Sunday, June 19, 2016

Wetherspoons in Erith.

I had some very welcome news earlier this week. I have been in correspondence with several hospitality companies recently, to try and find out if any of them had plans to open a pub or restaurant in Erith. The town is woefully lacking in anywhere to go for a drink, or get something  to eat in the evening. The only places in central Erith serving food to be eaten with a knife and fork whilst sitting at a table are Mambocino – which closes at 6pm when the Erith Riverside Shopping Centre closes its security gates, and the cafĂ© in Morrison’s supermarket. The Running Horses pub on Erith High Street does still sporadically have a food offering, but according to several reports I have received it is so awful that I have not included it here - I have also heard that what food there is tends to only be offered when the staff can be bothered, which is not daily. It seems that the riverside pub, which back in the 80’s and early 90’s was so popular that you would often have to book the upstairs carvery in advance, especially on Sundays when it was always packed, is nowadays in what seems like a terminal decline. The place has been bravely slogging on with a hard-core of regular drinkers for a long while, but the food side of the business is nothing whatsoever like it used to be. The Running Horses is in a superb location and is a lovely 1930’s era reproduction Tudor style building. To be honest it could be restored back to its heyday if a substantial financial investment was made in the place, which I don’t think the current landlord / manager is in a position to do. I have long suspected that the land The Running Horses is sitting on is now worth substantially more than the pub itself, and that it is quite possible that the building is currently being “land banked” waiting for a suitable developer to come along and build yet more flats. Land in Erith is about to skyrocket in value, and it seems to me that it is not a question of if, but when this will happen. I would love to see The Runnning Horses become the massive success that it used to be, but honestly, unless something dramatic happens, I don't see a bright future for it in the current guise. Anyway, on Monday morning I received an Email from JD Wetherspoon which said (and I quote):- "We are currently considering Erith as a possible location for a JD Wetherspoon pub, and we are in the process of obtaining feedback from our Operations Teams on their views on the viability of acquiring a site in the town". I don't know what locations they are looking at, but the three options that seem most likely to me are:- 1) The three empty retail units opposite Erith Health Centre, but this would likely elicit objections from the residents in the apartments above, and the units are also quite close to the Sherwood House residential care and sheltered housing home. The proximity of the home was the primary reason why Wetherspoon’s were unable to convert the old Erith Odeon Cinema into a pub back in 1998. The levels of noise and disturbance which customers would make in the evenings was judged as being too high in what is classed as a residential area. On top of this, I understand that a commercial gymnasium has designs on the site. 2) The old Carnegie Library building in Walnut Tree Road, which has been abandoned and unused for nearly six years - a photo of it is above - click on it for a larger version.  The old library building was going to be converted into a training centre for the hospitality and hotel industry as part of Bexley College, but the funding fell through, and the project was cancelled. Now that Bexley College is being administered by Bromley College, the future of other potential collaborative projects is unclear. Wetherspoon’s have a very good reputation for sensitive restoration of old buildings; my understanding is that the former Carnegie Library has a severe damp problem on the main brick frontage, and the lack of preventative maintenance has caused a number of fairly serious issues with the building fabric. Wetherspoon’s have deep enough pockets to be able to finance major construction, conversion and conservation work if they did decide to purchase the building for use as a pub / restaurant. The only downside I can think of is that the former library has no local parking, though local public transport links are excellent. This does not usually deter Wetherspoon’s, who seem more interested in the local customer demographic, than parking issues. 3) The aforementioned Running Horses – which also has good public transport links, on site car parking, and an excellent location – the downside is that the interior would need extensive modification to make it more open plan. Currently the pub has a downstairs public bar, and a smaller saloon bar which is seldom opened. Upstairs there is a large open plan area which has been used both as a restaurant / carvery and for wedding receptions and the like. The Running Horses ticks most of the boxes that I imagine that Wetherspoon’s would be looking at, with the exception of the internal layout. It would be difficult but possible to convert the two downstairs bars into a single open – plan layout as favoured by the pub company. Of the three locations considered thus far, my own opinion is that the Carnegie Library and The Running Horses are the two most likely to be considered by Wetherspoon’s.  I don't think that the former White Hart / Potion bar would be an option – the ground floor bar area is too small, and will have residential property on top and behind it, when the plans to redevelop  the upstairs of the pub, and the extensive gardens get a block of low rise flats built on them, as I have previously featured. I also think the three units opposite the Health Centre don’t stand a chance due to the proximity to residential accommodation. What do you think? Personally I feel that Erith is crying out for somewhere to go for a drink or informal “sit down” meal. If it gets the go – ahead, it will provide some much needed local jobs, and enable local people to actually socialise in Erith, rather than having to travel to Lower Belvedere (The Morgan), Bexleyheath (lots of places) or Dartford (ditto) in order to get a drink and a reasonably priced meal. I think a Wetherspoon’s pub opening in central Erith would be a very positive event, and the sooner it happens the better. If you disagree, or have a particular point to make, you can either leave a comment below, or Email me at

Regular readers will know that I have been banging on about IT security issues for a very long time. I am especially concerned by contactless debit cards, as they are notoriously insecure. The situation now seems to have got worse, as a criminal group have commercialised the card cracking process, and it can now be bought online. A criminal group going under the name of The CC Buddies is selling a high tech device on the Dark Web that is capable of copying details from contactless debit cards if held as close as eight centimetres away from a victim's card. CC Buddies claim that their device, named Contactless Infusion X5, can copy up to 15 bank cards per second, something that may come in handy if a crook is going through a crowd at a concert or is in a crowded tube carriage.  X5 is designed to copy data from the radio chip embedded in modern RFID contactless bank cards. This data is stored on X5's internal storage system, and thieves can connect the device to their PC using USB cables and transfer it using special software, also supplied by CC Buddies. The device can collect data such as the card's number and expiration date. If the debit cards RFID chip stores information such as the card holder’s name, home address, and a mini statement, X5 can steal that data as well. When it copies credit card numbers, X5 encrypts the data. The software provided by CC Buddies will allow the crooks to decrypt and download the stolen information from their X5 device to a Windows (XP or higher) PC, and start creating fake debit cards using blank plastic cards. Crooks can get their hands on an X5 device for only 1.2 Bitcoin (around £600). CC Buddies says they ship devices via mail, and each buyer will receive the X5 device, a USB cable for charging and data transfers, and 20 blank cards. Below are X5's technical specifications, as provided by CC Buddies in their Dark Web advert, at the time of writing. “The Contactless Infusion X5 is the first contactless bank card hacker sold in the black market. This product has been designed and developed by The CC Buddies. The Contactless Infusion X5 is capable to detect and read ANY bank card from just 8 centimetres away! And reading at an amazing 1024kbps this powerful contactless reader will read and save at approximately 15 bank cards per second! The Contactless Infusion X5 has a built-in 5V battery charged via a USB 3.0 cable (provided). Takes approximately  3 hours to fully charge and it will last up to 10 hours in constant use. It’s also capable to read many other cards! Any card that is running on a 13.56mhz frequency, the Contactless Infusion X5 is able to read, and capture the data! But because the software we provide has been developed specifically to decrypt bank cards it won’t be able to decrypt any other cards, but we’re working on it and soon it will!!  ” This is all very worrying stuff. Personally I avoid all contactless cards - they are more trouble than they are worth in my opinion.

You may recall that there was great controversy when Bexley Council announced that they were ending the Danson Festival. Back in May 2014, I wrote: "It would appear from what I can gather that Bexley Council have effectively pulled the plug on the Danson Festival permanently. It has been known for some time that the festival was being called off this year, due, so the council said to drainage problems made worse by the terribly wet conditions last Autumn and Winter. It was originally intimated that the festival would be back as normal next year. Now Councillor Don Massey has announced that substantial engineering work is required to fix the problems, and that the council currently does not have the money to carry out the work. Bearing in mind over 60,000 people visited the festival last year, to drop it completely is quite a brave move, especially in the light of the forthcoming council elections. My understanding was that the festival was pretty much self funding, and usually turned a modest profit. It showcased local clubs and not for profit groups, and gave a lot of good causes the opportunity to both raise awareness and also fund raise. Several readers have left comments on the News Shopper website stating that the real reason for the cancellation of the Danson Festival is that the wealthy people who live in the big houses around Danson Park do not want the noise and disruption that the festival brings. Compared with other boroughs in the area, Bexley does very little if anything in terms of public festivities or events; it seems to be very keen to be able to continue to boast that they have kept council tax rates the same as last year, which seems to involve making more cuts upon cuts. The same cannot be said of the wage bill of the council leaders, which, as Malcolm Knight of “Bexley is Bonkers” has repeatedly pointed out, are amongst the highest in Greater London". The myth about the poor drainage in the park has been exposed now - a commercial company called Oakleigh Fairs is running an event called the "Danson Park Country Fair" on Saturday the 2nd and Sunday the 3rd of July in Danson Park, Welling. Unlike the previous fair, it is not free, and an entrance fee will be levied against visitors. Bearing in mind that Bexley Council stated that the reason for the cancellation of the original fair was that the cost of improving ground drainage to make the grassed areas suitable to use after heavy rain was too great for them, and that they were regretfully having to end the very popular free event turns out not surprisingly to be completely untrue. No drainage improvements of any description have been made, and yet after what is turning into the wettest summer in living memory, a mass event in Danson Park is able to go ahead with absolutely no reference to the reason the council used to cancel the original, free event. Of course, the commercial company called Oakleigh Fairs are able to go ahead with their for profit event; no doubt they are paying a fat fee to Bexley Council for the right to hold the two day fair. I could not make this up. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or Email me at

The News Shopper have been running a story on how “shoddy” the grounds maintenance work has been in a number of public open spaces in the London Borough of Bexley. The poor level of workmanship in relatively simple tasks such as mowing a lawn is evident from the photographs sent to the local newspaper. I understand that some local residents have taken to mowing the grassed areas themselves, as they are so frustrated by the poor service the council contractors have been providing. I have spoken to a couple of residents of Manor Road, Erith who share this frustration. As you may know, Manor Road is a very long carriageway that has mixed use. The Western end is exclusively residential, whilst the Eastern end is almost exclusively industrial. Many heavy vehicles and plant travel along the road during the day, and consequently a lot of dust in the summer, and mud in the winter is generated. Historically the road and pavements were regularly swept to keep the level of pollution down, but in the last few months the sweeping has ceased and both the road and the pathways are in a right old state. You can see an example in the photo above, which shows one of the pedestrian crossing points near the Frobisher Road Estate. The photo was taken just after the torrential rainfall and minor flash flood on Friday afternoon, and much of the dust and silt that normally lines the kerb had temporarily washed away, but it will be back very soon. It would seem that the rapacious Bexley Council have cut back on street sweeping on top of everything else they are notorious for cutting. Do you have any similar experiences? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

You may recall that back in August of last year I featured an expose of a fraud called the “Funky Clock”. This scam may have now disappeared, but another called Zuuvu seems to have taken its place. A number of readers had rightly become suspicious of a website which claimed that one could legally purchase a brand new iPhone 6 for the price of £1. The website advertising this had links from the tabloid newspaper website The Daily Star, and several other reputable (!) locations. When one followed the link, you were presented with what appeared at first glance to be a page from the BBC News website. It included a story about how people in the UK could get a brand new iPhone 6 for £1. Upon reading the story, alarm bells started to ring; the writing style was nothing like BBC News standard, and there was a problem with the links on the page – they all led to the same website – this is a common trick carried out by scammers – create a fake “honey trap” site to redirect web traffic to another website. The so called "BBC" site was nothing but a fake. The second site was called “Funky Clock” which ran “special offers” amongst “skill and speed” competitions, where participants purchased credits to use to play games, the winner of which supposedly won an iPhone 6. When you signed up for the “free” service, you were prompted to enter your bank details “for verification purposes”. What was only displayed in microscopic text is that the “free” period only lasted for three days, and that after that Funky Clock debited your bank account by £74 a month, from then until the end of time. They also took large amounts of unauthorised cash, sometimes into the thousands of pounds from subscribers accounts. No cheap iPhones, no deals – the whole thing was a massive scam. It would appear that many Internet Service Providers, notably including Virgin were duped into forwarding “Genuine offer” messages from Funky Clock to their subscribers, thus giving a veneer of apparent respectability to the confidence trick. This is a classic case of “if it seems too good to be true, it generally is”. After a massive amount of negative publicity, the scammers closed that particular operation, but did not close down altogether. They are now back with a new look, but the same nefarious purpose – to rob innocent people of their hard earned cash. You can see a screen capture of their redesigned website above - click on the image for a larger version.  Be warned – treat anything that says they are giving away high value items for next to nothing as a con until it can be verifiably proved otherwise (a very fat chance indeed). Unfortunately the criminals will continue such scams for as long as there are vulnerable people to fall prey to them. The Zuuvu scammers do make an elementary error on their deceptive website - they talk about the UK, but they mention prices in Euros - anyone with half a brain cell will know that the UK uses the Pound Sterling, not the Euro. Basic error and in its way, a giveaway to the whole fraud.  You have been warned.

Now that British Astronaut Tim Peake is safely back on Earth, I thought I would feature one of the educational projects he was working on whilst in orbit. He was very involved with encouraging school children to develop an interest in science and technology. This was promoted by a series of live video links from the International Space Station, and by pre - scheduled audio contacts via amateur radio.  The ten school contacts with Tim Peake on the ISS during his Principia mission have inspired thousands of young people and introduced them to amateur radio in a new and exciting way. The new video below celebrates these historic events and the range of linked activities the schools have enjoyed. Beginning with the exhilaration of the launch, it follows the competition for schools to host the ARISS contacts, and showcases the variety of science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM) and arts activities that helped pupils to understand more about space and amateur radio. The contacts themselves, often led by newly-licensed pupils, were the successful culmination of many months of work and anticipation. Leave a comment below, or Email me at


  1. I've noticed that most areas in Bexley are looking shabby. Things like:
    - Not applying weedkiller to pavements and kerbs
    - Not cutting verges and letting them run wild with weeds
    - Not picking up litter regularly, allowing it to build up (this encourages more littering)
    - Not replacing railings, sign posts and bollards which are knocked over in a timely manner, even if they have mains electricity going to them
    - The number of cars painted with adverts is increasing again
    This is almost certainly due to cuts to council budgets, while the government spends billions on failed projects, foreign aid, PFI, even printing leaflets about the referendum of which all are guaranteed to have been recycled by now.
    Not sure how it's going to be fixed, but one thing's for sure, it's going to get a lot worse if we don't do something!

  2. Hi Hugh

    Fascinating story on Sir William Anderson but do you know exactly where he lived in Erith? Is his house still there?