Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Proposals for Crossfield open space landscaping

Consultation is currently under way (both in Deptford Lounge and online) on the proposals for reinstatement of the open space on Crossfield St once the Tideway Tunnel shaft construction is finished.

At the moment the public realm is a patchy mix of several separate grassed areas (trees having been chopped down several months ago in preparation for the construction work), the remains of the community garden which never really got off the ground, a dropping off/turning circle in front of the entrance to St Joseph's School with a large paved and bollarded area in the middle of it, and various other bits of grass, pavements, hawthorn hedges and so on. The larger, green open areas are pleasant but the rest is frankly a jumble.

It's going to be way worse than a jumble for the next few years of course, with hundreds of lorry movements, noise, dust, disruption and so on as the shaft for the tunnel is excavated, but eventually the area will be reinstated and Tideway has been consulting with 'local stakeholders' to develop proposals for this work.

The area in question (inside the red dashed lines on the map above) is part of the St Paul's conservation area, which sits in between the Deptford High Street conservation area and the Creekside conservation area. 

In case you were wondering what was here before, helpfully there's an old pre-1945 map on the exhibition boards that are downloadable from the consultation page showing the houses that lined Crossfields St before the bombs fell and the post-war clearance took place.

I wasn't able to go to the consultation in the Deptford Lounge when the staff were there, so I only have the information on the boards to go by. I don't know how fluid or fixed the proposals are, what procedures they still have to go through, or even why the boards have put forward three very different options for the space - which in fact suggests that the 'masterplan' is still very much a work in progress.

If that's the case, then great. Certain aspects of the 'preferred' masterplan are rather disappointing and I would hope to see them improved.

Inevitably there are certain constraints that can't be eliminated - the need for maintenance access to the tunnel shaft, and the presence of some above-ground infrastructure including ventilation shafts will be a permanent legacy. But this still leaves plenty of flexibility to make usable, pleasant spaces. 

First the good stuff. I'm happy to see lots of new trees in the masterplan - let's just hope they make it past the powers that be, and don't have to be eliminated to address 'security' concerns or because they are blocking the vision of the CCTV cameras. The CCTV cameras that are generally worse than useless when it comes to needing evidence of a crime. 

I like the trees that are proposed down the middle of Deptford Church Street - it's an awful road at the moment which is way too wide and consequently when it's not blocked by stationary traffic it is abused by speeding traffic, depending on the time of day. Narrower lanes and a tree-lined central reservation, with wider crossing points, would help reduce traffic speeds.

I also like the proposals to open up the views of the church and access to the churchyard, so that it is more welcoming to the community. The rear gate of the churchyard is kept locked these days, which means I rarely go inside the walls - when it was open I regularly strolled through it. 

One long-term aspiration for pedestrian links in Deptford has been opening up access through the railway viaduct to Resolution Way and Wavelengths, and that's shown on here with the front of the viaduct proposed as a 'dining and events' space. I assume one of the arches would be opened up on this side to accommodate a cafe/bar premises, although there is probably enough space for a purpose-built premises on the land there.

What I find particularly disappointing is the way in which the central green space is criss-crossed by so many footpaths that its 'green' purpose risks being completely eroded and the space turned from a grassy play area to a network of paths with a few bits of green in between. For a start the long footpath that runs parallel to Crossfields St, right through the middle of the green space, seems redundant - surely people would walk down each side of the green if they were passing through, and planting could be used to encourage that? If they are happy to linger, they won't necessarily want to go in a straight line. 

Not only that, retaining highway access and associated parking on both sides of the green space is totally unnecessary in my view. Why not close one side off and claw back more space for greenery and for pedestrians? It seems a retrograde step otherwise.

And how about some greenery at the west end of the street, outside the school? I don't like the fact that it's all been paved rather than greened; seems to suggest that the council has longer term plans for this area than they are willing to admit. 

There are lots and lots of trees but they seem entirely undefended from the vagaries of the drivers dropping their kids off at the school or parking to go to church. We've seen on Frankham St how little respect drivers have for trees, and learned that serious protection is needed, so I hope those lessons learned will come into play.

I think there's a real risk of this space becoming 'over engineered' and turned into something that needs too much maintenance and is ornamental rather than useful. I have the distinct impression of the site being divvied up into packages of land each designed and labelled for a specific use rather than any effort being made to create a pleasant space that is adaptable to a range of uses. 


I do think there is more potential in the alternative options that are included on the boards, although there's no annotation so I'm having to go by the pictures alone. This one seems a lot less formal and structured, and also retains more green space at the west end of the site although there's still too much space given over to vehicles in my opinion.

If you didn't manage to attend the consultation in the library, you can still give feedback online at the survey page here (but only until next Tuesday 23rd May) or presumably you could also send it to the email address that's given on the consultation page.

As to what the next phase of the process is, either in terms of the procedure or the timescale, again I don't have that information. If anyone knows, please leave a comment and I'll follow up.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Sun Wharf proposals - more consultation

As Deptford residents approach consultation saturation point, news of another consultation. Plans to redevelop Sun Wharf (which currently houses Cockpit Arts and Jones Hire) were first announced more than a year ago and I wrote about them at the time.

Apparently these proposals - for 'a mixture of commercial space intended for affordable artist studios, new homes, a new public square, and opening up a new pedestrian route to Deptford Creek - have been developed further and new proposals are now ready to be 'consulted' on again.

Who gave this job to the freelancer who's still chasing payment for their last invoice?

With the existing Cockpit Arts building set to be demolished, the proposals include providing a new purpose built home for the long-established Creekside organisation. Hopefully whoever designs the signage for the new building will be a bit more conscientious with the spell-checking than the person who mocked up the rendering above. Apart from getting the name wrong, looks quite nice and fluffy from this angle. 

Here's a more realistic and helpful overview of the density, taken from the developer's website.

Plans will be on view at the Creekside Discovery Centre on Wednesday 24 May and Thursday 25 May from 4pm - 8pm.

Proposals for Deptford railway bridge lighting installation

Proposals to commission a lighting installation to brighten up the underside of the railway bridge over Deptford High Street have reached the consultation stage.

As part of the high street improvement works artist Peter Freeman has been commissioned to come up with some designs for the site - a stretch of the street that is home to twin telephone boxes and usually only loved by buskers and beggars seeking shelter from the rain.

Three different lighting schemes have been proposed (details can be downloaded here) and all three renderings show them with rainbow lighting although the proposals are for colour changing lights to be programmed based on three different scenarios. The positioning of fixtures and direction of the lighting also varies between the three.

Rainbow bridge: 'rainbow effects with different colour combinations for each month of the year' (I assume this means the same colours just in a different order).

Birthday bridge: 'colour combinations chosen by local residents and school children to honour their own birthdays. The birthday list could also include the birth dates of loved ones and locally famous residents from the past'.

The light loves you Deptford: 'lights on the bridge will be programmed to change colour on significant dates and for international memorial and celebration days, for example turning green on St Patrick’s Day, pink on St Valentines Day and multicoloured on Chinese New Year (not red?). The exact days and colours would be chosen in consultation with local stakeholders.'

The online consultation is open until 26th June and proposals will also be on show at a drop-in session with the artist at Deptford Lounge on 23rd May from 3-7pm.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Public exhibition of design proposals for Crossfield Street open space

Proposals for the reinstatement of Crossfield Street open space after the Tideway Tunnel work has been completed are on show at Deptford Lounge for a week from today Saturday 6 May.

Council officers working on the project and representatives from the design team will be available to answer questions and talk about ideas for the space on Wednesday 10 May from 4-7.30pm and Saturday 13 May, 9.30am-12noon.

Friday, 5 May 2017


Another new restaurant coming soon to Deptford High Street; Marcella is the sister restaurant to Artusi in the peak-hipster Bellenden Road district of Peckham. A road that used to describe itself as being in East Dulwich.

Marcella has been bubbling under for some time, with the former Vietnamese restaurant on the corner of Ffinch St undergoing an extensive refurbishment over many months. I've been following progress impatiently.  Looks like it will finally be opening this month, according to the website.

In earlier days
It describes itself as 'Italian inspired' and if it's anything like the Peckham original, the menu looks interesting and reasonably priced by London standards. I do have a bit of a backlog on the eatery reviews at the moment, but as long as I am able to fight my way past the Guardian/Time Out/Evening Standard restaurant reviewers and journos who according to Twitter are now flocking to Dirty Deptford's streets, I hope to post a review in due course.

If you're popping down to have a peek, don't be fooled by its neighbour. This is not another eatery - it's an estate agent; we've got almost as many new ones of these as we have eateries! They have been a little premature with the gaudy sign as there's no indication it will be ready to open in the immediate future. But if the streetlights should fail at least you'll be able to find your way down the road by the glare of its fluorescent green glow.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Deptford train service levels set to dwindle further

Local transport campaigners are protesting to Southeastern Railway about its failure to honour a commitment to reinstate train services to the frequency the line enjoyed before the Thameslink work at London Bridge began.

The Greenwich Line Users' Group has been examining the proposed timetable changes due to come into force in January next year when trains on this line will finally begin calling at London Bridge station again. According to chair Mike Sparham, despite Southeastern Railway committing to restore services to pre-2015 levels, the service is actually set to be reduced.

When Greenwich line trains resume stopping at London Bridge next January, it will inevitably result in a rise in passenger numbers on these trains, the group believes. But Southeastern has no plans to increase services to address this, and GLUG points out that the Greenwich line absurdly has more frequent off-peak services than it does in peak hours.

"In the height of the evening peak hour, there is one gap in service of 22 minutes (17.28 – 17.50) followed by a further gap in service of 24 minutes (17.50 – 18.14). In the off-peak hours there would be five trains in such a 46-minute period, compared with only three in the peak hour. To add insult to injury, the 17.28 has only six carriages" the letter says.

In 2014, GLUG points out, there were 17 trains leaving London Bridge for Greenwich in the two-hour evening peak from 16.30 to 18.30, with a total of 126 carriages.

In the 2015 timetable, this was reduced to 13 trains and by August 2016 it was reduced even further to just eight trains (from Cannon Street) with only 62 carriages - less than half the number three years ago.

GLUG acknowledges that this decline was accepted as a temporary measure, but stresses that the reasons for the reduction will no longer apply after January.

"In our response on the August 2016 timetable, we sought an assurance that the full peak hour service would be restored...but [proposals suggest] the evening peak service....will still be well below the previous service. There is no increase at all in the morning peak up to London."

The letter repeats a point which is frequently made across this part of southeast London, that the service plans also fail to consider the huge level of development which is under way in the region. Passenger numbers are rising steadily and will continue to do so as the developments planned for Deptford, the Greenwich peninsula and Charlton riverside come to fruition.

However GLUG is well aware that with Southeastern's franchise due to finish at the end of 2018, little is likely to change in the short term.

Speaking of which, the rather bland 'consultation' document about the new franchise is available online if you are interested - consultation open until 23 May. Or maybe you've got some paint to watch dry over the weekend.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Deptford Jack in the Green

Next Monday being the first of May, the Deptford Jack in the Green will be out with the Fowler's Troop on the streets of Deptford and environs.

Traditionally the Jack, musicians and assorted hangers on spend the afternoon visiting half a dozen or so pubs in south east London or sometimes in the City of London, having a drink or two at each one before promenading off to the next one.

The list of pubs and estimated time of arrival (which gets more unreliable the further down the list you go) is usually published ahead of time on the Deptford Jack website - but if you've got no other plans it's probably best to  just pitch up at the Dog & Bell at about midday and tag along.

Arriving at the Ashburnham Arms last May Day

The tradition always takes place strictly on May 1st; since it falls on a bank holiday this year, it's a great opportunity to enjoy this old Deptford custom, albeit one which was revived a few decades ago. It's quite a quirky spectacle too - ten foot of leaves and petals lurching around the streets of the Ashburnham Triangle can be entertaining, especially when accompanied by its costumed, musical and often quite rowdy troop.

The history of the Deptford Jack in the Green is one of a number of May Day traditions covered by Neil Transpontine in his pamphlet May Day in South London, which was published in 2011 and is now available to download from his website

Monday, 17 April 2017

New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival

One of my favourite annual local events starts this Friday when the New Cross & Deptford Free Film Festival kicks off at the White Hart in New Cross.

I love the fact that you can see a shedload of films for free; they include old classics and firm favourites; and you can watch them indoor or outdoor, powered by cycles, at unusual venues ranging from bars to churches, cafes, schools and shops, as well as at the oldest, purpose-built housing coop in the UK, 

Hell you can even watch them in our own local cinema!

The programme includes a couple of intriguing director Q&As including one presented by the 'Remakesploitation film club' which is a showing of the documentary Remake Remix Rip-Off which 'tells the bizarre history of Turkish remakes of Hollywood films such as The Exorcist, ET, Rambo, Superman, and Star Trek.' Director Cem Kaya will be coming over from Berlin especially for this event and he will introduce the film and hold a Q&A afterwards.

The documentary 'Sewol' tells the story of the Korean ferry that sank in 2014 killing 304 people, most of them schoolchildren. It is still not known why the ferry sank and why no coordinated rescue attempt was mounted. As the relatives of the victims fight for a thorough and independent investigation, they come against an uncaring government and hostile news media. This documentary film tells the story of the Sewol families: their grief, and their efforts to bring improvements in a nation whose democracy is faltering under a corrupt presidency. There will be a Q&A with director Ok-Hee Jeong afterwards.

For something a bit more lighthearted you could try the singalong Sister Act 2 at Little Nan's, or The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert which is being shown at the Brookmill pub and is followed by a disco, what else?

If your bike needs fixing, take it along to Folkestone Gardens on Friday 28th April from 6pm onwards where Lewisham Cyclists will be holding a 'Dr Bike' drop in repair session before the bike-powered showing of Breaking Away starts at 8pm.

It's not all film screenings - on Saturday 29th there's an 'iphonography masterclass' for young people and launch of the 'My Lewisham' challenge at Somerville adventure playground. The masterclass is a ticketed event (although tickets are still free) so booking is essential.

All films are free, it's first come first served, and the festival is run entirely by volunteers - so please give them your whole-hearted support!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Temporary housing scheme proposed for Deptford

Lewisham Council has put forward a proposal to build 31 temporary homes on a disused playground in Deptford, using a similar scheme of modular construction to that which was trialled in Ladywell.

An update on the council's new homes programme, which is being presented at the council's housing select committee next week suggests that the Deptford scheme would build on the lessons learned from Place/Ladywell and could provide a mix of two and three-bed housing units for people in 'acute housing need' - i.e. currently housed by the council in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfast. There are 1,800 'households' currently in this situation in Lewisham alone.

At this stage details are outline - a feasibility study has been completed and the next phase will require additional funding from the council so that officers can commission the full design and planning process. The council is hoping to apply for GLA innovation funding to pay for the construction, which is estimated at around £6.5 million. The scheme might also incorporate community and/or commercial space on the ground floor.

The proposal involves modular construction of housing using prefabricated units that are made off site and are designed to stack together. They can subsequently be dismantled and moved elsewhere if necessary, but according to the council report, the intention is to apply for planning permission for the site to be permanently used for temporary accommodation.

The site is currently occupied by a games court which was used by Deptford Green School when it was in its former location, just across the road. Since the school relocated and got new sports facilities, the court has not been maintained and is in a poor state. The gates are being left unlocked to prevent kids scaling the fence to get in. Whatever its condition, the loss of recreation space is something that needs addressing - the report suggests that improvements could be made to the games courts on Evelyn Green, which is very close by.

I went along to have a look at the site and was surprised to find three mature and exotic trees along the strip of land next to the court along Arklow Road. My eye was caught by the beautiful and dramatic flowers on this tree, which I found out via Twitter is a Sophora, probably a type of Kowhai - the Maori name for this species of native New Zealand tree. 

Alongside is a huge eucalyptus with incredibly pungent leaves and another rather less distinctive tree that also looks as if it might be an exotic species. I have no idea how these trees came to be planted on this piece of land - if anyone has any information, please leave a comment as I would love to know!

I note that some trees are shown on the rendering above, but as I know all too well this could just be 'indicative', so I'll be looking keenly at the details of the planning application to check that they are going to be retained.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Report backs the return of the anchor to Deptford High Street

A report into the feasibility of returning the anchor to Deptford High Street has recommended it be returned to the south end of the high street.

The report by consultant BDP was commissioned by the council following continued pressure from Deptford residents and local groups, and the 'Give us back our bloomin' anchor!' petition by Deptford Is Forever/Deptford Society which attracted more than 4,000 signatures.

The cost of returning the anchor - which is currently being stored in a shed in Convoys Wharf - is estimated by the report to be approximately £24k. This would include cleaning the anchor (which  since being put in 'secure' storage now has graffiti on it ) and creating an area of contrasting paving around it to prevent visually-impaired people from walking into it.

The BDP report considers other options for relocating the anchor, including Giffin Square, but concludes that the south end of the high street is the most feasible.

The report comes before the mayor and cabinet meeting next Wednesday. Council officers have recommended agreement to the return of the anchor; they also suggest that crowd funding be used to raise at least some of the cost of doing so.

Monday, 13 March 2017

28 Deptford High Street - no time to lose!

Three years on from the initial proposal that 28 Deptford High Street (the former Law Centre) should be refurbished and made available for 'community use', prospective tenants are being given just a few weeks to put forward business plans and bid to take over the space.

The funding which has been used to refurbish the shop has come via a rather convoluted route from the Outer London Fund money that was awarded for improvements to the south end of the high street five years ago.

Although the high street refurbishment works and repaving were finished some years back, the cost of the work was less than had originally been predicted, and the council applied to redirect the remaining GLA grant money for other uses in Deptford, rather than having to hand it back.

The first proposal was to fund the relocation of the train carriage cafe which was removed when work on the Deptford Project carriage ramp began. (If the train carriage cafe is before your time, just keep your eyes peeled and you'll be sure to see it mentioned in some developer's Deptford-is-so-cool puff piece within a few weeks...)

The option of redeploying the train carriage in Douglas Way next to the Albany was explored, but this fell through and the money was subsequently redirected to 28 Deptford High Street.

The building is owned by Lewisham Council and has been closed for umpteen years now. As well as bringing the ground floor shop unit back into use, the council proposed to convert the upper floors into self-contained flats that could be rented out.

The shop would be let at a peppercorn rent for a set number of years to a tenant who would 'continue the work to animate the high street through a programme of changing offers in the shop'.

That plan was originally mooted in 2014. Since then, the shop has lain empty, despite being advertised for rent in 2015. Enquiries by local artists wanting to use it to display their work during Deptford X were thwarted by council red tape and demands for unreasonable rent, suggesting that the desire to 'animate the high street' was not a serious one.

Fast forward to 2017 and all of a sudden there's a sense of urgency with the council looking for 'social entrepreneurs, community and cultural organisations' to take on a short-term lease in the shop.

Potential bidders are being given just a month to draft and submit expressions of interest - although you don't even get to see inside the shop until ten days before the deadline, and viewings are by appointment on two specific days only.

There's a lot of work to do for the first phase, including business plan, budget, details of tenant team staff, etc and if you get shortlisted, you'll be expected to have your detailed submission ready within 12 days of being notified. There is an unholy urgency going on to get someone in there that belies the past three years' sloth. I very much doubt that community or cultural organisations have the resources to come up with detailed submissions that meet these criteria at the drop of a hat, often being staffed by volunteers who do it in their spare time. Even social entrepreneurs may struggle if they are small organisations that already have a full workload - and will they want to take on another commitment in any case?

It's down to the bidder to suggest what rent they are prepared to pay, so business plans will need to be realistic and thoroughly researched rather than 'back of the fag packet' style.

The expression of interest form states that the council is not looking simply at income - they aren't necessarily going for highest bid. But it's questionable whether they will get a the range of offers they would like, if they are wedded to such a short timescale.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Artist sought for Tideway commission in Deptford

Updated: Don't give up the day job just yet, it seems someone's for the high jump as the first application form significantly overstated the artist's fee. The commission has now been announced on the Tideway Tunnel site with the correct file linked, stating the much more modest artist's fee of £27k. 

A widely-publicised call for artists to design hoardings to go around the Thames Tideway work site on Crossfields Street in Deptford was issued last year. The chosen artist for the commission, submissions for which closed last month, will be working with pupils from St Joseph's RC primary school, which is right next to the site.

But it seems that Tideway is also looking to commission a much more significant piece of work for the site, which will be permanent and could include seating and other public realm improvements, as well as sculptural elements.

The commission is one of a number which are intended to be installed across the whole tideway route, as set out in Tideway's public arts strategy.

According to the invitation:
"The project will enhance an existing public open space adjacent to St Paul’s Church in the centre of Deptford. Key objectives of the public art programme and central to this commission will be to:

  •  Enhance the high quality public spaces and experience of the river for Londoners and visitors 
  •  Stimulate a new sense of pride in and new perception of the tidal River Thames and the wealth of opportunities that it provides 

Proposals and designs are expected to engage audiences in different ways; creating pleasure, celebrating people or places, being provocative, engaging audiences in new ways of experiencing or thinking about a place. 

We welcome applications from artists working in all disciplines, though given the nature of commissions we require prior experience of working at scale and in three dimensions. We especially encourage applications from artists who are based in London Borough of Lewisham or with a good knowledge of the Deptford area."

The only place I was able to find the invitation for the commission, the total fee for which is £47k, was on the website of Lewisham Education Arts Network. There does not seem to be any wider publicity of this commission, a fact I found very odd considering the size of the commission and its significance to Deptford.

Deadline for applications is 2 April 2017 so potential bidders need to get their skates on.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Old Tidemill Garden: Support a better deal for Deptford

If' you're wondering why the redevelopment of the former Tidemill School on Frankham Street still hasn't started yet, you can find out more this Saturday.

The Old Tidemill Garden will be open and will be hosting 'Stand up and support a better deal for Deptford' in collaboration with the campaigners who have been battling against the council and its developers for several years now to try and get a better outcome from the redevelopment of the site. Members of the campaign group will be in the Deptford Lounge from 11am to 3pm to explain the issues and the current situation.

Concerns focus mainly on the demolition of existing social housing, lack of clarity over the 'affordable' element of the new development, the impact on residents in Frankham House and Princess Louise Building, including loss of light, and the loss of green space, mainly the community garden.

I wrote about the development last year; since that time the council claims that it has been working with campaigners to get a better deal for the community. The proposals came before the council's strategic planning committee last December and the committee agreed to defer a decision for the following reasons;

1. for clarification of impacts on neighbouring properties, particularly Frankham House and Princess Louise Building, in respect of daylight and boundary treatments;
2. for re-consideration of the way the proposed open spaces and communal areas would be run, managed and shared in order to compensate for the loss of the former school garden, particularly with regard to their use by children;
3. for justification of the demolition of Reginald House and details on the terms of re- location of residents of Reginald House; and
4. for the net contribution to affordable housing to be clarified.

What has happened since? From what I hear on the grapevine, very little.

The garden is open from 11am to 3pm, via the Reginald Road entrance. If you've not been in before, it's worth a visit and you can help clear and tidy the garden. Tools and gloves provided.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

New Deptford eateries: Dirty Apron

Despite my initial objection to the name, over the few months that Dirty Apron has been open in Deptford Market Yard I've come to love this small but almost perfectly-formed little cafe.

I've visited a few times now, eaten brunch, lunch and dinner, and even dropped in for a takeaway sandwich. The food has never disappointed. 

There's only a few tables so it can be very cosy at times, and although they do their best to address the occasional unexplained draughtiness with fan heaters, it does sometimes suffer from unpredictability in terms of the ambient temperature. 

The evening menu changes on a very regular - perhaps even daily? - basis, which I find pleasing as it means you can go back frequently and always be surprised by something different. There are options for both meat eaters and veggies, and if there's nothing vegan listed, they are happy to whip something up on demand.

They serve a staunch range of breakfasts and brunches including the good old bacon or egg bap, alongside fancier breakfast bap options that add things like avocado, parmesan omelette and chilli jam. There's varieties on the 'full English', not to mention a mean-looking kedgeree, and quite a few fruity/porridge/toast options for those wanting something a bit lighter.

Prices are reasonable for the quality of the food on offer. Some of the specials I've taken advantage of include £5 for coffee and a breakfast bap/ £5 for soup and sandwich. They have already hosted quite a few themed evenings including a vegan night and a Burns Night Supper, with Mussel Mondays (moules frites and a beer for £12) looking set to be a regular thing once a month.

Beer from Deptford's own local Villages Brewery is on sale, and there's a suitably short but varied wine list too. 

With such a tiny kitchen it can sometimes take a while for food to be served, especially if you are unlucky enough to pitch up right behind a large group. But it's great food and it's freshly prepared, so give yourself enough time to be able to enjoy it, is my tip. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Smart benches in Deptford

The good news; you can now charge your phone for free!

The bad news; you have to sit right next to the traffic while you do so.

Lewisham is one of two boroughs chosen to pilot 'smart benches' which are intended to offer free phone charging, free wifi and the opportunity to find out about local air quality as well as somewhere to sit.

One of the new benches has landed on Brookmill Road, right next to Broadway Fields, so being a nosey bugger, I went along to have a look. 

First impression - not somewhere I'd naturally chose to sit for an extended time while charging my phone, especially at rush hour when traffic backs right up to this point from the lights on the A2. 

That being said, it is right next to a bus stop so might be handy when you've got a long wait.

The panel on the bench offers two ready-installed charging leads which while not particularly flimsy are bound to be a target for vandalism. One has an Apple-type charger plug but my phone did not recognise the device so I wasn't able to use it (not a massive surprise if I'm honest). 

However if you happen to be carrying a USB charging lead with you (I wasn't) there are USB ports on the panel that you can plug straight into, and they also offer wireless charging.

The power comes from solar panels on the totem and according to the bench manufacturer, Strawberry Energy, the design includes batteries so that energy can be stored for days when there is no sunshine (most of the last few!) and at night. 

Wifi access requires creation of an account etc, which would be ok if you were planning to use the free wifi regularly but for a one-off I decided to pass.  

There's also a Strawberry App that allows you to access the information about air quality, noise, temperature which is gathered by sensors in the bench. 

It was obviously as a result of a bit of lateral thinking that the manufacturers came up with the idea that you would be able to donate to Cancer Research via the benches (ah I see now from the press release that it was all about launching in time for World Cancer Day on 4 Feb).

Apparently you can do so by 'simply' tapping your contactless payment card on the bench. I didn't see any kind of hardware on the bench that would enable you to authorise such a payment, so I'm a bit confused about how that is supposed to work. Probably best not to have your wallet in your back pocket when you sit down. 

According to the website there's also some of the benches on Lewisham High Street and one on New Cross Road at the top of Clifton Rise. 

It's something of a double-edged sword. From the point of view of collecting air quality data I can see the logic of putting these benches right next to busy roads, but I'm not sure how attractive that will make them to people wanting to sit for a more than a few minutes to charge their phones. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Improvements to Deptford High Street

Lewisham Council has got some funding from Transport for London to pay for improvements to the north end of Deptford High Street and the six-month programme of construction work is set to start next week.

Improvements to the south end of the high street were carried out a few years ago with money from the Mayor of London's Outer London fund, and because this fund had a wider scope, the bid also included money for other improvements such as the shopfronts that were jazzed up, and to support the development of the 'food market' which was such a painful flop.

There's none of that fluffy stuff with the TFL funding that's being used for the north end - it's all got to be tangible stuff that makes the street a more pleasant, and safer place for pedestrians and cyclists in particular. But it's not all about getting rid of trip hazards and putting some seats in - there will be some kind of arty lighting installation under the railway bridge designed by light artist Peter Freeman. There's also going to be a few new trees, although not very many, and some new paving with words carved in it on the approach to St Paul's church.

(click to see a bigger version)

I wrote about the consultation for the plans last year; there's been some changes to the original plans, mostly for the better as far as I'm concerned. They have steered away from blunt (and most likely ineffectual) one-way restriction that was suggested for the section of street between Edward Street and the junction with Evelyn Street, and instead gone for some rather more subtle and probably more effective controls.

There will be a ban on right turns out of the high street into Evelyn Street, and into the high street by Greenwich-bound traffic on Evelyn Street; there will be no left turn out of Frankham Street into Giffin Street to prevent traffic rat-running through before the lights; there will be a ban on lorries of more than 7.5t turning into Giffin Street from Deptford Church Street, and there will be a new chicane on Giffin Street outside the former HSBC Bank with priority to eastbound vehicles.

Footways will be widened with parking bays set into them; consequently the highway will be much narrower which should in theory slow traffic down. If you've lived here any length of time you'll be aware that theory doesn't always apply in Deptford, especially when it comes to the highway code. Let's hope that in this case it might.

The main aims of the work are:
  • Improved wider footways  
  • Connection with future proposed crossing improvements at the junction with Evelyn Street to provide a safe, attractive and direct route between the river and the High Street. 
  • Trees and seating to the Evelyn Street junction. 
  • Creation of a pedestrian and cycle friendly environment that caters for the expected increase in people using the street. 
  • Traffic calming measures. 
  • Improvements to parking provision and improvements for Blue Badge holders. 
  • Introduction of a new taxi rank below the railway bridge to serve the High Street and Deptford Station. 
  • Artistic lighting under the railway bridge. 
  • Enhanced design retention of heritage elements at the St Paul’s and Crossfield St junction.

You can download the details from the council's website here or there are plans on show in the Deptford Lounge at the moment - although I'm not sure how long for.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Smashfest 2017 coming soon!

Deptford's annual family science festival Smashfest UK is back at the Albany this month with a world record-breaking attempt!

This year, things are going to go with a bang!

Unbeknownst to Deptford a supervolcano is bubbling under Lewisham and things are going to get hot! The tectonic plates are shifting, the lava is bubbling, how do we survive?

The team will be building a 5m high cryo-volcano at The Albany Theatre which will erupt, spewing liquid nitrogen at -196℃ all over SE8, and World Record officials will be there to confirm it’s the biggest one the world has ever seen!

Taking place over February half term, Smashfest UK is a BIG adventure for all the family; comedy, music, performance, arts, crafts, science, hands-on engineering, games, activities, experiments…and more!

The aim of the festival is to widen participation in science, technology, engineering and maths through the arts and design, with a special focus on under-served audiences.

And it's free!

Want to know the scientific secrets of Dr Who?

Listen to BBC presenter and author Jon Chase rapping about science?

Or find out all about volcanos?

At the Deptford Lounge 13th-17th February and at the Albany Theatre, Deptford 16th & 17th February

For full listings see

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Deptford bikes

Have you got a bike languishing somewhere that needs fixing so you can ride it?

Maybe you want to learn more about keeping your own bike in shape so you can save money on maintenance?

Or do you just want to meet cycle buddies and find out some of the good routes to ride around the area?

Deptford Folk, the community group representing the users of Folkestone Gardens and Deptford Park, has won a grant from the Community Cycling Fund for London to develop cycling projects and activities in the area.

They are working with Lewisham Cyclists as their delivery partners and right now are planning a programme of rides, bike maintenance training, repair sessions and fun things to do with bikes.

The first event is a series of bike maintenance and repair lessons starting on Thursday 19th February at Ron Hoskins Hall, Childers St, Deptford SE8 5NU.

The lessons start at 7pm and run till 9.30pm. Each class has space for four, and you can attend one or more sessions. They will be run on a donation basis.

Contact Jane on 07826559603 or email to book a place.

19th February: Bike check and cleaning: Removing wheels and tyres: Mending punctures
26th February: Brakes (Rim brakes only)
2nd March: Gears

For more events follow either Deptford Folk or Lewisham Cyclists on Facebook, Twitter or by signing up to mailing lists on their websites.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

More proposals for Creekside redevelopment - public exhibition

As any Deptfordian knows there is plenty of redevelopment already happening in the Creekside conservation area with Faircharm being a major part of the ongoing changes.

Now land at the other end of Creekside is being put forward for redevelopment with a public exhibition planned for Wednesday and Thursday this week. Publicity has been quite scant so I thought I'd share it here for those interested in finding out more.

The exhibition will be showing plans for 'an exciting development proposal' for these two bits of land behind and across the road from the Birds Nest Pub. It includes some of the land to the side of the Birds Nest, where the former pizza bus, (and now also former Wunderlust) are located; the yard behind the pub, some of which is under the DLR viaduct, and the old Medina building across the road at number 3.

John Cierach has teamed up with some new mates who have form in creating shipping-container pop-up developments such as Artworks at Elephant & Castle, so expect to see something along those lines on the plans. The site behind the Birds Nest in particular is limited by the presence of the DLR, with restrictions on how high and close to the piers any buildings - temporary or permanent - can be placed.

But what of Deptford Creek's boating community? There are quite a few residential boats with permanent moorings on this section of the water, and the presence of this community is one of the things that contributes to the unique nature of the Creek's conservation status.

When development comes along it's often these parts of community that suffer the harshest penalties or are under greatest pressure to move on and allow a sanitised, characterless environment to be created. The land could certainly be used more productively than it is now, but I want to know what the landowners intend to do to protect and enhance conditions for long-term residents of the creek.

Public Exhibition:
Wednesday 25th January 12-8pm
Thursday 26th January 10-6pm
3 Creekside, SE8 5SA

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