Category Archives: Photographic and other Walks

Fancy a Stink Pipe Walk? Wee-wee Mon Sewer

Social interaction has been at a premium for much of this year, so a chance to join a small group walking round the backstreets of Plumstead finding stink pipes was a welcome distraction. John led the walk and began by giving a little background information. Joseph Bazalgette and Sir Goldsworthy Gurney were commissioned to design a sewer system and devise a way to vent the waste gases. You can find out more about the subject here.

In spite of their size and ubiquity around London, they are often overlooked. Most are rather neglected with peeling paint in drab colours – khaki and washed out air force blue for instance. However, there are sometimes little decorative elements. If they were painted to bring out the detail they would add a welcome touch of colour to the urban landscape. Stink pipes are located along the sewers aligned with each other. More than one can be found in some streets. Later pipes tend to be less ornate and are made of steel instead of cast iron. A few are rusting into oblivion.

Our walk nominally covered 10 pipes, but they are so easy to miss, especially on tree lined roads that a couple of ‘extra’ ones were found on the way. At one site, a later replacement stood a couple of yards away from the Victorian original, which had been truncated to a base (see header pic). There were a few other interesting sights like a bell on the side of The Church of the Ascension and a fine King George oval pillar box with a decommissioned stamp machine on the side. We briefly crossed the boundary with Bexley Borough by the horse field – it was sunnier on that side of the road! We also looked around one of the local cemeteries and admired a Cedar tree replete with splendid cones.

A Window of Opportunity

Walking for exercise is all very well, but walking for a purpose appeals more to some people. The Easter Art Walk 2 – 5th April achieved both, with walking for pleasure thrown in. Plumstead Open Studios involves quite a lot of effort for those who take part. With current restrictions precluding visitors in the house, but 6 people being allowed to meet outside, Plumstead became an ‘open air studio’ instead. 35 local artists used their windows to display a selection of their work. Tidying the front garden and cleaning the windows involves less work than preparing for Open Studios!

Based on the map made available shortly before the launch, the Art Walk seemed to split naturally into two sections – from Lower Plumstead up to the far end of Swingate Lane to include the Common, and the other section to encompass Shooters Hill. Both are substantial walks, with hills to climb. By the time everyone had bumped into everyone else and enjoyed a decent chat, a couple of hours had gone.

As a bonus, Saturday saw a series of hourly alphorn recitals by Anneke Scott. The alphorn is a magnificent beast, rarely seen or heard in the UK. You can find out more about this instrument here, and the following video is of the alphorn being played in a local park – not far from where Kate Bush grew up.

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


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.

The Plumstead Wyrm. A Tale for Midsummer.


Wyrm 6

The Wyrm?????

Art Plumstead’s Midsummer event was a bit different in style from the last couple of years, having a different artistic director, but it took place on the 21st June as before, and there were still a few floral headdresses to be seen to help set the mood as well as the knee tremblers from last year.

Wyrm 16

Starting at The Star Inn, there was a chance to mingle and for the early birds to have first dibs on a variety of jaunty head adornments, freshly constructed from local greenery that very day. This prepared them for a brief synopsis of the tale of The Plumstead Wyrm (pronounced worm), penned by our own Poet Laureate Dee, whereby the key players of the piece were identified before a brief rhyme, accompanied by a ringing of bells, explained how everyone would know when it was approaching time to move on. Naturally, it included the words ‘Hey Nonny-Nonny-No’ as you would expect.


The assembled party then moved in a suitably jolly fashion to The Old Mill where the Resident described what a Wyrm is and what is a Penwyrm – someone who helps the Wyrm. With another jangle of bells, all present trotted off down the steps to the Slade Pond. Here, the Wyrm spoke for the first time to describe its birth on Shooters Hill in the River Woghbourne that ran down to the Thames. Jelly worms were distributed to munch on the next stage of the journey.



After the bells jangled for the penultimate time, the audience climbed up the opposite flight of steps, walked past the young men playing volleyball and all the way to the far end of Winns Common. This was the setting for the waves and the wind to give advice to the Wyrm, describing local characters, some of whom seemed to bear a remarkable resemblance to certain members of Art Plumstead. The knee tremblers and party blowers were issued to the participants who went clattering down Purrett Road and into the Plume of Feathers. By now, the person who was to play the Wyrm had mysteriously disappeared.



The grand finale in which the Wyrm and lover are reunited took place in the garden of The Plume of Feathers. Just to add to the excitement there had been recent works undertaken to excavate the old Anderson Shelter since the previous planning visit by Art Plumstead. This meant the Wyrm had to make a last minute change of hiding place (against the wall with a few wisps of ivy pulled across) before emerging. Thanks to a couple of handy umbrellas and a biddable audience who were happy to be shepherded into the lower part of the garden, no-one suspected a thing. As the imaginary curtain fell, there was a round of applause, the playwright heaved a sigh of relief and beer a-plenty was consumed before those who remained to the last tottered back up to the Common where a memento of the nights revelry was suitably displayed.

Wyrm 66

wyrm 46

The Woghbourne today – Home of the Wyrms.

The attachment below is the script with directions.

The Plumstead Wyrm A.P. website copy.

And this is the bibliography.

The Plumstead Wyrm Bibliography version 2




You May Help Yourself

Back in May, Art Plumstead led a free foraging walk for Friends of Shrewsbury Park, retracing the path of the previous one in September. This meant it was an introduction to some of the edible wild food growing locally and a chance for anyone who came before to compare the plants with what they remembered last time. You can read all about it here.

Foraging poster 2018

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.

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.


Plumstravaganza – Open Studios


The final weekend of Plumstravaganza allowed local residents and visitors to see artists’ work in their own homes. This is the very first time Open Studios has taken place in Plumstead, but it has been in the pipeline for a number of years.


The idea is to pick up a leaflet, then visit the houses in turn. Naturally, not all the work will be to everyone’s taste, but that is not the point. It is a social occasion as much as a chance for the artists to showcase their creativity.



Feedback was very positive; from the artists, who were pleased to receive visitors to see their work, and the public, who couldn’t believe Open Studios was taking place in Plumstead. Now that Open Studios has happened, there is every chance that additional artists will consider being part of future similar events.