Sunday, 29 July 2012

Olympic Cycling Road Races

The first weekend of the London 2012 Olympics saw events right across the capital from the Aquatics Centre to Wembley Arena and Horse Guards Parade to Richmond Park. In Petersham many roads were closed for both the Men’s and Women’s Cycling Road Races.
 Local road closure notice attached to Petersham Meadows fence

Some local residents couldn’t even get out of their driveways and the herdsman had to walk to the Petersham Meadows each morning. The upside of all this disruption was two free Olympic events for both local people and many more who travelled from other parts of the UK or abroad.  
 Driveways blocked on Petersham Road

The men’s road race was held only six days after Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France and expectations were high for the first GB medal of the Olympic Games. However, it was not to be.
 Men’s Olympic Road Race passes Petersham Meadows

The women’s road race the next day was a different story. Lizzie Armitstead joined three other riders to break away from the peloton on the second climb up Box Hill. A very late sprint down The Mall saw Armitstead secure silver with Marianne Vos (Netherlands) winning gold.
 Police outriders herald the approaching cyclists

Women's Olympic Road Race peloton skirts Petersham Meadows

Friday, 27 July 2012

Olympic Torch Relay 2012

In the final run-up to the opening ceremony of London 2012 the Olympic Torch passed by Petersham Meadows not once but twice. Firstly, along the eastern boundary on Petersham Road and then three days late on the riverside down the River Thames.

On Day 67 of the Olympic Torch Relay the torch started in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and passed through Petersham on route to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, ultimately ending the day in Ealing. Hundreds of people lined the route with many more following on their bicycles.
A large group at the bottom of Nightingale Lane as the flame approaches
Torchbearers exchanging the flame

Bicycle entourage following the Olympic flame

Day 70 saw the last day of the Olympic Torch Relay from Bushy Park to the Pool of London before its final journey to the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium. At Hampton Court Matthew Pinsent lit a small cauldron on the Royal Row Barge Gloriana before 16 former Olympians rowed the flame down the River Thames accompanied by a flotilla of small boats.

 Local residents gather by the draw dock at River Lane
The Gloriana and flotilla of small boats pass Petersham Meadows

The Olympic Torch from Richmond Hill
Link to BBC Torch Relay

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Letter to the Richmond & Twickenham Times

Remove the electric fence

Sir – At the public meeting about the cows on Petersham Meadows on May 29 National Trust representatives gave two clear assurances.

They said they would meet with stakeholders to discuss further the controversial electric fence and they would be prepared to hand back the lease and the endowment to the council and Petersham Trust if this seemed the best way forward.

However, since May 29, not only have they not had the promised meeting, they will not even return emails and phone calls trying to set up this meeting.

All the indications are that the people at the National Trust have made up their mind to keep the electric fence and the lease, and are just going through the motions of being open to change.

We have been here before. Last year after a public meeting, where they were told that dogs were the problem, not the cows, they did agree with Richmond Council in September that a dog ban would be enough and that an electric fence was not needed.

Two months later they changed their minds.

Ever since then they have dug their heels in, claiming that there is a risk to the public from the cows without an electric fence.

The fact that almost no one agrees with them only results in a stronger push to show that they know best.

I am deeply disappointed that an organisation whose prime purpose is to protect our national heritage is so arrogant and intransigent.

The meadows are now in a worse state that any time I can remember in the 45 years I have live here.

The National Trust must be close to a breach of its lease obligations to maintain the meadows properly.

Only two solutions are acceptable to the community and the council.

Either the National Trust get rid of the fence, if necessary after a trial period to demonstrate that there is no significant risk without it, or it surrenders the lease and gives back the very generous endowment. The council and the Petersham Trust on May 29 said that they were prepared to take this on. And the overwhelming majority of the public support this.

Hopefully common sense will prevail, and they will open the dialogue promised at the public meeting.
Arlington Road

Friday, July 13, 2012

Monday, 16 July 2012

The National Trust: Guardians or Vandals?

At the second Public Meeting in May the National Trust stated their aims for the Petersham Meadows

• To protect, conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the meadows

• To increase the public enjoyment of the meadows and encourage access to them

• To continue to graze cattle on the meadows

They also pledged to keep the local community informed and set up a website with this specific aim:
In less than a year weeds have taken over the Petersham Meadows

What has happened in the last seven weeks? Yes, the cows are still here but continue to be segregated from the local community by the disfiguring electric fence. The fence has been moved twice resulting in ugly clear cut strips and an unsightly patchwork to the once beautiful view from Richmond Hill.

 Ugly clear cut strips and an unsightly patchwork

The National Trust seems confused as to the history of Petersham Meadows. What the National Trust call biodiversity is simply uncontrolled weeds. Spotted Medick (Medicago arabica) has taken hold of the eastern section of the Meadows and Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) a plant containing toxins which are debilitating or fatal to grazing animals if eaten has re-appeared after the previous management eradicated it. The Ragwort Control Act 2003 imposes a duty of responsibility on landowners to effectively control Ragwort and prevent it from spreading onto grazing land. The local National Trust manager has recently asserted that Petersham Meadows, formerly called Cow Field, looked like this in the past when it was a hay meadow. A little art history reminds us that it was not Claude Monet who painted the view from Richmond Hill but Turner (1819), Knyff (1720), etc. showing cows and not haystacks.
Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)

 Large thistles dot the meadow

 Spotted Medick (Medicago arabica) has already set seed

The last remaining milking parlour in Greater London had a section of lead stolen this winter. We have just experienced the wettest spring on record and the roof remains unrepaired with water continuing to undermine the timber roof sections.
Damaged Milking Parlour Roof

Additional signs now grace the entry points further defacing the Meadows. The information is obscured either because they are poorly positioned or covered by vegetation. 

Signs at the entry to the Petersham Meadows

 Sign obscured by leaves

Access to Petersham Meadows continues to be restricted by the electric fence which also blocks the ancient footpath from River Lane to Buccleuch Gardens. Tall vegetation has further deterred the number of visitors from enjoying the Meadows unlike previous years. Dogs off the lead are however hidden from the eyes of the herdsman or volunteers by the height of the grasses.

Ancient footpath from River Lane to Buccleuch Gardens
blocked by the electric fence
The new National Trust blog for Petersham Meadows is still devoid of any entries which is understandable as good news is a little thin on the ground. The Olympic torch will pass the Meadows twice next week; Firstly, along Petersham Road and then down the Thames. This will be followed by two days of Olympic cycling bringing the spotlight of the world to this world famous view as the competitors sprint along the eastern boundary. 

Mark Cavendish cycling along the Petersham Road and the view eleven months later

 Weeds dominate the boundary fence with the Petersham Road