Thursday, 26 March 2009

Kennington Park playground opening

I took a few photos at the Spring into Nature event that heralded the opening of the new Kennington Park playground. Now the playground is finished, the Friends of Kennington Park are moving on to looking at the possibility of a nature trail.

I was quite impressed by the number of stalls sponsored by Groundwork (a charity that tries to encourage communities in need to build sustainability). Here is a great bike from a Groundwork stall, which has been converted so that when you pedal it, it generates energy to blend smoothies:

Vauxhall City Farm had kindly dropped in and brought (amongst other animals) some llamas. They look quite cute and fluffy, but are actually somewhat fierce:

Finally, there was an excellent samba band from the London School of Samba:

Recycling and going green in Lambeth

According to an article in 24dash, Lambeth Council have just employed Susan Sheehan to be a "Green Community Champion Coordinator". Fortunately, that coincides with your host, the three wheeled one, attempting (with some neighbours) to encourage this little corner of SE11 to become a green space.

As many of you might know, whilst Lambeth Council offers an opportunity to recycle garden waste, they do not (yet) offer recycling facilities for green kitchen waste (peelings, orange skins etc). My fellow residents and I (or some of them, anyway) have decided to do our bit by installing a composter in our communal area (which is what the Council encourage here).

Surprisingly, well, it was to me, Lambeth Council offers all Lambeth residents subsidised compost bins of either 220 litres or 330 litres. Despite what it says on the Lambeth website, (and displaying an odd bit of Council ludicrousness) both the 220 and 330 litre bins cost £39 (at least according to a guy I spoke to from Blackwall). Unfortunately, at a composting seminar I attended a few weeks ago, the type of bin available, from Evergreener/Blackwall is the type that is not recommended for composting because, being entirely enclosed, it's difficult to "turn" in order to let the air flow through it. Apparently, it can also be difficult to get the compost out at the bottom. Consequently, I have sent an email off to our new Green Community Champions Coordinator asking whether Lambeth Council might be prepared to subsidise the wooden style composter.

Additionally, Lambeth Council don't subsidise wormeries. I've ordered a personal wormery from a different site, but it would be great to have a corporate wormery (which I'd be happy to look after), and Southwark Council once ran this offer in conjunction with St Mungos that I think has probably now finished. I could be wrong, it might still be going, but since I'm not resident in the Borough of Southwark, I can't access a subsidised wormery anyway. I'm actually quite tempted to have a friend write to our local councillor (I wouldn't want to reveal my secret identity) and ask about subsidising wormeries. What does everybody think? Is this an esoteric interest?

Oh yes, according to phone man, Lambeth Council also subsidises 190 litre water butts (£42.95, normally £47.95).

Because I'm a reponsible, civic-minded and "trying to go green" three wheeled one, I've asked our new Green Community Champions Coordinator what becoming a (presumably voluntary) "Green Community Champion" entails. As soon as I have a response, I'll let you all know in case any other readers are interested.

And just in case you wondered what else Susan will be doing, the article quoted above quotes her as saying:

"My role will be to give people practical help, inspiration and advice, whether it be helping them organise their first neighbourhood meeting, put them in touch with organisations that offer grants home insulation or solar panelling, or advice on how to set up a food-growing group."

I suggest that we all encourage her in her work by emailing her at or phoning her on 020 7926 6210 and asking how we might all go green. Also, she has set up a "farm" for all communities living on an estate in Balham. There's a website here.

Local area Tip Offs

I've received a number of comments on this journal recently which seem to give some local tip offs about various developments in the area:

a. Apparently Amici, which owns two restaurants in Kennington (confusingly known as "Amici" and "R Due Amici", has apparently leased/bought the now shutdown Franklins and will open a third restaurant. This tip-off is from an anonymous commentator who advised that the lady next door at Thai Ming (previously Thai Silk) mentioned it.

b. Commentator "John" asks whether anybody has tried Grand Union (burger pub/club) on Kennington Road (near the Imperial War Museum)? It has changed 2 or 3 times in the past few years. I haven't, but am contemplating visiting it at the weekend.

c. A number of people have commented favourably on Toulouse Lautrec restaurant (both on this blog, on London SE1 and in real life), but also noted that it's expensive. It probably isn't that expensive compared with its sister restaurant, The Lobster Pot, and also compared with central London restaurant prices. It is expensive compared with some of the other offerings in the SE11 area. However, to combat the expense (in these credit crunch times), we opted for a large Sunday morning brunch (croissants, french bread, scrambled eggs and salmon) as well as the very good French hot chocolate and excellent coffee (£14.00 total). I recommend it.

Does anybody else have any news on the cafe that was formerly Dippy Egg, formerly Jado?

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Very exciting - Google Streetview is live for London

I'm very excited... I've been waiting for this day for a few months. Google have finally gone live with their Streetview facility for London. I think that the SE11 photos were taken around July/August 2008. Let's take a quick tour around SE11:

Firstly, the assault course on Kennington Park on a lovely sunny day;

A trip to Cleaver Square. No boules as I presume it's midday on a weekday:

A quick visit to St Peter's church:

Before we nip into Chariots!:

Phhew, thirsty work! Time to visit the Dog House:

Let's go and get some exercise on Lambeth Walk Open Space:

And finally, how about doing the Lambeth Walk?

Sadly, there are a few "strategically" placed buses (I'm presuming accidentally, but who knows?) which means that a number of views around SE11 are missed. However, I've managed to find one of the slipway ramp next to MI6 that the photographers were caught on during (mentioned yesterday):


Wednesday, 18 March 2009

SE11 Cycle accidents

I really like the mashup of data that has been done by a chap named Tom Taylor on the number of cycle accidents in 2007 and their exact location. To put together this map, the government released some data co-ordinates from the police about where the cycle accidents happened in London, Tom Taylor turned these co-ordinates into grid references, and those references were then able to be displayed on a Google map.

The Times website have a giant cycle accident map, which I've grabbed a screen shot from. Predictably, the accidents that occurred in the SE11 area mainly seem to have happened on the large main roads. Also, we seem to have far fewer accidents in South London than in the area immediately north of the river. Is that because there are fewer cyclists in South London, I wonder?

Photographing SE11 - you're being watched!

I was obviously very lucky (or quick) when snapping my shots of the large numbers of of police who appear to have been lurking around Vauxhall bus station recently. It seems that there are some agencies who don't like to have their buildings (or even their surrounds) photographed.

To highlight the further liberties that the surveillance minded government is targeting, there's an alarming article in The Amateur Photographer about two photographers taking pictures of London by night.

Where were the photographers?
Apparently, they were on the slipway next to MI6. For those not in the know, there's a large downward slope from ground to river level, next to the MI6 building, used to access the river by (amongst other amphibious vehicles), the London Duck Bus (see helpful picture). I've never seen any other amphibious vehicles, but I suspect that if the US Embassy ever arrives in Nine Elms, they might bring some with them!

What happened?
The young photographers were swooped on by six armed police, who asked to see the contents of their cameras.

Why do we know about it?
Fortunately for us, the news editor of Amateur Photographer was passing walking by, and pointed out, in the article linked above, that there aren't any signs that say that one can't photograph London from the slip way.

Are the police allowed to search innocent people?
Ahh, that would be their "stop and search" powers, which have clearly become so invidious that the Home Office are having to draft guidance so that anti-terrorism legislation isn't used against photographers!

Given the large numbers of security related buildings and entrances in the SE11 area (as well as police stations and police buildings), this is a quick warning to those in the area that you might be stopped by police for taking photos anywhere!

For another curious M16 tidbit, the Disco Damaged blogger recently posted an article on some "door ways" on the corner of Auckland Street, which according to fellow readers, are also related to MI6. The Disco Damaged chap appears to have managed to successfully photograph the doorway without having his camera confiscated though, which just shows how one can manage to successfully Lurk about SE11 and escape detection!

Slipway / duck bus photo courtesey of Days to Amaze website

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Brixton shopping centre - saved

Readers might recall a news round up post, made at the end of February, in which I commented on my opposition to development on the top of Brixton market.

Well, there has since appeared some positive news. I spotted an article in South London Press which states:

DEVELOPERS have pulled out of controversial plans to build a tower block over a popular market...

But the South London Press can reveal LAP – which had been due to submit a planning application to Lambeth council this month – has pulled out of the project because of the economic downturn.

So, clearly, the threatened development over part of Brixton Market is not over for good, but it is less likely now that nobody has any money to invest. In the meantime, according to the South London Press, the development opposition are going to try to get the buildings housing the market listed! I'll report on anything else I see as it arises.

I really should make it clear, for the record, that I'm not opposed to all development. There are some areas and sites that would benefit from housing, shops, gardens, allotments etc. but I can't ever stress enough the need for sensitive developments, and I'm typically against the new development of high rise dwellings(anything above about 15 storeys) since I think they make the formation of community more difficult. For the record, I support the development of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre, as long as provision is made for some form of discounted units for existing traders.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Channel 4 umbrellas - quirky London stuff

I know it's a little bit outside of SE11 (even North of the river, shock horror), I love the new art installation on Horeseferry Road, in front of the Channel 4 Building:

As you can see from the photo (which has to be taken from across the road, to get the angle correct) it's sculpted entirely out of old umbrellas, and lit up, so that it's colourful at night. The author, Stephanie Imbeau, used umbrellas for the construction material because they are a universal item used by people in the UK, whatever their background. She, apparently likes to use items from hardware shops when designing, since they "give the materials a chance to be something other than what they were initially created to be, and it also helps me to explore my interests in the everyday and domesticity".

I'm persuaded, at any rate, and it's only a quick jog from SE11!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Police and immigration at Vauxhall station

There were about 50 Police / Community Service Officers and British Transport Police, plus one immigration official at Vauxhall at about 14:10 today when I passed through. Why might this be? Could the use of 50 policemen/women just to check oyster cards be described as "overkill"? And why an immigration official? Are they worried about people escaping from South London to Pimlico or something?

I might have been conservative in my estimates. If you click to enlarge the picture below, you'll see at least 25!

Another 6 or so officers in this one. The guy with his back to the camera has something like "Border Control Agency" on the back of his jacket in this one:

I ran away quickly before anybody stopped me taking any more photos. And I am aware of the irony of a surveillance society itself being surveilled :)

Monday, 9 March 2009

The cafe formerly known as Dippy Egg, formerly known as Jado, Kennington

The cafe formerly known as The Dippy Egg, formerly known as Jado in Kennington Road near Kennington Cross appears to have been leased. It is, at least, being refurbished and the counter/internal furnishings have all been removed. I saw workmen in there on Saturday as I peered through the gaps in the whitewashed window. I don't know what it's going to be!

Also, the launderette at 220 Kennington Park Road next to the funeral director on the corner has been gutted (all the washing machines have gone). I'm not sure whether it will come back, but it must be something of a blow for people without washing machines. There were quite often people in there.

Finally, I've had a spate of Googlings looking for an SE11 sex shop. I couldn't think what they might be referring to, until it occurred to me that they might be referring to the new place(Master U) on Kennington Lane. It technically sells leather bondage gear rather than being a sex shop (I'm sure you all wanted to know that), and I'm kind of assuming that it caters for local clientele :)

Spring is nearly sprung (hopefully) so it's time for gardening

Careful readers of the blog will know that I'm interested in cultivating rooftops and areas in which others might not have thought about gardening. I'm very interested in planting veg (and fruit?) in areas that aren't overly exposed to traffic fumes. I'm quite excited by an idea for growing tomatoes in old plastic bottles that I found on a website this weekend. I also sent off for a book on container gardening, since not actually having a garden can be something of a constraint and I want to branch out into vegetables! It must be said though, that the beautiful chilli plant, bought for £2 on Camberwell New Road is sprouting new chillies happily in the bathroom! I'm sure I'll still find some space for strawberries and tomatoes on the balcony though (which has the advantage that squirrels, birds and slugs don't have easy access).

Inspired by the enthusiasm of residents in Lambeth Walk / Old Paradise Street, who, according to the Prince's Ward Councillor blog (Labour administration), are attempting to investigate the possibility of a community garden, a weekend visit to the Museum of Garden history cafe (next to Lambeth Palace) and finally a quick wander down from the museum past a potential allotment site for the Museum staff, I've decided it's time to expand the gardening efforts from inside the flat (whose balcony is still beautifully decorated with winter flowering pansies and viola) to the wider area.

Since the weather is getting warmer and the evenings are getting longer (well, slightly), I've joined the Guerrilla Gardeners forum in a bid to attempt to enlist some willing guerrilla gardeners for the SE11 patch (and its surroundings). Plants don't much care about postcodes so it would be great to hear from any readers who would be happy to explore the area and venture a little further out to make the Kennington/Vauxhall/Riverside area a little more attractive...

C'mon, you know you want to do gardening in the middle of the night! :-)

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