A good few months ago, I vividly remember seeing a load of little boats pootling around on the pond next to The Princess of Wales pub, up on the heath. I think it was a weekend, and they were remotely controlled sail boats. Not noisy remote control Gin Palace style boats… These little beauties were genuine tiny sail boats – the remote controls were only used for pulling on the rigging to adjust the positions of the sails relative to the wind – so they were completely silent.
It was a really delightful sight to behold, and they had quite an appreciative little crowd building up around them. And it reminded me of sailing boats across a pond with my dad and his dad a long time ago.
Anyway, a little googling revealed that the most likely candidates were the Blackheath MPBC (which stands for Model Powered Boating Club). So I called their organiser (Phil Abott), to try and find out when they will be there next, so that you could all come and admire them too.
I got a very simple answer. Never.
Or at least, not in the near future. The reason for this is that a sign has been put up next to the pond banning the use of powered boats, and they don’t want to take the risk that their boats will be considered as powered. They used to run some steam powered boats (which also sounds like it would be a lovely sight!), and a small number of powered boats.
Land management of the heath isn’t run by the council – it is outsourced to a company called Glendale Grounds Management, who have to give their permission for any “event” to take place. They said that the boating could go ahead, but only if the club could stump up £75 for the privilege of sailing their little boats on the pond… I could start banging on about the corporatisation of public spaces, but I suppose I didn’t plan for this to be that sort of blog…
So the people that you might see with their boats on the pond aren’t members of the Blackheath club (Phil said two elderly gents take their boats down there on Sunday mornings). The Blackheath club had been sailing on the pond since 1928, but now they’ll be casting off in Hackney’s Victoria Park instead.