Tag Archives: Plumstead

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.

The Sweet Taste of Success

Under starters orders…

The sixth Plumstead Pickle Festival hosted a varied array of 15 chutneys and pickles. As it isn’t clear what the difference is between a chutney and pickle it is an established tradition that all entries are peer judged alongside each other without differentiation – after all, it all goes down the same hole. An estimated 35 locals came along to sample what was on offer.

A break from the serious job of adding up scores

By now, the voting system, adjusted last year to include the category of texture, is familiar to most, with no more than 5 points being allocated between up to 5 entries in each section. Butter, biscuits and cheese were all pre-prepared and issued to tables to accompany the various offerings. No bread though, too much was wasted last time. Voting slips and pens followed shortly afterwards. Meanwhile a food-related soundtrack played in the background to add to the atmos generated by a well-liked niche event attended by a cross-section of Plumsteadites discussing the merits and demerits of everything on their plates.

Erik in full flow

First for Appearance

Second for Appearance

Third for Appearance

First for Taste

Second for Taste

Third for Taste

First for Texture

Second for Texture

Third for Texture

Erik provided the whimsical banter while the scores were totted up and told a chutney-related gag too dire to be worth repeating here. Dee and Geoff were i/c the laptop to quickly add up the scores, and Kevin was called upon to write out the winning certificates once the results were known. Rob was on hand to take photographs and record the event for posterity. This time there were some new winners which mixed things up a bit as well as seasoned regulars being placed. Anyone determined to do better next time would be well advised to make next year’s entry now and store it in a cool dark place to mature.

All tasted and judged

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


Badge Queen of Plumstead – The Revival of a Tradition


A number of Plumstead residents, whose families have lived in Plumstead for generations, will no doubt recall tales of the heyday of the Badge Queen of Plumstead told to them by their grandparents and great grandparents. Although the tradition began in Victorian times, it was not until after the First World War and through the 1920s that Badge Royalty reached its peak and even rivalled the Pearly King & Queen tradition in popularity.

Naturally, at the forefront of the scene was the Badge Queen of Plumstead and there are many a tale of wild Whit Mondays when the Queen and her entourage would meet up at the Green Man pubic house on Plumstead High Street. There they would partake in a morning tipple before boarding their fleet of charabancs to take them out into rural north Kent, just shy of Sevenoaks. It was on a hill at this point that the Badge tradition had begun in 1878 and Whit Monday was the day that Badge Royalty from all over London would meet up to celebrate the event…. and consume a considerable amount of alcohol too. In fact, Beasley Brewery of Plumstead began to produce their Green Badge Milk Stout specifically for the occasion. Sadly, the tradition died out during the Depression, as badges became a form of currency for local transactions. Back then you could purchase three portions of crushed avocado on toast with poached eggs and tomatoes, which was the staple food in these parts, for just one badge, with or without its fastening pin. Nothing of the site in Kent remains today, with the exception that it is still known as Badger’s Mount.

I am sure even more of you would have known about all of this if there had been a shred of truth in anything written above. However, Art Plumstead are not going to let any of that stop the revival of a tradition that didn’t exist for which we need your help. We have located the last locally living relative of Plumstead’s last Badge Queen, Madge Coxwell, and the lady would be delighted to carry on the non-existant family tradition. Unfortunately, the cloak, which Madge wore has been lost and so we need you to supply badges for the new cloak that our future Queen hopes to wear at events around Plumstead later in the year.

Please note: The New Badge Queen of Plumstead made her first public appearance at



Plumstead Make Merry

on Saturday 9th June 2018

which is where the photograph at the top of this page was taken. Keep your eyes open for other appearances in the future.


Plumstravaganza – Step Back in Time

IMG_6161.JPGThere was a large turnout for the walk that started outside Plumstead Station on Saturday morning. The walk followed the route that the social commentator, George Duckworth, took along with PC Clyne on Monday 1st October 1900, as part of the Social Survey of London Life that was carried out between 1886 and 1903. This survey was instigated by the businessman, Charles Booth, and it was intended that the walk should shed some light on what life was like in parts of Plumstead 116 years ago.

IMG_6167.JPGAs the procession wound its way along Plumstead High Street, the walk leader David pointed out sites that were important in the past and buildings whose purpose have changed over the years. Some of these included the site of The Brewery, The Workhouse/Infirmary and The Vicarage.

IMG_6168.JPGThe more eagle-eyed may have spotted some of the posters for the Plum Trail on display in various shop windows. By the time the walk concluded around 1pm everyone had gained a better understanding of what life was like in Plumstead at the turn of the last century.



Writing Rocks!

rockliffe 1Art Plumstead’s writing competition was launched at Rockliffe Gardens, early in July, to coincide with its first stage of restoration as ‘Plumstead’s hidden gem’. Led by Alison, the participants walked round the various parts of the garden, stopping periodically to be given a further nugget of information to guide the putative writers in their quest for the perfect short story.

rockliffe 2The first exercise was a quick brainstorm around anything that came to mind around the word ‘renewal’, which is to be the theme of the writing competition. A short stroll later, we were invited to choose an object that we were to weave into our story. Before moving on, Alison explained that something had to happen to the character to change them, and that the story had to be set in a particular time and place. So our next task, in a different area of the garden was to think of a character and consider what it is they want in life.

rockliffe 3rockliffe 4At our final stopping point we needed to devise an exciting incident to pique the attention of the reader, as well as choosing a time and place in which to set the story.  Then it was time to rejoin the other visitors to the garden while mulling over the initial thoughts for our stories which are to be presented in 500 – 1000 words. Plumstead Library is supporting this event. See home page for further details.

rockliffe 5

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


Green and Black

A rare sight indeed - one of only two original waymarkers on the Green Chain Walk

A rare sight indeed – one of only two original wooden waymarkers on the Green Chain Walk

I finally made it to Ian Bull’s megawalk from Crystal Palace to Erith. no thanks to the 122 bus which, in theory runs all the way from Plumstead Station to Crystal Palace, but should have its timetable amended to read ‘now and then’. I ended up dashing to Woolwich to catch the 53 to New Cross Gate, dipping down onto the platform (the footbridge is twice normal height and at the far end of the platform) and rushing over to the other side, with three minutes to spare. Anyway, I got there and saw the friendly face of a couple of APs who had decided to embark on the slightly crackers/slightly illicit undertaking of walking along the Green Chain Walk from The Deep South to more familiar environs under cover of darkness.

Milling about in the darkness, after a mass 'comfort break'

Milling about in the darkness, after a mass ‘comfort break’

The correct footwear is thick-soled trainers; not having any such thing, I had to make do with desert boots which are not recommended. After a few miles, the soles of my feet felt like they had been beaten repeatedly with planks of wood. ‘That’ll larn me’, as the saying goes. However it wasn’t all silent weeping about achy feet. Even though the weather had conspired as it always does in England whenever there is the promise of a glorious nocturnal display, glimpse of the Northern Lights or any once-in-a-lifetime meteorological event, to be overcast, as it has since May. So there were no beautifully clear night skies to be seen, nor a glorious sunrise.

A familiar sight, but not one usually observed in the wee smalls

A familiar sight, but not one usually observed in the wee smalls

There was however, the naughtiness of climbing over a fence, the very clear sound of owls repeatedly hooting which I have never heard before, the spacy, hypnotic experience of walking in file while the person in front bobbed up and down, emerging from my shadow, accompanied by the steady clomp of rhythmic marching, the susurration of multiple pairs of feet sweeping across damp grass and finding the best site for a sweeping vista of London. which is relatively unknown, and creeping about through the woods with torches.

Right time, right place - but no sunrise!

Right time, right place – but no sunrise!

By the time we reached Plumstead I had decided to bail out and head home. Not even the promise of better and better surroundings towards the river was enough to encourage me to continue to Erith and catch the bus back home. But there are always other times…

And far away, in the distance, the remaining walkers trudge on to journey's end.

And far away, in the distance, (centre of picture) the remaining walkers trudge on to journey’s end. Meanwhile, I was drinking a welcome cup of tea, boots off.


A Walk to Whet the Appetite

Hop to it! It's time for the second Art Plumstead Treasure Hunt!

Hop to it! It’s time for the second Art Plumstead Treasure Hunt!

The weather forecast was completely accurate for the second Art Plumstead Easter Treasure Hunt – rain, rain, followed by more rain. Even so, there were an intrepid few who made the effort to turn up at the starting point (The Old Mill) and set off through the back streets of Plumstead on a circuitous route which gradually ascended Shooters Hill to finish at journey’s end (The Bull). A map with numbered points of interest, issued to everyone who came to pit their wits against the clues, helped us to divine the correct way to go.

Wet. wet, wet

Wet. wet, wet. Time to reflect on the distance covered and be grateful for being inside at last

The rain was unrelenting, but it was still possible to appreciate the views offered on the way, while solving the clues devised by Karen. There were also a number of picture clues to look out for while walking along. These were in no particular order, so it was a case of keeping an eye out – and using a bit of intuition.

Alison and John share the 'Womble' prize, for gathering the most posters en route.

Alison and John share the ‘Womble’ prize, for gathering the most posters en route, thus looking after the environment whilst having fun.

Eventually we all made it to the sanctuary of the front bar at The Bull, where the bedraggled papers were marked by Karen and prizes distributed accordingly. It is not about the numbers, but the quality of the experience, and thanks to the meticulous attention to detail that Karen had put in beforehand, everyone who made the effort thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, in spite of the rain and saw parts of Plumstead they had never seen before. Maybe it would have been nice to see a few more faces on the day, but then we wouldn’t have all been awarded a prize and there was another consolation. It was downhill going home!

It wasn't all about the glory, there was plenty of chocolate as well

It wasn’t all about the glory, there was plenty of chocolate as well. This is only part of the stash.