Sunday, 28 March 2021

Progress in the garden

About 3 or 4 years ago my neighbours erected a 'chalet' at the bottom of their very long garden. I have a very small garden and from my kitchen window, my eye kept focussing on the new addition next door. I had hoped they might plant some greenery to help it blend in but they didn't take too kindly to that suggestion so it was up to me to find a solution.

I planted some fast growing shrubs. I couldn't afford to buy large ones and just hoped they would grow quickly.

I needn't have worried because the bamboo is now about 10ft tall and the others are about 8ft.
I can hardly see the 'chalet' at all now. Happy days.

Good to see so much colour in the garden. I am not a gardener and spend the minimum amount of time trying to keep it under control. This is always the best time of the year when the bulbs bring that much needed colour into our lives once again.

Monday, 22 March 2021

Woolwich Arsenal


My next walk along the Thames Path took me through the town of Woolwich. I haven't covered much distance along the path as I am leaving the path to look for places of interest nearby. As I mentioned in a previous post, Henry VIII had one of his 
 dockyards built in Woolwich, so I am interested to find out more about this historic naval and military town.

This small,  round building is the entrance to the Woolwich foot tunnel. This foot tunnel was opened in 1912, ten years after the Greenwich foot tunnel. It was built to provide easy access to the docks north of the river for the workers who lived south of the river. The digging of the tunnels was achieved by using a tunnelling shield but the excavation was done entirely by hand. The tunnel is 1655 feet long (504m) which is a little longer than the Greenwich foot tunnel. it is 69 feet (21m) deep. There is a lift if you don't fancy climbing up and down the stairs. Although the tunnel was open when I walked past the lift wasn't so I didn't bother going down all those steps just for a photo!

Just before you get to the foot tunnel you pass the ferry terminal. This is a free vehicle and pedestrian ferry across the River Thames connecting North Woolwich and Woolwich. The ferries can carry up to 40 vehicles and 150 passengers. There are two boats which run every 5-10 minutes on weekdays and every 15 minutes at the weekend. Being free it is a well used service but in recent years it has been plagued by delays and cancellations. Since 2020 the service has been taken over by  Transport for London to try and improve its reliability.

There's a lot of new developments alongside the river. 
Just beyond the blocks of flats is the Woolwich Arsenal. It was here in 1695 that the Royal Laboratory was set up. It was decided by the Board of Ordnance to move the manufacture of powder and filling shells from the populated area of Greenwich to the more remote Royal Warren where it was called the Royal Laboratory. During the 1700s it also housed a firework factory.  Building then developed gradually in response to different military campaigns and advances in technology.

 In successive years the first barracks took up residency on site and a theatre was erected. The Royal Artillery Band also established a base at Woolwich (1762-2014) and the Royal Military Academy opened with courses that included dancing and drawing. After a visit by George III in 1805 he changed its name from Royal Laboratory to the  Royal Arsenal.  referred to as the Secret City
From 1806 after the departure of the Royal Military Academy the area concentrated on ammunition manufacturing and packing and became a self-contained factory complex. In 1886 factory workers formed a football team and club known as Dial Square FC. It later relocated north of the river and is known today as Arsenal FC.

During WW1 Woolwich Arsenal was referred to as the Secret City employing an estimated 80,000 people around half of whom were women. The jobs were dangerous and physically demanding. Handling explosive chemicals stained the female munition workers' hair and skin yellow, giving them the nickname 'canary girls'.  The Secret City continued making ammunition throughout WW2 and on until manufacturing ceased in 1967 and the Ministry of Defence left in 1994.

By the early 20th century the site was three miles long and one mile wide and had three separate internal rail systems. Most of the buildings still remain. Some have now been converted for residential use, a gym, a museum and offices.

 The London Borough of Greenwich which now owns the site is converting other buildings into a huge arts centre which will have resident orchestras, theatre groups, restaurants, cafes etc. It was due to open the first phase in 2020 but obviously the pandemic has changed all that and I'm not sure when it will be finished and ready to open.

It is possible to walk around the site so let me show you some more of the buildings. These were the guardrooms, built in 1814/5. The river is on the other side of the wall behind the guardrooms. They are now used as coffee shops.

This is a sculpture called 'Assembly' by Peter Burke which is in front of the guardrooms . It represents a group of men coming together. They are all identical and the individual pieces bolted together, I think it is a representation of the role of the Arsenal as a manufacturing factory. If that is the case then perhaps the sculptures should have been women.

This gun is part of the Royal Artillery's collection. More information below:

Chemical Laboratory built in 1864

Central Offices 1905

Rifle shell factory gateway

The gates were cast for the shell foundry at the Regents Canal Iron Works in 1856. They were erected here in 1991.  

It would be interesting to have a tour of the site but that will have to wait until life returns to something like normality.

This was the grand store.

It is a huge site and I wandered around for well over an hour.  It was time to return to the Thames Path.

Back by the river, you can see how wide it is here. It was almost high tide and I can hear the river lapping against the walls that line the embankment. 

 I noticed this lock and I left the path to have a look.
There was a small nature reserve next to a housing estate.
This seemed a good place to finish today's walk as I had to walk back about 3 miles to the Thames Barrier to collect the car. I took note of the names of the roads here as next time I will park in this area to continue my walk along the Thames Path.

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Friday, 19 March 2021

Our Lockdown Oak


During lockdown my granddaughter planted a number of different seeds as part of the science curriculum. She also planted some acorns we had picked up on one of our walks. We didn't think they would germinate but after 6 weeks one of them began to grow. This is the seedling after 10 weeks. We have called it Our Lockdown Oak. My granddaughter wants to plant it out in the garden when it gets a little bigger. As the garden is not very large , I think we will need to rethink where to put it so we can watch it grow.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Woolwich Dockyard

After walking through the old industrial site next to the River Thames I rejoined the  pathway on this new walkway. 

Across the river I could see the large Tate and Lyle refinery. It is the largest sugar refinery in Europe and one of the biggest in the world.  In 1878, Henry Tate started producing sugar cubes here. In 1882 Abram Lyle began refining sugar in a factory a short distance away in Plaistow, to make Lyle's golden syrup. In 1921 the  companies merged to form Tate and Lyle. 

The River Thames is London's link to the open seas. It was important to control the seas and be able to defend the capital. The Tudor kings were the first to build Royal dockyards. The first one was built in 1496 in Portsmouth by Henry VII.  A few years later in 1512, another Royal dockyard was founded here by his son, Henry VIII to build his flagship Henri Grace a Dieu (Great Harry) the largest ship of its day. Woolwich was probably chosen as it would have been close to Henry's palace at Greenwich. A number of large ships were built here but there is little evidence of that today.

Walking away from the river you enter what used to be the dockyard.  The dockyard was a self contained community of highly skilled workers.  Within the site were houses for senior officers, a school and churches. A clock house was built here in 1670 where the drawing of full scale ship designs took place. This clockhouse was built in 1783. It is currently a community centre.

This was the main entrance, built in the 1780s with the rope and anchor design on either side.

I walked back to the riverside and here facing out to the river are two large cannons. There was a landing stage in front of the cannons but I couldn't get close enough to see if any of it remained.

 A little further along the Thames Path are the remains of two dock areas from its time as a dockyard. The dockyard finally closed in 1869. The site was subsequently used for military storage. In the 1960s Greenwich Council aquired the land for housing.

The site was subsequently used for military storage, as an annexe to the Royal Arsenal. In the 1920s western parts were sold off, principally to the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society for its Commonwealth Buildings depot. The older eastern dockyard was not disposed of until the 1960s, when Greenwich Council acquired it for housing; here the Woolwich Dockyard Estate was built in the 1970s. Speculative housing developments to east and west followed from 1989. Little remains from the dockyard’s early centuries, the oldest survival being the Clock House, offices of the 1780s. There are more substantial remnants from the steam factory, and the former dry docks and two shipbuilding slips are linked by a long river wall, all naval construction of the 1810s to 1850s. A separate part of the parish west of Warspite Road is also covered in this chapter. From the 1860s this was dominated by the Siemens Brothers factory, first producing telegraph cables, then telephones up to the 1960s. Several of Siemens