… and on the left wearing blinkers, passengers from the 0931 from London Bridge

StraightsmouthWhen Woolwich Arsenal football club relocated to the Emirates stadium in 2006, my immediate thought was that this would, at last, provide a reason for Drayton Park station to exist. It hadn’t exactly been a huge distance from the old Highbury stadium, but it was within a hopeful upfield punt of the new one – Theo Walcott could make it from the platform to the club shop in under a minute if he didn’t unexpectedly go to ground on the corner of Whistler Street claiming his right ankle had been clipped by an imaginary Dutchman.

Except, of course, he couldn’t. Because Drayton Park station is closed at weekends. And, when Arsenal play midweek, they close it then too, just in case people start looking at maps and using their initiative. Young Theo won’t have much luck at the next-nearest station either because, although Holloway Road is technically open on matchdays, only westbound trains stop there; which, unless Theo lives in Wood Green, which I’m not sure he does, isn’t much help. And, even if he does – or in Southgate or Arnos Grove – he couldn’t get back there afterwards, as Holloway Road is exit-only when Arsenal are at home. Otherwise… well, people might try to use it.

Similarly, the nearest station to Wembley Stadium is the suggestively named Wembley Stadium station, which nestles snugly against the arena’s southern flank. It’s on the fast line out of Marylebone – TfL could run a non-stop one-stop shuttle whenever there were big matches on. Or, alternatively, they could pretend it’s not there and tell fans to take the Underground to Wembley Park, then walk half a mile down Olympic Way – it’s further, and puts extra burden on the Tube, but so what? It’s not like they’re running a public service, is it?

I’m bringing all this up because, like a lot of people round here, I recently trolled off to Devonport House to look at the plans for Our Olympic Summer and find out for myself exactly what we should expect when SE10 gets invaded by hippophiles hungry for a bit of al fresco dressage and cross-country in the park.

And, if I’ve got this right, the gist seems to be that, from June to September, we should all stay indoors with the curtains drawn and, if we’re absolutely forced to leave the house to buy more tinned goods, should do so in a strictly clockwise direction. Otherwise, Greenwich town centre could witness scenes not seen since the fall of Saigon. Oh and Cutty Sark station will be closed in case, despite all the announcements, people try to use the end set of doors in the front and rear carriages. And Straightsmouth, a cute and cottagey street just behind St Alfege’s church whose front steps are right on the pavement and which is too narrow to take standard-size dustcarts or deliveries from IKEA, will be renamed Olympic Way and lined with hot dog stalls and men selling knock-off T-shirts featuring pictures of Zara Phillips staring daggers at Mike Tindall.

It all seems a bit of an over-reaction. Train maps and bus maps are freely available throughout the city, and since 1936 Londoners and non-Londoners alike have been able to buy, from all good bookshops and without an introductory letter from a GP or other professional person, something called an A-to-Z. Can we not just let people use their own common sense? Because, frankly, if they genuinely can’t find their own way out of a DLR carriage, or to a large park within ten minutes’ walk of three mainline stations, two light-rail stations and a dozen or so bus routes, should they really be allowed to be in the vicinity of horses? They’re temperamental animals. And if there are queues at the station, so what? People could wander off and find a nice pub or do a bit of shopping – it’s not the end of the world.

Because that’s another thing. Despite having our park hidden behind two-metre-high fences for most of the summer – the woman at Devonport House reassured us that these would be completely opaque, which seemed to rather miss the point of the question – and despite not even getting any tickets in return, we’re consistently told that the whole borough will benefit commercially from the sporty influx. But if visitors are going to be forced to walk along a strictly marshalled route away from the High Road and then through the Naval College grounds before entering the park via a footbridge over Romney Road, then it doesn’t sound like there’s going to be much opportunity for them to be distracted by Noodle Time or to pop into the Mitre for a swift half of IPA.

Sebastian CoeI’m most worried about this new one-way-system for pedestrians, though. Because, unless I’m completely misunderstanding it, once I leave our front door, I’m only going to be allowed to turn right. Which is going to be really disruptive, because I have a routine. Every morning, once I’ve showered, I make a pot of tea, then walk to the newsagent’s to buy the paper; by the time I’ve returned, the tea is nicely brewed and ready to drink. But next summer it looks like, once I’ve bought the paper, bright-eyed young people in day-glo are going to divert me up Greenwich High Road in the general direction of Deptford Bridge; which means that, when I finally make it back to the house, the tea will be stewed. I suppose I could pop into Puccino’s coffee shop in the station, as that’s en route, but… it will almost certainly be closed, in case people are tempted to use it. So… I really don’t know what I’m going to do. Does anyone know if the Premier Inn or Novotel do breakfasts for non-guests? Or am I going to have to book a room?

The whole thing’s going to be an absolute nightmare.

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4 Comments on “… and on the left wearing blinkers, passengers from the 0931 from London Bridge”

  1. Mary Smithers says:

    I remember once going to Westcroft Sports centre to play squash and a comedian was on stage in the main sports hall. This was curtained off so you could only see him if you had paid for a ticket. However, walking through to the squash courts we could still hear him. I recall he wasn’t very funny.

    The moral of the story is this – though you may not be able to SEE the equestrian event – you will of course be able to hear the horses.

    • Matt Haynes says:

      The thing is, Mary, this all assumes there really are horses in there. If we can’t see them, and we’re not allowed to interact with any of the “spectators” (does anyone know anyone who’s got tickets? Exactly.) to ask them what it was like, how do we know there’s anything actually there, bar a few loudspeakers playing crowd and horse noises? Have you never seen the Wizard of Oz? Or footage of the so-called “moon landings”? I rest my case…

  2. Steven way says:

    Its bloody Cameron isn’t it, out of your door and you can only turn right……

  3. Jezza says:

    I used Drayton Park only recently for a mid-week Rumbelows Cup fixture, or whatever they conspire to call it these days. The Babycham Ice Bucket? We were running late, and no sign of Theo Walcott, though the train does go to Cuffley so Jermain Defoe could have used it… Only Arsenal were playing Man City and Defoe doesn’t live in Cuffley anymore. Sorry, I’m riffing… Nice article. I had no idea Arsenal originated in Woolwich Arsenal.


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