I am a keen birdwatcher, something you will discover if you read this blog for any length of time. Every now and then I like to stroll along to the lake behind Morrison's Supermarket in Thamesmead Town Centre and see if anything interesting has flown in. Today however, I was met with this makeshift barrier blocking access to the lake from the car park and wondered what the point of this was; there was no notice on the barrier itself and the path was not blocked further along. It then came to me. For the last few weeks, a pair of Mute Swans have been wandering up from the lake and into the car park bringing their family with them, they would then sit themselves down in the middle of the road causing mayhem. Even the most hard-hearted "white van man" would hesitate to drive over a flock of baby swans. The barrier must have been put there to stop them getting from the lake to the car park. Let's hope it stops the crocodile.
While we are talking about birds, there is nothing like taking the kids to the local park or pond with a bag of stale bread to feed to the ducks. There can't be any harm in that, surely? Well actually, there can. There is no problem with just the odd crust or two but in a busy urban area lots of people are doing the same thing. As a result, they are likely to receive large amounts and this can cause serious problems for the birds. I have seen the whole area around the canal in Thamesmead Town Centre covered in uneaten bread which is then collected by flocks of pigeons and then, later on, the rats come out to feed.
If you want more information and advice on what to feed wildfowl have a look at this website http://birding.about.com/od/birdfeeders/a/feedingducksbread.htm
Now I want to talk about that sign which you may have seen around the canal in Joyce Dawson Way. I don't know who put them up as there is nothing to identify them on the signs themselves; for all I know, it could just be a prank by someone with a warped sense of humour. The top symbol on the left shows some sort of bird about to eat someone's hand in a circle with a line through it. Could make sense, I suppose. The lower symbol, showing someone staggering about looks more like a warning about customers leaving the nearby pub rather than anything to do with birds. Asking us not to feed the birds in the interest of health and safety is a good idea, but why not also include something about the possible harm to the birds themselves? I'm sure that most people who presently think that someone is just being a spoilsport would actually stop if they knew the harm they could be causing. Instead, the attitude seems to be, let's resort to the default 'threaten them with legal action' mode so favoured by officious types. It might help if the sign made any sense. Saying that you may be subject to a fine and reported to the appropriate authorities makes no legal sense at all. You can only be fined by a Magistrates' Court and only for committing a criminal offence. You would have to have been reported to an appropriate authority first for that to happen and what would you be charged with? As far as I am aware, Joyce Dawson Way is not a public footpath but privately owned. As such, you couldn't be fined for littering on private land although the land owner could sue you for damages if you create a mess which they have to clear up. I will have more to say about quasi-legal signs in a later post.
Local Death Traps
For my first death trap, take a look at the above picture. It features the entrance to Morrison's Petrol Garage in Thamesmead. To get into the garage, you have to turn right, into the path of traffic coming out of the car park around a blind corner. I have seen more than one accident there and there must have been several more. There is one of those convex mirror thingies on a post in the corner, if you manage to notice it. Judging by the number of accidents there, I guess not many drivers do.
This is the footpath leading from Bentham Road to the Gallion's Reach Medical Centre. I don't know who is responsible for the maintenance of this path but they clearly have no fear of personal injury litigation. A better example of 'an accident waiting to happen' would be difficult to find. I won't complain about the years, or even decades of uncollected litter strewn along both sides of the path. I have always maintained that if people didn't want litter all over the pavement, they wouldn't put it there in the first place. But the path itself is lethal, bearing in mind that, as it is the entrance to the medical centre, it will be used by people who are sick, infirm and possibly unsteady on their feet in the first place. Be very careful pushing a wheelchair along it, those uneven paving slabs will stop a wheelchair dead in it's tracks. I will be talking about the Thamesmere Drive bus stop later.
Last year, those of us living by the river were treated to a number of military exercises leading up to the 2012 London Olympics. We had Navy helicopters, Marine and Police boats all chasing and then boarding a Thames Clipper as part of the anti-terrorist defence. It seems that the Police thought this was so much fun, they are still doing it even though the Olympics has ended. I don't know exactly what they are planning for but I'm sure we can all sleep easier in our beds knowing that the Boys in Blue are on the case.
Thames Water are currently refurbishing the river wall by Crossness Sewage Treatment Works. Some of the brickwork dates back to the original Joseph Bazalgette era. A broad ledge the other side of this wall acts as a roosting perch for large numbers of wildfowl in the Winter as they wait for the tide to go out. Because of this, the work was all scheduled to end in September. The scaffolding is being removed now so it looks like it will be completed on time.