<![CDATA[Friends of Avery Hill Park - The Friends\' Blog]]>Sun, 06 Mar 2016 03:43:22 +0000EditMySite<![CDATA[What to see, around the park in March]]>Tue, 01 Mar 2016 20:29:49 GMThttp://www.averyhillpark.org.uk/the-friends-blog/what-to-see-around-the-park-in-march
​March is generally the windiest month of the year but whatever the weather is doing, I hope you’ll still be “blown away” by the legacy Colonel North has left us!

Avery Hill Park is blessed with provision for many sports; our shortest lived being American Football which graced Greys (the Rugby) field at the end of the “naughties”. 
Financed by Boris’ “Help a London Park” funding, the Boules pitch next to the children’s play area, now seems to be redundant but the MUGA gets its fair share of patronage. The Olympic Legacy gave Avery Hill and many other parks in Greenwich, outdoor fitness equipment. Have you spotted anyone using this free opportunity to keep fit?

​Our park comes to life at the weekend, with the Saturday morning fun run and the children’s football coaching. It’s great to see the park full of folk having fun and keeping fit. The summer will see more people making use of the outdoor Table Tennis and the two Cricket “tables”.

In the 1890’s Colonel North realised the full potential for sport at Avery Hill. A good sprinter in his youth, North regularly challenged the Tower Hamlets Volunteers; on their annual camp at Avery Hill, to a 60 yard dash. He gave everyone a 5 yard start but would always win! (John Bennion Booth -1957) Booth also quotes that North was a keen football player; I’m not sure which team he supported but Colonel North, ever generous, sent a bank-note to a West Bromwich Albion player injured in the cup final played against Crystal Palace in 1896.
W.G. Grace benefited from North’s interest in Cricket. Having received a generous contribution to his testimonial; Grace dedicated his book “The History of a Hundred Centuries” 1895 “To Colonel John Thomas North, a thorough all-round sportsman, and the first subscriber to my national testimonial fund, I dedicate this book”. Quote from William Edmundson, “The Nitrate King”.

Colonel North also played golf, and together with his son Harry joined the Eltham Club, now known as the Royal Blackheath Golf Club, in 1892. He presented the club with The North Scratch Medal and a prize of £10. The original scratch medal was replaced with a gold Jubilee Medal of Queen Victoria, by North’s son. Go see it in the golf club museum!

Whatever the weather throws at us this month; find time to go and enjoy our park and perhaps stop for a welcome “cuppa” in the café.

<![CDATA[What to see, around the park this month - February]]>Tue, 02 Feb 2016 21:40:38 GMThttp://www.averyhillpark.org.uk/the-friends-blog/what-to-see-around-the-park-this-month-februaryLast month I wrote about the Winter Gardens, Colonel North’s stables and heating system. Colonel North loved extravagance and impressing everyone who visited his mansion! Starting at the west entrance gate and lodge; visitors to the mansion, arriving at the front door cannot have failed to be impressed by the building Col. North commissioned from his architect Thomas William Cutler in 1888. In September 1889 the Express newspaper commented ”Colonel North is amusing himself building an enormous residence, half barracks, half Crystal Palace, at Eltham.” Quote from The Nitrate King by William Edmundson. North thought Cutler had seriously overspent and took him to court. In 1891 the court found in favour of Cutler and North had to pay costs! Picture
​The mansion continues to impress to this day; there’s room to alight at the front door from your carriage without getting rained on! You won’t even need a brolly! The impressive mahogany front doors are embellished with Lion’s heads.  The University run regular conducted tours; so seek one out and experience the delights once enjoyed by North’s rich guests!

The rich and famous would have once be able to cross the threshold onto the mosaic floor installed by Italian workmen. Turning to your right you would have been able to make your tour through what is at present the Uni. library. Once North’s sculpture gallery, it is lined with red marble. Moving into the main library area; look out for the portraits of the North family and the minstrel’s gallery. This gallery is made of a rare Mexican onyx.

​I wonder if these two lovely rooms will be preserved intact by the future owners? We’ll have to wait and see! 

At the west end of the Uni. library look out for the bricked up archways; these used to lead into the Winter Gardens. The rich and famous would once have progressed through here to the tropical house, now rather derelict, into the temperate house where you can see the largest indoor example (60 foot at the crown) of a Canary Island Palm. Next into the cold house with the statue of Galatea; re-entering the main house via the drawing room.
Many of the rich and famous took this tour, including the Prince of Wales. For his visit he arrived by train; alighting at Eltham Park station. The platform was graced with a glass roof for the occasion! Alas the station no longer exists but the entrance can still be seen adjacent to the motorway bridge in Westmount Road. Those were the days!
<![CDATA[Bee's Nature Notes - December]]>Tue, 01 Dec 2015 21:46:00 GMThttp://www.averyhillpark.org.uk/the-friends-blog/bees-nature-notes-decemberA good bit of folk lore advice for this month! “In December keep yourself warm and sleep”!!
We get the winter solstice on the 22nd when the sun reaches the tropic of Capricorn
​and we get our shortest daylight hours.
​Apologies to you all for sending you on a wild goose chase last month; the wild mushrooms were few and far between, I was hard put too to find even honey fungus! My preparations for these nature notes always involve a walk around the park in the last few days of the previous month. This year, inspite of the winds, there are still plenty of leaves on the trees. Some are even still green! No doubt it’s the effect of global warming again! We’ve had a couple of hard frosts (November 21/22nd) so that should encourage the trees to shed their leaves. As usual the Caucasian Wing-nut, on the “MUGA” corner of the avenue beside the huge Holly hedge, is still delaying putting on any autumn colour and shedding its leaves.

PictureCommon Gull
​Last December’s nature notes featured the Thrush family winter migrants, Fieldfare and Redwing. So far this year there’s been no sight of them; we have a glut of berries so presumably there’s a plentiful supply of berries for them not to need to migrate to find ours! Keep a look out for them when the days get colder. The Robins are singing their winter song; you can usually find Robins out and about near the council shipping containers and in the Italianate (Rose) Garden. The numbers of gulls foraging on the playing fields are increasing; look out for the smaller (not so) Common Gull with its green legs. The Crow numbers are building up too but we’ve still along way to go before we rival the numbers of gulls and crows on Plumstead Common!

​There are still a few wildflowers in bloom in sheltered places; Dead Nettle and Yarrow. They both have white flowers: I wonder if there’s any significance in that?
White Dead Nettle
Progress on the sale of the Mansion and Winter Garden seems to have gone rather quiet! Rumour has it that one education “Academy” has pulled out but another has been found. Who knows? We’ll have to wait and see!

Don’t forget to come along to the park café for their Christmas celebration on December 12th, 2.00 to 4.00. Our old favourites the Eldorado Players will be entertaining and rumour has it that Father Christmas will be there with mulled wine and mince pies. See you there!
<![CDATA[Bee's Nature Notes - November]]>Fri, 30 Oct 2015 09:00:02 GMThttp://www.averyhillpark.org.uk/the-friends-blog/bees-nature-notes-novemeber​​Did Thomas Hood describe November accurately?
“No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees;
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,-
​He describes what he saw in the early 1800’s but has global warming had a part to play in the years since?  Only time will tell!
As I write this month’s nature notes, it’s the last week in October, I can see an oak tree; still a glorious green! My thoughts about the trees starting their Autumn earlier than usual this year have been confounded!
Which-ever direction you take for your walks around the park this month, keep a look out for the fungi. October was so dry that there were not many about; so provided we do not have too many frosts they should be popping up all over the place. My favourite is a woodland one, Fly Agaric. This is the classic poisonous one of fairy stories; red with white blotches on the cup. Sorry I can’t guarantee there will be an elf perched on top! We do have a few poisonous fungi varieties in the UK and our pharmacies don’t provide specialist advice in the way they do in Switzerland; so my best advice is to look, take a photo but don’t pick! If you find anything unusual please let us know. So far recorded in the park are: Bracket Fungus, Honey Fungus, Jelly Ear, Puff Ball, Shaggy Ink Cap, Field Mushrooms and Fairies Bonnets. Good hunting!
Bracket Fungus
Shaggy Ink Cap
Fly Agaric
Fairy Bonnets
​On the “twitching” front, our summer migrant birds should all have flown south by now; off to warmer climes! However as the temperature drops we do have our winter visitors to look forward to. In the mean time we’ll have to put up with our resident birds. The Starlings seem to have had a good year and there are small flocks of them about. Green Woodpeckers are around probing the grass with their long beaks and of course there’s our old friend the Robin still singing its wintry song and reminding us Christmas is not so very far away!
Green Woodpecker
The latest news on the University selling the Mansion site is that the “Preferred Buyer” has pulled out. So we are not about to be another educational academy after all and it’s back to square one for Greenwich University’s “sale of the century”!
We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear of any further developments.
<![CDATA[Bee's Nature Notes - October]]>Thu, 01 Oct 2015 14:27:44 GMThttp://www.averyhillpark.org.uk/the-friends-blog/bees-nature-notes-octoberIf you were expecting the Keats’ quote for October, “Season of mists” etc; sorry to disappoint you!  This month it’s Spenser with “Then came October, full of merry glee!
The park is looking splendid this month with the hedges festooned with berries. Folklore maintains that this will herald a hard winter. I wonder? What it definitely tells us is that the pollinating insects were very busy last spring! The trees were very early to change colour this year; starting in the 3rd week of September, for the first time that I can remember.

We’ll have to wait and see what winter will be and in the meantime just enjoy the autumn tints in our lovely park!
If you’re walking past the MUGA (Multi-Use Games Area) on your way to the little valley formed by the Pippenhall Stream and then Grey’s (the rugby) field. Take a closer look at the very large tree at the start of the avenue alongside the Holly hedge. This magnificent specimen is a Caucasian Wingnut; the dangling “ropes” of seeds give insight into why this tree was named “Wingnut”. If you want to show off your botanical knowledge, the seeds are “samaras”; Sycamore and Ash have samaras too!
Caucasian Wingnut
PictureIvy in flower - with a hoverfly
Last month I wrote about the bats in Avery Hill Park. Having watched them more carefully over the past few weeks; I’ve come to the conclusion that our bat numbers are down this year. The evidence is that the tell tale urine stains at the entrance of our 5 bat roosts are much shorter this year. We had a very cold spring; with no food about the females will not have given birth. Keep your eyes open at dusk and see what you can spot flying around the hedges and larger trees. Bats don’t like wet, windy or cold weather. If you can see your breath condensing in the air as you breathe out; it will be too cold for the insects and bats to be flying. However, there’s a great food source and a chance to fatten up for the bats hibernation, now the Ivy is in flower. The Ivy flowers attract lots of insects and the berries later this month are a food source for many of our birds.

Whatever the weather, get out and enjoy our park; our park users are very friendly and our café always has a warm welcome.
<![CDATA[Bee's Nature Notes - September]]>Thu, 03 Sep 2015 06:03:10 GMThttp://www.averyhillpark.org.uk/the-friends-blog/bees-nature-notes-septemberWhat to look for in the park this month
“Fair on September 1st, fair for the month.”
 “September dries up wells, or breaks down bridges”.

I wonder what the weather has in store for us this month! Whatever the weather the park hedges and trees will be full of seeds and berries; a guaranteed feast for the birds!
Now is the time to see the “glamour act” of the bird world, the Goldfinch. This pretty little bird loves to feast on thistle seeds; a group of them has the very apt name of a “charm” of goldfinch! Most of our feathered friends will still be around in family groups. Most easily identified is the Wood pigeon; they’ll stay together as mum, dad and a couple of kids for a while yet!

Most of our wildflowers have finished flowering; look out for their seed heads as you walk around the park this month. If you’re taking your walk around the park at dusk, look out for our resident bats. They’re mating this month so the males in particular will be high profile! One of their favourite hunting places is in Grey’s field, alongside the hedge bordering Charlton Athletic and our park rugby field. Moths are attracted to the floodlights and the bats will be in position to ambush them. The larger Noctule bats can be seen swooping down on their prey but the smaller Pippistrelles will get their share too!
On the sale of the mansion front, our council tree protection officer has been to inspect the Winter Garden’s specimen trees. The Palms, Norfolk Island Pines and the Kumquat now have tree preservation orders; so thankfully will still be around for the foreseeable future. Let’s hope we can all enjoy our magnificent Winter Gardens for many years to come!
The university’s “preferred buyer” will move onto the mansion site this month; initially to occupy the Stud Stable site by the university car-park and the tower block at the east end of mansion site. Will things move on apace? Only time will tell!

<![CDATA[Bee's Nature Notes - August]]>Tue, 04 Aug 2015 02:25:11 GMThttp://www.averyhillpark.org.uk/the-friends-blog/bees-nature-notes-augustFairest of months. Ripe summer’s queen! The hey day of the year;
With robes that gleam with sunny sheen,  Sweet August doth appear.

R. Combe-Miller.
These August ramblings will take you off the main pathway around the park to look for hidden gems that may not be with us much longer. When the housing development on the Mansion site begins, these treasures may be lost for ever!
PictureBlack Mulberry
This month take the path leading towards the MUGA (Multi-Use Games Area) and focus on the little strip of woodland to your right. This wood was once Greenwich parks’ department’s tree nursery. In places you can see neat rows of overgrown Beech hedging. This is a great place to find birds foraging; listen out and there may still be some late nesters still singing. Take the path through this wood that goes through to the little Victorian cottage in the Uni. car park. Soon to be occupied by the “preferred buyer” of the Uni mansion site; this was once the home of Colonel North’s Stud Groom. In day’s gone by this was the hub of Col. North’s racing stables. His most famous being Nunthorpe who won the Jubilee Stakes at Kempton Park in 1891. The single story brick built stables can still be seen just west of the Groom’s cottage. To the best of my knowledge this is the last bit of agricultural architecture in the borough that hasn’t been either converted or demolished! Look out for the Black Mulberry tree just in front of the stable block. If you’re in luck there may even be some berries on it! Just behind the stables at the junction of the 2 arms of the building is an ancient horse Chestnut; planted by North’s predecessor, James Boyd and now around 180 years old.

PictureRinglet Butterfly (under side of wings)
Wander back towards the Uni. along the edge of the car park and look out for the Ringlet butterfly, a little brown butterfly with a series of rings along its under-wing. This is a recent migrant in the UK; I guess because of our old friend “Global warming”! On your left is another fine old oak tree, again a James Boyd planting, it’s about 175 years old. Before you turn right at the bottom of the brick steps up to the road to the café; look about you and notice the difference in height between the  uni. car park and the road down to the café.

PictureRinglet Butterfly - Upper side of wings
You are in a little valley cut by the Eltham Warren stream, a headwater for the river Shuttle. Yes you’re quite right; there is no sight or sound of this little steam anymore! James Boyd put it in a brick built culvert that runs beneath your feet! If you’re really curious you can still see the inspection pit surrounded by some ancient railings if you peer down through the undergrowth from the road. On the Uni site to the east there’s an interesting building with a clock tower on top. This used to be Colonel North’s carriage and riding horse stables. It had a revolving door to the carriage room and central heating for the horses; they even had a sauna for the horses in the basement! When this building became a teachers’ training college in the early years of the last century it was converted into a science block. What will happen to it in the 21st century I wonder?

Walk through the council car-park and take time to look at the brick wall along the north of the “Rose garden”. Col. North’s Vine house was here and if you look carefully you can still see brick arches where the vine roots went. Take the path up the steps past the small shed, to the West house of the Winter Garden. Once housing a lovely “jungle” of banana, tea, coffee and ginger plants; ruined by the heating failure a decade ago, it looks almost derelict now. Beneath your feet are two Victorian curiosities. The raised area covers a rainwater storage tank harvesting the run-off from the Winter Garden roof. Between this and the Uni buildings is another underground room lined with shelving for Rhubarb and Mushroom growing. More about Avery Hill’s treasures next month!
<![CDATA[Bee's Nature Notes - July]]>Sun, 05 Jul 2015 02:23:48 GMThttp://www.averyhillpark.org.uk/the-friends-blog/bees-nature-notes-julyWe’re due to start this month with a hot spell; will the old saying get it right with:-
“Then comes hot July, boiling like to fire”?
If we do have a long dry spell it’s well worth while taking a walk around Grey’s Field, (the rugby pitch).  This is where an R.A.F. camp was in WW2.  These brave guys serviced the barrage balloons around south London.  When we've had a dry spell “parch marks” can be seen in the grass, outlining the sites of the wooden huts and roadways.  The wild flowers around the perimeter path margins should still be looking good; the ox-eye daisies have been the best ever!
PictureLime Tree Blossom
A word of warning, watch your feet when walking in this part of the park.  For the first time in many years, we have a dog owner frequenting this part of the park who believes in the “poo fairy”! Fortunately our park relies on dog walkers having a sense of responsibility to keep our park “poo free”!

PictureCaucasian Wing Nut
Trees in flower this month:  Lime; this has wonderful fragrance and is beloved by bees.  Best places in the park to see this tree are along the avenue along the west boundary of Henley’s Field. This is the wild flower meadow and along the cycle/walk path near the junction with 40 foot way path.  It's the field with the fallen Willow tree.  If you’re walking this path just past the MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) look out for the ancient tree just at the start of the holly hedge path; the Caucasian Wing Nut. It is festooned with fruit right now and easy to see why it got the name “wing nut”!  Look out for the blackberry bushes around the park, covered in flowers right now, they’re good places to spot butterflies.  The Red Admiral loves them!

Red Admiral (underside)
Red Admiral
PictureLittle Owl
If you’re in the park at dusk or dawn look out for our bats; this time of year the baby bats are getting hunting lessons from their mums.  You may even catch site of the Little Owl.  If daytime is your favourite time to visit; don’t forget to come along to Avery Hill Parksfest on July 19th. This fantastic day out has been organised by the Friends of Avery Hill Park group. Eagle Heights will be bringing along their birds of prey; not to be missed!

<![CDATA[BEE's Nature Notes - June]]>Mon, 01 Jun 2015 18:11:07 GMThttp://www.averyhillpark.org.uk/the-friends-blog/bees-nature-notes-juneWill the old saying “A dripping June keeps all in tune” sum up our weather this month? We’ll have the summer solstice to celebrate and sunset at 9.30!
Dog Rose
Goose Grass
In our parks and gardens June is the month for Roses; look out for the Dog Rose, their wild cousin, in our park hedgerows. Our oldest hedge, planted in the 1370’s, runs from Butterfly Lane along the west side of Grey’s meadow (the rugby field) and follows the boundary of Charlton Athletic ground and the university Sparrows Lane sports area. It has plenty of wild (Dog) Rose; look out for another wildflower, Goose Grass, it has tiny velcro style hooks along the stems earning itself the local name of “Sticky Willy”! Teach this plant name to your children and I can guarantee they’ll remember it forever!
PictureOrange Tip Butterfly
There will be plenty of wildflowers in our park this month, along the edge of our circular walk is a good place to find them. These were planted when the path was installed. Well done Greenwich Parks and Open Spaces! Another wildflower hot-spot can be found at the “mound” at the corner of the path out to 40 foot way. This large heap of soil was made when this field (Greater Stony Acres) was levelled to improve the sports pitches. All the soil and the wildflower seeds in it, were scraped into this one great heap. It’s a great place for bat watching if you’re here at dusk! It’s a hot spot for butterflies too, Orange Tip and Meadow Browns will be flying this month.

Orange Tip - Underside
Meadow Brown Butterfly
PictureElder flowers - close-up
Trees in flower this month, Elder and Horse Chestnut. In the past decade most of our Horse Chestnuts have been infected with leaf miner. Their fruit, the conker beloved by school kids, hasn’t been prolific. Avery Hill Road used to have the best conkers for miles around! We have two Red Horse Chestnuts, rubbish for conkers! One at each end of the line of trees bordering the large Holly hedge that runs from near the MUGA pitch to the top of the wild-flower meadow in the Pippenhall stream valley. This little stream usually dries up this month; rarely getting further than the bridge unless we have a summer storm. Hopefully we can enjoy many sunny days this June, so get out there and enjoy our park!

Horse Chestnut flowers
<![CDATA[Bee's NATURE Notes - May´╗┐]]>Mon, 27 Apr 2015 23:00:02 GMThttp://www.averyhillpark.org.uk/the-friends-blog/bees-nature-notes-mayDid Wordsworth get it right this month: “While earth herself is adorning, This sweet May morning” or do you prefer the old adage “Cast not a clout ‘til May is out”? PictureCow Parsley
Of the many wildflowers I find the umbelliferous family the most difficult to identify. Some members of this group of plants are very poisonous so it is best not to make mistakes! Among the first to flower is Queen Anne’s Lace otherwise known as Cow Parsley. It’s got a feathery leaf to distinguish it; you can find plenty alongside Averyhill Road and the south boundary of the park. The other May flowering umbel, Ground Elder, has much bigger rounded leaves, there are some nice patches around the wooden seat in Henley’s Meadow.

There will be plenty of flowers to be seen in the park this month, my favourites are Bluebell and Dandelion; why do I choose Dandelion? It’s one of the few plants that has a use for each of its parts. The roots were roasted and ground up in WW2 to make a coffee substitute; the young leaves are good in salads, the flowers make a tasty wine and the seeds are a good fun game for children. Don’t tell me you’ve never played “Dandelion clocks”! Look for Bluebells along our hedgerows and the many corners of woodland. Dandelions are our most frequent lawn weed. This month the hedgerows will be covered with the white flowers of the Hawthorn trees. The country name for this tree is “May”, hardly surprising really!
Bluebell (British species)
Other trees in flower this month, Beech, Oak, Sycamore, Poplar, Plane and Holly.
PicturePippistrelle Bat
May is the month our bats come out of hibernation. Our park is a real hotspot, well worth the effort to come out at dusk when you can see Noctule, Serotine and both Common and Soprano Pippistrelles. Avery Hill Park is 19th in south east England for Noctule numbers. Plumstead Common is no.2! While you walk around the park; look out for any holes in the trees with a dark stain below the hole. This is the “give away” sign of a bat roost. Bird nesting holes will have no stains below them. We have 6 bat roosts around the park; you’ll see them more easily if you walk anticlockwise from the café.