The Lewisham Natureman comes to Charlton

Lewisham Natureman
The mural can be seen at the bend in Bramshot Avenue by the A102

One of south London’s most distinctive – and best-loved – graffiti artists has left his latest calling card in a overlooked corner of Charlton.

The Lewisham Natureman’s white stags – often adorned with that borough’s crown logo – have been spotted in locations including the River Quaggy in Lee, wasteland in New Cross, the old Catford dog track and underneath a railway bridge in Lewisham.

Possibly the most visible one is on a gate at Greyladies Gardens, a block of flats on the Lewisham flank of Blackheath.

Lewisham Natureman
The stag welcoming you to Blackheath

From the Wildcornerz website:

The Lewisham Natureman is a legend thought to have its roots in South East London’s local graffiti scene. He has never been seen and is only represented by a small carving, that can be found [normally hidden] in the wastelands, train sidings and rivers of the borough. This has given way to the belief that this character is not human at all but actually a spirit of the wild; an urban incarnation of the Green Man or Cernunnos; the stag lord.

He also takes the form of a small white deer that can be seen wandering the desolate places of Lewisham, grazing on wild vegetation and drinking from the boroughs three rivers. The creature is also known as the ‘Wild Walker.’

It’s been a while since one of the stags have appeared – but now one has emerged in Bramshot Avenue, Charlton, on a wall next to land which until recently hosted a large advertising hoarding.

Lewisham Natureman

Lewisham Natureman from Siebert Road

It’s not the Lewisham Natureman’s first appearance in Greenwich borough – one was spotted outside the former Thomas Tallis School in Kidbrooke two years ago.

Long-standing residents may remember horses grazing on this land until the 1980s – the Natureman’s reappearance may help jog some memories, as well as giving travellers stuck on the Blackwall Tunnel approach something to gaze at.

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Council planning blunder may mean unwanted phone mast for Siebert Road

The site sits just behind houses on Westcombe Hill

A fuller version of this story can be read at 853.

A Greenwich Council planning blunder means residents of Westcombe Hill may get a mobile phone mast at the end of their gardens – despite planners refusing permission for it.

Residents who thought their protests against the mast had paid off were shocked to find diggers turning up last week – and had to persuade contractors to stop work.

Agents acting for Vodafone and O2 applied for permission to build a mast on land off Siebert Road, next to the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach in September 2016. The land sits between homes on Westcombe Hill and the dual carriageway, which divides Charlton and Blackheath.

Council planners refused the application in November after protests from residents, citing its “prominent location, height, design, scale, appearance and poor siting would lead to a cluttered and an over-dominant appearance within the location and when viewed from the neighbouring conservation area”.

But the council took too long to reject the application – under planning law, a council needs to respond within 56 days to prevent this type of application. Greenwich took 57 days to respond, meaning Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd (CTIL), which runs Vodafone and O2’s networks, has permission to build the mast by default, so long as the property owner agrees.

Land ownership confusion

However, there is confusion as to who actually owns the land – it had been believed it was owned by Greenwich Council, but Land Registry documents indicate that it is actually owned by Transport for London. The planned location of the mast is on the route Bramshot Avenue used to take before construction work started on the A102 in 1967.

Confusion over the land ownership and relevant permits meant contractors had to stop work, while residents have been urged to lobby TfL to refuse permission if it is confirmed that the mayor’s transport agency owns the land.

Siebert Road, 1 August 2017
Residents already have to live with the noise and pollution from the A102 – typical evening rush-hour congestion can be seen behind

A letter sent to residents by senior planning officer Victoria Geoghegan and seen by this website says: “Regretfully and due to a systems error, the application wasn’t determined within the 56-day period which means it is deemed to be consented and the mast can now be installed provided all other permissions are obtained.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the application wasn’t determined in 56 days given representations objecting to the scheme were made. I can assure you that the system now now been corrected to ensure this will not happen again.”

Greenwich Council sorry

Residents are lobbying local politicians and starting their own campaign, Westcombe Hill Against the Mast (Wham), to fight the proposal.

A spokesperson for CTIL told this website: “Vodafone and O2 customers expect to be able to use their mobiles and devices where they live, work and travel. Base stations are low powered devices which cover approximately half a mile in radius, therefore we have to put base stations close to our customers.

“Vodafone and O2 identified that they need to improve the coverage to their customers in Blackheath and we now have consent for a base station on Siebert Road. We have received a query on the land ownership at the proposed location and are currently investigating this point.”

A Greenwich Council spokesperson said: “The Royal Borough listened and responded to residents’ objections to this phone mast. Planning permission was refused on 14 November 2016. An IT fault regrettably resulted in this decision coming after the legal 56 day period and therefore planning permission was attained ‘by default.’ We apologise to residents and are determined, going forward, to make sure that all works on the site only proceed with the landowner’s permission.”

More on this story, including other planning mistakes in the borough, at 853.

Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival confirms 2017 line-up – including Withnail in the pub

Withnail and I

The Charlton and Woolwich Free Film Festival is back for a second year – with a screening of Withnail and I at the White Swan pub among the highlights.

The cult 1987 movie about two down-at-heel actors on a disastrous break in the Lake District, starring Richard E Grant and Paul McGann, will be screened at the pub on Sunday 10 September, presented by louche SE London blog (and mates of ours) Deserter.

All films are entirely free to watch – just turn up at the venue. The festival, which runs from 8-16 September, is entirely run by volunteers and is one of a network of free film festivals across south-east London.

Danny Boyle’s Sunshine will be playing on Saturday 9 September at The Stables – next door to Charlton House – with Flamsteed Astronomy Society on hand to bring you a solar observing session. That evening will see thriller The Others, starring Nicole Kidman, screened in the eerie surroundings of Charlton House after dark.

The Stables also plays host to Dirty Dancing – with bonus salsa class – on Wednesday 13 September – and Rising From Ashes – about the first Rwandan cycling team – on Saturday 16 September.

Documentary Ha’way The Lads – about legendary Charlton Athletic manager Jimmy Seed’s determination to break away from the North East’s coalfields and play football – plays at the Swan on Monday 11 September, with a short talk from Seed’s grandson James Dutton. This night is hosted by the independent, volunteer-run Charlton Athletic Museum.

Kids’ animation Kubo and the Two Strings plays at Thorntree Primary School on Tuesday 12 Septembember, with Hidden Figures showing there in the evening.

Documentary project 1000 Londoners will be at The Old Cottage Cafe on Thursday 14th September. Charlton House will host a short films competition later that evening, with a £1,500 prize for the winning film-maker on offer from sponsor Rockwell Property.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens the festival at Building 10 in Woolwich’s Royal Arsenal on Friday 8 September, while a Grease sing-a-long will close it at the same venue on Saturday 16 September.

Other highlights include Suffragette at Greenwich Rugby Football Club, Plumstead Common on Sunday 10 September, Trading Places at the Woolwich Equitable pub on Monday 11 September, Salma Hayek in acclaimed biopic Frida at Artfix in Woolwich on Wednesday 13 September and Battle of Britain at St George’s Garrison Church off Woolwich Common on Friday 15 September, featuring a guided walk from local historian Steve Hunnisett.

For more information, visit the Charlton & Woolwich Free Film Festival website.

Unseen for 20 years: Inside Charlton’s Summer House


Thanks to Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust for letting us have a look inside the Summer House at Charlton this morning.

As revealed on the Charlton Champion earlier this month, work is now underway to restore the 17th century Summer House – believed to have been designed by Inigo Jones.

Asbestos has been removed and the interior cleaned up, revealing the public toilets last used in the early 1990s. The next phase of work will see these removed, interior partitions taken down, the windows replaced, then the space made available for temporary (dare we say pop-up?) uses.

We understand that the building will be lit from the inside at night, which should improve that particular corner of Charlton Village after dark.

Testing times: see the Thames Barrier in action on Sunday 10th September

Thames Barrier Test 2017

Sunday 10th of September will see the annual full test of the Thames Barrier: an opportunity to see the barrier in action, meet the teams who run it, and learn about how it all works. The cafe and information centre will open at 9am; we recommend keeping an eye on the official website for closure timings nearer the date.

There’s a Facebook event for it here, and we recommend following Alan at the Barrier on Twitter, too!

Thames Barrier test 2016
Thames Barrier test closure – September 2016
Photo copyright Neil Clasper

Big Red Bus Club becomes Charlton Sainsbury’s charity of the year

The Big Red Bus Club

The Big Red Bus Club, a volunteer-run playgroup used by 300 local families, has won the vote to become the charity of the year for the Charlton Sainsbury’s superstore.

The supermarket will now back the charity, which is based in the corner of Charlton Park, throughout the next year. Nationally, Sainsbury’s branches have raised £13 million since the scheme was launched in 2009.

In a nail-biting finish, The Big Red Bus Club beat its nearest competitor by just 14 votes in a poll conducted both in store and online.

The club runs activities and offers play-and-stay sessions for under-fives and their parents and carers.

Emily Frith, the administrator for the Charlton Mummies and Daddies Facebook group of over 1,000 local parents said: “I know how important it is to support local charities that work in our community and support my children. The Big Red Bus Club is a lovely place and run and led by local volunteers like me – just parents giving their time.”

Big Red Bus Club chair Sarah Smith added: “We run free daily stay and plays for local families with children under five. It’s hard to find free things to do, and that’s why Sainsbury’s support means so much to us. As a small local charity we hope that this year will be a great springboard for us to work with Sainsbury’s for the future.”

Co-op customers can also choose to help the Big Red Bus Club by choosing to back it in the chain’s membership scheme.

You can find out more about The Big Red Bus Club at www.thebigredbusclub.com.

Crossrail bus changes: TfL plans to halve bus frequencies between Greenwich and Charlton by switching route 180

Route 180 bus
All change: The 180 will switch to North Greenwich if Transport for London’s plans go ahead

Transport for London is planning to halve the bus service between Greenwich town centre and Charlton as part of changes set to be brought in for the launch of Crossrail services at Woolwich and Abbey Wood.

Route 180, which links Charlton with Greenwich and Lewisham, will be diverted at the Woolwich Road flyover to run to North Greenwich station, with small cuts to be made to the frequency of the 472, which will continue to run to North Greenwich. The 129 service, which runs from North Greenwich to Greenwich town centre, will be extended to Lewisham as part-compensation.

TfL says 770 passengers will have to change buses each day as a result of the changes – and with no plans outlined to boost the frequency of the 177, the number of buses between Greenwich town centre and Charlton will drop from 12 buses per hour to six.

Both the 180 and 472 will also see changes at the other ends of their routes: the 180 will run to the Quarry development in Erith rather than the Belvedere industrial estates, while the 472 will run via Western Way in Thamesmead to terminate at Abbey Wood station, instead of its current route via Nathan Way.

Other changes will see route 178, which serves Shooters Hill Road, return to using double-decker buses to cater for expected extra demand for travel to Woolwich. Double-deckers will also return to routes 244 and 291, which run to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

A new service, the 301, will run from Woolwich to Bexleyheath via Nathan Way (replacing the 472) and Abbey Wood. There are other service changes affecting the Erith and Belvedere areas, which can be seen on the TfL website.

There are no changes to buses along Charlton Road, or the 380 or 486 services.

The change to the 180 will make it harder to reach Greenwich from Charlton, Woolwich, Plumstead and Abbey Wood.

Route 472
There will be fewer buses on the 472 on Bugsby’s Way, but more buses via the slower Woolwich Road route

What does this mean if I want to travel from Charlton to North Greenwich?

If you live east of Charlton station, there will be more buses to North Greenwich (20 rather than 16 per hour in peak times), but you’ll be more likely to get a slower service. There will be fewer buses on the faster 472 service via Bugsby’s Way – eight per hour instead of the current 10. More buses will run on the slower route via the Woolwich Road flyover – 12 per hour on the combined 161 and 180, compared with six on the 161 now.

From Charlton station, there will be no change to the 486. But from the stop in Anchor and Hope Lane next to Makro, there will now be 16 buses per hour rather than 18 (not including the morning-only extra services from here on the 472, which will continue). Or you could cross to the stop by the Antigallican, where 12 buses per hour will run on the slower route via Woolwich Road flyover, shared between the 161 and 180 (compared with six now on the 161).

Local transport campaigners have long complained about the “dance of death” where services from Charlton station to North Greenwich are split across the three stops serving the Woolwich Road/Anchor & Hope Lane junction. These changes bring more buses across these stops (28 rather than 24), but will mean more people will have to do that “dance of death” at a junction Greenwich Council says is the borough’s most dangerous.

From west of Charlton station, it’s a straightforward increase – from six 161 buses per hour to 12 on the combined 161 and 180 service. If you travel to/from the Greenwich Ikea site, however, you’ll see the overall level of service up the Greenwich Peninsula is hardly changing – it’ll increase from 44 to 45 buses per hour in the rush hour.

From Charlton Village – no change. Nothing is planned for the 422 or 486.

Bus stop Current peak service Proposed peak service
Charlton Lane 472 N G’wich: 10
161 N G’wich: 6
180 Greenwich: 6
177 Greenwich: 6
472 N G’wich: 8
161/180 N G’wich: 12

177 Greenwich: 6

Anchor & Hope Lane 472 N G’wich 10*
486 N G’wich: 8
472 N G’wich: 8*
486 N G’wich: 8
Rose of Denmark 161 N G’wich: 6
180 Greenwich: 6
177 Greenwich: 6
161/180 N G’wich: 12

177 Greenwich: 6

Greenwich Ikea site All buses: 44* All buses: 45*

*Does not include the extra buses on the 472 between Charlton and North Greenwich, which run mornings only and are due to continue.

I want to travel from Charlton to Greenwich town centre – what do I do?

You’ll have to wait longer if you want to travel from Charlton to Greenwich – you’ll only have the six buses per hour on the already-busy 177 to rely on in future. A possible – but more expensive – alternative will be the National Rail service from Woolwich Dockyard, Charlton or Westcombe Park stations to Maze Hill or Greenwich.

Or you could change buses at Greenwich Ikea, although the proposed 129 service from there to Greenwich and Lewisham will be cut to a bus every 12 minutes – less frequent than the current 180.

The steep cut to bus services linking Greenwich and Woolwich will inconvenience many passengers. If you’re one of them, be sure to fill in the consultation and tell your local representatives what you think.

What about my buses from Charlton to Woolwich?

The cut to the 472’s frequencies mean there will be slightly fewer buses to Woolwich from Anchor & Hope Lane – down from 30 buses an hour at peak times to 28. Up the hill, no changes are planned to the 53, 54, 380 or 422.

Where’s my bus from Woolwich Road to Lewisham gone?

The Charlton stretch of Woolwich Road loses its bus service to Lewisham under TfL’s proposals – breaking a link which has endured since the days of trams.

TfL suggests you change buses at Greenwich Ikea, but the proposed 129 service from there to Greenwich and Lewisham will be cut to a bus every 12 minutes – less frequent than the current 180. There are also fears of widespread traffic congestion when the Ikea store opens in late 2018, around the time these changes are due to take effect.

Taking a 177 to Greenwich town centre and changing there for a 129 or 199 will be a more sensible – but still fiddly – option. Those who want to change to other buses in Lewisham will lose out by having to pay another fare. TfL wants to expand its Hopper fare so it offers unlimited bus changes in an hour rather than just two – there is no date for this yet.
If you’re one of them, be sure to fill in the consultation and tell your local representatives what you think.

There will be no change to the 54 or 380 services to Lewisham, while there is a half-hourly National Rail service from Charlton to Lewisham.

TfL map

Squeezed finances at TfL – but questions over modelling

These changes are being made against a background of austerity at TfL, whose finances are being squeezed both by central government cutting its funding and mayor Sadiq Khan freezing some fares.

Technical notes supplied by TfL indicate that it expects demand for bus travel between Greenwich and Woolwich – including Charlton – to drop after Crossrail services begin in December 2018. It also expects demand to drop along Charlton Road, although there is no cut planned for services there.

It is not made clear how TfL has reached this conclusion, although it could reflect some journeys from Woolwich to places such as New Cross and Peckham switching from bus to Crossrail and London Overground.

TfL’s demand modelling for the area has already come in for criticism from local councils at the Silvertown Tunnel public examination, and this cut may mean it comes under closer scrutiny.

TfL demand map
Transport for London’s map of projected demand – higher demand in red, lower demand in green. We’ve added in some place names. TfL predicts huge extra demand in Woolwich by 2021, but lower demand in Charlton and Greenwich.

I have a view on these changes – what do I do?

This isn’t a done deal – your views can influence what happens next.

* Take part in TfL’s consultation on these changes. It closes on 17 September.

* Tell your local representatives – especially London Assembly members, whose job it is to scrutinise TfL, and councillors, who should already have been consulted.

* We’re sure local campaigners Transport for Charlton will be active here – so let them know what you think and offer your services if you can.

We will be keeping an eye on what happens next.