Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Ravensbourne sediment linked to river improvement works

The River Ravensbourne winds its way through Brookmill Park in a semi-natural channel that was built in the late 90s as part of the construction of the DLR extension to Lewisham. 

It's one of my favourite 'secret' cycle and walking routes near Deptford - although a cycle path runs officially through the park and along the Ravensbourne all the way to Lewisham Station, many cyclists bypass it for the sake of speed, taking the route along the road instead.

More often than not a heron can be spotted hunched over the water, or stalking its prey with admirable stealth - sometimes you might even see two or more along this stretch. For those with patience, there are plenty of other bird spots to be had, including little egrets and kingfishers. (If you don't believe me, check out the Friends of Brookmill Park Facebook page, which regularly offers great photos of the birdlife and flora of the park.)

But last year these local residents became concerned that wildlife was being put at risk by regular discharges of sediments into the river, discolouring the water for whole days at a time. These discharges continued over a period of at least a month and more than once were reported to the Environment Agency, with no noticeable change or explanation of the cause.

(All photos of pollution copyright Friends of Brookmill Park)

Suspicion initially fell on the works being carried out at the Lewisham Gateway site. As part of this extensive development of the area around Lewisham station, a number of huge blocks of flats are being built right over the place where the Quaggy River flows into the Ravensbourne. The  Lewisham Gateway development includes creation of a 'park' in between the tower blocks that will be called Confluence Place.

But according to Lewisham Gateway, the work in the river is being carried out with the blessing of the Environment Agency.

They have sent this statement: "Part of our development plan is to open up access to the Ravensbourne and Quaggy, in doing so we have been carrying out work in the river which involves placing gravel into the river bed to enable fish and eels to travel up the catchment. Naturally this work will cause some sediment (sand and gravel) to become displaced. To mitigate this, we placed straw bales directly downstream to catch the sediment. All our work in the river has been overseen by the Environmental (sic) Agency."

It has also emerged that other contractors unrelated to the Lewisham Gateway works have been carrying out investigation works in the car park behind Tesco, which has also caused sediment to flow into the river.

Charity Thames 21 will be leading river clean-up events at Brookmill Park on 21st Jan and 18th Feb (see details on this calendar for anyone who wants to get more involved. And hopefully communication between the various groups working in and around this vital water corridor will improve. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New Deptford pubs/eateries; the Royal Standard

In its former days this pub at the bottom of Tanners Hill had the claim to fame that even my ex had turned his nose up at drinking here, and he was notorious for his pub tolerance.

So with the refit and relaunch back in July I was optimistic that the result could only be an improvement - it was just a question of whether it would be sufficiently improved to tempt me to go that little bit further for a drink.

Initially I was disappointed that the refit did not include the introduction of any real ale - keg beer was on offer but it was either chilled and tasteless Meantime fizz or headache-inducingly-pricey 'craft' beers from south London. Some of their craft beers were so expensive I momentarily considered going teetotal.

Hence I let out a great cheer when I heard that they subsequently installed a hand-pump and were serving Sambrooks Wandle ale for just £3 a pint!

Even on my previous visits, while the beer range was disappointing, the food was good and the prices keen.

The menu is generally standard pub dishes - bangers and mash, burgers, fish & chips and so on - but done well and reasonably priced. Specials are often available and these are advertised on Twitter or Facebook. 

On my first visit, chicken livers on sourdough were pretty tasty and the mains (a veggie burger which no longer seems to be on the menu, being replaced by the mushroom/halloumi stack, and toulouse sausage & mash) were filling and hot. I wasn't too keen on the slate/mini fryer basket presentation of the burger but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the grub.

On my most recent visit (apologies no photos this time), the food was again delivered to a high standard. The calamari was as far as it could be from the regular tasteless rings - chunks of squid in crunchy batter which was properly seasoned and incredibly moreish - really wished we'd ordered a portion each. The only reason we did not fight over the last piece was that my companion is more gracious than me. 

Fish and chips was plentiful and fresh - great value at just over a tenner even if the 'mushy peas' were of the crushed variety, rather than being proper northern. Always something of a disappointment for me but all too common in this unenlightened city...

I was also heartened to see they are still offering cask ale at £3 a pint, which in itself is a good reason to drop by and check the place out. 

One thing I have a major beef with in the Royal Standard is the enormous screen that dominates the far end of the room and leers down over the vast majority of the dining tables. I had initially assumed that the screen was installed so that they could show sports, but it's been on every time I've visited and I find it very off-putting. 

Last time I dropped in the screen was showing 80s pop videos with the sound turned down and the radio playing instead, making it almost impossible to dine in comfort. People dining alone might like the screen it as a distraction, and no doubt it will earn its keep when there's sport to watch, but at any other time it's surely going to put off anyone who wants to eat in company? 

Only a handful of customers were in the bar at the time and this mish-mash of entertainment seemed to emphasise the emptiness of the place. If the food and drink are going to get the attention they deserve, I think this aspect really needs addressing. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Deptford eateries: The Full Nelson

The Full Nelson is the eagerly-awaited eatery from the team behind my favourite Deptford coffee shop, The Waiting Room; it opened a couple of months ago and is a bar that serves veggie and vegan 'junk food'.

(Photo by The Full Nelson)

It's not quite as minuscule as the tiny shop front on Deptford Broadway suggests, but it's still quite snug. However if you are familiar with the Waiting Room you'll realise that these guys are already adept at working miracles in confined spaces. 

From the front door the premises stretch back quite a way, opening out to make room for a long thin bar and a number of tables. The first couple of times I tried to visit were aborted due to the place being packed to the rafters, but having been back twice, the general impression is that they certainly seem to have achieved what they are aiming for, and it's definitely filling a gap in the market.

The drinks focus is on cocktails and shakes, with a selection of craft beers on offer at the bar, both draft and bottled. On Wednesdays you can get two cocktails for a tenner, rather than £7 each. No cask ale sadly, but I presume they just wouldn't get the turnover to make it viable. (Perhaps they could be persuaded to stock one or two traditional bottled ales for those who like something a bit less hoppy?)

(Photo by The Full Nelson)

The junk food range consists of veggie burgers, 'seitanic' wings or a faux-beef reuben stacker, with optional sides of fries (cheesy or otherwise) and battered jalapeƱos/pickles. Everything can be made vegan on request.

I tried out the Sith Burger as I am a big fan of the hot sauce that the Waiting Room puts into its falafel wraps - it didn't disappoint. Despite being a meat-eater I never turn up my nose at veggie fare, and the burger made a very acceptable substitute when compared to those bland potato-based things that are often served up elsewhere. We ordered the fries and the deep-fried sides too, all of which were good and fresh and crispy.

Food is priced very competitively with a burger and fries adding up to just £8 - and unlike most places you can save yourself a couple of quid if you are not so hungry by just ordering the burger. Drink prices are similar to elsewhere with the draft craft beer prices still able to make me wince a little.

In keeping with the 'junk food' theme the food is served very informally on greaseproof paper and plastic trays - not something I'm a fan of but I guess I'm just showing my age...! I always find burgers quite challenging to eat without dropping half the contents down my front. They should probably just give me one of those baby bib things and have done with it.

Opening hours are currently Wed - Sat from 4pm weekdays and from midday on the weekend. A great addition as far as veggie and vegan locals are concerned - I recommend even sceptical meat-lovers should give it a go, you may surprise yourselves.

The Full Nelson

Monday, 2 January 2017

Coming soon to Deptford High Street - Winemakers Deptford

One of my (admittedly few) complaints about Deptford High Street has been the complete absence of any decent wine, so I'm quite excited that later this month will see the opening of Winemakers Deptford, at 209 Deptford High Street, right between Pho Hanoi and Perfecto's chipper.

I remember there being a 'wine bar' on the high street when I first moved to Deptford - we visited it a couple of times for food and drink. It lasted a year or so, failing to attract sufficient custom to survive -  I think it's now the 'vape bar'.

I suspect Deptford's changing population - along with the signs that it's becoming something of a 'destination' for food and drink (imagine that!) - will provide a more fertile customer base for this latest venture. It's a spin-off from the Winemakers Club, a wine-importing business based in Farringdon Street under Holborn Viaduct, whose website claims "we are passionate about high quality, organic and biodynamic wines from small, traditional wineries around the world."

The premises on Deptford High Street has been unused for some time, having opened very briefly as a restaurant when it was first launched as the luridly-branded 'Hungry Boy'. I did eat there once and recall it was ok, nothing particularly special, but the doors shut soon afterwards and never reopened.

Winemakers Deptford promises not only off-sales of wine, but will also have a wine bar and small restaurant serving 'simple, hearty food' and charcuterie.

Wonder if they'll be retaining the characterful mural? (photo: @winemakersdept)

The fitting out of the new wine bar has been continuing over the last month or two, and the opening date is currently anticipated to be sometime in January.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Deptford helps out the poor City fat cats

Can't think what to spend your bonus on? Me neither! I'll be honest, it's been keeping me up all night trying to work out what the hell I'm going to do with it!

Thankfully Bellway Homes sent me a press release this week which has some great ideas; just the ticket for when that huge chunk of readies comes flying into my bank account in the new year. I'm looking to 'put my mark' on Deptford, so what better way than to snap up a buy-to-let property with that spare cash?

City workers anticipating their bonus January should look to London’s property market to get a good return on their investment, the press release starts.

The regenerated area is offering great rental yields, as the capital’s growing army of renters seek out higher quality homes. Investors looking to put their mark on upcoming Deptford should look to Bellway Homes’ Kent Wharf. 

Emma Denton, Head of Sales at Bellway Thames Gateway, comments: “While city workers will be learning of their bonuses soon and wondering how to spend it, Deptford is proving an exciting opportunity. With such a great development on offer, we would urge any investor or house hunter to come and view this development soon before our apartments are snapped up.” 

Got £369,995 burning a hole in your pocket? Lucky you, you'll be able to snap up a one bedroom flat!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Crossfields Green open space - consultation under way

Lewisham Council is consulting with local groups and residents on what they want to see in the master plan for the reinstatement of Crossfields Green after the Tideway Tunnel construction work has been completed.

You may not even know this little slip of land exists if it's not on your route somewhere - it sits alongside St Paul's Church and provides a useful cut-through from the high street to Deptford Church Street and onwards to Greenwich for walkers and cyclists.

It also has some parking spaces, a badly-landscaped turning circle outside the school entrance, and an area of green space, trees and shrubs, part of which has been a community garden and some of which is used as a dog-walking area.

All of this will be taken over next year when construction of the shaft for the Tideway Tunnel interceptor begins. You can read more about the plans in my previous posts and on the Tideway Tunnel website.

Once the construction has finished, Tideway Tunnel is obliged to reinstate the land and Lewisham Council is leading the process of developing a master plan for the site. 

You can comment through the online survey which is open until midnight on 21 December - if you aren't really sure what you want to see on this space, why not consider the 'five radical ideas' being put forward by campaigning group Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart?

Friday, 2 December 2016

Christmas fairs, open studios and other festive things

As usual Deptford is awash with Christmas fairs, open studios, special events and other festive things over the next few weeks. It's a great way to support small businesses, local artists and designer-makers and you can get a unique gift, spending money that goes directly into the local economy rather than buying mass-produced items that have been shipped halfway round the world and only generate profit for distant share-holders.

Here's a few choice items - feel free to add others in the comments box. And don't forget you can also visit the new businesses in Deptford Market Yard!

Cockpit Arts Open Studios
2nd - 4th December
One of my favourite places for a pre-christmas buying spree. Get to see what our local makers have been up to over the last few months and snap up some great offers.

2-4 December
Fri 11am-9pm, Sat & Sun 11am-6pm
18-22 Creekside London, SE8 3DZ
Full details here.

Deptford Wives Vintage & Craft Fair
Saturday 10th December
Fashion, crafts, ceramics etc including Deptford is Forever t-shirts and bags, and The Lenox Project fund-raising gifts.

10 December 10.30am - 4pm
Albany Theatre
Douglas Way, SE8 4AG

Winter Fair
Saturday 10th December
Lots of handmade crafts, gifts, cards etc.

10 December 10am - 6pm
Lewisham Arthouse, Lewisham Way.

16th - 18th December
APT Studios, Creekside

A wide selection of work by APT artists and their invited guests will be on sale.
Fri 5pm - 8pm
Sat 1pm - 5pm
Sun 1pm - 5pm
More information here.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Deptford Market Yard launch event

Get yourselves down to the official launch of 'Deptford Market Yard' tomorrow night (Wednesday) - for a 'fun night of shopping, food, drinks and entertainment' as the shop units under the former carriage ramp finally throw their doors open to the public.

The event runs from 6-11pm and promises hot food, mulled wine, fire juggling, DJs and lots of money off (or money of, whoever wrote the blurb can't quite decide) from the new occupants of the arches.

Want to know who's in the arches? The list is here. I've been to most of those that are already open - like most places, a mixed bag. Keen to try the rest out in due course.

You might also have noticed that things are happening in the other units under the station itself, with Mousetail coffee finally relocating and Kickslove London (a 'sneaker' shop for women, who'd have thought it?) making themselves known too. It's good to see so many independent businesses setting up in these units, rather than the tired old chains that you see in so many other stations.

I'm still a bit dubious about Dirty Apron, I suppose I need to get it straight in my mind that the apron is presumably dirty after the cooking takes place. I just can't help being reminded of my nan refusing to ever go back to a favourite pub after the chef came out in an apron smeared with what looked like fresh blood.

But I digress.

Eat, drink and be merry.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Costa to open on Giffin Square

Costa Coffee has put in a planning application for signage on the shopfront of the new units on Giffin Square in Deptford.

According to the planning application it intends to occupy the whole of the ground floor - potentially three individual units - of the new block of flats built by property agency Kallars next to the famous 'His & Hers' mural.

I'm as disappointed as I'm sure many of you will be that Costa is opening in Deptford, signalling another move towards the homogenisation of our high street. One of Deptford High Street's main strengths as far as I'm concerned is the fact that there are so few corporates present. If we lacked coffee shops then I might take a different view, but as I've pointed out before, we are already blessed with a wide variety of excellent, independent coffee outlets; the Waiting Room, Deli X, London Velo, Mousetail, Lomond Coffee, Dungarees (on market days) the Greenhouse, plus franchises in the Deptford Lounge and the Albany. I may even have missed some.

There's no point wasting any energy moaning about the council 'allowing' this to happen - the council has no authority in this matter. As long as the business fits the planning classification specified for the shop unit, then the council can do nothing to prevent it.

The developers have no affection for Deptford anyway - earlier this year they put in an application to stick another storey on top of this very building, clearly wanting to wring as much profit out of the site as they could. No surprise there. This application has thankfully now been withdrawn.

I will be continuing to support the independents with my business. Maybe I'll even ramp up my coffee intake so I can spread a bit more love.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Air monitoring workshop - find out how dusty Deptford's air is

The Citizen Sense initiative at Goldsmiths is launching a new type of air pollution monitor at a free workshop in Deptford this weekend.

The new 'Dustbox' measures particulate matter in the air, which is very different from the previous citizen science monitoring that was carried out in Deptford back in 2014 and revealed shocking levels of nitrous dioxide at traffic hotspots around the area. Particulate matter consists of a wide range of materials, from salt and silica to diesel, pollen, and carbon - at times congealed with volatile organic compounds.

At the workshop at the Deptford Lounge this weekend, participants will discuss air quality in London, and look at low-cost technologies that they can use to monitor their environments. They will be introduced to the Dustbox particulate matter 2.5 monitor, which also be available for participants to take away after the workshop.

The event also includes a walk in Deptford to look at sites for air quality monitoring and will be led by Jennifer Gabrys, Helen Pritchard and Lara Houston of Citizen Sense. Guest speakers include: Leonie Cooper, who is a councillor for Furzedown Ward in Wandsworth, the Labour London Assembly for Merton & Wandsworth, as well as chair of the environment committee; Abigail Whitehouse, clinical research fellow at the Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London and  Ana Bernardo, who is project assistant at the London Sustainability Exchange.

The event is free but tickets must be booked - more information available here.