza was mooted.



Not a woodcut, but a watercolour, showing the source material


Based on another picture, but with new colours imagined


A relaxed atmosphere at the last watercolour class of 2018

With half an hour to go before the end of the market, homemade spicy apple cookies, shortbread and a selection of chocolates were produced, all washed down with a bottle of sherry and a bottle of port for the benefit of anyone who fancied a festive drink. A couple of regulars who hadn’t been able to participate this time also dropped by and socialised, before we all packed up and went home in the perishing cold and rain.


A Maxfield Parrish moment, but not based on one of his pictures!

IMG_20181217_154410 (1)

Local street scene after rain, working from mobile phone


Preserving an Art Plumstead Tradition


Tasting under way – which will be the winners?

By now, the Pickle Festival is an established event in the Art Plumstead calendar. As usual it was held in The Old Mill, and as usual there were a few tweaks, not for a phoney ‘new, improved service user experience’, but just to make it easier to manage. The main change was the re-introduction of texture as a category in this, the 5th Plumstead Pickle Festival. By the time the competition started, 15 pickles and chutneys had been delivered in time for judging at the start of the competition a couple of last minute entries bumped it up to 17. Butter, cheese and biscuits were pre-prepared ready for distribution to all the tables and there were also three sour dough loaves baked by Ashley that day and delivered by Julia from the Plumstead Pantry next door. 


Her Maj at the pickle table

20181204_202808.jpgAll three categories were judged concomitantly, with up to five points to be awarded among any pickles in each category. Most of the tasters divided their plates into labelled sections to facilitate identification of the pickles. The peer voting system tended to sift out clear contenders for first, second and third place, all collated by Dee and Geoff. Meanwhile there was a buzz of lively discussion about the various offerings  – who knew the world of preserved fruit and veg could be this gripping?! Erik, as master of ceremonies exchanged whimsical banter with Alison as Badge Queen of Plumstead while the certificates were written out by Kevin. 

mine's a pint

The Badge Queen of Plumstead en promenade

The results were as follows:

1st Ross Jardine  In Persistence of Piccalilli
2nd Gilly Loader  Piccalilli
3rd Angela Fletcher  Pear Chutney
1st Gilly Loader  Piccalilli
2nd Ross Jardine  In Persistence of Piccalilli
3rd Gilly Loader  Tomato and Red Wine Chutney
1st Ross Jardine  In Persistence of Piccalilli
2nd Malcolm Fletcher  Festive Fruit Chutney
3rd Keith Hawkins  Apple, Choko and Date Chutney.

pickle-winner-2018-2.jpgAt the end of the evening, the vanquished collected the dismal remains lurking in their jars while the victors went home clutching their certificates and corresponding rewards but there were some new faces and everyone present had got out of the house and mingled instead of sitting at home watching rubbish on TV.

Pickle winner 2018 (3)

The winners


Spiral Remembers 100 years on


A lone poppy at Spiral Garden


Art Plumstead created a remembrance display in collaboration with two local Plumstead schools on the 100th  anniversary of the end of WW1.


Art Plumstead Poppy


Seen from above

In addition to the outline of a poppy made from stones painted by Art Plumstead and arranged to be visible from the street above, there were also stones painted by pupils from Gallions Mount Primary School. These were placed on the upper level of the garden.


Gallions Mount Poppy before…


Gallions Mount Poppy after…


Gallions Mount Poppy brightening up a dull corner

Rockliffe Manor Primary School provided paper poppies which had been part of a special assembly earlier that day. These were displayed on the circular table in the middle of the Spiral Garden.


Paper poppies made by Rockliffe Manor School pupils


Poppies at the Spiral Garden

Rain swept over from the west later on Friday and fell on everything in its path, but not before the entire display had been captured on camera.



Hallo again to Workhouse Wood 2018

Clown a

A horrible clown came along

Art Plumstead’s Halloween Event returned to Workhouse Wood this year in a slightly different format, with people invited to share their own ghostly stories to supplement the planned programme of entertainment. The motley crew began assembling on Winn’s Common shortly before 8 pm at the top of the steps leading down into the woods, with a hi-viz jacket or two helping nervous first-timers find the meeting place. In all, 18 people (plus one dog and who knows how many restless spirits) came along. Making a last sweeping pass of torches across the expanse of grass for any latecomers, Kevin led the party down into the bosky gloom and the divertissement began.


The adventure begins


Kevin reads Part Two of Abraham’s Boys by the Chestnut Tree


Same scene, different camera!

After a brief foray into the woods the first performance site was reached. The story was an edited version of Abraham’s Boys by Joe Hill (read the full text here). As it divides naturally into three parts, the further two sections were read out as the group traveled further and further into the murky woods. Mysterious ornaments, made from bunches of herbs hung from the trees. Ever and again the more discerning noticed the faint smell of lavender. There was even a mysterious shrine to add to the eerie atmosphere, featuring Moriarty the cat who appeared in Art Plumstead’s Halloween two years ago and apples cut crosswise to reveal the star shape so beloved of witches.


Moriarty the glittery cat peeps out from the Halloween shrine

The final part of the tale was read out at the site of the old pig sty, before John told a true tale of Mary Wickens , the Blue Guardian, who was in charge of the welfare of children at the Woolwich Union Workhouse at 79b Tewson Road Plumstead. Set in the 1870s it is the tragic story of the death of two small sisters and Mary’s ghost that roamed the hospital afterwards trying to right the wrong she had done. Then Margaret described the spooky goings on at The Cage in St. Osyth, Essex which have forced the owner to put the property on the market – no takers so far. Finally, after Erik’s recital of the 1899 poem Antigonish by William Hughes Mearnes, there was a lighthearted improvised question and answer session about the supernatural hosted by a three-headed monster performed by John, Mark and Erik. No ghosts materialised, and crucially nor did the promised heavy rain. When all the tales were over, mulled wine was served before the crowd dispersed, some going to The Old Mill for an extra drink to calm their nerves, and the rest fleeing for the safety of their own homes, vampires permitting.




The true tale of The Cage in St Osyth, Essex

The three headed expert answers questions on the supernatural


Taking a bow


Volunteering to Share Ideas


The blood, sweat and tears of everyone involved in planning Plumstead Make Merry


Conceptual Art is a serious business


The first concept is explained

Art Plumstead hosted its second pop up Conceptual Art show in the garden of the Volunteer on Plumstead High Street. When it was launched last year, the intention had been to debunk the idea of conceptual art by sending it up. In the event, all the pieces had been carefully considered and encouraged serious thought and discussion.


Mottainai – tribute to Japan or cultural appropriation?


How to have a reasonable debate


Plumstead – please don’t judge a book by its cover!

This year an equally thought-provoking collection of exhibits was assembled with displays exploring the power and meaninglessness of advertising, waste in the fast fashion industry, the unfairness of judging a book by its cover, how something entirely false can be used to accomplish positive ends and the dichotomy between the desirability of slimness in one part of the world compared to another. A good proportion of the exhibits didn’t seek to establish one absolute view over another but to air an idea and encourage a balanced opinion. The pictures and text can only hint at the meaning behind the art pieces presented on the evening, and the only way to fully appreciate them was to have been there.


Same world, different problems


So, which one came first?


They are their own work of art


Real or fake – and does it really matter?

By the end of the evening, a range of theories had been aired and examined through animated conversation, all accompanied by a drink or two. There was plenty of non-art related chatter at the same time because after all, participation in Plumstravaganza is entirely voluntary.


Luckily, Alison was on hand to see that no Crimes against Art were committed



Early Harvest at The Spiral Garden


The Spiral Garden hosted a drop in swap and share session as part of Plumstravaganza 2018. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, sunny without being oppressive, and its location next to Plumstead Common Nature Reserve added to the pleasant ambience. A steady stream of visitors came by, either to try the different herbs that grow on the site, or to donate or sell their produce. Many were visiting the Spiral Garden for the first time or remembered it when it had been a children’s play area.



There were two huge bags of conference pears (Maggie took some at the end to make pear pickle for the Plumstead Pickle Festival in December) and home made raspberry jam for sale, packed with fruit. There was a box of very large eating apples and home grown spuds, and plenty of organic garlic and onions from GCDA’s garden site at Woolwich Dockyard, one of several run as part of Growing Greenwich. Someone brought several sprigs of ginger rosemary which encouraged those present to take some home and try to strike cuttings from it, by placing tips in water. The rest will be dried and the needles rubbed off for experimenting with, probably to make a syrup for flavouring drinks.



For refreshment, every visitor was offered three drinks on arrival; the first being water flavoured  with salad burnet to give it a light cucumber taste. Next, apple juice to which sweet woodruff had been added. Sweet woodruff when crushed quickly develops an almond flavour and is a key ingredient in May Bowl, a traditional German recipe. Finally, an infusion of Moroccan Mint, as served in Turkish restaurants. Meanwhile there were small savoury biscuits made with chives and winter savoury which proved popular. Also well liked were the oriental mustard leaves growing freely in one of the beds. Small pots of herbs, including some used to flavour the drinks were available to take away. As if that weren’t enough, there were several home made lavender bags and packets of seeds to take home and try. The new banner for the Community Market at St Mark’s Hall was briefly unveiled while packing up and pronounced splendid. It will have its first official outing on Saturday 15th September when the Market recommences.

See Good Food in Greenwich for more details.




The Spice Trail


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.