Sunday 31 August 2008

Wavelengths Leisure Centre; new 25m pool

What better opportunity to try out the new pool than a rainy Sunday morning? So the Dame got her cossie and goggles and skipped off down to Wavelengths in a mood of eager anticipation.

The new pool ticks many of the right boxes for me as a keen swimmer, but it has a few major drawbacks which I hope are either teething problems, or which may change upon pressure from regular swimmers.

Firstly, the pool itself is a lovely size - it seemed even bigger with just four of us in there shortly after 9am. It's light and airy, very clean and smart as you would expect with a new facility, and a pleasure to use. As with the leisure pool, the lockers and showers are poolside, with male and female toilets leading off the pool area, and separate male and female changing areas.

But it's very hard to find! Even when you know roughly where it should be! There is a total lack of signs from the reception area - I assume this is just because they seem to have reopened in a hurry and haven't quite finished off yet. The changing rooms have signs saying 'group changing area' on the doors, with a small male or female sign below, which is much more confusing than it sounds (If you think I sound like I'm defending a blonde moment here, let me reiterate that EVERYONE was confused, not just me! I thought this was reserved for schools or something.) Get rid of the euphemisms and bring back 'men' and 'women' for crying out loud.

So, when you pass through the entry gate, turn immediately left along the corridor with the hairdryers in it. This is the 'grooming area' (which I think sounds incredibly dated, maybe even slightly sinister!). The male changing area is the first door on the right, the female is the second. There are cubicles along one wall and benches and hooks along the other - this is great, although the benches are along the same wall as the door into the unisex grooming area, leaving you rather exposed when anyone goes in or out of the door.

After changing, take your clothes and bags through into the poolside, where you will find a row of lovely big lockers with bright yellow key bracelets. You will need 50p, which is refundable - hallelujah!

There are shower cubicles as well as communal showers, which is excellent news. I hate showering in my costume - not only does it seem rather ineffectual as a washing process, but the hot water and soap accelerates the rotting process that the chlorine has on your swimming costume, which can have expensive consequences for regular swimmers. So it's great to be able to shower in private, then rinse your costume in the wash basins.

The showers stay on for ages at a time - this is excellent when you are trying to get the soap out of your hair and don't want to have to keep finding the button with your eyes shut, but might prove expensive on hot water. It's also a bit annoying when you have finished showering and want to put your towel round you and get out, but have to wait for the water to stop.

The pool is divided into three wide lanes - slow, medium and fast. The notices saying which is which, and showing the direction you should swim, are at the far end of the pool; a handicap for anyone who normally wears glasses. But I'm glad they went for plain english on this occasion - the Arches leisure centre in Greenwich prefers to divide us into 'plodders', 'joggers', and 'sprinters' as well as a 'front crawl only' lane. I have always thought this must be totally incomprehensible to anyone for whom English is not their first language and probably explains why people frequently use the wrong lane.

The water temperature is perfect for fitness swimming - on the cold side, which means you don't overheat when you are swimming at full pelt. I had been worried it might be too warm, as the leisure pool always seems tropical to me, although I know this is aimed as children so needs to be warmer.

So the facilities, overall, are excellent.

But - and this is a MAJOR but - the opening hours are still the same!!

You might recall my previous pleas about making the weekday opening hours of the new pool more sensible. You can see from this post that someone from Parkwood Leisure even commented and assured me that the message was received 'loud and clear'. I filled in the consultation form, sent it back with my comments and explanations, and hoped that something might change.

So when I bowled up this morning to ask what time the pool would open in the week, and was told it would be 8am - the same as before - I was gobsmacked. The receptionist's comment that 'you wouldn't get the staff to come in any earlier' was even more depressing.

It seems I am not alone. I mentioned my disappointment to the other swimmers I met, and three out of four of them said that they had wanted earlier hours too. I can only assume this pool is intended mainly for school use, with a few hours at the weekend for us locals. What is the point of opening a fitness pool at 8am on a weekday? Most people are on their way to work at this time. By contrast, the fitness pool at the Arches opens at 7am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 6.30am on Tuesday and Thursday. I usually go for the early swim, that way I can swim, change, get home for breakfast and then get to work in town for 9am. Another swimmer I know at the Arches travels from Brockley for her swim - she would love to use the pool at Deptford but, like me, can't fit it into her schedule.

So come on, Parkwood Leisure; now you've given us a lovely pool to use, give us the opportunity to use it regularly!

Saturday 30 August 2008

Breaking news...

Apparently the new pool is now open! Thanks Barry, for the tip off. I'll be along to spoil your solitude as soon as I can. All in the name of research, natch.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Can you fix it or use it?

This unloved bit of land which runs parallel to Deptford High Street from the railway station is intended to be the next step in the revitalisation of the town centre. On the left you see the carriage ramp which is a protected structure, being the only one in the country. It was the original route by which carriages (as in horse and cart, not railway) gained access to the elevated platform of the station, and can still be seen from the London-bound platform if you walk towards the front of the platform and peer through the undergrowth. The plan is that the ramp and its arches will eventually form part of the Cathedral Group's redevelopment project, with the arches being refurbished to house commercial units and the square becoming a public area full of cafes, shops and a market.

Until this actually happens, however, the intention is to make the space suitable for use, and start using it to host events in collaboration with the Deptford Project cafe and local businesses.
At the heart is a 20m by 24m area which is intended to become Deptford's new home for creative events such as performances, music entertainment, puppet shows, poetry readings and film screenings. The Deptford Project is looking for local companies to tender for the project to improve this space through either seating, lighting, or weather protection, and there is funding available for each aspect of this work.
Once the space is fixed, local businesses, organisations or individuals will be invited to bid for the use of the space for events or activities that will attract visitors from outside the area, and promote the values of Deptford to a wider audience.

If you have ideas for how this space could be improved, or used, then you need to get working on them and submit your bid by 25th October 2008. For full details contact Rebecca

Saturday 16 August 2008

I've got a garden!

Strictly speaking it's not my garden, it belongs to Howard and his partner, but through the mystical powers of the internet, we discovered that a bit of mutual cooperation will hopefully bring benefits to us all.

I do have a balcony - and it's actually considerably bigger than most balconies these days - readers might remember the tomato triumphs of last year. But this year has been difficult because of a temporary change to my domestic arrangements which meant that I can't rely on someone being here all the time to do the watering, especially since I travel quite a lot for work. Hence a garden share would be a great opportunity for me to develop my green fingers without worrying having to be there all the time.

I have been trying to find an allotment share, but this has proved almost as elusive as an allotment; now, via a post on Green Ladywell, myself and Howard are trialling our own garden share!

So far I've just spent a couple of hours there, pulling up a load of weeds and trying to work out what is growing underneath them. I reassured Howard that what he thought was a 'giant weed' was in fact a courgette plant, complete with courgettes - and we discovered that the peas had gone over and the carrots were struggling to get beyond the size of matchsticks. But we think of it as starting early for next year; plans are to get a compost bin started, cut back the monster lawn, and decide what to put in for next year!

Tuesday 12 August 2008

What's going on?

Deptford's swimmers are eagerly awaiting the opening of the new swimming pool at Wavelengths (and in fact the reopening of the rest of the centre too, which has been closed for far too long due to overrunning of the construction work).

But I am reliably informed that it will all be in use by the end of August. This photo suggests that at the very least, the new pool will be full! (that's the new leisure centre in the background, the pipe runs all the way from the standpipe and disappears into the building itself!)

Wednesday 6 August 2008

I remember when... was all fields around here. Apart from the mills, tanneries, gas works, wharfs, sewage works etc..

A fascinating insight into changing road names, land use, and particularly the revelation that there used to be a literary institute next to Deptford Station!

The map comes from Edward Stanford's 1862 map of London, which can be found online here. The idea was pinched from the Blackheath Bugle.

Friday 1 August 2008

Apartment city SE8

You might think Deptford has plenty of apartments already, being caught in a pincer maneouvre between Millennium Quays, the Glasshouse, and OneSE8, not to mention the myriad of ex-council maisonettes available at very reasonable prices on Crossfields, Evelyn and Pepys estates.

But not a bit of it. We all know about the forthcoming Old Seager Distillery, which is currently being built at the moment and will offer 219 flats next to Deptford Bridge DLR station, most of them in a tower block.

And that's not the half of it. The Dame had a quick scoot round her demesne with a camera, followed by a surf on the world wide web to show you how you can expect the area to change in the next year or so.

Starting at the smaller end of the scale comes the Princess Louise Building, just off Deptford High Street, which is almost finished. According to the developer's website, there are a few remaining. So if you are not bothered about your privacy, or already own some large net curtains, pop on over there and snap one up. Joking aside, I think this is quite a nice development, it fits in well with the scale of the surrounding buildings and brings a splash of colour and modernity to the area.

Going up a bit in scale, comes the Drake Apartments; 80 studio, one and two bed apartments sandwiched between Evelyn St and Clyde St. This site has been hoarded and ready to go for several years, I was quite shocked to find it had advanced so far in a matter of months. Pretty mediocre-looking - nothing offensive but nothing too exciting either, although in comparison to its neighbours, it would probably be seen as pretty glamorous! Nice to see the land being used at last, and the development is at least in approximate scale to its surroundings.

Now we take something of a leap, both in terms of size of development and cost. Paynes & Borthwick Wharves have been torn down, all except the building facades, and currently look like this (from the back):

In due course, they will look like this (from the front):

The blurb on the site promises:
"257 apartments will be created in 8 blocks, a high proportion of which will have views across the River Thames. 1, 2 and 3 bedroom duplex apartments will be available with the benefit of private garden areas and 180 secure underground car parking spaces."

Not a particularly stunning development, although the retained facade certainly gives it an edge over most of the dismal apartment blocks on the opposite side of the river, but nothing particularly offensive by riverside standards.

The site goes on: "Commercial units will be available to creative industries in the area, a public arts programme will integrate artwork into the buildings and public spaces and, during the development, around 11,000 square feet of internal space will be available for events, shows, performances and presentation facilities for local and visiting arts organisations."

All sounds very pleasant, although of course cynics will ask whether there will be any grants to encourage use of the public spaces or to fund the events, shows and performances. The developers have got off to a good start though, by setting up the P&B cultural showcase, which is open to all local creatives and artists in Deptford, Greenwich & Lewisham. Upload your work and projects to the site before 27 September to meet the submission deadline.

And finally, the monster of them all.

This innocent-looking hole in the ground between the Laban Centre and Creek Road is set to become Creekside Village.

The Village (if you haven't seen this before, make sure you are sitting down before you open the link, possibly while taking a stiff drink. And not just because it's an incredibly annoying website design) is set to offer Deptford a further 801 residential units, along with some more commercial space to add to the empty commercial units we already have aplenty on Creek Road. And apparently the three 'dynamic triangular buildings wrap around the Creek signifying the Laban as a cultural landmark'. Quite how they do this is beyond me - to my (obviously untrained) eye it seems as though they overshadow and dominate the Laban.

So far, only the smaller of the blocks are under construction. The land for the triangular buildings is still covered in derelict buildings, huge buddleia bushes and colourful graffiti.

Get down there quick while you can still get a hint of the Creek's industrial past.

Of course I haven't even touched on the proposed redevelopment at Deptford Station (*yawn*), the eternally-postponed Convoys Wharf, the developments this side of Greenwich - either the riverside properties and the new blocks next to the rail station - or New Cross. All I can say is it's going to take more than a few extra carriages on the DLR to get us all to work!

Rumours greatly exaggerated

I'm delighted to be able to announce that the rumours of the Bear Cafe's demise have proved premature (even though they weren't exactly rumours!).

Dale has been in touch to say that the cafe will be reopening on 8 September, under his management, and will be continuing with a similar menu of soups, sandwiches and salads - "as well as some new tasty delights".

Apparently they are also going to be putting together a recipe book for some of the cafe's menu items (hopefully the spicey split pea soup will be in it).

I'm using this announcement to put in my suggestions for improvements to the menu: feel free to add your own in the comments box, I'm sure Dale will be happy to have the feedback!

1. less dressing on the salads please, and perhaps some lower-fat versions (eg mixing low fat yoghurt with mayo for your potato salad). Perhaps you could consider offering additional dressings in jugs for those customers who want more.

2. on a similar note, there used to be a time when nearly every salad had cheese in it, although this did seem to have changed in the past few months. Please don't resurrect it! It's fine to have a bit of cheese in one of the salads, but adding it to everything means salad is no longer a healthy option lunch!

Keep up the good work with the soups, I look forward to new recipes and old favourite alike!