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Deptford High Street

Deptford High Street must be one of the most written about streets in London. On a recent visit I could well see why this is the case.  The uniqueness of the shops is striking.  When most high streets have the same range of pound shops, ubiquitous bakers or even empty shops it’s refreshing to come across ones that offer something different.  The sight of, what looked like, a missile for sale outside of Absracticus immediately aroused my curiosity and I was drawn in to explore more. It turned out that this is some kind of underwater navigational system.

Around the corner from this at the bottom of Tanners Hill is a row of shops that date back to the late 17th Century.  Mr Wellbeloved a traditional butchers occupies one.  It’s name alone makes it worth a visit.  He sells steak pies that he makes on the property which are very good. In the same parade is a house that is on the recently published English Heritage At Risk list. It had previously been a cycle workshop. Further down the High Street a former bakers is also on the list.  That was built in 1791 for baker Thomas Palmer.

Deptford High Street

I started at the southern end of the High Street with its distinctive anchor.  This is the cause of some controversy as Lewisham Council have started a consultation on the development of the area that involves removing it. The anchor is a relatively new addition to the High Street.  You can buy the traditional and the exotic here.  There are two traditional pie and mash shops as well as places that you can buy large edible snails from Africa.

Deptford High Street

The high street also reflects that Deptford has a community of local and emerging artists.  There are two art galleries – Bearspace and Utrophia.

If you watched the recent BBC programme Secret History of our Streets you will know that much of the historical housing around the High Street was demolished.  Near the northern  Creek Road end of the High Street turn into Albury Street. The south side of the road has been rebuilt with modern houses but the north side still has the original eighteenth century houses.

View of The Narrow

The Narrow is situated on the northern Thamespath and the entrance to the Limehouse Basin.  From the main street you climb down a steep staircase to enter the pub.  Do not be put off by the astro turf and deck-chairs at the entrance to the pub.  Once inside the Grade II listed pub has a traditional feel with a distinctive bar area.  A conservatory has been added so that diners can admire the fine views of the Thames.

There is very little to inform you that this is part of the Gordon Ramsay empire.  His name features in very small letters at the bottom of the menu.

I stopped for lunch whilst on a walk along the Thamespath from the City of London to Canary Wharf.   I was delighted to get a table by the window as it was one of those fine autumn days when the sun is low and bright so the views were exceptional. The restaurant was busy and welcoming.

The menu offers classic British dishes that are locally produced and sourced. I was disappointed that we were not offered the daily special menu  I later checked the website which states that the daily special menu is available Monday to Saturday lunchtime and two courses are £18.

The starters range from £4.00 to £9.50.  I had the herring roe on toast and my companion had the squid with salt and chilli.  Both were very good. As a main course I had the spatchcock red leg partridge which came with gratin potatoes.  The potatoes had a depth of flavour more like the French pommes boulangere. They were delicious. In contrast the Chruchfiled Farm Beef pie main was competent but not inspiring.  The main courses range from £9.50 to £16.50.

Beer from the Greenwich Meantime brewery is available.  I chose the London Pale Ale which went very well.  The brewery is located a few miles down river at Greenwich their website is worth checking out as it recommends food pairing for each of the ales.

http://www.meantimebrewing.com/

http://www.gordonramsay.com/thenarrow/

Rainham Marshes

Now, I am not a bird watcher enthusiast but after a recent visit to Rainham Marshes I think I could become one.  During my visit there was quite a lot of excitement caused by a pair of Marsh Harriers.  The enthusiasm and joy displayed by the volunteers and birdwatchers as they watched the pair of harriers swooping low across the marshes was contagious.

I arrived at the RSPB nature reserve by car and the first thing that hits you when you open the door is the bird song.

Volunteer Brenda Clayton explained the lay out of the reserve and advised the best route to take. You can hire a pair of binoculars for just £2.  The reserve itself is an oasis of unchanged landscape surrounded by the remnants of an industrial past.  The perimeter path of the reserve is 2.2 miles. Running alongside the reserve is the Rainham to Purfleet Riverside Path.  So you get two perspectives the marshes and the river.  Be prepared to be stopped short by the sudden flight of a heron or the sound of an unfamiliar bird. The walkways will take you through the deep reed beds.  Here you will come across Bog Wood which dates back 6000 years to the neolithic period.

Rainham Marshes

It is thanks to the Ministry of Defence that this small patch of riverside marsh has been left untouched. From 1906 this land was out of bounds to the public as it was one of the largest military camps for small rifle training.  If you want to find out more about the military history there is a leaflet which is a self guided walk available in the visitor centre.

Shooting Butts Rainham Marshes

I was particular struck by the friendliness of the volunteers and other visitors to the marshes.  The volunteers are always happy to answer any questions and they will point out the best places to go to see more wildlife. You can book a guided tour with a volunteer and I think that this would be well worth it.  The Sunday Stroll scheme is another opportunity to have the benefit of one of the volunteers.  This is available every other Sunday.

The cafe in the visitor is worth visiting for the views and the food. The dining area has a double aspect so there are views of the Thames or the marshes.  The food is sourced locally and there are a good range of savouries and pies made by Holly Bush Farm in Suffolk.  Maggie and her team in the cafe make cakes and there are a good range on sale.  I had a blueberry gateaux which was delicious.

Entry into the reserve is £3 although it is free for residents of Thurrock and Havering. Up until the 31st October the reserve is open 9.30am to 5pm.  From Ist November opening is 9.30am to 4.30pm.  The nearest station is Purfleet.  By car it is easily accessible from M25 and A13.

www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/r/rainhammarshes/

Thamesview golf club is one of the few pay-and-play clubs that reside within the greater London boundary and nestles proudly alongside Sunningdale, Wentworth and St Andrews…. unfortunately these are the names of the adjacent housing estates rather than comparable courses, however Thamesview still represents one of South-East London’s hidden gems even if it isn’t quite in the class of its more illustrious neighbours.

The 9-hole course offers good value memberships and the green fees are affordable with excellent discounts for junior and senior golfers. The flexible twighlight sessions mean that all but the slowest players can get round 18 holes for only a fiver, and although recent subsidence means that the driving range probably isn’t the best, the club are working hard to rectify the problem. The social facilities are adequate and on a nice day it is possible to sit on the 19th terrace reflecting on the round with a cold drink whilst enjoying the panoramic views of the Thames.

As for the course itself it can best be summed as short but challenging even for a low handicapped player. There are three par 4’s all under 300 yards which present birdie opportunities to accurate long-iron players, however one thing Thamesview isn’t short of is hazards and any deviation from the centre of the tight fairways can result in a lost or wet ball, the water features come into play on 4 of the 9 holes and the heavy rough and trees on virtually all of them. The 6th in particular represents one of the hardest par 4’s around if played from the back tee’s, a perfect dogleg left to right would just flirt with the edge of the forest before landing on the fairway to set-up a long iron over water onto the green. The 2nd and the 8th are longer par 4’s which tempt the use of the driver as does the par 5 where a perfect drive will set up a second shot which takes the lake out of play. The two par 3s are relatively short at under 150 yards and don’t hold too many demons provide the small stream which guards the 5th green can be safely negotiated.

The standard of the greens and the fairways in general has improved dramatically in recent years and the club have worked hard to improve the image of the course. Overall Thamesview is a great place for beginners to learn the game or for more serious golfers to play regularly without encountering the high costs often associated with annual memberships.

Guest post by Joe G

http://www.tvgc.co.uk

E20, Stratford’s new Olympic Park neighbourhood, with East Village at its heart, is expected to become one of London’s most desirable postcodes when homes in the area become available in 2013.

A study published today by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) assesses the fundamental features of London’s newest postcode – London’s first Olympic legacy neighbourhood – to compare it to the capital’s other key residential areas.

The Cebr’s London Residential Fundamentals Index concludes that the combination of transport links, quality of life, local services, and access to employment opportunities in E20 rivals such well-established and desirable north- and west-London districts as Highbury and Hammersmith.

When East Village is ready for occupancy next year, it will provide more than 2,800 high-quality homes. Almost half are designated affordable homes, while the remainder will be available for private rent, giving the choice of buying or renting to people with a range of incomes.

East Village promises to be one of London’s best-connected residential areas, with train journeys to St Pancras taking just six minutes, to the City 10 minutes, Canary Wharf 12 minutes, and the West End in 20 minutes. This super-fast connectivity will support employment in the area, along with the proximity of Westfield Stratford City and the International Quarter, a new commercial hub within the E20 postcode itself.

The “liveability” factors in E20 which Cebr took into account included access to vast areas of outdoor space – each property in East Village will have access to both private balconies and communal courtyards, as well as being surrounded by public gardens, an orchard and wetland area – world-class sporting facilities, highly-rated education at the new Chobham Academy (part of the renowned Harris Federation), and state-of-the-art medical facilities with East Village Health & Wellbeing Centre. The community will be further supported by around 30 neighbourhood cafes, restaurants and shops.

Cebr analyst Osman Ismail said: “This much-maligned corner of east London, neglected for decades, is set to become a success story. The regeneration associated with the Olympic Games will soon give rise to one of London’s most exciting residential areas.

“It’s an outstanding living environment, contributing much to the broader regeneration of east London. Our prediction is that E20, and East Village in particular, will be a highly desirable place to live.

“The neighbourhood will suit a range of needs: families who want more space, professionals who want a safe and desirable place to live and key workers who want high-quality homes in a thriving area.

“Our research indicates that, based on its unique combination of assets, E20 will compete with the likes of Hammersmith and Highbury, and offer its residents far more than many established London hot-spots.”

Guest Post by CEBR

contact number for media enquiries +44 (0) 20 7324 2850

View of Thames

You can see a lot more than an urban landscape if you take a walk along the Thames. I recently walked from London Bridge to Greenwich which is about 7 miles. You can chose to take the northern or southern pathway. If you don’t want to do a linear walk you can use the Greenwich Clipper to take you from one bank to another.  Alternatively you can cross the river at Greenwich using the foot tunnel.

I’m not sure if it is an Olympic legacy or not but the planting along the Thames pathway and other open spaces is particularly sympathetic.   The use of grasses and wildflowers means that even this late in the year there is colour and interest for bees and other insects.  Along the southern bank particularly around Greenwich Peninsula reeds have been used and are a reminder of the original ecology. Bow creek, which is further east, was an osier bed which is a type of willow used for basket making.  If you visit now you will see along the creek bank the wildflower meadow has been cut and is being dried for hay.  It is remarkable that one of Britain’s longest established method of conserving grass can be seen in the middle of a city landscape.  Over 95% of Britain’s wildflower meadows disappeared and Bow Creek is a good example of how new ones can be created.

I read in the news last week that Britain could be facing a repeat of the impact of Dutch Elm disease among its native ash trees.  A fungus is spreading across Europe that is killing ash trees and last week the Government launched a consultation on the immediate ban of imports of ash trees in an attempt to stop the disease reaching Britain.  By 1990 most of the Elm trees in England had been killed off. .So I am delighted to report that on a recent walk along the north Thamespath I spotted a very rare sight indeed.  In Montgomery Square, Canary Wharf, an avenue of elm trees has been planted.  Well worth making a detour to see these rare trees.

At South Bank Marina I spoke to George, a local fisherman.  The Marina is situated close to the old boundary between Kent and Surrey which is now the boundary between Southwark and Lewisham.  George was telling me that the area is good for sea bass although they are small.  Unlike the carp.  He was keen to show me the  picture of a 26 pound fish that he had caught recently in this very spot. George and his mate were also telling me that the indigenous Wels Catfish is also found along this part of the river.

 

At the opening of Celebration the Big Picture at Forman’s Smokehouse Gallery I overheard one of the other guests saying, “This new part of London is fascinating”. Well, of course this isn’t a new part of London but it is fascinating.  Harry Forman opened his smokehouse in this area at the beginning of the last century. The area is in the process of change and the new Gallery is playing a key role in the cultural development of the area.  The gallery has been open since 2010 and is on the top floor of the new H. Forman & Sons factory and restaurant.  It provides a space for emerging and local artists to exhibit their work.  The large gallery space is enhanced by the iron girders which are sympathetic to the industrial feel of the place.  From the terrace you get wonderful skyline views across to the Olympic arena.

William Chamberlain is the manager of the gallery and has set an impressive timetable  of a new exhibition every month.  So there is no excuse for not visiting regularly. The exhibition featured  the work of 28 local London artists many of whom live in the area around Fish Island and Hackney Wick.  The theme celebration which was explored in ten different art forms including: painting, photography, mosaic, sculpture, installation.  The celebration theme included explorations of the Olympic legacy, relationships and the environment.  Some of the ceramic work was particularly interesting.  I chatted to Christopher Biggins who was particularly enthusiastic about the work of Maria Alvarez Echenique.  This was a large ceramic installation. The exhibition is curated by Sophie Veturini and Neha Malik, who exhibit their own work alongside well-known Hackney based artists, Soren Mayes, Nick Creber and Chev Mehmet.

The exhibition is sponsored by East Village which is the new name for the London Olympic Village.  From 2013 it will be home for more than 6,000 people. Obviously, it is surrounded by world class sports venues.  But the development of the artistic community ensures that this neighbourhood will provide all that is best in city living. East London just gets better and better.

The nearest stations are Hackney Wick and Pudding Mill Lane DLR.  I walked to Fish Island from Pudding Mill Lane.  The route takes you adjacent to the  A102 which is the road that goes south through the Blackwall Tunnel from here you turn on to the canal walkway.  It was astonishing that a short walk from the turmoil of one of London’s busiest roads you entered the tranquility of East London’s historic canal network.  As you arrive at the first lock you get the first glimse of the Forman Smokehouse with its distinctive design and colour. It was designed to resemble a piece from a salmon.

The exhibition is on until the 28th October.

www.eastvillagelondon.co.uk/

www.smokehousegallery.org

www.formans.co.uk

The Crystal view from Emirates airway

The Mayor of Newham describes the Crystal as a visitor attraction that will:

“ put the Royal Docks on the national and international stage as a place for supporting new technology and innovation.”

I visited the centre today and there is a scrap of A4 paper sellotaped onto the window giving the opening times.  Search their website or even their glossy book you can find how to get there but not when its open. Having noticed the scrap of paper I know that it is open 10.00 to 17.00 Monday to Saturday.  It is not open on Sunday. Helpfully, I informed  the staff that opening times were not listed on the website.

The Crystal is a sustainable initiative by Siemens that boasts the largest exhibition space for the development of sustainable cities. If you approach the Crystal on the Emirates cable car you get a great view of the building and its scale. The exhibition space itself is much smaller than you imagine and I think this adds to the general disappointment.

Mayor Johnson’s aspiration is that the Crystal is the heart of a new Green Enterprise District that will encourage new low carbon businesses. There are financial incentives for businesses moving into this zone through business rate relief.  All very laudable and aspirations that most people can sign up to. Yet, the exhibition itself is dull.

To access much of the multi-media exhibition you require a Crystal Key.  Only the staff have these. Once you locate an exhibit that you are interested in you need to find staff to start it with their key.  The staff did explain that in time the public will be given their own keys.  I was interested in the Green City Index. In my endeavour to find out more about it I found a very helpful member of staff to get the thing started.  I managed to see the introduction three times but even with staff helping could not move the program on to the important section which gave you details about what constituted the index.

The exhibition relies significantly on computer generated images which superficially look good. There is a dome like space that looks promising.  Images are projected on the curved spaces and the floor. I knew no more about sustainability when I left this space as I did when I entered.   The target audience for the exhibition is “everyone who cares about creating a sustainable future” and it should cater for every group from community interest groups to school children and post-graduate students.  Yet much of the learning is dependent upon reading the content on either the screens or the walls.  There is little or no interactive, problem solving approaches to learning.

There was little to connect the exhibition in a practical way to the sustainable projects that are in the immediate vicinity.  Less than a 15 minute walk from the Crystal is the Bow Creek Ecology Park. This former ironworks, shipyard and coal wharf is now a wildlife haven in the urban environment.

I hope that the project will develop in a way that fulfills the aspiration.  If it does not this will be a mere vanity project for Siemens.

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