A family trip to Avery Hill

It is easy to miss delightful places on your own doorstep. Today, after Mass, two families from the parish went over to Avery Hill Park and suggested I join them for half an hour or so. The mansion at Avery Hill, once home to Colonel John North, is now occupied by Greenwich University. It is just across the eastern border of my parish, about a mile and a half from the presbytery. I did not know that they had a large Victorian greenhouse, home to a Winter Garden, open free of charge to the public.

Before getting to the greenhouse, however, there was that irresistible tree that could be climbed by young children:

Inside the Winter Garden, there was plenty to see, and a broom to play with...

Back home, I looked up some information about the greenhouse and found that it was the Winter Garden created by Colonel John North in 1890 as somewhere for his family to exercise in inclement weather. There are three rooms: a temperate house, a cool house and a tropical house. There are more photos at this entry on the Growing on the Edge Forum.

One of the people who looks after the plants told me that sadly the heating had broken down in mid 2006 and that it would cost about £1 million to fix it - Greenwich Council are trying to find funding for this. Many of the plants have died during the winter but if there is plenty of sunshine, many of them could still survive for a while.

In one room, there is a pond with a reclining statue of Galatea. A good place, of course, for little people to push and pull each other towards the water.

Sadly, the park has had its share of troubles from the breakdown of "social cohesion" in England. While waiting for the families, I had a cup of tea and a burger at the small café by the children's playground. Run by a very friendly chap, the café had information notices of various kinds, including the sad news that the present "building" (something like a freight container) replaced the former large building that had been constantly vandalised and finally burnt down in an arson attack.

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