One of the first events in Plumstravaganza was the walk round the Nature Reserve at the end of Plumstead Common, led by Nick Day. First, we were shown the Slade Ponds. Nick described the work involved in constructing the weirs which help to filter the water entering the pond as it flows down from Shooters Hill as rainwater runoff. A good deal of time is spent simply picking up litter dumped by people who can’t summon the energy to walk to the numerous bins around the common or take it home with them. Indeed, as we walked round, Nick had brought a bin bag and continued to pick up litter as we continued the tour. En route, we walked along the path running between the bowling green and dog exercise area. In former times it was known informally as Dogs’ Muck Alley (every town has one), but apart from one or two persistent offenders*, it is now more of a Sparrows Alley, because of the thick hawthorn hedges on either side.
After taking a slight detour to look at a fallen tree bough which had damaged the fence – poplars are notorious for suddenly dropping branches – we entered the Plumstead Common Nature Reserve. Nick explained how the site was taken under the wing of the Plumstead Common Environment Group. Situated at the west end of Plumstead Common, behind Blendon Terrace, this is a wooded area containing a variety of trees. It had long been neglected, becoming an unofficial dumping ground. Neighbours who got together to clear the huge accumulation of rubbish became founder members of the Group. With the cooperation of the Council and a grant from the Co-op, PCEG adopted the site.
Additional native trees and shrubs have been planted. A group of volunteers carries out work once a month, and the site is currently patrolled daily, with the volunteers removing litter and maintaining the paths. Once we had been shown the various features of the site, we walked up the stairs at the back and took a brief detour into the adjacent Spiral Garden, where everyone was invited to help themselves to herbs and/or an organic onion if they wished. Since these photographs were taken, the beds have been planted up and the site is now run by Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency to offer a free, weekly opportunity for local residents to learn food-growing skills with the added benefit of social contact and harvesting organic food.
The walk concluded with a look at the Puddingstones on the common and the First World War memorial which is unusual in being set back from the road. If you think about it, most war memorials are prominently displayed by the roadside. There is an intriguing motif with Second World War Nazi connotations at the back of the memorial which you may see for yourself and wonder about.
* It is a little known fact that they can be identified by the colour and gauge of the offending articles – if you are the owner, beware, PCEG are on your case!