Sunday, October 09, 2022


I took the two photos above - click on either to see a larger version - on Wednesday of last week; workers were putting the finishing touches to the stonework of Erith Pier Square. The small park is almost a year late in completion, and has undergone several delays and setbacks, including the original contractor leaving the job not long after work originally commenced. Recently the new contractor failed to water the garden during the heatwave, and many of the plants - including some rather expensive trees - died as a result. Some of the dead trees have yet to be replaced, as you can clearly see in the photographs. 

Now - a request for information; I have been informed that the permanent traveller site located opposite the recycling facility in Thames Road, Crayford appears to be empty and unused. Has the site been vacated? If so why and how? If there is another reason the site currently appears unused? All information will be treated in the strictest confidence. Email me at

Back in the 1980's, the Ford ferry from Lower Belvedere to the Ford car plant in Dagenham was in regular use; I can recall that several school friends had relatives who worked at the massive automotive factory, and who used to do the twice daily commute across the River Thames to go to and from their place of work. The ferry became a minor local landmark that had started back in 1933 when the Ford works was a relatively new creation. It used to make up to fifty trips across the river every day; each trip would take a little less than ten minutes, and many commuters found it to be invaluable. Ford paid the ferry costs, and the free trip was considered a perk of the job for Ford workers who lived on the South side of the river. When Ford ceased to make complete cars at Dagenham back in 2002, they converted the factory to make engines and gearboxes which were then transported to other Ford factories around Europe to be installed into vehicles made elsewhere. Ford senior management then decided that in order to cut costs, they would terminate the contract with the ferry operator. There was a great deal of opposition to this move, and it took a further two years, and a court case before the ferry service stopped running in February 2004. A free bus service was subsequently laid on by Ford, which had its pickup point in Nuxley Road, Upper Belvedere. This bus service then used the Dartford Crossing to get to Dagenham, and was regarded by its users as slow and unreliable when compared with the ferry service. Now the Ford factory employs far fewer people than it did in its heyday, and it does not dominate the local area in the way that it once did.

One increasingly common problem for railways all around the UK is not down to any kind of technology; more down to biology. A non - native, aggressively invasive group of plant species, which are taking over railway cuttings and causing all sorts of problems.  It is called Buddleja (or Buddleia), a green leafy bush with purple flowers. Also known as Butterfly Bush because of the attraction to it from butterflies, it grows in any crack or crevice it can find. It destroys walls and masonry with its' roots as well as underground power and signalling cables. Once established, it can be very difficult to eradicate. You can see Buddleja plants at pretty much every railway station and by every trackside in great profusion. Buddleja plants grow very quickly, overtaking native plant species, and they are very hard to destroy effectively. Buddleja plants produce a large number of seeds (up to 3 million per plant per year on a large bush) that are dispersed by the wind and can spread to a large area in a short space of time. Like many invasive species, Buddleja does not have the biological controls that affect native plants and is, therefore, able to grow unchecked. The size of a Buddleja plant varies depending on the location, however, it is common for the shrubs to grow up 5 metres tall. The leaves of a Buddleja plant are dark green with serrated edges. If you look closely, you will find very fine hairs on the underside of leaves and the stem. The flower heads of mature Buddleja plants grow in long tapered clusters, typically purple or violet in colour. The flowers have a peppery fragrance and it is rich in nectar, making it a very popular choice for with insects. Once Buddleja begins to grow, its root systems can weaken any materials as they can grow through masonry and brickwork. This means Buddleja has the potential to cause costly repair bills or even render a property unsafe/unstable/uninhabitable. If the Buddleja is growing on the riverbanks it can cause major erosion as it spreads and dies off. This invasive plant was one of the causes of the extensive landslide in Fraser Road that blocked the pavement for several weeks back in 2018. The land was only stabilised after extensive (and expensive) specialist contractors were employed by Bexley Council's highways department to make good the damage caused by a combination of a Buddleja infestation, and drought caused by the heatwave causing the soil to dry out and shrink. Buddleja is considered to be detrimental to the biodiversity of sites due to its vigorous growth, outgrowing native plants and outcompeting them for natural resources. This is especially problematic alongside river banks where dense strands of Buddleja eliminate other plants leaving the banks susceptible to floods and erosion. Please feel free to Email me at

Thanks to a regular reader and occasional contributor, who chooses to remain anonymous, here are a couple of architects impressions of the new development which is scheduled to be built opposite Bexley College in Walnut Tree Road, and across the road to the Old Carnegie Library - home of The Exchange. The development will be built on the piece of long empty waste ground which historically was once the location of Erith Tram Shed, which was demolished back in 1976. The developer, Flanagan Lawrence descibes the site thus:- "Won in Competition, this scheme for BexleyCo Homes will provide 60 homes of mixed tenure. The site is immediately adjacent to Erith Station and directly opposite the southern entrance to the adjacent College. An east, west orientated route from the Station opens towards a view of the Grade 2 listed Library. The plan form cranks away from Bronze Age way to create an acoustically attenuated garden for the residents, whilst the building form steps up to follow the contours of the site to create a new street façade opposite the Town Hall".  It strikes me that this new development will mean that the adjacent underpass linking Erith Station with the town centre, which runs underneath Bronze Age Way will have to go. Flanagan Lawrence describe themselves  as "an award-winning, design-led studio of architects and interior designers, based in London. Our practice has continuously expanded to develop extensive and collective expertise across a broad range of public and private sectors and building typologies. We have experience of designing for residential – private, BTR, affordable, Prime – commercial, hospitality and leisure, cultural and master plan projects. Our creativity directly translates into the fresh and progressive designs we create. Through a method of rigorous exploration and evaluation of concepts, ideas and detail, our innovative designs are both creatively compelling and commercially effective. Dynamic teamwork, both internally and externally, ensures we provide timely, effective and transparent information. Our contemporary, energy efficient designs are well planned and detailed and take account of the everyday needs of the people who use them. Our architecture is varied in its language but consistent in its ambition to place people at the heart of each project. We don’t assume that the way something has been done in the past makes it inevitably right for the future and so we spend time with our clients developing the brief and ensuring that the maximum potential of a site is realised - to the benefit of new residents, the existing local population and the client". 

It used to be a relatively common thing to see Internet cafes in most high streets. Erith has had a cyber cafe in the former solicitor’s office in Cross Street for several years. It seems that they are becoming an endangered species though. Rather than go to a cyber cafe to log on using one of their computers, most people now will have a laptop or tablet, and will merely look for a local coffee shop or fast food outlet like McDonald’s that offer free wifi access to their customers. It would seem that this “value added” approach will break down the Internet cafes’ business model – mobile computing devices are nowadays so ubiquitous that the provision of bulky fixed desktop PC’s has become outmoded.  I can see exceptions to this though; I note that Internet cafes are still popular in areas with a population that is predominantly composed of low income, transient residents. I can see the attraction – if you don’t have a lot of spare cash, and are not likely to be around the area for very long, you are unlikely to want to invest any money in a computer which may only work on UK voltage – cheaper and more convenient to keep in touch with the folks at home by paying a couple of quid to use someone else’s computer for an hour over a cup of coffee. This seems to hold true both in Erith and Plumstead, despite both towns having large and wifi enabled McDonalds close by the cyber cafe. I would be interested in others’ views on this.

Following my article about the demonstration which took place in August outside of Bexleyheath Library by members of extreme right wing fascist group Patriotic Alternative, I have been researching some of the views and policies of the far right, I came across something rather interesting; The name “Nazi” was meant as an insult when it was first coined. If someone called Hitler a Nazi, he would have been offended (admittedly briefly, before the name caller was taken away and shot). Hitler was the head of the catchily named “Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeitpartei” – which translates as the National Socialist German Workers Party. When Hitler invented this name, he apparently did not think it through very thoroughly. Hitler’s political and moral opponents soon caught on to the fact you could shorten Nationalsozialistiche to Nazi. Why would they do this? Well, because Nazi was a very old and unrelated term of abuse in the German language. The standard butt of German jokes at the beginning of the twentieth century were stupid Bavarian peasants; just as in the past, Irish jokes always involved a man called Paddy, so Bavarian jokes always involved a peasant called Nazi. The reason for this is just as Paddy is a shortened form of Patrick, Nazi was a shortened form of the very common Bavarian name of Ignatius. This meant that Hitler’s many opponents had an open goal; He had an extreme right wing party that was filled with Bavarian hicks, and the name of that party could be shortened to the standard German joke name for Bavarian hicks. At first, Hitler did not know what to do about the derogatory nickname “Nazi”, and it was a source of embarrassment – at least until he got into power, when he and his evil cohorts persecuted their opponents. Those that managed to avoid the concentration camps ended up fleeing Germany; refugees started to turn up all over Europe in the pre WWII years, where they understandably started complaining loudly about the Nazis, and pretty much everyone who was not German got the erroneous idea that this was their official name. To this day most people go round believing that Nazis went around calling themselves Nazis, when in reality they would have probably beaten you up, or worse for saying the word!

The following article is reproduced from content supplied by UK National Neighbourhood Watch:- "You may have heard of Neighbourhood Watch or seen their logo on street signs and neighbour's windows. But do you really know what they do? The first groups began in the UK 40 years ago in response to a spate of burglaries in areas across the country. They were the voice of communities working with the police to make criminals' jobs harder. But that was 40 years ago. Today you will recognise their name and see their signs on streets, but do you know if they are 'still a thing'? And if so, do you know what they actually do? John Hayward-Cripps, CEO of Neighbourhood Watch Network, said, "It sounds cliché but what we do today really is very simple. Just as we always have, we help people feel safe and connected. John continues, "We do this through our incredible army of volunteers embedded within diverse communities across England and Wales. I'm talking about your nan's best friend, your corner shop owner, your neighbour, or your dog walker. They are the people on the ground caring for their community and making a difference. They are an integral part of  all our neighbourhoods, which means they know the unique things in their neighbourhood that need to happen to help people feel more connected and safer; and that is how we have remained a constant in people's lives despite enormous changes around us over the past 40 years." In some communities, Neighbourhood Watch volunteers still remain the bridge between the police and the residents; in others, they are the community organisers arranging street clean-ups or get-togethers.; in others, they are a vital source of information supporting people to know where to go for help or how to keep themselves safe. Whilst exactly what they do varies depending on what is needed, Neighbourhood Watch volunteers all have one thing in common: a desire to make things better. Neighbourhood Watch groups, such as in Keyham in Plymouth, were integral in supporting their community through a violent shooting. Groups in Cumbria are integral in the county’s flood responses and in targeting rural crime, and groups in Oxford are honing in on bike thefts. Groups in Peterborough, Gloucestershire and Kent are focusing on tackling drug dealing, and Surrey Heath on reducing car crimes. Whilst each Neighbourhood Watch group uniquely support their neighbours, streets and towns or villages, they also work as one body to respond to crises on a national scale. Most recently, they helped communities through the relentless covid-19 crisis and now the threat of the cost-of-living crisis. Volunteers are supported by the national body, Neighbourhood Watch Network (NWN), which this year celebrated Recognition Awards with over 3,000 volunteers – 43 of whom had been volunteering for 40 years. NWN provided 8,000 hours of training and support to volunteers and developed new and strong partnerships, with Deliveroo, to deliver safety training to 3,000 of their riders. They joined forces with Airbnb as part of a safety alliance, and delivered an award-winning Neighbour of the Year campaign with Co-op Insurance and a new Student Watch safety initiative. They ran a joint burglary campaign with ERA, and partnered with Avast to roll out their Cyberhood Watch initiative keeping people safer online. Their digital campaigns on burglary, antisocial behaviour, scams, cybercrime, car crime and dog theft reached over 3 million people on social media. John Hayward-Cripps, CEO of Neighbourhood Watch Network, said, "We are proud of our achievements but couldn't have done what we have without our incredible volunteers. We want to say a massive thank you to every Joe, Dave, Sonia, Martin, Chris, Gill, Daisy, Arif, Derek, Violet, Maggie, Kardaya, and all those whose names are too many to mention for making a difference to people's lives. We are making this a better place to live. Together." To learn more about the difference Neighbourhood Watch is making in people's lives, visit

Following my mystery question as to the location of the Ella Henderson video "Heartstrings" which I featured last week, this week the mystery is solved - as you can see below. The majority of the music video was filmed on location in Christ Church, Victoria Road, Erith. This week is a "making of" video which goes behind the scenes during the location shoot. Comments and feedback to my usual email address at

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