Thursday 1 December 2016

The steps at Enderbys - and the whole issue of the riverside path

The riverside path along by Lovells and Enderbys is apparently closed - more of that below.  

First of all - the steps at Enderbys.  There are two jetties at Enderby Wharf and between them are some steps going down into the river.  These steps were a sort of ferry terminal where a row boat or a launch met people who wanted to go out to a cable ship moored out in the river.   They covered over a medieval sluice - Bendish Sluice.  The 500 year old sluice - there four years ago - has now vanished, presumably removed in the building work.  But the steps, hopefully, are still there.

Some twelve or so years ago the environmental charity, Groundwork, spent a lot of public money doing up all sorts of improvements to the riverside path on this stretch.  There were trees, and flowers, and seats and artworks. They got the companies with factories along the river to pay for it and sign maintenance agreements,  Then the companies sold up and went and the developers moved in.  All that planting and seats were trashed.

However - the Enderby jetties are still owned by Alcatel (or whatever their new name is) and artifacts remain on the big jetty - and - and - the art work on the steps.

Here's what Carol Kenna of Greenwich Mural Workshop who was responsible for the installation says about it:-

The steps were installed part of works conducted along the East Greenwich Waterfront identified within the Groundwork ‘Vital Centre and Green Links” initiative.The programme was delivered by a team comprising Groundwork Thames Gateway London South, Royal Borough of Greenwich, Alcatel, Amylum UK Ltd, The Environment Agency and  Thames 21, advised by Deptford Discovery Team and Greenwich Mural Workshop.The project cost £20,000 for the steps and Alcatel agreed to clean them periodically to remove algae. This was part of £8,175,000 awarded to Groundwork for the Vital Centres and Green Links programme.
The works were financed through the SRB programme and contributions from Alcatel and Amylum.
Enderby Steps were an initiative by Greenwich Mural Workshop sculpted by sculptor Richard Lawrence. The intention was to refurbish the historical steps that had lead to the landing stage that enabled shipmen to land from the large ships moored off shore waiting to be loaded with cables.
The sub structure of the steps were found to be sound and new steps, made from Opepe wood fixed to concrete beams fixed with stainless steel rod. There are 17 steps in all, plus a wooden floor attached to a concrete raft. Opepe wood is a very durable Marine Hardwood, commonly used for sea defences.
Following research into the history of Alcatel and the industries of Greenwich Peninsula designs were produced and carved into the steps and decking to illustrate the history of the area and its importance in the development of telecommunications in Greenwich. The steps were carved and installed in 2001. Alcatel, Dr. Mary Mills and local people all contributed towards the research
The steps were conceived as one of a number of works in the area including the developing Enderby Wharf as a public open space illustrating the history of Alcatel including the placement of a cable repeater, retention of the cable winding machinery and explanation boards.

So what has happened?  Problem is we don't know.  A couple of weeks ago Enderby Group picked up that there was a plan for a (very necessary) storm drain to outfall through the old medieval sluice. - and there were other things agreed, for instance a reed bed.   They asked if the contractors were aware of the art work - and have lobbied and rung and tried to contact anyone with any influence.  We will let you know when we find out.
The other problem is that we can't get down the path to look and see what is going on.  The path was closed by the Environment Agency at the request of one of the developers.  The Council have, apparently, tried to get them to agree to a shorter diversion - but this has fallen on deaf ears.    The next problem - as raised at a recent EGRA meeting - is that once the current problem is sorted, the next developer along can raise something else with the Environment Agency and get the next bit closed - and the next - and the next --

They can't shut it for ever - it is a right of way, ratified in a Kent Assize judgement of 1875 and reinforced by a judgement of 1999 when the Council took a developer, further down, to Court.

But - and this is a big but - what will be revealed when it is finally opened.  Will it be the same sterile promenade we have everywhere else.  It isn't just the art work - its the general ambience and the vitally important historic framework.  

A few more things - and then the obligatory quote from Ian Nairn.

One is that any decisions about the path have to go in front of the Council who can comment on them - we need to know that they are properly briefed

Two is that all these big planning applications to the Council are followed by a blizzard of small ones - 'reserved matters'  they are 99% boring nit picking details which for various, usually good, reasons, were not in the main application. Decisions on drains and path ways et al will be buried in that somewhere. Look at them - read through the paint colours and site safety regulations and the size of the wheel washers - and find the path

We need to work out if we are serious or not about visitors. What do we want from this area which is so historically important. Do we really want to trash it??

OK - so here's Ian Nairn, TV architectural commentator and major stirrer  - he wrote this in 1966

This unknown and unnamed riverside path is the best Thames- side walk in London. It beats all of the embankments and water- gardens hollow. Best in this direction, because then the walk has a climax: the domes of Greenwich Hospital beckoning round the bend of the river, and a splendidly unselfconscious free house, the Cutty Sark. The entrance certainly takes some finding: to get there, fork left facing the southern entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel with its pretty Art Nouveau gatehouse. About two hundred yards along, on the left, a passage leads down beside the Delta Metal Co. It zigs and it zags, but it doesn't give up, and eventually comes out at the river. The start is now a sizeable belvedere, but the path soon takes on much more exciting forms: between walls, or unfenced above a slide down to the water, or wandering past timber wharves, under cranes and in one case nipping around the back of a boat yard. Never the same for a hundred yards at once, a continuous flirtation with the slow- flowing river, choked with working boats. The first houses come in at the Cutty Sark (Union Wharf): then there is a final exciting stretch past Greenwich Power Station and the astonishing contrast with the Trinity almshouses next door, another good riverside pub (the Yacht), and the climax of the footpath in front of Greenwich Hospital. Not just a walk, but a stressed walk - mostly by accident. God preserve it from the prettifiers. The Enderby Group has been working on ideas for the area around the path and Enderby House. All will be revealed in due course.
    'They' are trying to close it. Walk it as you would a country path, till they are sick to the guts"


Anonymous said...

I have just been down to the river. The path is accessible from the north and then blocked off at the Enderby sales office, so one can see the steps and jetties from as close as we ever could. There is no barrier at all at the northern entry to the path. No work has been started on steps or jetties but there really shouldn't be as the consultation period on the marine licence extends to December 12th.

Mary said...

Peter - thanks for that - by the way - I am putting down a public question about the riverside path to the next Council meeting.
Lets see how we get on.

David Riddle said...

Is the Liner Terminal progressing, or on hold?

M said...

David - that is something we would all like to know!

Anonymous said...

The Steps (and Causeway) will have been replaced several times over the years, but are almost certainly where the steps used by crews of gunpowder boats were in the days of the Gunpowder Magazine (1695-1760s). And possibly before that for a small ferry across the Thames. There is a distinct channel in the foreshore where the Bendish Sluice discharges into the Thames, giving low tide access at that point to small boats.