Friday 28 August 2009

Deptford X programme is now available

Find the details here - and start planning! (Click on the links on the left hand column)

Looks like another good one!

Blackheath, August bank holiday

Well worth a visit, even if it means walking/cycling up the hill or sitting in traffic on the 53.

Check out the renewable energy set-up, the compost toilets and the straw filters for washing up water.

And I guess this counts as 'low-key' policing these days!

New art bookshop at Bearspace

As the Deptford art scene ratchets up for the start of Deptford X at the end of next month, Bearspace is launching not only a new show, but also an 'art book boutique'.

"On the 3rd September 2009, Charlotte Troy, a freelance publisher and editor, will open CT Pocket: the first arts bookshop in south east London's Deptford. CT Pocket is a mini arts bookshop and will be located inside the contemporary art gallery Bearspace."

Being familiar with the size of the gallery space and from the contents of the press release I can surmise that the bookshop will be boutique not only in the quality of its contents, but also in quantity. This may not be the place to come if you are in search of a specific title - but rather it promises to offer a hand-picked selection of books which could set the reader off on a voyage of discovery, as well as various second-hand books and magazines.

According to the press release, "CT Pocket hopes to alleviate a local thirst for knowledge about contemporary art and aims to be a place for people to find out more and talk about art today."

The bookshop launches on 3 September, 6.30 to 8.30pm and will be open during gallery hours (Wed to Sat, 12.30 till 5pm).

"To launch the venture, curator and writer Hans Ulrich Obrist has hand-picked 15 must-have new titles for any discerning reader, which will be featured and sold at the store. These include Michael Clark's first monograph and Yoko Ono's latest book, Anton's Memory. In addition to this inspiring list, CT Pocket will stock a rigorously edited selection of new and second-hand books (and periodicals) dealing in artist monographs, theory, special editions, music and architecture; each in their own way inspiring, rich in content and meticulously produced. CT Pocket will also host occasional book launches or talks, curated around the guest editor's list of books."

The opening of the bookshop will coincide with the opening of a new exhibition of limited-edition prints 'The kiss of a lifetime' which will run to 12 September. Prints by more than 100 artists will be featured in the event, and the gallery is offering a 15% discount on any prints ordered at the preview on 3 September.

The opening of this bookshop is excellent news, and adds to the presence of the new Arch Materials shop, strengthening the reputation of Deptford as a great place for artists to work and live.

Saturday 15 August 2009

The Dame goes stateside

*See you later in the month*

Thames cycle path; Erith and beyond

Another favourite cycle ride of mine is the Thames footpath/cycle path in any direction from Deptford. We are lucky to be able to access the north side easily through the foot tunnel at Greenwich (although be warned, this is going to be out of action from next month for a total of 18 months!) and so we can go east or west on either the north or south banks. Each route is very different, and my personal favourite, for all its industrial grime, is the route eastwards from Deptford to Erith and beyond.

One of the things I like the most about this route is that it offers more than 10 miles of riverside cycle route with only a few very short detours or crossings of roads. It is ideal for nervous/beginner cyclists and a great route if you want to chill out without motor vehicles. And at this time of the year, a fantastic place to go for hedgerow fruits!

After leaving Greenwich behind, there's the long quiet stretch around the peninsula, followed by the even quieter path leading to the Thames Barrier. Although it's not very bike friendly (ie lots of steps) it's worth a stop at the cafe for a cheap toastie and cup of tea, and a great view of the barrier itself.

After a very short stretch of road, cut back through the new housing to the river again, and you will find more quiet footpaths and slightly shabby urban landscaping before the Woolwich Ferry hoves into view.

Here you have to cross the ferry approach road (traffic usually at a standstill) and cut round the back of the leisure centre to the ambitious but badly-maintained landscaping on Woolwich waterfront. It always amazes me that the Greenwich Council is so lax about looking after this sward of public space - especially given that it's right on the doorstep of the council's home! But I'm sure many of my readers will respond that nothing about Greenwich Council amazes them any more...

A little further on at Woolwich Arsenal you will pass this group of chaps - Assembly, by sculptor Peter Burke - at a point where you can either detour inland to the Firepower museum or just have a mooch round the site and check out some of the impressive old buildings.

From this point on, it's basically river-front apartments interspersed with overgrown wasteland and older housing stock for the next few miles. The path changes from concrete to gravel and back again several times, and it's here that you start to get the best hedgerow fruits.

Plenty of blackberries, lots of elderberries (but you'd best be quick) and if you get beyond Crossness and its shiny neighbour, the soaring Abbey Wood Pumping Station, you will even hit a rich vein of sloes! (Right next to the golf practice range).

If your legs start getting tired, there are plenty of routes leading off the riverside track towards rail stations at Abbey Wood, Plumstead, Belvedere, Erith and even Dartford - so you can jump on a train straight back to Deptford if you like. Or just do what I did and turn around - it's always shorter on the way back and fascinating to see the route from the other direction!

East London line phase 2 - Surrey Canal Road station

Anyone living in Deptford/New Cross surrounds can't fail to know about the East London Line extension - the ELL stations at New Cross and New Cross Gate have been closed for phase one works for so long now, I've forgotten when it all started! However, the intention is that when work completes in June next year, we'll have a direct link north to Dalston Junction and south to Crystal Palace and West Croydon.

Earlier this year, the go-ahead was given for the second phase - and you can see on the map that the second phase, shown by the blue line, will offer a link to west London, bypassing the congested central London terminals. This would all come under the remit of the London Overground network, part of TFL.

As it stands on the map, not a great benefit for our area, given that you would have to either go up to Surrey Quays or drag along to Queens Road Peckham to access this line. What the map doesn't show is that TFL was also considering a station at Surrey Canal Road, which would do a lot to improve access for residents in New Cross and Deptford and would also offer additional capacity for future developments in the area.

But although the Department for Transport offered £7 million towards the estimated £10 million cost of building the station, TFL is claiming that the station does not offer 'value for money' and that it does not have the funding to build it.

Obviously it is important for publicly-funded organisations to assess all proposed capital works on value for money, but it is not clear what form this takes, and what aspects of the project and its benefits have been taken into account.

Some people, myself included, think that it would make sense to build this new station at the same time as you are building the line - if it was later found to be 'value for money' to build a station at this location, it would be a lot more expensive and inconvenient to have to build it retrospectively.

In order to try and put pressure on TFL to think again/on the DfT to plug the funding gap a campaign group has been set up along with an online petition.

For more information about the campaign, click here.

Missing cat - reward offered

A fellow blogger and resident has asked me to help her search for her cat, Sophie, who has been missing for almost two weeks from the area around the Albany in Deptford. If you have taken Sophie in, thinking she was a stray or if you have seen her around, please call 0797 9287415. A reward is being offered.

Please also check any sheds or outbuildings you may have access to, in case she has got trapped inside.

Thursday 13 August 2009

Tidemill School/Deptford's new conveniences!

The £24 million contract to build the new Tidemill School in Giffin Street was awarded to Galliford Try Partnerships in July, and since then there have been some immediately-noticeable changes.

The first part of the work involved in building the new school is the demolition of some of the buildings on the site, including the public toilets.

Some visitors may have already noticed that the car park next to Wavelengths is now closed (you will have to use the parking 'boulevard' in Frankham Street instead, which is a bit of a bummer if you have driven up Gifford Street in expectation since it's no entry into Frankham Street from this end and you will have to go back to Deptford Church Street, around the mini roundabout and back the same way).

We also have some new, shiny public toilets in the middle of Giffin Square - they look a bit incongruous sitting there right in the middle of the paved area, but I suppose the prominent location is an attempt to minimise the extent to which they may be abused.

I have to admit that when I sidled up to them to take these photos, I cynically wondered how much more than a penny you would have to spend in these wonderful new facilities. I was shocked and somewhat gratified to find that they are totally free! Do note, however, that you only get 15 minutes (after which I assume the door opens again, ready or not) so no lingering!

Surrey Docks and surrounds

The Guardian's recent 'let's move to' bemoaned the lack of green space in Deptford, claiming that you had to 'heft up the hill' to Greenwich Park or Blackheath for any parkland.

Of course locals know that not to be the case at all - and in fact I think we are lucky to be more fairly served with public spaces and parks than a lot of London. While the green space might be in smaller portions, it is more evenly distributed between us. Anyone who has had to walk the length of more than a couple of streets of Victorian houses, whether north or south of the river, can only envy us our proximity to play areas and green spaces, however modest in size. Just consider St Pauls and St Nicholas' churchyards, Twinkle Park, the Sue Godfrey Nature Park, Brookmill Park, Douglas Way, Fordham Park, Folkestone Gardens and Deptford Park, not to mention the numerous play areas and green spaces around the Evelyn, Crossfields, Pepys and Woodpecker Estates, and the river frontage where it's accessible, and you can't help but agree that we are very well off for green spaces - albeit not the grand sweeping vistas of royal parks. For myself, I'd rather live in a greened environment than have to make a special trip to the park.

One of my favourite places in the area, however, is actually just across the border in Southwark. It's a place that's perfect for a bike ride early morning on Sunday or in the evening after a hot day. It starts on Grove Street, and after passing Pepys Park, turn right along Bowditch Lane. This will lead you up to the historic setting of the Foreshore on the river bank, and if you turn left here and go along the river, you will pass The Tower, subject of the infamous BBC documentary a couple of years ago.

Following the riverside path brings you to South Dock, which can be circumnavigated quite easily by bike, since it only has a road along one side.

Its neighbour - the enormous Greenland Dock, is similarly very pedestrian/cycle friendly, although somewhat larger in scale.

On the far side of Greenland Dock, about halfway along, you will see a pub. From here, duck down below the underpass and up the other side and you will find yourself at the start of Russia Dock woodland.

This park was built on the infilled Russia Dock; one side of the old quay has been left in place, complete with cobbles and mooring buoys, to remind us of its former incarnation. I think of this park and its environs as a really magical place - unless you live nearby you really have to know where it is in order to find it, it's tucked between houses and roads with the utmost cunning.

Look on a map and you will see how small this area really is, but it has been so cleverly designed that you can actually get lost in it! There is a chain of ponds and small streams along its centre, with wooden bridges here and there, many of them topped by little decorative metal signs.

Footpaths lead off in numerous directions - many of them just linking into the surrounding housing estates - but their presence adds to the mystery; so many paths to explore, so little time! Every visit I take a new route and it's a great place to discover different corners and new vistas. I also love the metal seats that are scattered throughout the park, some in twos and threes, others in half a dozen or more. They are not really like park benches, they are more like thrones, and with the large groups in particular, I always imagine them being the meeting place of some ancient court.

Come down here on Sunday morning and you may see a few dog walkers, an old chap reading the Sunday papers on a sunny bench, perhaps a Chinese family of four doing their morning exercises in formation on the old dock wall. I even happened across someone doing what looked like tightrope practice on a webbing strap fastened low between two trees! It's a place that is constantly full of surprises. Read more about Russia Dock Woodland here.

For nature lovers there's the excellent Stave Hill Ecological park, including great views from the top of the hill itself. More about its insect life (and great photos!) here.

There's also the Surrey Docks Watersports Centre - the building is currently in the middle of being refurbished but due to reopen later this year.

And if you are a fan of industrial history, the docks themselves have many stories to tell; the old bridges and locks are worth a look, and it's a great place to ponder the changes that the area has seen.

Friday 7 August 2009

Why I love Housewives

That's Housewives Cash & Carry on Deptford High Street, not housewives collectively*.

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that my inner child found this very funny, and demanded that I buy it. My outer adult vetoed another purchase from the same shop - a jar of Hot Shito (and also a jar of Mild Shito) - on the grounds that they were too expensive at £2.29 each.

To be fair, you can probably buy cock-flavoured seasoning in shops the length and breadth of Deptford High Street - I'm sure Housewives does not have exclusive distribution rights on either this or cock soup.

Additionally I am delighted to report that Housewives proved me wrong AGAIN in that I discovered jars of Dijon mustard on its shelves - something I had been convinced I would have to venture to Sainsbury's to buy.

(*Although they are welcome in my house any time, if they are willing to do a bit of dusting.)

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Tesco comes to Deptford

Deptford Se8ker has news of a new store set to open on Deptford High Street at the end of September.

I rarely use Tesco Express because the stores mostly sell ready meals, which I try to avoid where possible.

If this is the case in the Deptford branch, I'm not sure it will really compete with any other stores except Iceland. It may bring some competition for the fruit and veg stores and the butchers (like they need any more competition!) but from memory Tesco Express tends to concentrate on plastic bags full of ready-chopped carrots, broccoli and cauliflower which cost about ten times their unchopped equivalents.

On the plus side, we might have access to a better range of cheeses and wines than is currently available in Deptford, which would improve the Dame's life considerably, although there might be an associated risk to the waistline.

The Greenwich Phantom's review of the Tesco Express on Trafalgar Road is worth a read.