Council and MP angry at Network Rail plans to close Angerstein foot crossing

Angerstein crossing
A neighbour has placed a sign warning of the crossing’s closure

Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook and Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe have hit out at Network Rail’s plans to close the Angerstein Wharf foot crossing, used by hundreds of Charlton residents each day.

The historic crossing, one of the last left in London, enables people who live near Fairthorn Road – which has seen new homes built in recent years – to reach Westcombe Park station.

It crosses a small railway branch, opened in 1851, used by aggregates trains heading to and from Angerstein Wharf. The crossing, which marks the modern-day point where Charlton becomes east Greenwich, was originally built for workers on the nearby Combe Farm, which occupied land at the foot of Westcombe Hill.

Residents only found out a few days ago that Network Rail planned to close the crossing permanently in letters sent to neighbours, which said that major upgrade work on the line would be carried out next week and the crossing fenced off.

One neighbour has attached a hand-written sign to the crossing, warning of the closure, adding in ballpoint pen: “Network Rail weren’t going to tell you.”

Angerstein crossing family
Many longstanding locals have fond memories of the crossing

Network Rail’s regional press office has not responded to an enquiry The Charlton Champion sent on Monday asking it to clarify its plans.

Council leader Thorpe told a resident on Twitter this morning that Network Rail had “not followed any proper process or engaged people and this is clearly not acceptable. We have contacted them to advise of such and expect them to stop pending a proper consultation”.

Angerstein crossing
The crossing sees a steady stream of commuters and and from Westcombe Park station each rush hour

A council spokesperson told The Charlton Champion: “The pedestrian crossing serves as an essential link between both sides of the railway line and has been in place, and in good use, for over 100 years.

“Whilst we recognise the attempt to improve safety and reduce pedestrian access to railway lines, we object to the closure unless full details are provided and a suitable alternative is provided.

“The crossing cannot be closed without consultation and a formal legal process. We were not made aware of the proposed works, which we should have been.

“We have written to Network Rail to request postponing the crossing closure until alternative options explored and until much better publicity has been issued locally. We will also be taking advice about enforcement options.”

Pennycook has also written to Network Rail criticising the plans and the lack of consultation.

Network Rail letter
Network Rail’s letter was misdated March 2017

One neighbour shared a response he had from Network Rail, saying the crossing was being closed because a reconfiguration of the signalling would mean it was more likely to be blocked by freight trains waiting to access the main line. Trains typically wait for half an hour before leaving and entering the branch line. In June 2015, a derailment on the branch line damaged track and signalling on the main Blackheath-Charlton line.

In recent years Network Rail has closed many foot crossings on railway lines for safety concerns. The only other crossing left like it in London is in Hanwell, west London, on another freight line which serves the river.

But the sleepy crossing has seen a new lease of life in recent years with the construction of over 200 homes on the Thorn Lighting site at the south end of Fairthorn Road, with a further 330 homes now being built on the rest of the site.

Fairthorn Road development
So near, yet so far: Westcombe Park station can be seen behind the substation on the Fairthorn Road development

Many of these homes overlook the Greenwich railway line and are within sight of Westcombe Park station, but no provision was made to improve access to the station with residents left to depend on the foot crossing.

Footpaths have less legal protection in inner London than in the rest of England. In the 2000s, a developer built housing – now called Bellfield Close – between Charlton Road and Old Dover Road, permanently blocking a path which had only been designated a cycle route a few years before.

11.30pm update: A petition against the closure has been launched.


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Introducing Flyover Media CIC – the new publisher of The Charlton Champion

Flyover Media logo

We’re making some behind-the-scenes changes into how The Charlton Champion is run. This absolutely won’t affect the site, but as a regular reader you should know what’s happening. We hope you’ll be as excited as we are.

From today, The Charlton Champion and its sister site, 853, will be run through a community interest company, Flyover Media. This is partly to separate the sites’ finances from Darryl’s finances, but it also means we can apply for grants to expand what we do and launch new things. You can read more on Flyover’s website.

Both Darryl and Neil are directors of Flyover, and we’ve both put some money in to get this going. As it’s a community interest company, all profit must be reinvested back into the business or go to another non-profit (if it closes, any money left over will go to Arts Emergency, which helps non-affluent young people get jobs in the media and arts, a cause close to Darryl’s heart).

We’re lucky to have a number of readers pay into our Patreon membership scheme, for which we’re hugely grateful. As a result of this, we’ll soon be switching  The Charlton Champion to a new hosting plan – giving it a new look – and which should mean we’ll get the ability to run local ads for local businesses. This should put the site on a more secure footing, and enable us to do some new things. You’ll notice we’ve dipped our toe into selling merchandise – we’ll be looking to do some more of this too. If you’d like to become a true Charlton Champion and help this site, please sign up to our Patreon membership scheme here.

Doing more things means having more people involved – if you’d like to contribute to the site, please let us know. Or you’ve a burning idea for something and would like to work with us, we’re all ears.

We’ll also be holding a launch event – probably in Charlton in the first week of June – where we’ll talk about what we’re doing and have a chat about what we all can do to secure the future of some kind of independent local media in our very special part of London, in Charlton, in the borough of Greenwich, and beyond. Keep an eye out for news of that.

We’re really excited about this – for years the local media in this area has been withering away. Now, with your help, we can try to do something about it.

Best wishes,

Darryl and Neil

‘Substandard’ bedsit plans for Bramshot Avenue thrown out by councillors

Bramshot Avenue
The dental lab is still in operation

Greenwich councillors have thrown out a plan to turn a dental laboratory and the flats above on Bramshot Avenue into bedsits.

Applicant Andy Morton, of Hextable, Kent, had asked the council for permission to turn the Borough Crown and Bridge dental laboratory into two bedsits, and the two flats above into seven bedsits.

No objections from members of the public were received, but Charlton ward councillor Gary Parker asked for the issue to be dealt with by the Woolwich and Thamesmead planning committee.

Council officers recommended refusing the scheme, citing a loss of employment – the dental laboratory is still open – and “substandard living accommodation”.

“All proposed self-contained studio flats are significantly undersized, single aspect, do not provide sufficient private amenity space and insufficient information was provided to demonstrate the floor to ceiling height particularly for the loft unit. There are additional concerns regarding how privacy and outlook would be achieved for the ground floor unit.”

Councillors agreed with the officers, and the proposal was rejected at a meeting on 26 March.


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New Charlton Champion postcards available this weekend at the Corner at 96 pop-up shop

Spring’s here (if we ignore the occasional flurry of sleet) and it’s time for a new Charlton Champion postcard: this time a view of Charlton House in the March sun.

Our last postcard sale exceeded our expectations and it was really nice to meet some of the readers who bought them – these sales all help to keep this site running.

You’ll be able to buy copies from our friends at The Corner at 96 who will be opening their pop-up shop this weekend (and the first weekend of every month), Friday-Sunday. And if you can’t get to the shop you can order Charlton Champion postcards online here (you may need to wait until the end of next week for delivery, though).

You’ll find The Corner At 96 pop-up shop on the corner of Bramshot Avenue and Sherington Road, and it’ll be open 8.30-5 Friday and Saturday, 10-5 Sunday.


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Charlton Toy Library: Easter Party fundraising event this Saturday

Charlton Toy Library Easter party 2019 Poster

Charlton Toy Library are hosting an Easter Party fundraising event this Saturday, 6th April 2019, between 2-4 pm at Charlton Assembly Rooms. The Toy Library is a volunteer-run, independent organisation providing families with a place to come and meet other parents, play with their children or get advice, as well as running outreach services around the borough of Greenwich and some parts of Bexley. Tickets are £6 per child (£4.50 in advance), £2 per adult.


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Soft play in Charlton and beyond for kids of all ages

Sutcliffe Park Sport Centre, SE9

Need a break from looking after a demanding youngster? The Charlton Champion‘s LARA RUFFLE COLES has been taking her son out to investigate the local soft play options.

Getting out and about with young children can be equal parts stressful and rewarding, but luckily for parents and carers wanting to sit down for five seconds, soft play was invented.

Charlton‘s options tend to be small-scale and more ‘stay and play’-oriented, but they are free to use unlike most of the larger scale soft plays detailed below.

Woolwich has Under 1 Roof, a large warehouse building, 10-15 minutes walk from General Gordon Square, with multiple areas for different ages (up to 11) including a large soft play room.

At the bottom of Kidbrooke Park Road, Sutcliffe Park Sports Centre has a multi-level soft play with plenty of space for crawling, climbing and sliding. It also has an outside playground and a cordoned-off soft play area for smaller children.

The Greenwich Centre, SE10

In Blackheath, Mycenae House has a large programme of activities (for all ages) including a regular soft play session run by Toddler Sense.

East Greenwich Pleasaunce has The Bridge, and the venue runs regular ‘stay and play’ sessions that include soft play.

Staying in east Greenwich, round the corner on Woolwich Road is The Greenwich Centre, which currently runs seven soft play sessions a week. Each session lasts an hour and a half and includes a bouncy castle, numerous toys and soft structures to climb.

In Greenwich town centre the National Maritime Museum has a free play area called Ahoy! It isn’t a soft play but it is full of different interactive activities focusing on our maritime history. The museum also has The Great Map, a large open space perfect for children to crawl and charge about. They can also play with three ships that ‘sail’ on the map’s oceans and seas.

National Maritime Museum, SE10

Just over in Deptford, next to the creek, is Big Little Fun, a smaller scale soft play with a slide and climbing area, plus a separate area for smaller children. It is also has an arts and crafts area, dressing up outfits, various toys including a play kitchen, a ball pit, plus an air chute game played with the balls.

For adventurous parents and carers happy to take the DLR to the Isle of Dogs, Mudlarks at Museum of London Docklands combines soft play, water play and river-themed fun. Each free session is 40 minutes and booking two or three sessions in a row is allowed.

Mudlarks, Museum of London Docklands, E14

And for adults needing some let off some steam, you don’t need to leave Charlton – head down to the Thames Barrier for Bunker 51, a riverside Cold War bunker with airsoft, paintball (alright, not so soft play) and laser tag.

Alternatively, if you want to go a little further afield, Ballie Ballerson in Shoreditch has two giant ball pits for you to dive into. Cocktails are also on offer so hopefully someone else can look after the children the next morning…

Please let us know in the comments below if there are other soft play locations you would like to recommend. All photos used with the consent of the parents.


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From rent strikes to bingo: My mum and Charlton House Stables

Rent strike
Rent strikers withholding their pounds at Charlton House stables

There’s a lot of history in Charlton House’s old stables block – some of it more recent than you think. We’re grateful to DIANA CORDWELL for sharing some memories…

Back in the early 1970s when I was an eager, young cub reporter, I was sent off to a rent strike protest at Greenwich Council’s rent offices at The Stables, Hornfair Road, Charlton.

With notebook and pen in hand and a cameraman in tow, I pitched up at the demo to be confronted by no less than my own mother Joyce and a gaggle of her neighbours brandishing placards saying”stand your ground, withhold your pound!” So there I was in the embarrassing situation of getting quotes from my own mother about her and her fellow demonstrators going on rent strike. Not to mention back at the office having to explain why one of the demonstrators in the photos sent up by the photographer had the same surname as me!

This was the start of my mum’s rather long relationship with the Press (45 plus years at the current count) and her constant appearances in various local newspapers under one guise or the other.

Following the rent strike, she popped up again in a feature on Greenwich borough’s much loved lollipop men and women (she did the school crossing patrol at Invicta Road, Blackheath Standard) and then on countless occasions over the decades in bowls match finals, women’s darts finals (we both played for the White Swan pub, Charlton Village) and several encounters with herself and a string of different mayors at various clubs she attended throughout the borough!

Joyce – in the middle – ran the school crossing patrol near Invicta School

I remember another occasion when the Kentish Independent‘s editor Charlie King (who was known for imbibing a pint or two himself) decided we’d run a new weekly feature called Pub Spot. Off I went to the Richard I in Royal Hill, Greenwich – known affectionately as “The Tolly House” – and there she was again sitting with a group of in-laws and every ready with a smile for the camera and a quote for the Press.

With going on holiday also being up there with my mum’s favourite activities, it was only a matter of time before she popped up again in stories on Greenwich Council’s own hotel down on the Kent coast (remember that?), her TGWU trades union hotel in Eastbourne and a Mercury “Twirlies” trip to Fuengirola, Spain! It got to the point where a news editor short of a story would bellow across the newsroom to me: “Di, what’s your mum up to today?”

Today, some 50 years on, my dear old mum – now 92 – has found herself back at the Charlton Stables. But this time she’s inside and not out on the pavement.

For The Stables, no longer rent offices, is the home of the wonderful Greenwich Carers Centre and its outstanding, dedicated staff. Supported by the council and various charities, this little gem nestling by the side of Charlton House offers support,activities, events and holidays for carers and those they care for. They also run a brilliant cafe with a beautiful garden where the welcome is always warm.

Mum Joyce attends Wednesdays and Thursdays, gets picked up and taken home in the Stables minibus, plays bingo and does art workshop and then enjoys a tasty home-cooked meal and cuppa with her friends. I popped along myself a couple of weeks ago for the carers Chinese New Year celebration lunch – just one of the many events on offer in their excellent ‘Shine’ activity programme.

This place is so special that one wonders how it has managed to stay afloat in such a remarkable way in the face of callous Government cuts that have hit all the sectors that this brilliant oasis in Charlton depends on for its survival.

Stables entertainment
Stables entertainment, 2019-style

What excellent news it was then to hear from Stu – the chief executive of the Greenwich Carers Centre – that despite the odds, all is looking good for the next few years. “Late last year, we submitted a funding application that, if successful, would fund a significant part of our services for the next three years,” he said.

“I am delighted to be able to tell you that our bid was successful! We have now finally turned the corner and will be launching our new model at the beginning of April.”

The thriving Charlton House Stables today

Stu adds that the cafe is to get a facelift and a new cosy snug with TV is in the pipeline.

Plans for services for carers include an information and advice telephone support line, community engagement service linking up with heath/social care professionals, dinner and entertainment evenings, hobby and activity groups and day trips and excursions.

With so much planned, Press interest in The Stables will no doubt be high over the next few months. Joyce, of course, is ready!


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