Sunday, June 14, 2020


I took the photo above last Sunday evening. The rather dramatic shot was taken from the riverside walkway that runs behind Morrisons in Erith; you can see the sun setting behind Erith Pier at low tide. This is an example of what I call the Erith Big Sky - one of the only places in the London Borough of Bexley where you can clearly see from horizon to horizon with nothing to obstruct the view; it is also the only place in the borough where you can access the River Thames - a unique feature that I feel we don't make enough use of.  What do you think? Drop me an Email to

This week is a landmark for the Maggot Sandwich. Today's update is the 800th edition of the Blog to be published since it went live in July 2006. It has been published without fail every Sunday afternoon since. Not a single edition has been missed in nearly fourteen years. Recently I have had some issues with the notification Email that has traditionally been sent to my core readership, and there have been a handful of Sundays where they have not received a note to say that the Blog for that week had been published. Nevertheless, the Blog has always been updated and gone live by around 2pm each and every Sunday afternoon. Interestingly the statistics I get from Google (who own and operate Blogger, the blogging platform that I use) show that my weekly posts are read by people all around the world. To date, my geographically furthest regular reader is located in Hobart, Tasmania; I have readers in Siberia (who spend their summers there, and their winters in Northumberland Heath) - other readers are located in Melbourne, Australia, Tokyo in Japan, and a host of other remote and exotic locations. I am led to understand that the average life of a Blog is around eighteen months, so fourteen years is not doing too badly. If you want to read some of my historical content, you can click on the button to the right of the screen which is labelled "Blog Archive" - this will bring a drop down menu of previous Blog postings arranged in date order - click on a date to read my previous content. A couple of long - time readers and contributors to the Maggot Sandwich have commented on the 800th edition; you can read their messages here:- "Without a doubt to have put out 800 blogs over a 14 year period for your area is an important milestone and one to be congratulated by myself as the stepping down Chairman of Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association who I have been involved with over a 10 year period and in that time we have appreciated the support given to us and our members in and around Erith. The highlighting of important subjects whether heralding an important project or pointing to crime issues has always been good for Erith, and deserves a massive pat on the back from all of Bexley Borough in appreciating the positive effect such a Blog has on a community. Also as an infrequent writer for the blog, when I would offer a “days gone by” article normally on heritage transport I was also pleased to see my efforts included and hopefully read by the many people who log onto Hugh’s Blog each week. Hugh Neal’s Blog-“Maggot Sandwich” reflects the fact that he really cares for his community and that should be applauded by us all". - Dana Wiffen - Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Another message came from one of my anonymous contributors, who writes:- "Thank you for producing the blog each week, you showcase so much of our borough's rich history and as such, the Maggot Sandwich is a rich source of education.  Here's to at least another 8000 editions and a CBE ;-)" Thanks for all of the positive feedback and very kind comments. The Maggot Sandwich continues. 

Manor Road in Erith was closed for over two hours on Thursday evening, and a large number of HGV lorries were stranded in the road for the duration of the closure. As you can see in the photograph above, Police closed the road after a young lad on a motorbike had collided with a car. Currently details of the collision are somewhat sketchy, but some information has become apparent. The bike rider - one of the local group that ride without helmets on bikes of very dubious provenance, collided with a vehicle which was turning from Manor Road into Alexandra Road, as can be seen in the photo above. The accident was serious, and the first responders called for the air ambulance, which subsequently landed in Morrison's car park nearby. A total of five Police cars attended the incident, and officers blocked the road, whilst accident investigators took measurements and many photos of the scene. When questioned, one officer said that in her opinion, the bike riders' injuries were potentially life threatening, hence the summoning of the air ambulance. The end video at the bottom of this update features video footage of the whole sorry event. Whether this incident will temper the activities of the local illegal bike riders, I somehow doubt that it will make any difference. What do you think? Email me at

A recent report from consumer advocates Which? highlights the shockingly short lifespan of "smart" appliances, with some losing software support after just a few years, despite costing vastly more than "dumb" alternatives. I have written in the past about Smart TV's and how their software usually goes out of support after a couple of years, but this time the issue is with a host of other types of device, including a multitude for domestic appliances. That lifespan varies between manufacturers: Most vendors were vague, with Beko offering "up to 10 years" and LG saying patches would be issued as required. Samsung said it would offer software support for a maximum of two years, according to the report. Only one manufacturer, Miele, promised to issue software updates for a full decade after the release of a device, but then Miele tends to make premium priced products for the higher end of the market. Over the past decade, an increasing number of appliances have offered internet connectivity, allowing users to remotely control them via a mobile device, or engineers to remotely diagnose problems. Some devices like Samsung's Smart Fridge Freezers include large touchscreen displays, allowing users to do tasks that would otherwise be performed on a smartphone or computer. These devices are, obviously, vastly more expensive. A smart fridge typically costs £855 more than one without a Wi-Fi processor inside. Smart dishwashers are £259 more on average, while smart tumble driers (don't laugh, they really exist) command a premium of £190. For consumers, that ambiguous (if not outright short) lifespan raises the possibility they could be forced to replace their expensive white goods before they otherwise would. According to the consumer watchdog, standard type ridge-freezers typically last 11 years. If a manufacturer decides to withdraw software support, or switch off central servers, users could find themselves with a big, frosty brick in their kitchen. In the wider "Internet of Things" world, there's precedent for this. In 2016, owners of the Revolv smart home hub were infuriated after the Google-owned Nest deactivated the servers required for it to work. More recently, Belkin flicked the kill switch on its WeMo NetCam IP cameras, offering refunds only to those users whose devices were still in warranty and had the foresight to keep their receipts. There is another cause for concern. Given that smart appliances are essentially computers with a persistent connection to the internet, there's a risk hackers could co-opt unpatched fridges and dishwashers, turning them into drones in vast botnets. In the absence of legally binding rules to ensure smart appliances remain supported, consumers would be well advised to stick to old-school white goods. They may lack some of the functionality of smart versions, but they will also last longer, be secure against hackers, and allow you to sleep more easily at night. Having said that, there is much evidence to suggest that a majority of UK home owners are less than impressed by smart devices and universal connectivity. It seems that the vision of the “Smart Home” is more than a few years away. A survey has recently been carried out by accountancy giant PwC shows that British homeowners are more concerned with practical applications and financial advantages rather than the need to be “tech-tastic” when it comes to smart technology at home. The majority of participants (72 per cent) were uninterested in making their homes smarter, and were not looking to buy smart appliances, renewable energy devices or automated cleaning appliances over the next two to five years. Research shows that they could be convinced if there were financial incentives such as reduced energy bills or free installation of smart energy meters or lights. Less than ten per cent of consumers were not bothered by pressure to keep up with tech-savvy friends and family with smart homes and were unimpressed with the ability to control devices through an app, possibly preferring to stride over and flip the switch themselves. Concerns were expressed over the security of certain smart devices, after the revelations a couple of years ago, that smart TV’s could be used by hackers to spy on individuals, by remotely activating the TV’s camera and speech recognition microphone. People seem to want simplicity and reliability over additional functionality, according to the report. One of the problems very few people have considered when discussing “The Internet of Things” as digitally connected domestic devices are often called is that of durability and lifecycle. Whilst, for example, a central heating system may last for twenty or so years (with a boiler swap – out halfway through), a smart phone with an associated app to remotely control the heating system has an average life of not much more than a couple of years. There is no guarantee that the app will continue to be supported on later version of the phone or tablets’ operating system, or that the app itself will still be available. Some years ago I did some in - depth research as part of my then role as a technical analyst for a multinational company. The research involved looking into the possibility of replacing some very expensive, proprietary interactive touch screen screens outside of office meeting rooms which showed who was using the rooms, and who would be in there next, with much cheaper Android tablets fixed to the outside of the meeting room. The Android tablet hardware worked out at less than one third of the cost of a proprietary screens, but the problem was that the company that provided the meeting room screen software could not guarantee that their code would carry on working for at least five years, and after multiple Android updates. The project ended up dead in the water because of this. I think that many similar situations may well arise in domestic environments, where a device such as a heating or lighting system with a relatively long life cycle is to be controlled by a tablet or mobile phone with a far shorter life cycle, and with software with a shorter life cycle still. I feel that much of the “internet of things” is actually a solution looking for a problem. What do you think?  Email me at

Slade Green Marshes were the location of a large explosion back in 1924 – here is a contemporary press account of the disaster:- February 19th: "The Slade Green Filling Factory, situated midway between Erith and Dartford on Crayford Marshes, was the scene of a terrible disaster yesterday in which eleven girls and a foreman lost their lives. Between 8.45 and 9 o'clock the girls were at their work breaking open Verey light cartridges and extracting powder. Suddenly there was a flash and in a moment that building ? of brick and corrugated iron ? was an inferno of smoke and fire. As the fire reached the cartridges they exploded, appearing like stars among the smoke. Eleven of the eighteen girls were trapped by the fire. Miss Charlotte Coshall, the forewoman and seven of the remaining girls managed to get out of the building, some with their clothes alight. The awful suddenness of the catastrophe and the smoke and fumes prevented any possible chance of rescue. The Slade Green Filling Factory was originally munition works under Government control but more recently has been used by Messrs WB. Gilbert Ltd for the breaking down of munitions. The factory consists of a number of buildings, all separate from each other and reached from Slade Green by a narrow winding road over the marshes. Close to it on the Erith side are the Thames Ammunition works. Some of those who escaped turned back at once but, finding it impossible to reach the unfortunate girls inside, rushed towards the gates of the works screaming for help. One eye witness said the foreman who died had tried to lift a girl through the window but the heat and smoke were too great and he fell back. When help eventually arrived only one girl was alive, Miss Edna Allen, and she was terribly burned. She was taken to Erith Cottage Hospital but died during the night. The inquest will be opened at Crayford tomorrow (Wednesday) and a memorial service will be planned later".

The drains in James Watt Way, outside of Morrison's have been playing up yet again - I took the photo above on Wednesday evening. The Thames Water drainage trucks are on site at least once a week, and usually quite a lot more frequently.  It occurs to me that rather than continually clearing out the faulty drains, that Morrison's would be far better off in getting the drains properly rebuilt - investment in new drainage infrastructure would be a far more preferable long - term solution in my opinion. 

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association, starting this week with a special announcement:- "From Grant Murrell, Chairman, Neighbourhood Watch Office - I would like to say a huge thank you to Dana Wiffen, my predecessor who has done so much for neighbourhood watch during his years as Chairman of Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Dana has been gradually planning to stand down from his role whilst ensuring a smooth transition. While I was Vice Chair it was an an absolute pleasure to work alongside Dana throughout his time as Chair. I have now stepped up, and I'm delighted to be surrounded by superb Committee members, I would like thank them all for the great work that they undertake. Professionally, I have worked for many years in senior management and as a business owner in the security industry and also in the personal & business development industry. I must add how grateful and proud I am of each and every one of you for all that you do, and in the way you have coped and adapted to life during this unprecedented lockdown period. The good cheer and creativity you have shown has been an inspiration to us all. As the lockdown continues into its twelfth week, may I wish you well, and please stay safe, be vigilant and keep smiling!" Now for the weekly ward reports, starting with Barnehurst ward:- "No burglaries to report this week however we have had a theft of a Honda PCX15 Black Motor Bike registration number LY19UJW from Appledore Avenue on Wednesday Wednesday 3/06/2020 between 18.40 and 19.45 hours. Two suspects were seen on CCTV riding a white moped, one of the suspects pushed the victims bike down the hill before making off. Both suspects were wearing helmets, one white and one dark navy or black.There was also a theft of a pedal cycle an Aprilia Shiva 750 in Bexley Road, on Friday 5/06/2020 between 01.00am – 08.50am. In Colyers Lane on Friday 5/06/2020 number plate VW53KEV was taken from the rear of a trailer. At the rear of Londis in Parkside Parade Northend Road LFB were called following a small fire to the rear of the shop. LFB confirmed there was minimal damage with no electrical fault. It's believed rubbish at the rear was set alight but quickly extinguished. Other news…Officers are out and about on pedal cycles as well as covering foot and mobile patrols to all hot spot areas". Belvedere ward:- "Last Wednesday the team were made aware of two abandoned cars in Manorside Close. Checks revealed that both were stolen and had been dumped for a few months. Both cars were removed to our pound and should be reunited with their owners. We were also made aware that on Monday 1/06/2020 there was a spate of theft from motor vehicle in Salmon Road and several attempts. We have conducted enquiries and have CCTV footage of two people in the early hours. If anyone has been a victim of car crime on this date and haven't yet reported please do by either calling 101 or on our website. On Friday we attended a call in Clive Road to a moped with no number plate being ridden around. We found the rider and the group but were unable to stop him. The group were dispersed. If anyone knows who this rider is please let us know. On Sunday 31/05/2020 a cats body was found in Fairmont Close and a head in Barnfield Road on the Tuesday 2/06/2020. It is unknown if this was an animal attack or not". Bexleyheath ward:-"It seems over a long period of time car park paying machines have been targeted along the Broadway area, 3 machines had been smashed so money can be taken from within. On the Tuesday 2nd June three males had tried to break into a van along Church Road Bexleyheath. Entry to the vehicle was got gained but damage was caused. This incident took place between 1145 and 1150 in the morning. On the Sunday 7th June there was a report of criminal damage to a property. A window was smashed using a brick along Long Lane, no suspects were seen. Also there has been no reports of any burglaries on the ward which is good news".  Crayford ward:-"There have been no reports of any burglaries over the last week. A vehicle along Beech Walk Crayford was broken into. Entry was gained via the convertible hood and a wheel clamp was also removed. Suspects tried to start the vehicle from breaking the ignition barrel but were unsuccessful. This incident had accrued over night from the 8th June to the 9th June and was discovered broken into the next day in the afternoon. On the Tuesday 9th June a report was received that number plates from a vehicle that was parked along The Marlow in Dartford had been stolen of the vehicle. Incident must of took place between 1200 midday and 3.55pm. On the Monday 8th June a theft of motor vehicle was reported Ridge Avenue Dartford between 3pm and 4.15pm. On the Thursday 4th June at about 0030 hrs, the victim had noticed an unknown male sitting in his vehicle as well as another male on a bike talking to each other. Suspects had left the scene when victim shouted, vehicle was not taken. This incident had taken place along Crayford Way Dartford". Erith ward:-"We have again been patrolling around on cycles covering ASB areas in Northumberland Heath and Erith. Weapon sweeps daily in locations identified as being crime hotspots. Good news no Burglary's this week in Erith, Bad news we have been still a high number of theft from motor vehicles. Please make sure you fully remove any items from your car when you lock it up at night. Don't leave anything on show Crimes of note. No burglaries in Erith this week - Theft from Motor Vehicle - Avenue Road. Theft from Motor Vehicle - Lesney Park Road". Northumberland Heath ward:- "This week the team welcomes our new PC Ali Suat. Over the next few weeks Ali will be out and about getting to know the ward, please feel free to come and say hi if you see him around. The team continue to work alongside the local authority ASB unit. We are concentrating our joint efforts around ASB in Streamway, Northumberland Heath Recreation Ground, Belmont Road, Wheelock Close and Steel walk. Officers are patrolling these areas when available . This has resulted in a foot chase in Northumberland Park were a male was search for drugs .Cycle patrols and weapons have also been completed. Further home visits have been conducted in relation to youths who have been identified as being involved in ASB. Good news, no Burglaries reported this week. We received information that some residents had their cars damaged on Northumberland Park, however none of these appeared to have been reported to police. Please do report these crimes, we cannot act on them or gain intelligence if they are not reported. Unfortunately there has been two reports of theft of motor vehicle . One on Horsa Road a silver ford estate VRM EY58VHR and from Sussex Road , white Peugeot van VRM RJ69KTK. Also a theft from motor vehicle on Emes Road were the suspect was recorded on the RING DOOR BELL removing the cashcam from the vehicle and taking loose change .Theft of car keys which were removed from a parked vehicle on Eastry Road while the victim went into his house and noticed her keys had been removed from the ignition. Officers also arrested a male wanted for a knife point robbery within Northumberland Heath. Barnehurst SNT have also assisted us with regular patrols with a number of stop and searches completed in Mill Road and Northumberland Heath Recreation Ground". Slade Green and Northend ward:-"PC Mark made an arrest enquiry on behalf of Thames Valley Police last Sunday and the male was home and arrested for an Knife Point robbery. Stolen items were also discovered at the location. In other good news, the CPS have decided to charge 2 males with various offences including Obstruction of police after really good work by PC Mark and James. A court date awaits. No burglaries or other crimes of note in the last week we are happy to report. Patrols and stop and searches continue across the ward. If there are any areas you would like to see more patrols please let us know and we will do what we can, when we can". Thamesmead East ward:-"Burglary - Howden Close Mon 8/6/20 2:30 am Victim states while sitting in the porch to the rear of the property noises could be heard coming from the front of the property. Victim opened the front door to the porch and saw 2 male suspects who had been trying to open the locked front door.. Victim confronted the males, there was a struggle between victim and male suspects. Victim sustained no injuries with both suspects running away immediately after. Motor vehicle crime - Sydney Road Weds 3/6/20 9am – Thurs 4/6/20 9am suspect/s unknown entered vehicle, no sign of forced entry, nothing taken. Drake Crescent Weds/4/6/20 2:30 pm – 2:54 pm Victim parked motorcycle at location on return it was found to be missing. An area search was undertaken by the victim, who was informed by a passer-by that two suspects were seen pushing a motorcycle. The motorcycle was found covered in branches by the victim. Yarnton Way - Fri 5/6/20 12:45 – 3:45 pm Victim reports suspect/s unknown have jimmied rear and side doors to vehicle and removed tools from inside. Overton Road Thurs 11/6/20 Victim states vehicle broken into overnight tools and purse removed by suspect/s unknown, no signs of forced entry. Theft from a person - Harrow Manor Way - Sun 7/6/20 11:35 am – 3:06 pm Victim was looking at bus timetable at the bus stop when a male suspect snatched the phone from victim and made off on foot. Harrow Manor Way - Tues 9/6/20 12:30 pm - 12:43 pm Victim was using mobile phone when a male suspect was seen loitering approximately 10 metres away, suspect walked to the bus stop timetable asking the victim when the next bus was coming. After walking to and fro over a period of 2 minutes suspect approached victim who was sitting in front of the time table, snatched the mobile and ran off in the direction of Sedgemere Road". West Heath ward:- "A quiet week on the ward with no burglaries and just one report of motor vehicle crime. A catalytic converter was stolen from a vehicle parked in Cumberland Drive on Wednesday 03/06/20 between 10.45 – 13.45".

As mentioned earlier in this update, the end video features footage shot during the closure of Manor Road in Erith on Thursday evening, after a youth on a motorbike was involved in a serious collision with a car. The accident was so bad that the first responders called the air ambulance to take the seriously injured bike rider to hospital. The fate of the biker is currently not known. Comments to

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