Charlton Park’s skate park is staying closed for now, council insists

Charlton skate park
Skaters have not let fences deter them from using the skate park

Greenwich Council will not be reopening the skate park in Charlton Park yet – despite an offer from one of the campaigners who pushed for the facility to be created to help it keep riders more than two metres apart.

The skate park opened in October 2017 to replace a facility in Woolwich that had been demolished by a developer. The gates were closed when lockdown began in March, and high fencing has been put up to deter riders from getting into the site.

With lockdown easing, some outdoor sports have resumed – such as tennis in Maryon Park – including skateboarding, and Skateboard England has produced guidelines for riders to stick to.

However, the Charlton skate park remains closed. Frustrated skaters have been pushing down the fences and riding anyway, and the skate park has been a focus of attention for local police, to the bemusement of some passers-by.

Stuart Hopper, whose School of Skate offers lessons in skateboarding, told The Charlton Champion that he has offered to help the council with keeping riders apart, but has heard nothing back.

“We’d like to open the skatepark now, and implement social distancing measures,” he said. “Seems to make more sense to do this than have the kids knock the fences down and go anyway, then have police and council workers down to clear the place out and put the fences back up. That’s money down the drain.”

A Greenwich Council spokesperson said: “The safety of residents remains our primary focus and in line with government guidance, our playgrounds, outdoor gyms and games areas are still closed, with the exception of tennis courts.

“These areas can encourage large gatherings and though measures are being eased, we still need to observe social distancing and can only meet with up to five other people outside of our household while outdoors.

“Thank you to our residents for their patience during this time; we look forward to welcoming residents back to the skate park, when it is safe to do so, as we recognise it is a much-loved facility.”

Greenwich Council social distancing banner
It has been suggested the skate park should have spaces marked out for skateboarders

But Hopper responded: “Government guidance is that outdoor sports can take place. This has been the case since 13th May. The skate park is not a playground, outdoor gym or ‘games area’. It is a sporting facility.

“You do not need to touch anything, like playgrounds or outdoor gyms, or interact with other riders, so risk of transmission is extremely low.”

He added: “We need to give the users of the facility a chance to show they can adhere to social distancing measures as proposed by the governing body. Unfortunately prejudices are rife about skate park users. There appears to be no exception in this case.

“I have proposed to the council that we can tape off areas two metres apart where riders stand whilst waiting for their run, just like people are doing at supermarkets. Perhaps we could also put the picnic tables away to discourage gathering at the site.

“We’d encourage the public to contact the council to have open the facility so that our youth, who are in dire need of some safe outdoor activity to channel their energies, have that outlet.”


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‘I’m giving back to the community after they helped me’, Old Cottage Cafe owner says

The Old Cottage Cafe in Charlton Park has been delivering food to people stuck at home since the crisis began

The owner of a Charlton cafe offering free lunches to the vulnerable says he is giving back to the community following an outpouring of support after a break-in last year.

As the coronavirus outbreak turns the lives of vulnerable residents upside down, Michael Lauricourt, along with his wife Mimi and an employee from the Old Cottage Cafe in Charlton Park have been cooking and delivering free lunches to local people.

Elderly and isolated households in Charlton, Woolwich and Blackheath are being treated to hot meals courtesy of the cafe.

The initiative comes after thousands of pounds was raised for the much-loved cafe following a burglary in January last year.

Michael, who has run the cafe since it was opened in 2012, said: “We have always been part of the community – the community was behind us when we were broken into. When this all started the thought about how we could best help the community.

“Councillor John Fahy gave me a few names of people who couldn’t get out and about and we gave them free lunch, at first it was out of our own pocket. Since then, somebody else gave me a donation to help the work I’m doing. I’m keeping that ‘somebody’ private – but I’m very privileged to be able to do this to help the elderly.”

While he is helping the effort against the virus, Michael is mourning the death of his own father, George, who passed away on 22 March, aged 94, of circumstances not related to coronavirus.

Michael recently delivered food and tea to staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich

But Michael insists he and his wife wouldn’t be able to sit still if they had to sit at home, with their cafe closed due to government restrictions.

He said: “It has been overwhelming actually. It does feel good to give something back to the community – it’s very rewarding. When I see the people, I can see that they are so in need. Their mobility is not good. They are struggling – one person’s wife has dementia and he struggles to walk around.

“I’m sort of putting myself at risk – but I feel like I need to be out in the community and helping. In the cafe we are used to working seven days a week – if we are at home we’ll be wondering what we can do. We need to be out and about.”

At the moment a dozen households are being given free lunches – but there is scope to help more in the coming weeks.

Michael added: “We would like to stretch it out – but we can’t go too big you know. It’s only two people delivering at the moment, one is a worker, Erica, who volunteered. We need to keep it manageable. It’s only me and my wife and Erica, it’s only three of us.

“But we will look at helping more, if more people do need support. We can think about going down that road.”

On top of delivering the lunches three days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Fridays) Michael and the team are going shopping for the vulnerable for their necessities and giving them vital human contact.

He said: “When we see these people we can see they are in need. Their mobility isn’t good and they are isolated. They need to have some human contact.”

The Old Cottage Cafe has also, as of this week, began donating tea, coffee and cake to NHS workers at Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Woolwich Common. Workers were given banana cake and bread pudding along with two urns of coffee and tea.

The future remains uncertain for many small businesses – including the Old Cottage Cafe – but for the time being helping the community is the priority.

Michael said: “We don’t know how long this is going to go on for. We may have to ask for donations later down the line to keep going and delivering the food but at the moment we are managing. It’s very uncertain. I’m quite concerned about the future – we have been closed down. At first we were doing just takeaway but then we were told to shut the shop down.

“The council aren’t too sure themselves about what is going on with the rent – everyone’s situation is different. In the meantime we’ll just plod on as we are. If anyone else is needs help we can consider if we can do it – we need to be out and about.”

The Old Cottage Cafe can be reached on Twitter at @oldcoffeeshop.

TOM BULL is a freelance journalist and former BBC local democracy reporter. We have commissioned him to write about how communities and businesses are reacting to the coronavirus emergency in SE London – something we can only do because of the generosity of people who fund The Charlton Champion and its sister site 853, or bought our postcards. Thank you to all who have helped.


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Find out more about plans for the Charlton Park Meadow

The field at the back of Charlton Park will be transformed into a meadow

Last summer, we reported on plans to turn part of Charlton Park into a wildflower meadow. Things have come on in leaps and bounds since then, and now it’s your chance to find out more and have your say. The plans focus on disused football pitches at the Cemetery Lane end of the park (not the ones currently in use), and are being paid for by money from Greenwich Council’s ward budget scheme.

According to the Friends of Charlton Park:

Homes for Hedgehogs would turn the disused football pitches into an ecological hub with wild natural grasses, a central pond feature and mown walkways, which park users could use to walk dogs or simply marvel at the increased biodiversity – a 2016 report by Natural England argues that connecting with nature can help to reduce levels of anxiety, stress and depression. Creating such an area of wild planting would help to replace crucial lost habitat and in turn attract create suitable habitats for birds and small mammals, including hedgehogs, helping ecosystems to recover and promoting biodiversity.

Annie Keys, the Friends group’s chair, says: “This is a once in a generation chance to have a major impact as local people on our local park. It would be great to for our children to play alongside and just get used to seeing field mice, birds of prey and solitary bees in real life, not just in pages of children’s books or when they go on a day trip. Let’s grab the chance to make the sounds of hedgehogs snuffling a real part of our daily lives. It’s great that our three local councillors have backed this project and are helping to make it happen.”

Joe Beale, from the Greenwich Wildlife Advisory Group, adds: “This corner of Charlton Park, previously just closely mown lawn, will soon act as an important link in the ecological chain from Woolwich Common to Charlton Cemetery’s conservation area and Maryon/Maryon Wilson Parks, allowing wildlife to move between these places. Our wildlife is being lost and this is our chance to help ensure future generations can experience the colours and sounds of all sorts of beautiful creatures – from butterflies and moths, to hoverflies and hedgehogs – in their local park.”

The people behind the scheme will be at The Old Cottage Cafe in Charlton Park on Saturday 11 January from 4pm to 5pm to outline their ideas and hear what you have to say. There are more details, and a contact address if you can’t make it, on the Friends website.


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