Sunday, January 10, 2016


Bexley Council have published updated and revised plans for the redevelopment of the former Erith Riverside Swimming Baths site on the corner of Erith High Street and Walnut Tree Road. The proposal from London and Quadrant is to build a total of twelve town houses and sixty one apartments, along with several retail units at ground level. You can see a full collection of relevant documentation online by clicking here. What strikes me from the artists impression is that the artist had patently never visited the site. As locals all well know, Erith High Street is one way only, with vehicles able to pass West to East only, whereas in the illustration above, a cyclist can be seen in the foreground riding East to West. Secondly, Walnut Tree Road (on the right hand side of the picture) is a fairly steep hill, not flat as is shown. On top of this, the former Erith Library building, which is directly behind the proposed construction site is not shown. Nevertheless, it would be good to get the currently empty plot of land re - used for something productive at last. 

Word reaches me that production of the new revised BBC version of “Top Gear” is not going very smoothly. I understand that the pilot episode for the new format of the show has been screened to a test audience, who apparently hated it. BBC bosses have demanded extensive changes and re – shoots. Personally I am not bothered, as I won’t be watching the new BBC Top Gear when it airs in May. I am sure that many people like Chris Evans, but personally I cannot stand the man – my reflex action whenever I encounter him on TV or the radio is to either change the channel or switch off. I, like many “proper” Top Gear fans, am waiting for the announcement of the air date for the new car show starring Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, and produced by “proper” Top Gear boss Andy Wilman which will be shown on Amazon Prime. I am happy to take out an annual Amazon Prime subscription just to watch the new show. Apparently even some of the crew working on the BBC revamp of “Top Gear” refer to the show using the acronym “TGINO” which stands for “Top Gear In Name Only”. I think this says more than enough about the confidence in the programme. Time will tell, but I would not place to many bets on the success of the show under the stewardship of Chris Evans. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

The News Shopper are reporting that there is now only a month left for local residents to have their say into the proposed new river crossings to the East of London.  The consultation period ends on the 12th February. The report on the outcome of this consultation is expected to be published in March with the crossings to be completed by 2025. The proposed crossings are in addition to the planned Silvertown Tunnel near the existing Blackwall Tunnel and the proposed new Lower Thames Crossing being developed by Highways England for the Department for Transport. To have your say on the schemes, particularly in regards to the integration of public transport, pedestrian and cycling routes to new crossings visit this site. While the exact alignment of each crossing has not been finalised, the Gallions Reach crossing would link the A2016 Western Way in Thamesmead with the A1020 Royal Docks Road in the North. The Belvedere crossing would link the A2016 Bronze Age Way in Belvedere with the A13 Marsh Way junction in Rainham. A decision whether to build a bridge or tunnel as the preferred option in each location has not yet been decided either. As I have previously written, I think that at Lower Belvedere, a tunnel would be a superior engineering solution. I know that some local groups oppose any kind of new river crossings – the main one being here. London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a recent interview that “Delivering new river crossings to the East is going to be vital to the future success and prosperity of the Capital. We know from this consultation that Londoners are overwhelmingly in support of new crossings and TfL will now be pushing full steam ahead with plans for Gallions Reach and Belvedere." The main local concern seems to be that it will be all very well building extra river crossings, but if changes and upgrades are not made to the road infrastructure in Bexley, then it will merely increase local congestion to traffic using the area as a cut - through when heading elsewhere. The debate will no doubt grind on for years. 

I had some great reader feedback from the article last week on AM Stereo radio – the great media format that was successful in the USA, Japan and several Commonwealth countries, but never got off the ground in the UK, despite the best efforts of a failed offshore radio project. The article was even more timely than I had anticipated, as standard mono AM (Medium Wave) broadcasting is now being phased out all over Europe, as engineers in France, Germany and Luxembourg flicked the switches and turned off their Medium Wave signals at midnight on New Year's Eve. Amongst others, Deutschland Radio closed down its seven Medium Wave transmitters; and Radio France, France Info, France Blue RCFM and France Blue Elsass all went off air. RTL also finally turned off the famous 1440 (208m) Luxembourg apparatus which had carried the UK directed 'Luxy' service until 1991. In the UK, the BBC has quietly begun to shut down some of its power-hungry BBC local radio AM transmitters, using the cunning plan of turning them off for a ‘trial‘ and seeing if anyone notices. Many though still battle on. Commercial radio’s local AM business is in peril too, with many frequencies kept operational by leaning on parallel brands and sharing business overheads. BBC 5 Live still delivers appreciable audiences on AM as do Talk Sport and Absolute Radio (formerly Virgin AM). The national scale of those stations adds bulk to the UK AM total listening hours figure, but one imagines that the costs of transmission and the Ofcom licence fees mean that the owners, UTV and Bauer, can see the day when they wouldn’t trouble to contest their AM licences. DAB alone would work better for them. Radio 4 boasts a clutch of Medium Wave transmitters, but its prize possession remains its powerful 198 Long Wave transmitter, beaming out from an antenna slung from the 700' high masts at Droitwich. The closure of that would be for the BBC would be extremely unpopular with the core Radio 4 audience.  It may be apocryphal, but it is suggested that this dusty transmitter relies on valves which can no longer be replaced. (Actually this is untrue – the Russians still  make the huge ceramic RF power valves that could replace those in the Droitwich 198 kHz Long Wave transmitter). The fact is that whilst AM services are being retired, the predicted rise of DAB just has not happened at anything like the extent the powers that be would have wanted. Ironically, listening figures for Internet radio have in many instances exceeded the number of listeners to DAB, especially as many people listen on the move using 4G on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. Many European governments would love to sell – off the VHF FM band as well, but for many people FM is still the radio waveband of choice – signals are reliable, receiving equipment is cheap and widely available, and unlike DAB, FM portable receivers can run for ages on batteries. AM analogue services may be well on their way out, but analogue FM still has years of life in it, and in my opinion may outlast the never very popular DAB. What do you think?

I may have got to the bottom of origin of the mysterious lights I saw in the sky back in September. Earlier this week I received an Email from a reader who has seen my account of the bright lights I saw flying over the River Thames at around 8.30 on the evening of Monday the 20th September. My informant wrote:- “I have been reading for many months of the balls of light over the Thames which you witnessed last September and have been meaning to contact you since your first post in regards to them. I am pleased to be able to finally put your curiosity to rest, I couldn't see you suffer any more haha. The lights you saw were Chinese lanterns released from the Riverside Gardens after Courtney Webb nee Terry's funeral. You may recall the story as it made many papers at the time. I assume there were actually 27 lanterns released, one for each year of her life but cannot say for certain.” Well that makes a lot of sense – I knew that there had to be a rational explanation for what I saw, I just did not know what it was. I had mistakenly assumed that the lights were quite high in the sky, and moving very rapidly; it would seem that they were actually a lot lower than I had perceived, and moving more slowly, with the darkness hiding their actual identity. At a guess, what the other observer in New Eltham saw and what I saw were not the same fire balloons. I counted eighteen and no more, but apparently twenty seven were launched. I am guessing that there was a change in wind direction during the mass launch, and some balloons went in one direction, and the rest in another towards New Eltham.  As far as the going against the wind direction is concerned, winds on Erith river front are very confused, and can blow in one direction on the ground, yet in another higher in the air (you can sometimes see this with aeroplanes on the approach to London City Airport - the air is calm at ground level, yet you can see the plane fighting against a crosswind at altitude). I understand it is to do with (relatively) hot ground near cold water - and back at the time of my sighting it had been an exceptionally warm day. Thanks to Brett for supplying the information it had been bugging me ever since I saw the lights. Brett is a DJ for online retro radio station Radio Sutch. You can hear them and find out more about the station by clicking here. The original Radio Sutch began in 1964, following the launch of Radio Caroline, Screaming Lord Sutch (born David Edward Sutch - Screaming Lord Sutch, was an English musician. He was the founder of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party and served as its leader from 1983 to his death in 1999, during which time he stood in numerous parliamentary elections. He holds the record for losing all forty elections in which he stood) said he would start his own station. On 27 May Radio Sutch began broadcasting from the south tower of the Shivering Sands former army sea fort. It was a low-powered, low-budget operation. broadcast (intermittently) on 194 metres (1542kHz) medium wave. The broadcasting hours of Radio Sutch were somewhat variable – DJ’s would wake up late for their shows, or the studio equipment would experience regular breakdowns. Even the broadcast transmitter was a total lash – up, based on a heavily modified wartime Royal Navy H.F unit re – crystalled for medium wave, which was powered from a bunch of truck and milk float batteries The antenna system was laughably inefficient, and it seems to me that it was a miracle that it worked at all, based as it was on a scaffold pole with a skull-and-crossbones flag on the top . After four months, Sutch got tired of running the station, and sold it on to businessman Reg Calvert for a reported £5000, who renamed it as Radio City, injected some capital into it, and re-launched it. The new station has the same musical format as the original Radio Sutch – basically music from the 50’s and 60’s that was considered “left field” at the time. The current Radio Sutch was started in 2012 and runs as an internet radio station, broadcasting the same style of music as the original offshore station. Do give them a try.

A couple of very sad local stories this week. I am in the fortunate position of being party to many news stories before the press manages to get hold of them, and I have quite a number of mostly anonymous sources who send me all sorts of interesting facts. I try and act responsibly – unless a source is well known to me, and has proved completely reliable in the past, I will not print a story without third party verification. Also, when a story involves potentially damaging impact to the family and friends of someone involved in a story, I will not report it until the mainstream press has already done so; an example of this happened at the beginning of this week. One of my longest serving and most reliable sources of local information emailed me with the name and personal details of the man who had been killed in a tragic motoring accident in Heath Lane Dartford on New Year’s Eve. I held back the details until the News Shopper had published the details of the deceased – Doctor Wilson Fok, who worked at the Northumberland Heath Medical Centre. He was hit by a van whilst out walking with his wife. A tragic story, and by the sounds of it, a genuine accident. I also have a policy of not normally featuring stories that make the national news – there is no real point, as “proper” journalists generally do a far better job than I could, and in any case, the stories I cover have very strong local interest. This week I have found that I cannot avoid the story of Erith resident Sian Blake. The story has been covered and picked apart by the press to a very large extent. All I have to add to it is that I used to see Sian occasionally walking around Erith Riverside Shopping Centre, and every so often in Morrison’s. I did not know she was an actress, or had been in EastEnders at one time (I am not a soap watcher).  I had not seen her for some considerable time, I guess as her Motor Neurone Disease got worse, and she was forced to limit her mobility; the whole case is tragic. What do you think? Post a comment below, or Email me at

Last week I wrote at quite some length about pioneering inventor, engineer and innovator Richard Trevithick, and how the last couple of years of his life was spent living in Dartford. I complained that there was no monument to the great figure of the industrial revolution in the town; well regular Maggot Sandwich reader Dana Whiffen has proved me wrong - he recently took the photo above which shows the blue plaque which is on the wall of the Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel in Dartford. Back in the day when Trevithick had lodgings there, it was known just as the Bull. Another giant figure of Victorian technology has recently had what would have been her two hundredth birthday. Ada Lovelace - her collaboration with Charles Babbage on mechanical computers included her writing what is arguably the world’s first computer program. As well as being a woman pioneer of what is still a male-dominated profession, Lovelace was an engaging writer, a gambler who lost money at the races, and an aristocrat by marriage and birth – she was the daughter of Lord Byron, although her mother left the notorious poet (accompanied by Ada) as a one-month-old baby. Lovelace died at just 36 with Babbage’s computers unbuilt, leaving plenty of room to imagine what more they might have done. Since then, books, plays and films have imagined just that. Lovelace may not have been too surprised by her cultural impact, as she was perhaps the first person to imagine how computing and culture would be linked. “Through translating her poetical inheritance into the mathematical and scientific sphere, Lovelace was able to bring a startling and unique perspective to bear on Babbage’s engines,” Imogen Forbes-Macphail, a graduate student of English at University of California, Berkeley told a recent symposium on Ada Lovelace's short life. Lovelace thought the computational engines could produce works of art such as music and emulate the human nervous system, as well as just manipulate numbers. Babbage and Lovelace were rediscovered by 20th century computing pioneers including Alan Turing, the father of the modern computer, who included ‘Lady Lovelace’s objection’ in his 1950 paper on artificial intelligence that included his eponymous test. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that Ada Lovelace emerged as a cultural figure.

As regular Maggot Sandwich readers will be fully aware, I have frequently featured content related to televisions,  and the pros and cons of HD versus 4K. Up until fairly recently I advised people on the lookout for  a new TV to not bother with 4K, but just to buy a cheap HD screen, and then wait for a couple of years until proper 4K content became more widely available. That is now about to happen; Sky have announced Sky Q, their 4K UHD content delivery system.  From the details on their Sky Q website, it would seem that what is remarkable about the new receiver is its sheer versatility in terms of content sharing and advanced smart functionality features. At least based on what we’ve heard so far about the Sky Q, it’s looking to turn out as the most advanced set-top media and streaming box with 4K capability on the market so far. In effect, the new Sky Q will essentially be a sort of hub that offers a central content delivery point for 4K and HD content, from which video and other media can flow outward to assorted devices in the home simultaneously through the system’s dual-band router with its ability to share as many as twelve different content streams at the same time. The new set-top box will come with a 2TB internal hard drive which Sky claims will be capable of recording as many as 350 hours of HD content. In addition to this, the box can use that space to deliver its on-demand content for viewing around the home, on a 4K TV or on other mobile devices to which the content can either be streamed or even downloaded completely in some cases for later viewing. For the sake of helping out all this content distribution, the Sky Q comes with twelve different internal tuners. These tuners will allows users to record as many as four different programmes at once, and still be able to watch a fifth at the same time. Additionally, the tuners also supply the Sky Q Mini additional box, which is capable of streaming live TV and supporting features to two different tablets or phones at the same time if they have the Sky Q app installed. There will also be other capacities built into the twelve tuners in the Sky Q Hub but so far we don’t have every one of them detailed out too finely. There is a possibility that some of their functionality is reserved for still more complex future content delivery plans by Sky in 2016. At least based on these descriptions, the Sky Q is shaping up to be more advanced and versatile than some existing 4K UHD set-top box competitors like the Roku 4. This is all very well and good, but no process for this new it have yet been published; at present you can register an interest on the Sky Q website here, but little else - no prices or dates of availability have yet been released - so from my perspective it is still a promise of "jam tomorrow". On top of this, the industry standards for 4K television have only just been formally agreed. The technical specification covers production, distribution and display characteristics, with a bunch of individual content line items. While there are audio recommendations, video is front-and-centre of the specification. To pass the spec and buy the right to use the "Ultra HD Premium" logo, TVs will need a minimum display resolution of 3840 x 2160 (which, naturally enough, will be the production and distribution resolution as well). Devices will also need 10-bit colour depth, and will support minimum specs for colour representation (based on the ITU's BT.2020 recommendation), and the SMPTE's ST2084 EOTF (electro-optical transfer function) dynamic range spec (which defines the range from black to peak brightness). Producers and distributors have to meet the same specs – for example, if Netflix wants to brand a program Ultra HD Premium, it'll have to comply all the way from source to when it starts firing packets to the Internet. There are also specs for the displays in mastering suites: they'll have to cover one hundred per cent of the DCI's P3 colour space (consumer devices can get away with 90 per cent), and go from 0.03 nits (candela per square metre) at black to a maximum brightness beyond 1,000 nits. Samsung is one of the first consumer TV outfits to take the brand, for its 2016 range of UHD TVs, but inexplicably the Korean giant isn't running with Ultra HD Premium for its  recently launched refrigerator with video display (!) It looks like 2016 will be the year of UHD 4K visual displays – and may see the ramping down of production of HD televisions – production costs for 4K screens is dropping rapidly, and for the end user will soon come to parity with HD.  Once this happens ( which I predict within six months or so), there will be no financial incentive to either purchase or manufacture “old” HD units any more. It seems only a short time since HD was the best thing since sliced bread, and the great aspirational purchase for many people, yet now it is regarded as old hat. Things are moving fast, and it would seem to me that 2016 will be the year when 4K Ultra High Definition TV will actually hit the mainstream. 

The ending video this week is some archive footage of Erith and the surrounding area which was taken back in 1969 when the historic old town was being demolished and the grotesque 1970's concrete shopping centre was being constructed - events that all those old enough to remember regret to this day. Only now is the town recovering from the historic act of architectural and cultural vandalism. Watch the short film and leave a comment below, or Email


  1. Hugh, cyclists are permitted to go against the one way system on the road in front of the old baths and The Running Horses.

  2. In the latter days of the Riverside Pool the cycle lane was seen by many car drivers to be the default place to drop off kids for swimming. Needless to say the drivers were frequently faced by irate cyclists coming towards them, as was and presumably still is the cyclists' right.