Tag Archives: Plumstead Common

Plumstravaganza – Natural Reserve


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.

spiralgarden2After 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.

artisticbrillantspiralgardenwalknickAdditional 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.

black poplar walk with nickThe 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!

Easter Quiz Crawl

IMG-20160328-01835Rebranded to discourage false expectations of allergen-free chocolate Easter eggs, face-painting and bouncy castles, this year’s Easter Quiz Crawl, devised by Karen, encompassed the streets around Middle Plumstead; starting at The Rose before ending as always, at The Old Mill.

IMG-20160327-01824IMG-20160327-01825The name Quiz Crawl alluded to the starting and finishing points of the route, and there was just about time for a quick pint before setting off, although it was not compulsory to inbibe in either of them to complete the clues around the trail. As before, there were anagrams to be solved to work out where to go, as well as picture clues to be spotted along the way. In addition, there were twelve laser-cut eggs secreted along the route. Unless these were unusually well-hidden, it appears they had already been discovered and gleefully carried off by local residents as only one was found by the participants. (If you look closely, you will see it round the neck of the bottle of wine in the picture below)

IMG-20160327-01827As forecast, the weather was indifferent to start with and it even rained at the start of the Quiz Crawl, but it turned out to be a sunny afternoon, albeit with a biting East wind. With hindsight, it would have paid dividends to spend more time to fully appreciate what was required of the questions before setting off, because there was plenty to find and everyone needed their wits about them, but it was ‘only a game’ and a way of finding out more about the neighbourhood. Prizes were donated by The Harlequin Gallery, for the slowest team (a ceramic snail/eggcup), the most laser-cut eggs found (a Thornton’s egg) and the highest score after points had been deducted for every minute after 3.30pm that the answer sheets were handed in at The Old Mill (a bottle of wine). For everyone else it was hard cheese or melted cheese on chips and sorrows drowned in Andy’s selection of real ales.IMG-20160327-01830IMG-20160327-01834IMG-20160327-01831




Halloween Free

The evening begins on an ordinary street in Plumstead

The evening begins on an ordinary street in Plumstead

There was no excuse for anyone to stay indoors if they didn’t want to on the warmest Halloween on record. While the players waited in their appointed area in the Nature Reserve in keen anticipation, Jan and John loitered on the pavement, dressed as a masked witch and in a kimono respectively. No-one could have missed them. By the time John had taught four volunteers how to repeat a simple Japanese phrase for use later, the crowd had swelled to just over twenty people. Exhorting them to be mindful of their wellbeing, their journey began.

The stage is set; the battlements

The stage is set; the battlements

The tension mounts

The tension mounts

...Hamlet, King, father, royal Dane...the ghost appears

…Hamlet, King, father, royal Dane…the ghost appears

The audience were led down the first set of steps to ‘The Gates of Hell’ where they encountered an exotic creature in big hat, feather boa and silk wrap. It was Alison who explained how, in times past, the Japanese scoured the country to gather spooky tales. She finished her set with a blood-curdling cackle. The torchlit procession wound its way down through the trees to the acting area, Music, smoke and flaming torches added to the atmosphere. A huge oriental banner set the scene; the battlements where Hamlet encounters the ghost of his father (or does he?), all with a Japanese flavour. Next, accompanied by eerie music, Erik told a mysterious tale of a strange maiden who appeared one day in a bizarre sea-craft.

A mysterious tale unfolds

A mysterious tale unfolds

John then re-entered the arena and gathered his four volunteers. As they repeated their phrases, the three torches were extinguished one by one. When the final phrase was said, the main light was killed to leave the audience in darkness. Then it was re-lit and the audience invited to linger while enjoying sake and authentic Japanese snacks. At last it was time to break the set and adjourn to the Old Mill. Art Plumstead’s Third Halloween had been a success, re-animating a long-stashed collection of Japanese costumes to provide a memorable experience at no cost to the audience.

And soon the darkness

And soon the darkness


“Loved last night. Well done all of u” M D by text

“Dear Eric,dear All,

“What a marvellous experience you made for us – the journey into the unknown dark, alone but together, the touching humanity of small lights, and then arrival into a different world.The music and the trees circled all, like the princess’s boat,& gave such space to really listen to the spare words,as the stillness did for the masterful movement.
I didn’t think you could surpass Beowulf, but perhaps you did.
Thank you.
Till next year, please”
J by email
“It was such a wonderful happening. Thank you Art Plumstead for everything you do for us ! We are so lucky that you put on these performances which are interesting, stimulating and FUN. I loved it and I learnt something new about Japanese culture. The traditional tale of the woman adrift in the boat will stay with me – haunting!” J on Facebook

“Very enjoyable. 有難うございます” D (the Japanese translates as thank you very much -Erik)

“Thanks for a fabulously different Hallowe’en. Arigato gezaimasu!” D


‘Free’ Food in Plumstead

What every foraging walk leader needs - a botanical shirt labelled in a Scandanavian language (Swedish?), and the AP rallying stick

What every foraging walk leader needs – a botanical shirt labelled in a Scandanavian language (Swedish?), and the AP rallying stick

So long as you know where to look, and what is OK to eat. And we did not, as John jokingly suggested, steam the local shop. Nor did we go ferreting down the bins. No, we completed a short circuit in the vicinity of the Common, dipping into the streets to the south, before emerging and walking over towards the nature reserve. Journey’s End was the Old Mill, where some of us allowed ourselves a couple of drinks. An important part of the talk concerned the law, and common sense when foraging. Bear in mind that the ‘free’ food still has to be collected, without treading in anything nasty, washed, then processed which can use up a fair deal of electricity or gas, and all takes time, which is why I have moved towards using foraged food whole. It keeps more of the original flavour, is quicker and less is needed than if making jam for instance.

On Safari, Plumstead style

On Safari, Plumstead style

There were about 50 attendees – about 40 adults and around 10 children. Luckily, the adults seemed to take a robust, Scandinavian-style* attitude to letting their children be outdoors, eating unwashed leaves and berries, making contact with the soil, climbing into and falling out of trees and generally behaving as English children used to behave 40 or 50 years ago. Most of the adults were up for tasting unfamiliar plants, if not the climbing trees and dirt. Surprise hits were the blackberry, which at this time of year would be expected to be quite bitter, but which were surprisingly sweet – if only I had picked some in the summer – and the fruit of the Bastard Service tree, unpalatable to children, but favoured by the adults who tried them because of their juiciness and balance of sweetness and sharpness.

"Try this my dear, it won't kill you" Actually, raw elderberries are mildly poisonous, but tasting one won't kill you...probably

“Try this my dear, it won’t kill you” Actually, raw elderberries are mildly poisonous, but tasting one won’t kill you…probably!

In terms of garden plants, it was a revelation to some that they could eat fuchsia berries – choose the ones that are rich, dark purple. They are mildly sweet with a slight peppery aftertaste. The Japanese Rose petals weren’t quite as sweet as they have been earlier in the year, but the accompanying hips found favour with those who tried them. It is surprising what edible plants you can find within a short distance of your front door, and even if you decide you’d rather not partake, it is still interesting to be aware that you could, and to know the stories and legends attached to them.

"Oh, go on then" - and Mother Elder cackled with glee, another victim snared!

“Oh, go on then” – and Mother Elder cackled with glee, another victim snared!

*NB There is a small, informal group in Plumstead, called FLOPs, which stands for the Finnish Ladies of Plumstead.

A Stroll in the Darkness

If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I might not have believed it – an open air promenade performance with 40 attendees, all organised and resourced by members of Art Plumstead. Luckily the weather was on our side, mild and dry with very little breeze to play havoc with the lanterns.

Halloween - a chance to get creative with a gourd and a lino cutter

Halloween – a chance to get creative with a gourd and a lino cutter

At the appointed time and place a veritable throng, some of them in suitable attire and carrying lanterns, gathered to hear about the origins of Halloween traditions in Europe and America, before being offered Soul Cakes, part of a late mediaeval custom that persisted in parts of England into the 20th Century. Then the audience was led on a mysterious route past a dazzling light to an area beside the pond where they were greeted with smoke, incense and the sound of drums to hear excerpts from Beowulf.

Erik holds the audience in thrall

Erik holds the audience in thrall

As soon as the acting area was plunged into darkness at the end of the performance, the audience was led to a different spot to enjoy mulled wine and savoury scones, while Alison performed her poem, ‘Beware the Banshee’. Then after a short interval, it was time to visit the final setting, where Erik read an adaptation of ‘The Sexton’s Adventure’, by Sheridan le Fanu. Meanwhile, let us not forget the vital input of Karen, John, Rose and Andrew who beavered away to make all the effects appear and disappear as if by magic, and everyone who entered into the spirit of the event by loaning equipment and bringing treats to share.




Plumstead Common Photographic Walk – A Summary

AP Photographic Walk When doing this walk, it’s worth remembering to look back periodically as you go, to capture anything you may have missed on the way; and consider coming back in different light conditions/weather as this will give you a completely different experience.
Starting at Old Mill, walk diagonally left across Common to St John’s Terrace, past the Victorian Lodge on the corner. Walk down to end of St John’s Terrace, go down steps and along edge of railings on the right.past houses on Blendon Terrace, and continue ahead into Vicarage Road. At the bottom of the road turn right past the Vicarage (c.1790) and at the end turn right, up Vicarage Park. At the top left corner, where there is a concrete lined dip inside railings, turn left into the Conservation Area down some steps. There are views across the horse paddock and an old mulberry tree, a legacy of the time when this was a garden. After 5 minutes here, retrace your way back up the steps to Blendon Terrace and bear round to the left to rejoin the Common. (There is an alternative set of steps which will take you up by the top of Bramblebury Road, be aware that at the top of them there is a slope which could be muddy/slippery after wet weather, which is why we will be returning on the steps to Vicarage Road)
Continue back across the Common, walking between the tennis courts to your left and the bowling green to your right. Once back on Waverley Crescent, detour left to look at Alms Houses built 1896, before continuing past The Old Mill, and heading past the end of Chestnut Rise (views to left). Go down steps to Slade pond. Continue round to the right to take photos through the railings of the pond, as far as the western end, then retrace your route and climb up steps on the right to The Slade. Turn left, down Lakedale Road, before crossing over onto the Common.
Continue along Green Chain Walk, parallel to King’s Highway, and onto Bleak Hill Lane, a cinder path. Detour onto a path on the right through an area of grass, directly after a patch of brambles peters out on your right. Follow this path to the very end, as it dips down and up through an area of mixed trees and grassland. When you reach a set of steps on your right which lead down to King’s Highway, do not go down them but instead, turn left, away from them and skirt round the edge of the Common. Presently you will see a fairly narrow entrance to the Wildflower Meadow on your right. Go into the Wildflower Meadow. If you walk to the very eastern tip of it, through some trees you will see a high view over Wickham Lane with Bostall Woods beyond. Leave the Wildflower Meadow, bearing right before you reach the Common, over an area of burnt grass, the site of a bonfire, then emerge through the trees to skirt along the Eastern edge of Winn’s Common and enter the Green Chain path dipping down into woodland on your right. Go as far as the small post on the right of the path where you will see the backs of houses, then retrace your footsteps back up the path and re-emerge onto the Common. Turn right, walk to the edge of the Common, noticing the rusty old stench pipe to your right. Look at the old steps on the small area of grass across Winn Common Road next to Grosland Road in the shadow of the flats.
Walk along Winn Common Road, note views right down Purrett Road. Stay on grass verge to right of Winn Common Road, cross Riverdale Road (more views) and along Heath Villas. Bear right onto the spit of land, which juts out to the North with excellent panoramic views over to Essex through trees, and views to the left towards Shooters Hill. Continue towards the Childrens’ Paddling Pool, going down a small dip on the way. Walk over to the bench to your right to enjoy additional views North.Then cross towards the steps to the left of the three storey houses on Lakedale Road, walk down these steps, noticing the picturesque gardens on your right, to re-emerge back at The Slade Pond, then continue up the steps alongside the pond towards Plumstead Common. Continue back to the Old Mill, where the walk ends.