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06 October 2019

Forest Hill Society AGM

By Michael Abrahams, Chair, Forest Hill Society

For this year’s AGM we are delighted to have a guest speaker from Transport for London, who will tell us about the plans for extending the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the South Circular, and what it will mean for cars and air quality in the local area.

The AGM will be held at Louise House (adjacent to Forest Hill Library) on Thursday 17th October, from 7:30pm, and members and non-members alike are welcome to attend.

As well as finding out about the ULEZ, you will learn about Forest Hill Society's projects and accomplishments over the past year and have an opportunity to set the Society's course for the year to come. At last year's AGM, two priorities emerged: concerns about flight paths concentrated over Forest Hill and concerns about air quality in the local area. I’m pleased to say that, with specific leadership from Tim Walker and Alice Tate-Harte, we have been able to make some progress on each of these issues.

If you have concerns that you think are important to the local area, please come along and share them at the meeting; issues that garner support will help set the agenda for 2020 and beyond.

As chairperson of the Society for eight of the past thirteen years, I have seen the Forest Hill Society become an important part of the community by campaigning on a wide variety of issues: retention of our swimming pools and library, developing green spaces in the town centre, high street regeneration, better train services, improved flight paths and air quality, and assorted planning proposals. We have also run markets, and organised walks and street parties. It is all part of our mission to continue to make Forest Hill an even better place, and we have certainly seen some positive changes in the past decade.

At this AGM I intend to stand down from the role of chairperson due to work commitments, but I’m confident that the Executive Committee that runs the Forest Hill Society will continue to make more improvements to the local area.

Throughout my time and involvement with the Forest Hill Society I have been constantly inspired by so many people’s passion and commitment to the local community. Both newcomers and long-term residents have contributed to our success in equal measure by volunteering their skills and offering creative ideas.

It has been a privilege to lead the Forest Hill Society during a period of substantial development, but I look forward to seeing new people with fresh ideas joining the Society’s Executive Committee, and even leading it. Every year, new members join the committee and offer new perspectives which make a big difference. So this year, why not be one of these people?

The Executive meets about once every six weeks, which is not a huge time commitment, and it is worth noting that the Executive includes some lovely people with a variety of backgrounds. Everyone is welcome as long as you care about our local area.

There are three ways to become a member of the Executive Committee:
1. By attending the AGM and standing for election (don’t worry, it isn’t an onerous task)
2. By emailing me at michael@fhsoc.com to state your interest and to find out more information
3. By me forcing you to ‘volunteer’
All three methods work equally well!

Finally, let me say a huge “Thank you!” to everybody who has supported me in the work I have done for the Forest Hill Society. Without so many willing volunteers, none of our accomplishments would have been possible.

26 September 2019

City Airport Masterplan - Response

 In response to the City Airport Masterplan consultation, the Forest Hill Society has written a detailed response. Below is the text of the covering letter:

We do not consider that any increase in permitted flight numbers should even be considered until the noise problems that the Airport created in 2016 with its low altitude concentrated flight paths have been addressed, together with the low flying and crossing of flight paths with Heathrow. You have told us this would mean not until 2025 at the earliest. It is disappointing that the Airport has not seen fit to make a public statement setting out objectives to resolve these problems and that the Masterplan makes no little or no mention of them. We consider that a Masterplan should set out clear objectives on issues that will impact the residents of the thirteen overflown Boroughs, if necessary cross referenced to the Our Future Skies project to, for example:-

    Fly higher over urban populations
    Give respite or relief from noise to the overflown by alternating flight paths
    Fly a new, higher continuous descent approach over SE London
    Reduce or eliminate crossing of flight paths with Heathrow.

We also oppose any more early or late flights, and any longer operating hours over the weekend.

To view the full response from the Forest Hill Society please download from here. We are pleased that this includes comments and endorsement of our response by the London Borough of Lewisham and by Ellie Reeves, MP for Lewisham West and Penge.

18 September 2019

First Lewisham Sketch Crawl

By Simon McCormack

Please come and join us on the first Lewisham Sketch Crawl, which will take place on Sunday 29th September 2019.

Meet at 10.45am at the Horniman Museum and Gardens Bandstand for an 11.00am start.

A sketch crawl consists of six to eight stops at a range of locations. At each location you get half an hour to complete a sketch, watercolour or pastel — it's up to you. All the locations are fairly close to each other. Each sketch crawl will have a designated starting point, but you can join or leave the sketch crawl at any point. We will also publish where we will be and at what time for each stop.

Bring a packed lunch or you can eat at a local café. There will be time at the end of the day to share your work, if you wish. All ages and abilities are welcome.

We will be organising future Sketch Crawls around Lewisham and South London, mainly during the spring, summer and autumn months.

Please join our Lewisham Sketchcrawlers Facebook group page for further details and updates at http://tiny.cc/n70jaz.

17 September 2019

Bampton Estate Green an Asset of Community Value

The Forest Hill Society has received confirmation that their request to recognise Bampton Estate Green as an Asset of Community Value has been successful.

Reasons for nomination:
1) The green/grass open space with trees and the ball court is used and valued by Bampton Estate residents and neighbours to play, interact with each other, for various recreational activities including family picnics.

2) The area is safe and ideal for children and families. The area is well-observed from all sides and situated well away from the road.

3) The ball court is used for sports and physical activities by local children, young people as well as adults from Bampton Estate. The resource encourages physical activity as opposed to sedentary lifestyles.

4) The space allows residents and neighbours direct exposure to nature which is beneficial to mental health and physical well-being, reducing stress and pressure from daily life.

5) The green open space allows children to be outside and play in nature, the latter are crucial in children’s health development, emotional stability and mental health.

6) The green open community space allows local people to make friends and meet neighbours.

7) The combination of several mature trees and the green grass on the estate helps keep our area fresh and cool in the summer.

8) The mature trees help to remove various pollutants from the air that negatively affect people with respiratory problems and increase mortality rates.

9) The area has its own ecosystem and provides a safe habitat for various animals, birds including bats and woodpeckers.

10) The area serves as a communal garden for Bampton Estate residents who live in flats and don't have their own private garden.

14 September 2019

£30,000 Investment for Baxter Field

By Sybil Barker, Secretary, Friends of Baxter Field

Baxter Field is a hidden gem situated behind Sydenham School and well-loved by those who use it. The current Friends of Baxter Field group was set up in 2016 by a few local residents wanting to improve and nurture this local green space. Our aim is to make it a place where the local community can come and connect with nature, or simply enjoy the space.

Over the past three years, we’ve succeeded in winning funding from schemes such as Tesco’s Bags of Help, and the Forest Hill Assembly. This has helped kick off our improvement plan for the park, allowing us to run various events, such as Big Digs, where we’ve planted spring bulbs which now give colour to the park in spring time; and we have also planted 400 saplings around the field, creating a hedgerow to replace iron railings near one of the park entrances and to soften the perimeter of the central playground.

We have had plenty of support from Glendale and Lewisham Council, and recently we were given the amazing news that we’ve been awarded £30,000 to improve the park’s play area, which is in need of renovation. We have already kicked off a consultation with local schools and we will be soliciting feedback from local residents, so that we can put the funding to the best use, and design something which will suit the needs of as many park users as possible.

In the meantime, we’re enjoying a new picnic bench in the play area and a brand-new noticeboard, both of which have been hand-crafted by Men in Sheds in Penge, a local charity supported by Age UK. The noticeboard will allow us to keep everyone updated on plans and local events.

If you’re interested in keeping updated with upcoming events, activities and progress on the playground, join our Friends of Baxter Field Facebook group or follow us on Twitter @BaxterFieldSE26.

13 September 2019

Architecture Quiz

Somewhere in Forest Hill is a pineapple or possibly a whole bunch of them! But do you recognise where this one might be found?

Pineapples were quite common decorations on London buildings from the 17th century onwards and were a sign of wealth — that’s because pineapples could cost more than £5,000 each!

Today they retail for a fraction of that cost at the Forest Hill Co-op and other local food stores. However, if you cannot find any in stock at the Co-op, you might take a look around to see if you can find this one not too far away!

For more on the history of pineapples in London visit:

12 September 2019

Smoddy Sharp — Redefining the Norm

By Jason Kee

Recently, I popped along for a chat and a coffee with Marie Robertson and Rohan Spencer, the owners of Smoddy Sharp at 33 Dartmouth Road. Smoddy Sharp is a fairly new addition to our high street, bringing male grooming and tailoring to Forest Hill.

On entering, my first impressions were just “Wow!” Clients enter into a luxurious lounge/waiting area with plush leather seating and rich colours. Decorated by Marie herself, the entrance area is a well-thought-out eclectic mix of furniture from the early 20th century to modern retro. Unashamedly masculine, it greatly benefits from her collector’s eye. As beautiful as the furnishings are, the room draws you through to the magnificent bar that guards shelves of tempting spirits. Marie offers me a coffee, but I would prefer a cocktail ... except it’s only 9:30am.

As we sit down in the rear garden for coffee, my first question is, “What is ‘smoddy’ and why is it sharp?” Rohan answers rather quickly, as I suspect the question may have come up before. “Smoddy is a Jamaican word. Someone who is smoddy is an extrovert: they stand out and they like to look good, have sharp outfits, so they can be ‘smoddy sharp’.” The follow-up question is obvious. “How to pronounce it?” Rohan answers, “It should be smoddy, like body, but the Jamaican accent makes it sound like smuddy, like muddy.”

Now entering its second year, Smoddy Sharp has become a favoured destination on Dartmouth Road by men-folk in Forest Hill and beyond. Past the grand entrance area is a lower level, with bi-fold doors opening onto a small garden, where traditional barbering services are provided for hair and beards. Upstairs are treatment rooms where clients are pampered with facials, massages, manicures and pedicures. And, along a corridor, a bespoke tailoring service offers made-to-measure suits for all occasions.

While not SE23 natives themselves, they are both South Londoners. Although neither Rohan nor Marie have a background in the beauty or grooming sectors, Rohan’s grandfather had expertise in tailoring. Marie worked with a shipping company, racking up air miles from trips to Asia and the Middle East, while Rohan was working around the clock in business development and local government.

However, a few years ago, things changed for them. Around the same time, both Marie and Rohan unexpectedly lost their fathers and, before that, Rohan had tragically lost his brother to suicide. These experiences led them to believe that London, or South London in particular, needed a space for men: “A safe place, where men could relax and get some pampering,” adds Marie, “a place where men could be looked after and be okay with that, and basically de-stress and lose the toxins we all collect in our bodies.”
Creating a haven for men is a difficult concept to discuss sometimes, particularly in today’s #MeToo climate. While the male suicide rate is at its lowest since the 1980s, the rate among men is over three times the rate among women. Whereas depression affects women at greater rates, men are much less likely to seek help for it. Rohan notes, “These treatments — looking and feeling better — can help with depression, with stress, and bring many positive health benefits.”

Suddenly, the name makes sense. Smoddy isn’t just about looking good, it’s about feeling good. Barbering, facial and other treatments, and great suits are just the foundation for this business.
Unsurprisingly, it is while discussing the future that Marie and Rohan are most animated. During our chat, Rohan and Marie often speak about redefining the norm for men, about creating a ‘space’ that allows men to look after themselves. In the next few months their business will be expanded to include yoga, meditation, and discussion groups on de-stressing and balancing home-working with home-life. Since the two of them have already hosted whisky and rum tastings, it will also include socialising events, such as local meet-ups for men who have moved into Forest Hill to help them build new, local friendships. For families, Marie and Rohan already offer 'father-and-son Sundays'.

While unspoken, their ethos is clear: Men who look after themselves — their mind and body — are better fathers, sons, workers and friends. It’s ‘redefining the norm’.

So now you know what Smoddy Sharp is. If you, or a loved one, want to be ‘smoddy’ too, then just knock on their door when you’re passing by. Either Marie or Rohan would be happy to tell you about their exciting adventure planned for Forest Hill and beyond!

11 September 2019

Clean Air for SE23 — Putting the Forest Back into Forest Hill

By Alice Tate-Harte, Founder, Clean Air for SE23

Clean Air for SE23 started in March of this year. It operates as a working group for the Environment Committee of the Forest Hill Society. Air pollution has been in the news a lot recently. Scientific studies have shown that air pollution causes asthma and other breathing problems. It affects vulnerable people the most: children, the elderly, expectant mothers and their unborn children. It lowers life expectancy and exacerbates existing health problems, affecting every area of the body.

The main source of air pollution in London is from traffic. Diesel and old petrol vehicles manufactured before 2009 are the worst offenders, but even electric vehicles produce a substantial amount of particulate pollution from tyre wear. Vehicles produce a range of harmful waste products such as Nitrogen Dioxide and microscopically small particles. PM 10 and PM 2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in size) are so small they can be inhaled deep into the lungs and cross over into the blood stream.

A study has found that the hearts of city dwellers contain thousands of these tiny particles, which are the likely cause of the long-established statistical link between dirty air and heart disease. These particles are also found in brain tissue and are associated with dementia, which is another disease linked to air pollution. Particulates can even cross over into the placenta and may reduce the lung capacity of unborn children by 5%. The tiny particles are also thought to increase the risks to health from diabetes, reduced intelligence and increased miscarriages. Tragically, in 2013 a young girl from Catford, Ella Kissi Debrah, died of multiple asthma attacks; and an ongoing inquest will rule whether her death was caused by air pollution.

However, innovative Londoners are fighting back. There are all sorts of schemes to make London’s air cleaner and streets nicer to walk and cycle along: “Liveable Neighbourhood” schemes, which take a holistic approach to encouraging walking and cycling in an area by creating cycle lanes, closing rat runs and creating “parklets” on the roads; and “School Streets”, where roads are closed at drop-off and pick-up times along with anti-idling awareness schemes. For more on these schemes, see www.mumsforlungs.org, a great campaigning group formed by mums from Brixton. Greening — planting trees and green screens of ivy — is a mitigation step which can filter out particulates if the screens are high and dense enough. There is also the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which restricts the most polluting vehicles from entering central London and will be expanded to the South Circular in Forest Hill in 2021. Lewisham Council is actively trying to improve air pollution; for more information on Lewisham’s Healthy Neighbourhood scheme starting in 2019, see http://tiny.cc/HealthyLewisham.

The best thing you can do to reduce air pollution and protect your children is to reduce or eliminate driving. Young people are shunning the car altogether: In London they are not learning to drive and are using the savings to occasionally hire an Uber or Zipcar vehicle when they need to do something 'grown up', like visit the garden centre. Car use is higher in South London because the transport network is not as good as in North London, but a study has shown that 50% of vehicular journeys in Lewisham could be walked, which would take a huge amount of traffic off the roads. It is not easy to break the addiction to our cars — it takes a huge change in one's mindset; but you can start by making small changes, like having a car-free day every week, and then building on that to try to only drive when absolutely necessary.

If you could walk, cycle or get the bus instead of being driven to school, air pollution would be reduced enormously. The air inside a car is typically more polluted than the air you inhale when you walk or cycle; the particles are so tiny they can get through the car's window seals and accumulate in high concentrations inside the car. The advice when driving is to close all windows and air vents — not easy in hot weather — and even then the concentrations are higher.

If you can afford to make the change to an electric car, it is certainly worth considering. Lewisham Council plan to install 140 more electric vehicle charging points, which would be less than 500m apart, by 2021.
Clean Air for SE23 is looking for parents, teachers or governors to become Clean Air Champions at every school and nursery in Forest Hill. Schools and the Greater London Authority have set targets for clean air and we want to help them achieve these.

If, like me, you haven’t cycled for years and are a bit scared, perhaps you could support us in calling on Lewisham Council to make cycling safer in the borough and improve cycle lanes. The council operates a bike-loan scheme to enable you to try out a bike for a nominal fee (£10) and also offers free cycle lessons, while the London Cycling Campaign group offers a whole host of benefits and services. It is healthiest to cycle or walk on back roads; you can find the best routes to avoid main roads by using the council's Lewisham Air app, which relies on live data from the London Air Quality Network to alert you about pollution hotspots.

We also want to make roads in the area — especially the South Circular, which literally splits up our community — more pleasant to walk along to encourage journeys on foot. There is strong evidence that greening an area improves mental health, encourages wildlife and even increases house prices. We have been talking to Transport for London, who have said that many more trees could be planted along the South Circular. If you live along this road, you might even be eligible for a free tree but only if you agree to caring for it in its first couple of years.

We are seeking permission from TfL to put planters on the railings along Forest Hill station's platforms and “parklets” along the South Circular to make pedestrian journeys more pleasant. The Forest Hill Society already maintains the planters at the station, but we would maintain any new planters on railings with volunteers' help. Planting your front garden with hedges and other plants can also have a positive effect in filtering out pollution (there will be an article dedicated to this in a future issue of this newsletter).
Catford Clean Air are taking a more direct-action approach and are planning a school strike and March for Clean Air on 20th September. With the recent “School Strike for Climate” movement it shows that young people are leading the way on climate and clean air.

The expanded ULEZ, which comes into force in 2021, should have a positive impact on Forest Hill, even if it does not include the South Circular. It is estimated that it will cut pollution by 30% north of the South Circular and 25% south of it. To understand the full impact of the scheme, you could attend the Forest Hill Society AGM in October, where a representative of TfL will explain the scheme and answer any questions.

In the autumn, we hope to undertake our own air-quality monitoring programme to see where and when outdoor and indoor pollution levels exceed safe EU-mandated levels. If you would like to be part of this programme, please get in touch.

To join Clean Air for SE23, see our Facebook page or get in touch via the Forest Hill Society’s website. We are looking for people to help the group; there is so much more we could do, we just need the people-power to do it. We need volunteers with lots of different backgrounds to make this happen, including: green-fingered gardeners and horticulturists, creatives and designers, scientists, fund-raisers, social media whizzes, admin organisers, press and PR champs, campaigners, local-area experts, general helpers and enthusiasts. We need you!

Clean Air for SE23 is having its next meeting at 10am on Saturday 28th September at Forest Hill Library. We will be discussing tree planting along the South Circular, Citizen Science Air Monitoring collaboration with Cambridge University, the impact of the ULEZ, and ideas to improve walking and cycling. Come along to see how you can help and share your ideas.