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Reminiscence of Wynn's Common and Plumstead Common

by Frances Hiller

from A Liturgy for the Integrity of Creation 14 May 2000

I was born in 1953 in a prefab on Winn's Common, and I lived there for the first five years of my life. In those post-war days of rationing, gardens on the Common were full of vegetables, chickens and even the odd goat. When the prefabs were demolished and the land returned to grass, we moved to the new estate across the main road, but returned to the Common to play.

As we grew up, my siblings and I explored every inch of that expanse. It was from a tree on the Common, overlooking King's Highway, that I fell at the age of 11, and was in St Nicholas' Hospital for a week. My brother and I had been throwing acorns at the roofs of passing buses. The Common continued to figure in my life in quite a big way. I walked across Plumstead Common each weekday on my way to school and twice on Sundays to come to church. As a teenager I roamed endlessly, pondering the meaning of life, and as a Cub Scout leader I played rounders on summer evenings. On a warm Sunday evening after Evensong there was sometimes cricket with the Youth Club followed by a drink at the Prince Albert, overflowing onto the Common as still happens today.

Looking back in this way, I can see that growing up in Plumstead, with its open spaces and parks, helped to make me the person that I am today. I see this process being repeated in my children as they grow up in Plumstead. We are shaped by our environment. Plumstead Common Environment Group is working to help create somewhere where it is good to live and good to grow up. This is especially true of its attention to the detail of things which can easily be dismissed as unimportant, reporting broken street lights and abandoned cars, litter control, clearing up broken glass, and fighting the endless battle against graffiti. Its members also work continuously to enhance both the beauty and the natural abundance of our open spaces and the wildlife they support.

What we have, we hold in trust for others, whether we're talking about Plumstead Common or the resources of the earth. Our open spaces are enormously important. They help to civilise us. We all benefit from them. Children who are cooped up in flats with no gardens need the space. The Common provides a focal point for community events like the Make Merry. We are all stewards of the environment which shapes us and which will shape our children.

In global terms, as a human community, how we use the earth's resources represents a choice either for life or death. In local terms, the way we care for our environment can improve the quality of life for everyone in our community, both now and in the future. Both in the world and in Plumstead the Christian choice must always be for life, life in all its fullness."

Photo by Di PalmerGod of creation
the earth is Yours
with all its beauty and goodness
its rich and overflowing provision
But we have claimed the earth for our own
plundered its beauty for profit
taken its resources for ourselves

God of creation, forgive us
may we no longer abuse Your loving generosity
but care gently and with justice for the earth
which we hold in trust for those who will follow.

Thanks to the Plumstead Common Environment Group for their kind donation of this story.

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