Monday 16 June 2014

Charlotte Turner Gardens

The recent Twinkle Park summer fayre which was intended to celebrate completion of the works in Charlotte Turner Gardens prompted me to take a look around this little piece of park to see what has been done and what I thought of it.

Charlotte Turner Gardens and Twinkle Park are both leased by the Twinkle Park Trust from the council, and the renovation work that has been done has been developed and funded by the trust, which has worked with the local community (and whose board includes local tenants and residents). 

The details of the full plans can be seen on this drawing - as well as landscaping and new features, existing features have been renovated or improved, and a new play area for toddlers has been created. Quite a few new trees - mostly cherry and local apple varieties - have been planted around the sides of the park. 

What always puzzles me about this park - and my recent visit was no exception - was the lack of use it seems to get. Aside from a few sallow looking youths hovering around the benches on an evening, I can't recall ever having seen anyone else using the park.

On the other hand, it's not really on my way to anywhere, so I've only ever walked through it about three times in ten years of living in Deptford, so that probably doesn't really prove anything!

All the same, I visited on a Sunday afternoon, and would have thought that would be a prime time for families to be out using the park and exploring its new features. I do hope it gets more use than I have seen.

The new play area for toddlers is at the south end of the park, and consists of a series of wooden stumps of various heights, some rocks, a wooden 'sea monster' with humps behind it, a raised wooden platform and two 'sound pipes' that I assume you can talk into and be heard from one to the other. In all honesty I can't remember what was in this fenced area before - let's hope for the sake of the toddlers it wasn't the dog run. 

There's also some new planting, including a load of lavender plants against the fence which separates the park from the road. In due course these should grow up and create a nice fragrant border to the park.

Around the park some new features have been created - one is some very subtle landscaping with two low embankments created with a length of low wooden fencing and earth mounds - intended to partially enclose an area of grass that can then be used for ball games and so on. I was a bit flummoxed when I saw the first one, but when I noticed the other (they really are very subtle) I clocked what it was for. 

The 'trim trail' has been improved with some new features that have rubber mesh around them to prevent the grass getting worn - the grass grows up through the mesh.

Every park has to have a table tennis table these days, and Charlotte Turner Gardens is no exception. Considering the use that the one outside the Deptford Lounge gets, I hope this one will be just as popular, although I don't think I've ever seen the one on Crossfields estate in use. Perhaps it's all about location?

Along the eastern edge is a small apple orchard which hopefully will be given the chance to mature into something quite special. I didn't see any of the cherry trees but I believe most of them are on the west edge of the park.

The petanque court right at the northern end has been refurbished and improved - again, no sign of it being used when I visited but I trust it does attract players from time to time.

All in all I think the work that has been done is successful - we'll only know about the trees and planting in due course when they have had time to mature - but I think the designers have managed to keep the intervention nicely understated and the overwhelmingly natural spirit of the space has been retained.

I do worry about usage levels of the park and whether more should be done to encourage local people to visit it more often - there again maybe it's better as a quiet, reflective place that can be enjoyed for peaceful reflection. 

Sunday 15 June 2014

Save the Swan/Enderby Wharf campaigns

Two local campaigns have recently been launched just across the border in Greenwich which might be of interest to my blog readers.

First is the campaign to save the former Swan Tavern which was more recently known as Millers and is the elegant late-Victorian building on Greenwich High Road which has been slowly sinking into dilapidation over the last decade or so due to neglect.

The building was slated for demolition a few years back as part of the overbearing redevelopment which has sprung up around it along that side of the road, despite having been recommended for conservation in 2009 in a heritage report by the Mayor of London.

A group of local residents is calling for it to be retained, and are asking people to write to the local council in a last-ditch attempt to stop it being knocked down. They have a campaign website with more information here.

The second campaign concerns another ailing building with a particularly significant history - the 'home of the communications revolution' on Enderby Wharf. If you have ever walked or ridden the river path from Greenwich around the peninsula (and if you haven't, you are truly missing out!) you will have passed this sad structure on the west side of the peninsula.

(Photo courtesy Enderby Wharf campaign)

You might find it hard to believe these days, but Enderby Wharf was where the first telegram cables were made, as the campaign's website explains;

From the 1850s to the 1970s, Enderby Wharf in Greenwich is where most of the undersea cables that connect the world’s telegraph, telephone and now internet networks were made. 

More than 160 years after the first cables were made there, a factory behind Enderby Wharf still makes vital equipment for subsea cables to connect the world’s internet services. It was where the world’s first telegraph cables were made in the 1850s, pioneering technologies that for the first time allowed people to send and receive messages in minutes rather than days or weeks. 

Enderby Wharf had a leading role in building the technologies that connected the world — from the 19th century telegraph networks to the international phone networks of the 1970s to the internet today. In its first 100 years the Enderby Wharf factory made 82% of the world’s subsea cables, 713,000 km of cable.

There is a meeting scheduled for 25 June with the PR company working for developer Barratt, which is redeveloping the site, to explain the redevelopment proposals.

(Those from the Deptford area may be underwhelmed to learn that the PR company in question is Hard Hat, also responsible for representing Convoys Wharf developer Hutchison Whampoa. )

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Completion of Charlotte Turner Gardens improvements and Twinkle Park summerfest

Twinkle Park Trust has announced the completion of Charlotte Turner Gardens improvements; former ward councillor David Grant is set to formally open the play area in on Sunday 29th June.

The press release from Twinkle Park Trust says:

Ian MacVicar and Aileen Murray will also unveil a plaque in memory of two Trust members who sadly died within a few months of each other; Jim Murray (chairman of the Trust 1999 – 2012 and Richard (Mac) MacVicar (Trust director 2002 – 2013). 

The ceremonies will open Twinkle Park’s 2014 Summerfest, presenting performances by DJ Stormy, the reggae supremo; Heart of Soul steel pans and Havanna Good Time, salsa band. Other features include activities for children - craft makers Assembly, face painting, Games through the Ages (in recognition the Rachel McMillan Nursery centenary), 'Pimms-a-Clock' and a cafĂ©. 

The improvements to Charlotte Turner Gardens encompass both environmental and leisure assets. Veolia have funded a toddlers play area sporting a Viking longship play deck – sculpted by Richard Lawrence, Greenwich sculptor - facing a sea monster, to reference Greenwich’s long relationship and dependence on the nearby River Thames. 

Other leisure facilities include a refurbished petanque court, table tennis table, central casual play area and a fitness trail. 

A Kentish apple tree orchard has been planted and the natural cherry tree orchard refurbished to encourage ‘scrumping’, other planting areas have been rejuvenated to continue to attract birdlife and other wildlife to the gardens. 

Regular readers of the blog who know my interest in public realm won't be surprised to learn I'm hoping to get down there in due course to see what's been done.

Friday 6 June 2014

Deptford Station shop units

Refurbishment of the arches under Deptford Station has now begun; you may have noticed if you have been there in the last couple of weeks - hoardings have gone up around them and excavation has started. 

Planning permission and listed building consent have yet to be granted, but the documents are online should anyone want to browse and comment; the renderings are reproduced below.

I can't say I'm hugely impressed with the proposed design although if you compare it to the previous application, which was subsequently withdrawn, it's a marked improvement.

My main gripe with this is the loss of the arch shape due to the infill at the sides. It's heartening that they've extended the facade glass to the full height of the arch, rather than allowing a mean little rectangular shop front to be fitted into the arch like you see on so many other conversions, but I'd really like to see that applied to the full width too, so that the arch shape is clearly retained.

These are going to be shop units, and if you remember one of the reasons why the former railway carriage cafe could not be relocated to this site, as had previously been proposed by the original Deptford Project developer Cathedral, was that Network Rail did not want a cafe competing with its own potential tenants. Since Network Rail owns most of this land, it was able to put a stop to the relocation.

As for tenants, I presume we are going to see the usual railway station chains. Thankfully there's top notch coffee just a few steps away at the Waiting Room (we might even be able to get them to open an hour earlier...!), and an independent newsagent and a chemist just round the corner if you want to give your money to someone other that Boots or WH Smith.