Sunday, April 09, 2017

Clearing the bushes.

Over the last couple of weeks there has been much concern about the activities going on at Erith Riverside Gardens; this has mainly been brought on by the appearance of a tracked mechanical digger that I featured two weeks ago. The level of trust in Bexley Council is (understandably) so low that the explanation that the Friends Of Riverside Garden Erith (FORGE) and the council were working together to clear out the old overgrown bushes and vegetation in the Riverside Gardens to replace them with new and more pedestrian friendly bushes was not believed by some local residents. I have had a number of Emails from locals over the last couple of weeks, many of whom expressed suspicion about the works under way, and expressed the opinion that the council were trying to demolish the gardens "by the back door". I took the photos above on Monday afternoon, which show the gardens after the bush removal had been completed, and the digger has now been removed from the site. The next phase will be to plant new, smaller and visually less overwhelming bushes to replace those that have been removed. To my mind the gardens are looking better already. I am a very great supporter of FORGE and the Riverside Gardens, which I believe are the jewel in the crown of Erith, and are one of the most beautiful leisure areas in the whole of the London Borough of Bexley. Some may like Danson Park - and yes, it is very nice, but in my opinion it is overshadowed by the Erith Riverside Gardens, the only place in the borough where you can get access to the River Thames, and the famous Erith "Big Sky".

The News Shopper, whilst now a shadow of what it used to be, still does attract a lively bunch of commenters on its website. The trouble is that the comments are not really moderated with any level of effectiveness. Consequently there are a handful of “keyboard warriors” who troll multiple message threads. Three of the worst of these call themselves Nobby Knuckles, Gypo Joe, and the outlandishly monickered TheProfessionals1970TheRealAccountNotTheImposter – quite. These three, amongst a number of other lesser idiots continually throw insults at other contributors and generally do all that they can to annoy and irritate other people. The problem with online trolls of this nature is that people will rise to them – which is exactly what they want. The old expression “don’t feed the troll” still very much holds true. I don’t quite understand what thrills such trolls get from causing irritation and annoyance to other users of the website. Perhaps someone can enlighten me? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

Have you suffered domestic abuse? Would you like to meet up and talk to others who have? Bexley Women's Aid is a friendly group who get together and offer support, guidance or just a sympathetic ear to anyone who has or is in need of someone to talk to. Their group is informal and relaxed, and they would love you to join them whatever your circumstances. They also provide helpful information by service providers and welcome any suggestions for activities or social events. Please join them for a coffee and a chat in a relaxed setting. Tuesdays (term time) From 9.30 til 11.30am, Welling Baptist Church Hall, Axminster Crescent, Welling, DA16 1HF. Play area for children supervised by parents. For more information, they can be contacted on 0208 301 1536, or just turn up. If you are a man suffering domestic abuse please contact the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327.

A serious assault was reported to Police, which his being published here in case anyone can help. An incident occurred in the Upper Belvedere Recreation Park opposite the former water park in Woolwich Road. "On Sat/Sun 18th/19th March around 12.30 to 01.30 am night three adults aged between 19 to 22 years were attacked while in the park by 6/7 males. Of the attackers, one was Asian, others white males over 5.10" tall early twenties possibly, one about 17 years old all had been drinking. Attacked without provocation two of the lads and one female with them. Two of the youths were severely beaten with baseball bats, punched and kicked one was taken to floor and repeatedly kicked and punched and also both threatened with a knife by the 17 year old to the throat. One of the boys was my son, aged 21 years old who was taken to hospital with his friend suffering being bottled in the face, hit with baseball bat and punched/kicked, both suffered severe injuries and have concussion and my son has stitches to his head following being bottled in the face. So far no arrests have been made police are investigating attack. I have posted for help on Facebook and one lady says she witnessed lots of youths earlier in that night having a fight and police attended. One person has come forward anonymously linking them with the pub The Fox, Belvedere. The lady also said she saw them again later that night when my son and friend were attacked and has cctv she is willing to share with police. Any help with this investigation would be appreciated as my son still has bad injuries and his friend still severely ill. Belvedere Police Safer Neighbourhood Team can be contacted on Tel 020 8721 2050, Email"

Once again I regret to have to report on some very weak and lazy journalism from the News Shopper, a paper that is sadly a shadow of its former self, due to major financial cutbacks and staff redundancies. On Wednesday they were reporting that "One of the Islamic extremists who murdered soldier Lee Rigby has reportedly been moved to a ‘softer’ prison. Michael Adebowale, 25, and accomplice Michael Adebolajo murdered Mr Rigby in Woolwich in May 2013. Adebowale has now reportedly been moved to Broadmoor Hospital from the notorious Wakefield prison where he has been since 2015. Prisoners at Broadmoor cost the taxpayer £250,000, up to five times more than the price of a prisoner in a category A prison". Oh dear, it would appear that some basic journalistic principles have not been followed in this case. For example there is a lack of research and story verification - Broadmoor is not a prison. It is a secure, high-security psychiatric hospital. There is a vital difference - Broadmoor is staffed mainly by highly trained specialist psychiatric doctors and nurses, rather than prison officers. Because of its high walls and other visible security features, and the inaccurate news reporting it has received in the past, the hospital is often assumed to be a prison by members of the public. Many of its patients are sent to it via the criminal justice system, and its original design brief incorporated an essence of addressing criminality in addition to mental illness; however, the layout inside and the daily routine are designed to assist the therapy practised there rather than to meet the criteria necessary for it to be run along the lines of a prison in its daily functions. The Broadmoor complex houses about 210 patients, all of whom are men since the female service closed in September 2007, with most of the women moving to a new service in Southall and the remainder moving to Rampton and elsewhere. At any one time there are also approximately 36 patients on trial leave at other units. Most of the patients there suffer from severe mental illness; many also have personality disorders. Most have either been convicted of serious crimes, or been found unfit to plead in a trial for such crimes. The average stay is six years, but this figure is skewed by a few patients who have stayed for over 30 years; most patients stay for considerably less time. Michael Adebowale would only have been transferred to Broadmoor if he had extremely serious mental health problems which would have caused him to be a risk to himself or others.  Broadmoor is not a "soft" option by any standards, whatever the misguided reporter at the News Shopper might have its readers believe.

News of another local park has also come to my attention; the much missed former Splash Park in Woolwich Road, Upper Belvedere is due for some extensive work, which will mean that the park will be closed from April the 18th until the middle of the Summer whilst the works take place. The renamed Belvedere Beach Playground will offer a range of fully inclusive equipment, including sensory and educational play areas, as well as an interactive water play area. The new ‘Belvedere Beach’ park has been made possible thanks to funding from the Cory Environmental Trust in Britain (CETB). There is no way that Bexley Council would have funded the park refurbishment, it was clear from their initial announcements that they were intent on removing the much loved Splash Park, and only now that another organisation is footing the bill do they then take credit for it. I am aware that a certain local councillor said of local residents "Some malicious ill-informed idiots would like people to believe we planned to sell the park. That was a lie peddled whilst we worked hard to create a playground that will be unique and different with an educational and developmental bias including areas such as sensory play which is so important for many children. The result of all that hard work is Belvedere Beach which will be an exceptional facility targeting the needs of children with disabilities of one form or another. Bexley should be very proud of Belvedere Beach and ignore the sterile contributions of those in the Labour Party who lack the ability to welcome change for the better". This was a very cheap shot - turning a social issue into a purely political one. The Save Our Splash Park campaign was apolitical, and attracted supporters from multiple political parties, and people of no political persuasion whatsoever. The story that at one point the council considered moving the rides and communal play attraction from the main park on the opposite side of Woolwich Road into the Splash Park site, then selling off the main park, along with Belvedere Library was not just a rumour, I, and a number of other local people got the information from a reliable source. It would appear that someone in authority must have been rattled when the story got out last year, and some form of back pedalling took place. At least both parks would seem to be safe for the time being, but we need to remain vigilant.

Following on from my article two weeks ago about the automation of paying parking fees in Bexley, using a new service which is known as RingGo - with which you book your car park via a mobile phone application. When you come to park, you’ll have to provide the location code (a five digit number shown on signs near the parking bay) and say how long you want to park. RingGo can be downloaded or drivers can go online to to pay, however, a charge of 20p is added each time you use the service. A regular reader has Emailed me with this recent experience:- "I've just come back from Bexleyheath having failed to meet an appointment with an optician. I drove into the car park at the western end of the Broadway to discover that I could no longer pay parking fees by inserting coins. One now has to ring a number and use one's debit card. I could go along with that if that was an alternative to using cash, but it's apparently not. A notice board informs that there is a small convenience charge. I initially took that to mean "inconvenience"  and that I would be given a small refund. Silly me. On driving into the car park I was surprised to find that there were only about 6 or 7 vehicles there. Normally it's virtually full. There are a lot of pensioners and others who do not have a mobile, or a debit card. The Council's action means that, for a lot of people, myself included, Bexleyheath is now a no-go area. That should please businesses, not a lot. I am very angry at the Council's action. I suppose I should accept that we exist to serve the Council. Hopefully, the emptiness of the Broadway car park will persuade the Council that their new procedure is not good and cause them to use their common sense. They're not noted for that, though, are they? I've realised that in future, I can park at Asda for much the same level of car parking charge and make other visits to shops etc. as necessary. Asda will also, I'm told, refund car parking charges if I do some shopping with them, providing one spends £5 per visit. If enough people catch on then car owners and Asda, but not the Council, will benefit." I think that the reason that Bexley Council have chosen this time to put all of their car park fee payment online is to avoid having to upgrade all of the old parking meters to take the new design of £1 coin, with the associated expense that this would bring. The problem is that the new system does not suit casual parkers, or those without mobile phones. I think this is a case of unintended consequences; I do not think that Bexley Council have really thought the parking situation through thoroughly; time will tell. If you have experiences with the new system versus the old one, please leave a comment below, or Email me at

The Local Government Boundary Commission has proposed Bexley be represented by 45 councillors, 18 fewer than it has currently. Their report summarises the proposed cuts thus:- "The Commission has listened to local feedback on the proposals it originally published in February and has made changes its recommendations to reflect those views. For example, the Commission’s original draft proposals recommended combining Erith and Slade Green in one ward. Following local feedback and an extra phase of consultation, the Commission proposes a single ward for Erith to be represented by two councillors. Local people and organisations also told the Commission during consultation that its recommendation for a Northumberland Heath ward that stretched almost to the river was not an accurate reflection of community ties. The Commission has therefore amended its proposals for a Northumberland Heath ward that is smaller than the original proposal and provides a more recognisable boundary with Erith. In the north east of the borough, the Commission now proposes a Slade Green and North End ward as a better reflection of community identity than its previous proposal to combine Slade Green and Erith. The Commission’s draft proposals had also proposed to combine communities in North End with the Barnehurst area. However, in response to public feedback, Barnehurst is now included in its own ward to be represented by two councillors. Elsewhere in Bexley, the Commission received submissions that suggested that its proposed Crook Log and Brampton wards contained communities that shared local ties and interests and that they should not be divided between wards. The Commission has therefore changed its recommendations to combine the two areas into a single Crook Log ward to be represented by three councillors. In a similar way, local people and organisations contacted the Commission during the consultation phase to suggest that the proposed Belvedere Village and Lower Belvedere wards were a single community that should not be divided between council wards. The Commission has amended its recommendations and now recommends a single Belvedere ward, represented by three councillors, to cover both areas. In the south of the borough, the Commission has made a small adjustment to its proposals so that the shops at Wellington Parade are included in the Blackfen and Lamorbey ward rather than the Blendon and Penhill ward as previously proposed. Respondents told the Commission that this boundary would better reflect local identities and interactions in that part of Bexley. As well as further minor changes to the recommendations, the Commission has also responded positively to suggestions for amending the names of some its proposed wards. As such, Bostall ward is renamed West Heath ward and the proposed Christchurch ward becomes Bexleyheath".

News has been published regarding security vulnerabilities in a wide range of wireless PC keyboards made by eight different companies, which suffer from a vulnerability that can allow attackers to eavesdrop on keystrokes from up to 250 feet away. If exploited, the vulnerability, dubbed KeySniffer, could let an attacker steal passwords, credit card numbers, security questions and answers – essentially anything typed on a keyboard, in clear text. Keyboards manufactured by Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Kensington, Insignia, Radio Shack, Anker, General Electric, and EagleTec are affected, according to Marc Newlin, a researcher with Bastille Networks (a network security consultancy) that discovered the vulnerability. Newlin began to look into the security of wireless, non-Bluetooth keyboards shortly after Bastille disclosed research around Mousejack, a similar vulnerability he discovered in February of last year, that allows attackers to inject keystrokes into wireless mice. After purchasing wireless keyboards from a number of retail outlets, Newlin’s plan was to reverse engineer the devices, figure out their protocols and start looking for problems with their encryption. It turned out that eight of the twelve they tested – two thirds – didn’t have any form of encryption to begin with. “As soon as I had finished the initial reverse engineering process it was immediately clear that these devices were sending all the keystrokes in clear text,” Newlin said in an interview last week. Newlin claims the devices have three transceivers that were not previously documented. Keyboards from Hewlett-Packard, Anker, Kensington, RadioShack, Insignia, and EagleTec use transceivers from MOSART Semiconductor, while keyboards from Toshiba use transceivers from Signia Technologies. The keyboard from General Electric used an “entirely unknown” transceiver. Transceivers usually feature a combination transmitter/receiver but in the eight keyboards, there was basically no information on what the chips on the devices were, or how they worked. The undocumented transceivers forced Newlin and the rest of the Bastille Research Team to reverse engineer the physical layer and radio frequency packet formats before the data could be examined. All of the keyboards are currently sold in stores in both the USA and UK, as well as much of mainland Europe.  While some of the devices were designed years ago and have been on the market for some time, some were introduced as recently as 2015 or 2016. “We would have expected that more vendors would have started considering security more closely but unfortunately it seems like many of them haven’t,” Newlin said. Similar to the Mousejack vulnerability, an attacker could purchase some fairly inexpensive radio equipment from Amazon – Crazyradio a long range 2.4 GHz radio USB dongle that usually costs £20 to £30 – in order to eavesdrop on victims. After he reverse engineered the transceivers, Newlin was able to write firmware for another transceiver, the one in the Crazyradio dongle, that could make it behave like a dongle from the keyboards. Using that, coupled with a £40 directional antenna, just under £100 in equipment, he could sniff data from around 250 feet as well as inject keystrokes into the keyboard’s USB dongle. Unlike the Mousejack vulnerability, in which the user had to be actively using their mouse or typing on their keyboard in order to be identified, the keyboards’ USB dongles are constantly transmitting radio packets that allow the keyboards to find the dongles. “Even if the user is not at their computer or typing on their keyboard the USB dongle is constantly transmitting data wirelessly,” Newlin said, “that makes it easy for an attacker to survey a building, room or area and quickly identify all these keyboards that are vulnerable to this type of attack.” Bastille gave the manufacturers of the keyboards 90 days to address the vulnerability, but most vendors failed to respond to their findings. Newlin claims that only Jasco Products, a company that manufactures the affected keyboard (GE 98614) for General Electric, responded and claimed it no longer manufactures wireless devices, like keyboards. As there does not appear to be a way to actually fix the vulnerability, it is likely the companies will eventually consider the devices end of life. “As far as I’m aware there’s no way to update the firmware on these devices because they have the functionality that defines the keyboard logic kind of baked into the chip on the device. There’s no room, or at least minimal room for vendor customization,” Newlin said, “To my knowledge, there’s no way they can simply turn on encryption or anything to that effect.” Bastille is encouraging anyone using one of the vulnerable keyboards to unplug it and switch to a wired or Bluetooth enabled keyboard. While Bluetooth is not the most secure protocol, it is demonstrably more secure than those used in the eight keyboards. Both wireless keyboards and Bluetooth usually follow proprietary protocols that run in the 2.4GHz ISM band and can be subject to interference from other devices operating in that same band. Noted hardware hacker and security researcher Samy Kamkar found a way last year to passively sniff, decrypt, and record keystrokes entered on Microsoft wireless keyboards. By piecing together an Arduino controller and other assorted electronic bits, Kamkar created a device, KeySweeper, that looks like a USB wall charger but could easily be used for surveillance. The FBI in America issued a warning around the tool in April last year, but would not go on record that attacks were being carried out in the wild. While KeySweeper exploited a specific weakness in Microsoft’s encryption, Newlin’s KeySniffer research is scarier, because it is tied to the lack of encryption entirely. “It’s not even a matter of weak encryption, it’s simply a complete lack of encryption,” Newlin said recently. Also, unlike KeySweeper, which really only had the range of a Bluetooth device, any attack that leverages the KeySniffer vulnerability could be carried out on a much larger scope. Home users in blocks of flats, employees at office parks; anywhere that wireless keyboards are clustered together could be a ripe target. It is not the first time that wireless keyboards and mice have been the subject of hacking teams' attention. When the first research into the security of wireless devices was conducted back in 2009, scarcely any security was put in place - until the development of KeyKeriki. This device was designed to be small, so that it could be used surreptitiously in the target environment where it would log the key strokes for download and analysis later. "Consider this scenario. You are in your home office and logging into your bank account using your computer that has a wireless keyboard. Someone is outside your window (or has dropped the device there) and is logging your credentials. Or you are making a purchase and typing in your credit card and CVV number. Someone is getting all this information. Another scenario is if someone slips this device into their laptop bag and brings it to work. They can potentially log all the keystrokes from all the people in neighbouring cubicles." Since then, a number of manufacturers have improved the security of their wireless keyboards and mice - most notably Logitech - but many manufacturers, including some big names, still don't appear to have caught up. I suppose the message is, if you will use a keyboard without a cable, use a Bluetooth one wherever possible.

Whilst many parts of Erith are being redeveloped, and the face of the town is changing with almost every day that passses. It seems like almost every part of the town is being rebuilt - all except for one place which mystifies me greatly. The old Erith Pop - In - Parlour inn Cornelia Place closed down in 2010, and was sold off several years ago, but it remains empty and unused to this day. I have not seen a planning application for the site, and nothing seems to be known about it.  A chap called Lee Riordan submitted a Freedom of Information Request to Bexley Council way back in October 2015, which you can see here. In typical fashion, Bexley Council have ignored it completely, which is legally very dubious indeed. You can see a photo of it above - click on it for a larger view. If you know anything about what is planned for the site, either leave a comment below, or Email me at

The Dartford River Crossing is in the news once again - and for once it is not due to the ongoing difficulties with the Dart Charge system, though this continues to be problematic for many users. This time Dartford Councillor Tom Maddison, who represents Temple Hill, the Bridge and Newtown at Kent County Council, has demanded that the government to hand back cash made from the Dartford Crossing to improve roads in the local area. The call comes after Dartford Crossing’s annual accounts revealed the total income was up over £60 million to £161.6 million. in an interview with the News Shopper, Councillor Maddison said "Our roads are getting worse and that’s why it’s only fair that Dartford should get some of the cash generated by the crossing to fix these problems. I believe a proportion of that money should be ring fenced so it comes back to Dartford." What happens on the roads of Dartford impacts and affects the areas around it, especially Crayford, Slade Green and Erith. One only needs to see the large traffic jams that happen several times a week on Queen's Road, and almost always on a Friday afternoon, to realise that when Dartford sneezes, Erith catches a cold. Whether the government will be willing to share any of the revenues from the crossing I really do not know. The fact that local residents were originally told that crossing the Thames would be free once the tunnel and bridge were paid for, and that this has been conveniently ignored by the crossing operators for years.

The ending video this week is now a few years old, but I feel that overall it still stands up as a piece of short documentary making. It was put together by pupils at Trinity School - see what you think. Leave a comment below, or Email it to

1 comment:

  1. Hi Hugh

    The pop in parlour is set to be converted to flats with a planning application approved by the committee late last year. I wasn't a big fan of the scheme especially as it removes informal parking spaces and has one of the flats underground with only a small window for natural light.