Sunday, November 07, 2021


Last week I made quite a discovery; after having lived in Erith for 25 years, I thought that I knew the local area pretty well, but I was proved wrong. I had occasion to attend a meeting held in Slade Green and Howbury Community Centre and Library, I had never visited the community centre before. If you are local and travel along Slade Green Road, there are a number of relatively new houses and apartments that are designed in a pseudo Neo Georgian style; I have passed by these dwellings on many occasions and never thought anything more about them. What I did not realise was that there is a huge, very discreet and well - hidden housing estate of which I was completely unaware. The estate, which is located in and around Rainbow Road in Slade Green, is a very upmarket residential area which in many ways reminds me of some of the residential parts of Canary Wharf. Looking at the types of cars parked outside the apartments and houses, it is obvious that the area is pretty wealthy compared with other parts of Slade Green. A preponderance of nearly new Mercedes Benz, Porsche and BMW vehicles were present. The estate is vast, poorly signposted and with what I consider to be unsatisfactory levels of street lighting at night. I found navigating to and from the community centre somewhat of a challenge, as there are few street signs. The place is something of an enigma - I imagine that unless you actually live there, or use the community centre, you would quite probably have no idea that it even existed. What do you think? Email me at the usual address -

If you are a regular reader, and are on my mailing list, you will receive a weekly Email notifying you that the Blog has been published each Sunday afternoon. Over the last five weeks, mailing list members with a BT Internet, BT Openworld, BT Connect, or Email address will not have received the usual Email. The reason for this is out of my hands I am afraid. For reasons best known to themselves, the BT domain has blocked Email sent by me from my regular address as Spam. I have spoken to BT technical support about this issue, but they tell me that they can only act if a BT Email user logs a technical support call with them. BT customers, can you please log a call with technical support and tell them that I am not a Spammer please?

I was watching a documentary on the Smithsonian Channel last week; it featured the World War II bombing of the UK - "The Blitz" - the documentary film followed not just the bombing of London, but other major cities around the UK, including Manchester and Coventry. This got me thinking; the local area was heavily bombed at that time, but what amazes me is that not more wartime bombs are found during local building works. During World War 2, the areas both North and South of the River Thames were heavily bombed, almost to the end of the war. Not only did the area house many war related industries and manufacturing facilities (and thus legitimate bombing targets), but the river itself was used as a main navigational pointer towards London. After all, as long as a Nazi pilot could navigate across the English Channel and find the Thames Estuary, all he then had to do was follow the river until he came to London. A bit of a giveaway really. An interesting and somewhat quirky historical fact related to the wartime bombing came to light a good few years ago when I was having some work done to install a new garden fence. My builder had to dig holes for the new fence posts; he had brought a compact electrical Kango breaker drill with him. After more than an hour of drilling, he had only made a relatively small dent in the ground. Frustrated, he disappeared for half an hour to visit a local plant hire shop. When he returned, he was armed with an enormous breaker that looked like it could take out a main battle tank at five hundred metres! Even with this vastly more powerful tool, it still took him an hour or so to drill half a dozen holes. It turned out that the bottom of my garden had a layer of reinforced concrete well over eighteen inches deep, which covered an extensive area. It turned out to be the roof of an underground, wartime bomb shelter. After some research at the Bexleyheath Local Studies Centre, I discovered that the cast concrete Mulberry Harbours which were floated over the channel to aid the 1944 invasion of Normandy were constructed on the River Thames at Erith (hence the local road named “Mulberry Way”). Many of the workers who constructed the harbours were former brick workers (prior to the war, Erith’s largest product was building bricks, which were exported all over the world, and helped to build the Empire).  The concrete to construct the harbour elements was imported from the USA by ship, and local labour mixed and poured it. During the war, the maximum thickness of concrete permitted for an underground air raid shelter was four inches, as concrete was under ration. Apparently the workers would take wheel barrow loads of mixed but still liquid concrete home to reinforce their shelters – and this is what my builder had discovered! From what I can gather, the management turned a blind eye to the practice, and it was regarded as being a perk of the job. I can understand management allowing this – after all, your workers are not much use if they have been blown up by a bomb. An interesting local story.

I took the photo above on Thursday afternoon - it shows the commemorative, captured Russian cannon located in the centre of Welling. Click on the photo for a larger view. The explanatory plaque on the cannon is now inaccurate and out of date. It states that the cannon is on loan from the Royal Artillery Firepower museum in Woolwich. This is incorrect, as the museum closed back in 2016, and the exhibits are now in long term storage until a new museum in the Royal Artillery's current home in Wiltshire can be sourced. I presume that the cannon has been forgotten in the meantime. 

Something rather unexpected and certainly unwelcome has happened since the various Covid-19 lockdowns took place. A family of drugs (or more accurately a series of chemically very similar synthetic compounds) that were banned back in 2016 have made a dramatic return to common use by drug abusers. It in known by a generic name - Spice - which in turn was named after the fictional drug featured in the "Dune" novels and movies. Spice is extremely powerful, and users are mainly those who are homeless, suffering mental health issues (which drugs commonly make worse) and prisoners. Generally the most vulnerable members of society. Spice is actually a generic name that refers to a whole class of medicines called synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists, which control functions as fundamental as sleep, appetite and libido. These drugs were developed in medical research labs, but the formulae were hijacked from research literature and sold as “legal highs” in the first internet drug craze of the late 2000s. Every time the UK tried to crack down on it, a new variant – usually more potent, often more toxic, and always more obscure – has been developed to take its place. There are now dozens if not hundreds of synthetic cannabinoid mutations now available. The UK finally banned it and all variants in 2016, but that only made its sale more profitable, and supply has stayed level, with the previously mentioned recent peak. Professor Harry Sumnall, a member of the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), said in an interview that the economics of producing the substances – often collectively dubbed “spice” – versus that of growing traditional cannabis made them an appealing proposition. Sumnall said the ingredients were easily available online. “We were making some in the lab the other day. Very, very easy to do, pretty much shake and bake. Really easy to make, highly profitable, these drugs aren’t going anywhere.” Spice is now sold on the streets for £5 for a 0.5g bag. Spice users can be in grave danger. Synthetic cannabinoids, when abused, can cause tachycardia, hypertension, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, seizures, memory changes, somnolence, respiratory depression, acute anxiety, psychosis and death. The potency of these chemicals outstrips that of most recreational drugs, often by a factor of 100: an active dose of street heroin might be 100-200mg and a typical line of cocaine might contain 75-100mg, but most variants of spice are active at just 1mg, making accurate dosing impossible. After 2016, Spice use dropped in most parts of the UK - but not in prisons - because it is easily smuggled, does not have a characteristic odour like Cannabis, and can easily be mixed tobacco to make a roll - up cigarette. It is said that smoking certain types of Spice can cause time to appear to pass more quickly - something desirable for many of those who are incarcerated.  Spice is made in China and imported to the UK by criminal gangs, who dissolve the powder in acetone and spray it on to herbal matter such as damiana - a wild shrub that grows in Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies. The volatile solvent evaporates, leaving the plant matter infused and ready to smoke. The chaos seen in city centres in recent years, with smokers sprawled out on benches or paralysed on pavements, was caused because batches of the drug vary wildly in strength and content: one might contain a 1:100 mix, while another could be as high as 1:10 – meaning a single draw on a joint might incapacitate users instantly.While the dangers of spice and other “novel psychoactive substances” are at the forefront of public consciousness, the numbers of people seeking treatment for their use are minuscule compared with those presenting with problems from using traditional cannabis.

Darryl of the excellent 853 Blog has had a bit of a scoop recently; he published a story in respect of how TfL is open to extending the DLR further from Thamesmead to Abbey Wood. You can read his fascinating story by clicking here. Whether this will actually take place is somewhat open to debate. 

Work on the former Belvedere Police Station site is now finally close to completion. What is interesting is that the block of flats was originally going to be almost all sold to purchasers, with only a small number of apartments available for affordable rent. This has now changed, as the block is now under the ownership of Moat Housing Association. The upper of the two photos above was taken by me last week, whilst the lower photo - click on either for a larger view - was taken by me of the old Police Station back in 2018, prior to its demolition. The formal decision to close the Police station and sell it off was started back in 2013. The document which proposed the closure of Belvedere Police Station stated:- "In 2013 MOPAC carried out extensive consultation on both the draft Police and Crime Plan 2013-16 and the proposed local police estate and public access.  In respect of Bexley this highlighted that Belvedere Police Station was not suitable to be retained in the longer term as it did not meet operational requirements. The site was to be retained until alternative accommodation for both the operational teams and the contact point could be provided. Operational teams currently in Belvedere Police Station will be re-located between Pier Road in Erith and Bexleyheath Police Station. More agile working practices and an element of investment is necessary to achieve this arrangement. The Contact Point is proposed to be re-located to Asda in lower Belvedere. Upon the above re-locations the Belvedere Police Station will be disposed of. The sale of Belvedere Police Station will generate a capital receipt which will be used to support the MOPAC/MPS Capital Programme. The disposal will also generate annual revenue savings of £83,000. The investment to achieve the change is estimated at £8,000, and will be met from within existing MPS budgets. The report confirms the recommended option represents the best option that will support the delivery of a leaner estate which is lower in cost to run and is fit for purpose complying with modern standards, and will therefore assist MOPAC securing the maintenance of the Metropolitan Police Force, and ensure that it is efficient and effective, as required under Section 3(6) of the Act". In essence, Belvedere Police Station was shut and sold off to save the Metropolitan Police just £91,000 a year - only a little more than is paid to employ a single Chief Superintendent. As any local resident who attended the exhibition and presentation held by the developer in the All Saint's church hall prior to planning permission being granted, the developer's representatives said that the new apartment block would be of the same height and ground footprint as the Police Station. As it is abundantly clear from my photos, the new building is far larger in every respect, and certainly affects the light in the area around the junction of Woolwich Road and Nuxley Road. What do you think? Email me at

Recently I wrote about the introduction of E10 petrol, and the potential changes that it might make to motorists; it would seem that many of those changes have indeed already happened - including one issue that I felt was going to have negative effects on many motorists. E10 petrol contains a higher percentage of renewable fuel - bio ethanol - meaning that it is better for the environment due to the lower levels of carbon emissions that bio ethanol fuel additives generate. Despite it being greener than existing petrol, it' is not working for every road user with a number of people reporting issues. One of the main problems with E10 petrols is its lower energy density than conventional unleaded petrol - the bio ethanol additive. In practical terms, modern vehicles' engine management systems will automatically adjust the fuel / air mixture and advance or retard the ignition timing to keep the power output level that same as before - at the expense of increased fuel consumption. The Department for Transport's Introducing E10 petrol study confirmed drivers would experience lower fuel economy under the new E10 grade. They confirmed fuel economy may drop by up to two percent using the new compound, but they said this was ultimately down to the “driving style” of motorists. The revelation came after concerns were raised by a quarter of private individuals in relation to fuel economy in the consultation. Drivers questioned about the changes warned this could “mitigate emissions benefits” and could have a “cost impact”. The DfT said: “We have considered the impact on fuel economy and decreasing MPG, which is due to the lower energy density of ethanol compared with fossil petrol, when developing our proposals". According to the RAC, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) claims the energy content of ethanol is around 33 percent lower than Unleaded. This means vehicle fuel economy may reduce by around three percent when using the new fuel. A number of drivers have reported suffering from fuel efficiency problems when using the new fuel.

Last week Essex Police issued a statement regarding electric scooters, which holds true for the whole of England. The statement reads:- "With 7 million adults already looking to buy either an eScooter or an eBike and with Christmas rapidly approaching, we are set to see even more of these two-wheeled electric vehicles on our roads and pavements. However, there are some serious considerations to make before you buy. Unless you are using an eScooter as part of an approved local hire scheme, it is illegal to use one in any public place including paths, cycle paths and parks. Essex Police may act against you if caught contravening the law in this way, especially if riding dangerously. If you get more than a warning it could mean up to 6 points on your driving licence and a fine of up to £300. Legal eScooters are limited to 25 km/h (about 15 mph) so if yours goes above that speed you are more likely to be injured or stopped by the Police. Trading Standards officers are doing what they can to ensure that imported eScooters are safe and don’t present fire or electric shock risks, but there’s no guarantee that poorly designed or made models won’t get through to shops and online selling platforms. Take care who you buy from, and don’t make assumptions about quality and safety based on price. Don’t accept anything without an approved (e.g.BSI) UK 3-pin plug, and always carefully follow the charging instructions. Never buy an aftermarket battery or charging set unless it’s certified as compatible for your make and model. Batteries that fail to hold charge are a leading cause of customer dissatisfaction with eScooters".

Live music venues are slowly opening up after the various recent lockdowns; the photo above (click on it for a larger view) shows excellent early Genesis tribute band Los Endos, playing live last night at The Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford.  

The end video this week is a short guided nature walk through the Slade Green and Crayford Marshes - an area of outstanding natural beauty, and full of fascinating wildlife. Please send comments and feedback to me at

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