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An encouraging day . . . and a dispirited Day

April got off to a fine start on Saturday 1st. It was about time that Duck Platform No.1 (the B&Q shower tray!) was re-floated and -- as Duck Platform No.2, having lost its anchor, was floating freely near the old weir -- it definitely time to get the little inflatable out of the shed and go boating on the Slade Ponds. Unfortunately the bung had gone missing and the cork out of a bottle of Rioja wasn’t quite up to the job. Your intrepid Chair did manage to get the shower tray afloat and throw out its new anchor (a paint bucket filled with cement), but the little boat had a tendency to jack-knife under his weight and let in uncomfortable amounts of water. Thank goodness new member Charlotte had come along to help – she held the life-line in case Nick had to be hauled ashore!

It was a relief when Gordon and Hayley turned up to offer their first-class inflatable kayak. Gordon and Nick set off to the far side of the pond to tow the wooden duck house back into position. Just as Nick was shackling the new anchor chain to the platform, a terrified moorhen shot past his ear and he nearly fell overboard with shock.

Hayley suggested planting some irises on the shower tray to make it look less like a bit of Plumstead fly-tipping so, with a re-launch of the kayak, that was quickly accomplished.

While all that was going on, David and AnneMarie were planting some lovely foxgloves around the pond area inside the railings.

All marvellous!

And here's Hayley and Charlotte sewing some wildflower seeds . . .
. . . and here's nice Mr Blackbird having our wildflower seeds for lunch!
The two duck islands safely back in place

So after all that great collaborative achievement it was time for a restorative coffee at the (award winning!) Plumstead Pantry. That’s when the dispiriting stuff started. On the way there I spotted this ghastly tag on the Slade steps. This particular tag has recently started to appear in Plumstead. If you can lead us to the culprits in order to try and dissuade them, do get in touch.

I went to get the graffiti remover and took it straight off.

Then a passing jogger told me some young people had built a fire in the Workhouse Wood piggery, and that she had called the fire brigade.

As I made my way to the piggery I found half a dozen teenagers in the Forest Schools circle. All the log “stools” had been dumped into the circle yet again, so I asked if the youngsters could help me put them back outside where they belonged. “We’re not strong enough” said one of the young men. So they watched me pick up a log stool myself, then trip over and crack a rib!

It was time chase up the missing the Fire Brigade. A call to 999 established they’d gone in search of a “Woodhouse woods” just off Winn’s Common Road. I re-directed them to Tynemouth Road and they passed a hose to me through the railings.

Returning to the youngsters in the log circle I asked if they could at least help me clear up the litter that was around their feet, suggesting that they looked rather bored. “We are bored. There’s nothing for us to do. It’s Plumstead.” I suggested I could find them lots to do if they’d like to help. They replied that then I would be out of a job!

I started to tell them all about the wood and how much spare time had been invested in its development so that people like them can enjoy it. I asked if they had read the sign at the entrance. “I don’t read” replied Miss Bored No.3.

This is the first week-end of really good weather. And this is what I think: It’s unlikely to get better. If every time I visit the Forest Schools circle I have to replace the logs and clear litter left behind by young people with less care for all our living space than for their next spliff . . . if young people are going to light fires in the wood and pull up our flagstones just where we are planning an exciting artwork with lovely benches and interpretive signs, then I will just walk away from the development and give the un-spent money back to Tesco. There’s no point in spending it on a development that will be trashed.
I honestly believe that if we could open up the entrance from Tynemouth Road and make it a pleasant through-route then the problems would be hugely diminished, but I don’t see neighbouring residents’ current antipathy to the project allowing that to happen.
So, on to other matters . . .
Winn's Common Play Park and Paddling Pool

We have been contacted by a local resident with serious concerns that the Winn’s Common play park and paddling pool are an unsafe threatening environment for women. Your Chair has had a long conversation with her in which he told her that there is really no evidence to back that up. There have been no reports of threatening behaviour to women at that site.

The resident wants the hedging around the pond to be removed. The FoPC voted unanimously against any such action at the last meeting. Councillor Jackie Smith, whose brief includes the green open spaces and Crime & Safety in the borough contacted me to say that the council see absolutely no evidence to back a claim that the area is unsafe.

The Parks Department and the local SNT met with the resident on site and do not consider any action is necessary. Your Chair visits the site regularly, because we store our equipment there, and has never seen any untoward behaviour in daylight hours.

Here is a picture -- complete with my friends, the bored teenagers (one of whom borrowed a broom to sweep the paddling pool - marvellous? - till he said it was to prepare the surface for his skateboard. Oh well!) -- taken on the last visit. Its not easy to see but the play park has many happy and safe users this day.

Save the date for

Plumstead Live!

Sunday July 16th
New Committee officers for FoPC!

It's great to have a newly elected Vice Chair in


and an Hon. Treasurer Elect in


Thank you!


Your Chair has contacted the council about their bizarre decision to start randomly issuing FPNs for parking on Winn’s Common Road. A visitor to Workhouse Wood recently received a fine. At weekends the road is full of parked cars “safely” (but now "illegally") parked behind the white line which the council is now trying to claim is a footway only accessible and usable by pedestrians. As there is absolutely no kerb, one suspects the FPNs will be difficult to uphold.

Meanwhile to council would prefer you to park on the south side of the highway and risk having your wing mirrors torn off by the cars travelling down that road at ridiculous speeds!

News from the March Friends & Environment Champions Reception
Do you remember in "The Litter Chronicles"  the suggestion to the council that "Parking Wardens" should be warranted for litter? They thought that was dead silly. Guess what . . . that's now on their agenda.
And do you remember your Chair's consultation paper suggestion of "Environment Champions" in schools about four years ago? Funnily enough they announced that will happen now.
And do you remember about twenty years ago your Chair suggesting that Park Keepers (as they were called then) should pro-actively approach dog walkers and offer poo bags? They announced that, too!

We're not so daft, are we?

But don't hold your breath.

Engaging with local primary schools

Back in December the FoPC hand-delivered letters to ten local schools telling them about the green space and natural resources within walking distance of their gates.

We are seeking some insight as to what might make the best resource for local schools. We would also like local schoolchildren to help design the mural that we plan to paint on the old piggery wall. I very much want to have some dialogue with relevant members of staff and am keen to know who those might be.”


No Head replied or acknowledged the letters.

Two further emails were sent to the primary schools within walking distance of Workhouse Wood. They did not move anything forward.

Two weeks ago three members of FoPC joined a class from Rockliffe Manor School. We spent the morning with them because they were on a council-organised “litter pick”. This was a perfect opportunity to introduce them to Workhouse Wood and the Slade Ponds, neither of which the teachers knew about. One of the kids declared “Miss, this is the best trip we’ve had!” . . . pretty good, considering they’ve been to wonderful places like the Natural History Museum.

Having given them that time and introduced them to a wonder on their doorstep, it’s disappointing to have heard nothing from the school in response to the day. A simple emailed "thank you" would be welcome.

We got to Bannockburn School through a “back door” and thought they might get involved in the art project we plan for the piggery wall. But judging by lack of response to recent emails, the school appears to be too pressured and unable to move forward on the project at this time.

Mark, our Vice Chair, has some exciting ideas for some robust, sustainable artwork in the wood involving local children in the design. He is now in discussion with another local school.

Slade Toilet Block

At the last FoPC meeting there was a chance to appraise the plans Chris brought along for the derelict Slade toilets development plan. There was one abstention from an otherwise unanimous vote strongly  in favour. A new café, small exhibition centre and toilet facility will be very welcome on this neglected patch of land.

Your Chair took a long call from an objector who seemed to be saying that this little patch of Plumstead Common will suffer in various ways. As we have for years litter-picked this neglected triangle of land – with an eyesore at its focal point – that nobody living, or working, nearby seemed to care very much about, your Chair found it hard to agree that this new plan was a generally bad thing.

Bleak Hill

There was a highly regrettable clearance of mature trees on Bleak Hill, carried out by council Parks department workers under the unauthorised direction of a manager.
A FoPC member alerted your Chair who had the work stopped.

The council, severely embarrassed by the action, has been quick to remedy the situation with new planting of trees and sewing of wild flowers at the site. It may well prove to be ultimately advantageous. The council have promised the dysfunction in management will also be remedied.

Unfortunately, in spite of robust assurances that weed killing will not be carried out in Plumstead Common, there was a rogue order enacted to spray round trees, posts and signs all over the common. The council, embarrassed once again, sincerely apologised. We are assured the manager concerned will face appropriate action.

. . . and the common in general

It would appear that the council are doing a very good job keeping the common clear of litter. Things have vastly improved.

The council, in general, are alive to people's serious concerns about the state of our living space. They are listening and talking cooperatively, and we benefit from an excellent rapport with our local councillors and Parks officers. We see daily proof of how the council's new mantra of "Better Together" is working to improve our environment. There is much more to be done in terms of enforcement. Your Chair had to point out at the recent Reception what a disgrace it is that no dog fouling fines have been issued on Plumstead Common for YEARS!
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