Murky Depths

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Greenwich

Major changes to Greenwich Park could be approved soon

One of the busiest parts of the park

Some major changes to Greenwich Park are before Greenwich Council’s planning board on 1st September as part of a £10.5 million project.

The planning application gets teeth gnashing by describing the park as being in east London. It’s branded as Greenwich Park Revealed and took a step forward after the awarding of £4.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund earlier this year.

One of the biggest changes involves work on the slopes leading down from General Wolfe’s statue beside the Royal Observatory.

Looking up

The plan is to remodel the area offering views across London. Trees will be planted on new embankments and others removed opening up the view to and from the Royal Observatory. The idea behind it is to do so because it was like that 400 years ago – before the steps collapsed.

Park masterplan (click to enlarge)

No more sliding down here in the snow, and don’t expect easy access to the newly created steps. Well, they state people could still sledge down but it wont be the same. The plan states:

“To sustain visual connectivity but regulate physical access, railings will be installed at the foot of the escarpment.

Public access to the Grand Ascent will be granted but will be periodic and an
operational matter for the Royal Parks”.

Greenwich Park as it is showing slope

A chance to charge visitors perhaps or stage events on the steps and area at the top of the hill?

The idea to alter the slope into “giant steps” has rumbled around for a long time but it is revealing how quiet the Royal Parks are about it. There is no clear visualisation in the Design and Access Statement.

Red circles indicate trees to be removed. Steps seen on left

In fact, it’s hard to find out much about the plans at all. A Royal Parks website that used to include information is now offline.

The plan states:

“The intention is to restore the layout of six giant grass steps suggested by the
Woodlands Plan and to align this with the outer tree avenue running south
from the Wolfe Statue to Blackheath Gate”.

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Ten parking spaces nearest the statue will be removed alongside nine trees to create more space. 13 new trees will be planted.

One Tree Hill:

The planning application states changes to improve access in this part of the park located in the north west of the site:

“Access to One Tree Hill is currently restricted by sudden changes of levels and cross falls on the main access path. A new dual footpath is proposed with one footpath giving access to the platform through a short flight of steps and a longer circular path taking a more gradual approach.

Render in planning document

Stopping points will be installed on the access footpath. Two trees of poor quality
will be removed from the escarpment, enhancing visual connectivity to the
boating lake to the north and the hill. New signage and interpretation will be
installed to present and explain the view from One Tree Hill and its historical
contexts.”

A controversial element is removing trees. The plan states:

“Visitor dispersal is a key objective for Greenwich Park Revealed. The escarpment facing the hill is currently over-stocked with trees, many of which are in poor condition or which are likely to succumb to disease.

Removing poor quality trees will enhance the health of better-quality specimens and forge better visual connectivity between the hill and footpaths running along the northern boundary to the site. This connectivity will be enhanced by planting on the edge of One Tree Hill.

The principal tree on One Tree Hill be unaffected. The current bench seat
with its distinctive inscription will be restored and retained.”

Vanbrugh Lodge

Part of the project appears to be to gain extra revenue. One way to do this is to create a cafe at Vanbrugh Lodge which seems a decent idea. It states:

“Vanbrugh Lodge is currently a small three-bedroom house that is owned by The Royal Parks and rented out. It is proposed to convert the existing house into a small cafe to serve the users of the park at the south-east corner, an area that doesn’t currently have any catering provision either inside the park or in the area immediately surrounding it.”

Transport

Royal Parks recently announced the closure of through traffic which followed on from plans submitted in February 2020.

Blackheath entrance

The application states that 74 per cent reach the park on foot and 26 per cent drive into the park, and so “51 parking spaces will be removed as part of the Greenwich Park Revealed project to enhance public realm quality at the northern end of Blackheath Avenue and at Blackheath Gate”.

There are a number of other changes proposed including the removal of some paths, alterations to others and work on educational facilities. You can view plans here.

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12 Comments

  1. Simon Garson

    It is all well and good. However, what will happen to anyone who needs disabled access, i.e. disabled car parking. Also if you park in designated parking at the Blackheath end how will you be able to go down from General Wolfe’s statue. Psrhaps a path or a designated lift will be useful.

    • Chris L

      There has been a ramp to one side for many years. It is steep.

      Nobody in a wheelchair would attempt to roll down the slope.

    • CDT

      Simon as part of the Greenwich Park consultations I wrote about disabled people using the park and people with other underlying health conditions like heart and lung conditions. As these people would find the walk from the Greenwich entrance of the park to the Royal Observatory and up to the Blackheath entrance of the park very difficult as the walk is pretty steep.

      I did suggest that a electric wheel chair accessible mini bus could run through the park every 30 minutes during park opening hours so disabled people could continue to enjoy the park. I suggested it started at Greenwich Station and go through to Blaclkheath Village/Blackheath Station to link with other bus routes for disabled people who do not have the use of cars,

      I thought it could have been a joint venture with the Royal Parks and Greenwich Passenger services or another local private coach operator.

      As it is important that elderly and disabled people are not excluded from enjoying Greenwich Park.

  2. Jack

    To go down from the Blackheath end to Greenwich, the last thing you would do is go via the statue if you are disabled. You’d use the road that cars use which has a footpath either side, or use one of the other footpaths in the park.

    There is no need to provide a lift, the maintenance and cost of it, just makes it not worthwhile and if you are going to Greenwich Park, you tend to go to enjoy the wider park…

    Reducing levels of parking in a CPZ area has its benefits, will reduce people going there by car.

  3. Jon

    Wow. Over 100 trees being planned to be removed from either side of Queens Field. Why?

  4. Matt w

    Considering the amount of money being spent i would have thought that cycling could have been enhanced with a few paths upgraded and the archiac rules of no cycling anywhere except the road being relaxed a little. Maybe a east to west section and a circumference path to enable a few more options to avoid the busy roads nearby Happy for any enhancements in general tho

    • Ned

      Can’t us itinerant pedestrians have at least one place to stroll quietly without the impatient breath of the Lycra brigade on our necks? Cyclists are starting to come across as rather self-centred and sanctimonious lately with no consideration for bus users, pedestrians or people with mobility problems in their constant demands. There is a route through the park for cyclists already I believe – it shouldn’t be a racetrack for cars or bikes.

      • Tom Harris

        I have to reiterate those comments. Since finding myself struck down by a frustratingly annoying health condition I have found myself repeatedly harassed by cyclists even though I try not to be an obstacle. Please think – people may be meandering slowly not because they want to but that they have to. There’s space for us all if we have the patience.

  5. Steve

    Instead of spending vast sums of money on stopping all traffic in the Royal Hill and Hyde Vale area, perhaps a proper cycle way should be built through the park, as most who cycle to the City or Canary Wharf areas in London go through the park, then the foot tunnel and through to the City and never touch the surrounding roads.

  6. Ray

    We had a tree planted when my dad passed away to the left of general wolf over thirty years ago I hope it not one that will be removed

  7. Yogesh Sharma

    @Ray – I would suggest that you email both Royal Parks at Greenwich (greenwich@RoyalParks.org.uk) and also their Head Office (hq@RoyalParks.org.uk) to remind them of the importance of that particular tree to you and your family and ensure it’s preserved.

  8. BoB-Bobbidybob

    I wish they’d bring back the old Park Keeper constables. They really knew the park and cared about it and we’re better ambassadors for the park than the Met Police.

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