24 March 2011

Dacres Wood Nature Reserve and Field Centre Open Afternoon

Organised by Forest Hill Society and Friends Of Mayow Park
27TH MARCH 2011 from 1pm to 4pm

This small nature reserve has woodland and a meadow. A special feature of the site is the wetland area which is a remnant of the old Croydon Canal, bypassed when the railway was built.
Forest Hill Society and the Friends of Mayow Park are pleased to have arranged an open afternoon for the public, with history talks at the field centre, guided walks and activities for all the family.

Refreshments will be available

How to find the Dacres Wood Field Studies Centre and Nature Reserve:
Entry will be via the Field Centre which is near the junction of Dacres Road with Silverdale, between Homefield House and Catling Close. An unmarked driveway leads directly to the Field Centre from Dacres Road. Parking is available on Dacres Road and other nearby roads.

View Larger Map

Budget removes Planning Restrictions.

As well as the various tax changes announced by the Chancellor in yesterday's Budget, George Osborne also announced plans to radically change the planning system in 'The Plan for Growth'.

The Chancellor claimed that that the planning system had been consistently highlighted as "one of the most significant burdens" on economic growth and announced a consultation on proposals to allow changes of use, without the need to apply for planning permission, from classes B1, B2 and B8 (business, general industrial and storage) to class C3 (residential). This would allow developers to convert shops into flats without any coordinated town centre strategy.

He also said that while locals should have a greater say in planning matters, the government would be taking steps to prioritise growth and jobs. As a result, there will be new rules in favour of sustainable development with a presumption in favour of the applicant; targets for 60% of new homes to be built on brownfield or previously developed land will be removed; applications will be time limited and change of use between certain classes will be allowed.

This has been poorly received by various organisations.

Civic Voice director Tony Burton said “Effective planning is key to sustainable development and business needs the certainty and support it provides. The land for economic and housing development is already allocated and the planning permissions being given so the Government should be supporting good planning and not making it the whipping boy of our economic troubles.”

The Royal Town Planning Institute attacked the Budget's plans for ensuring that the default answer to development is 'yes', warning the measure will create an England of tin sheds and Legoland housing.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England labelled the Budget, ‘a massive threat to the environment’. The triple whammy of scrapping national brownfield targets, introducing a default yes to development, and pursuing half-baked proposals for land auctions could be devastating to treasured countryside. Neil Sinden, Director of Policy said “The proposed planning measures present a potentially devastating threat to the countryside and are unlikely to boost long-term economic growth. To suggest, as successive Governments have done, that planning is a key impediment to growth is just wrong. It is disappointing that George Osborne is repeating the mistaken assertions made by Gordon Brown.

“The planning system exists to prevent unsustainable, unwanted and environmentally damaging development. Today’s Budget is likely to undermine its ability to do this.

“Without national brownfield targets for housing we could have lost twice as much greenfield land to development over the last decade – equivalent to an area almost twice the size of Manchester. This move puts green fields unnecessarily in the path of the bulldozers.

“The Chancellor’s default ‘yes to development’ threatens both the environment and sound planning. ”

22 March 2011

Let's Get Snapping!

This year, for the first time, we are holding a digital photo competition. With its fabulous views and eclectic mix of old and new, there are sure to be some fantastic images to be found in Forest Hill. Go creative, get snapping!

We are delighted that the competition will be judged by Paul Murphy, local resident, Society member and winner of the ‘Rose Award for Photography’ Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2010. Paul is the second person ever to win this award.

There will be 12 winning photos selected which will then go on to form the Forest Hill Society Calendar 2012, which will be available for everyone to buy. Winners will be notified and presented with an award at the Forest Hill Society AGM in November.

Entrants can submit as many digital pictures as they like to our Flickr group

Every submission must be accompanied by an e-mail sent to alisa@foresthillsociety.com with your name, address, phone number and photo ID/name. The closing date is 15 October 2011 and the final 12 photos will be chosen on 30 October.
Please read the rules for copyright and privacy issues. Full competition rules can be found here on our website

The competition is only open to digital photographs. We hope to be able to accept printed images in the future.

Photo to the right: the view over London from the Hill, with thanks to Rob McIntosh

Cafe Society

We’ve been featuring some of SE23’s new coffee shops and, in this issue, we move further away from Forest Hill town centre to find out what makes the perfect coffee experience. This time we speak to Ben Morris from Hop Scotch in Honor Oak Park and Anna Marciniak at The Brothers, Dartmouth Road

Hop Scotch
Ben was asked about his coffee: “Good, balanced, middle-of-the-road beans (not too strong or weak but 'rich'), freshly ground coffee bean dispensed by knowledgeable, trained baristas on a classic manual / lever machine for maximum flavour, cream and perfect froth!”

The Brothers Cafe
Anna, who is introducing a touch of Eastern Europe to SE23, gave her views on cafe culture: “A great cafĂ© is a convivial place where people can sit and meet surrounded by friendly and helpful staff who are willing to bend over backwards for their customers.”

Great news for North Londoners!

The extension of the Overground from Dalston Junction to Highbury and Islington opened on 28 February, bringing even more North Londoners easy access to our hidden gems.

All Overground trains through Forest Hill now run the full length of the line. This will give more footie fans a far easier journey to see their South-East London teams play. It will also open up some great places for people to visit – Crystal Palace, The Horniman Museum and all the other lovely spots in our area!

Top soccer at the Crystal Palace

The May timetable will continue to include three late trains through Canada Water to New Cross Gate. These will connect with the last Southern services, to enable a late night return home.

The new route from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction is expected to open late in 2012.

Rumour has it that this is also good news for South East Londoners! Happy travelling

A Fond Farewell

With a mixture of sadness and happiness we say goodbye to Liz Hannaford, one of the very first members of the Forest Hill Society.

Liz has been with the Society from the first meeting and has provided all manner of communications including the excellent newsletters for all of this time (with a couple of short breaks on maternity leave). She has also been wonderful in organising stalls, walks, and lots of other fabulous events. Her cheerful smile will be sorely missed.

Pictures of Liz are rare as she is always dashing around, but she was caught in the attached photo celebrating our victory in the battle to keep the swimming pool in Forest Hill. Alas, she may now never be able to swim in the pool, but since she is moving to Manchester, where it is apparently always raining, she may never be dry again.

More little Russets

In the last Newsletter, we told you about Tom and Sara Russet’s plan to celebrate their daughter’s birth by planting some Russet apple trees on Albion Millennium Green.

Well, on 23 January the planting ceremony was carried out and we hope that in years to come Nell Margie Russet - and the rest of the community - will be able to enjoy the fruit planted in her honour. We would love to hear from other members of any similar stories!

To the right: Tom, Sara and Nell enjoying the planting

An Oscar for SE23?

Well maybe not quite. Lionel Logue, speech therapist to King George VI, lived for some years in our area on Sydenham Hill.

The film ‘The King’s Speech’ depicts the relationship between the two with Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth playing the roles respectively.

Logue had come to England with his family in 1924, supposedly on a holiday. Instead he took jobs teaching around London and then enjoyed a successful career as a speech therapist.

In the 1930s he lived at Beechgrove, a Victorian villa on Sydenham Hill, which had 25 rooms, five bathrooms, five acres of garden and a tennis court. The house is now gone but interestingly you can still see the folly, rockery and remains of an ornamental stream. The area, part of Sydenham Hill Woods, is open to the public.

Grand May Day on Albion Millennium Green

Sunday, 1st May: 12 – 3.00pm

The Bedlam Bunch return to offer two shows (12
and 2.00 for children aged 3 – 8. Parents welcome.
Bring your own picnic lunch (1.00pm – 2.00pm).
Face painting, (squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs galore), May Kings and Queens, bird boxes, cakes and much more.

With support of The Localities Fund, LB Lewisham.

Honor Oak Park Station Improvements (continued)

Following our report in the last newsletter, work is continuing. The stairs are being replaced and newly painted ironwork is emerging from under the tarpaulins. The cutting behind platform 1 is being re-graded and at some stage the platforms will be repaired and extended. When all of that is complete, the station is going to receive its Phase 3 upgrade with improved lighting, new signage and redecoration.

But we have not been informed how long this will all take. Getting information from Network Rail is proving very difficult; however the Society has been told that the stairs should be in place at the end of April.

We have suggested that getting the level of platform 1 rather closer to the level of the trains, either by raising the platform or lowering the track, might also be a worthwhile improvement. Getting Landscaping at Honor Oak Park station.

Looking more like the Pompidou Centre or Lloyds buildings, the stairs under construction! on or off trains is a nightmare for anyone who is not reasonably agile, or who has a buggy to contend with. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that this objective will be achieved any time soon.

Planning Matters

The last few months have seen a lot of new planning applications around Forest Hill, some that may be considered good, and some bad.

The former post office on Dartmouth Road has been given approval for conversion to a restaurant/bar by Antic, the owners of Jam Circus and the East Dulwich Tavern. The flats above will get a face lift and an additional floor. Whilst the Society expressed concern about the additional floor, we believe that the overall changes are very positive. The Perry Vale fire station, (see below), a listed building, had an application rejected despite Council officer recommendation. Lewisham’s planning committee agreed with us that some affordable housing should be provided on a development of this size.

St. John's Church on David’s Road had massive signs, and a concreted over garden. The Council deemed this not in keeping with the conservation area and the signs were removed. A suitable way forward for the garden area and footpath between David and Devonshire Roads is now being discussed.

A planning report would not be complete without mention of the Tyson Road development. The landscaping plans have been approved and building can now commence. Local residents had provided videos of bats in the gardens, but the Council’s ecologist said there was no evidence they were in the trees due to be removed.


Whether or not you are a royal fan, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on 29 April this year will be a great excuse for the whole community to come together and have a bit of retro fun.

So the Society is planning a Forest Hill Street Party! We’re still working on the details as we go to print, but we’ll let you know what they are nearer the time.

We’re particularly keen to get local craft groups involved in making this event distinctive. Jeni Johnson at Messy Makers is already on board with this project. She runs art workshops for pre-school children and they’ll be making exciting bunting for the street party next term. We can’t wait!

If you’d like to get involved, please contact: mail@foresthillsociety.com

Nature Reserves - Freecycle and Open Days

The Forest Hill Society organised a Freecycle day in January, hosted by the Friends of Devonshire Road Nature Reserve. Everyone was invited to bring along unwanted goods with the option to take away things they could put to good use. Items included electrical gadgets, household goods, children’s toys and games, clothing, books, films and music. Several larger items arrived, including a few bikes, baby-carriers, musical instruments and furniture.

Refreshments and cakes were provided and the Nature Reserve was open for visitors. Lewisham Council were on hand for advice on recycling and to supply ‘No Junk Mail’ stickers and freebie bags.

At the end, the best of the toys and books were taken away to donate to charity, everything else was taken by the council for recycling, so very little will have ended up in landfill. Good stuff.

The next event will be on 10 April from 11am to 3.00pm at the reserve. If you’re coming along, please carefully select the items to bring. DVDs are welcome, as are books in really good condition or of antique interest. Please do not bring old clothes or videos. Come along during the Easter holiday, and please do bring the family!


On Saturday morning, 5 February, 22 would-be walkers filtered onto trains at Sydenham, Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park stations for the inaugural walk of the Forest Hill and Sydenham Walking Group.

The route for the day took us across London Bridge to follow the Thames Path, on the north side of the river, to Canary Wharf – coming across some of the oldest and the newest buildings in London.

The Thames Path is clearly marked and recommended for all levels. The walk leaders had incorporated some interesting side steps away from the path which took in the pub frequented by JMW Turner, Wapping’s 18th century charity school, and a delicious coffee break in the London Hydraulic Power Company’s 1893 pumping station – now a stylish and highly recommended cafe. We were back in Forest Hill by 1.30; after over five miles of steady walking in a gusty wind, we were more than ready for lunch at the Dartmouth Arms.

It’s good to know there are so many keen walkers in our area. 35 people have now signed up to the Walking Group (which does not include any friends, spouses and partners who might also join them). In order to keep the group to a manageable size we have decided to stick with the numbers we have at the moment. We will create a waiting list for slots as they become available.

Contact for the walking group, and the waiting list, should be made through the new secretary of the group, Eva Holmes: eva.holmes50@yahoo.com

Chair's Report

One of the challenges with all voluntary organisations is that they rely on volunteers, often with precious free time. Luckily, although I have been otherwise occupied this quarter, other members of the Executive have been very busy.

We are, sadly, saying goodbye to Liz, who has been Editor and Communications Officer since the Society started. We are very thankful to her for all her gentle chivvying as she chased articles for the newsletter and e-newsletter and for her magnificent publicity efforts – the latest of which involves the publicity for Honor Oak Rec. on local television and BBC Radio 4. She will be sorely missed and we wish her and her family well in their new home. As with all farewells, this is also the time for a new start and I would like to thank Belinda, Alison and Alisa for continuing time and energy.

The imminent threat of closure hangs over Crofton Park and Sydenham libraries. The Mayor agreed to their closure on 28 May, despite strong lobbying. However, there have been four expressions of interest from Exam Success Education Centre Limited, Eco Computer Systems, John Laing Integrated Services Ltd and SociaCapita Solutions to run them on a community basis. Council Officers are now actively pursuing these solutions, there is also the possibility of a new library provision at the Ackroyd Centre.

We finally heard from TfL following a meeting to discuss the Red Route through Forest Hill. In a comprehensive reply, they have agreed to make several changes, including a right turn lane onto Waldram Place and extending the loading period outside Mirror Mirror to 7am-7pm among other changes. We continue to push for other changes including better traffic flow through Forest Hill and improved signposting to the car parks.


Dates for your diary

Crofton Pk Assembly: Weds 23 March 7.30 - 9.30pm
St Hilda's Church Hall, Courtrai Rd, SE23 1PL

Forest Hill Assembly: Weds 30 March 7.30pm - 9.30pm: Honor Oak Christian Fellowship, 39 Honor Oak Road, SE23 3SH

Easter Bring and Take: Devonshire Nature Reserve
Sun 10 April 11am - 3.00pm

Forest Hill in Bloom: Station forecourt planting: Sat 16 April from 2.30pm.

The Pools Progress

As the Forest Hill Pools are replaced over the next year or so, we’ll hear from members of the team involved in the improvements. This issue we speak to Dominic Collins, Construction Manager for Willmott Dixon.

Q: What is your role on the pools project?
A: I have overall responsibility for day to day running of the project.

Q: What sort other projects have you worked on?
A: I have just completed a major school redevelopment in Kent and prior to this constructed the new Grandstand at Epsom race course. Willmott Dixon has constructed over 100 swimming pools over the last ten years across the country. Locally, we have constructed Hither Green Primary School, Crossways Academy and just completed work at Goldsmith's College.

Q: What did you think of the site for Forest Hill Pools when you first visited it?
A: The original swimming pool had already been demolished but we were very impressed with the clean and tidy condition of the site.

Q: What is the most interesting aspect?
A: For me it is the retention and full refurbishment of the original Victorian entrance and lobby building. When set against the original features of the Victorian structure, the modern aspects of the new facility are striking and say a lot about the buildings’ main purpose and function.

Q: What is your biggest challenge on this project?
A: The refurbishment of the Victorian entrance and lobby will need complicated temporary structural supporting works on the internal walls and floors.

Q: You will be working from Louise House (next to the pools), do you know much about its history?
A: I have read up on Louise House on the internet, I know that it was a Girls Industrial Home built in 1891, with Thomas W Aldwinckle as architect and William Johnson, builder.

Q: What is your dream project?
A: I am a big rugby fan so would love to construct a new stadium.

Community says “NO” to loss of Park!

The Honor Oak Recreation Ground is a much loved and valuable resource for people in Forest Hill, Honor Oak and further afield, many of whom have no external space or garden access.

The users of the space have been right over the years to suspect that Southwark Council has been planning to take even more of the space for burials.

TV cameras at the Rec (cemetery in the background) Local authorities encourage residents to take more exercise and are active in promoting sporting opportunities for all. But then Southwark move to take away the very sites where these activities can take place.

Southwark's Executive Cabinet recently announced it will be reviewing the ground for more burial space. With the formation of an online petition by local residents against the move, the Forest Hill Society acted quickly to ensure that as many people knew about this as possible.

We raised the issue on the Today programme and BBC London News with interviews with FHS Chair Richard Hibbert and Councillor Alex Feakes.

Because of the activity and views of local residents, and coverage in the national media organised by the Forest Hill Society, the meeting, scheduled for 28 February, was moved to the end of March. So there's more time to ensure that we don’t lose this considerable local amenity and leisure space.

The online petition has over 1,300 signatures; please consider adding yours: http://bit.ly/savehonoroakparkrec

Residents and local residents' groups can still demonstrate how much demand there is for the site, raise awareness locally and building support for the campaign. Find out more at: www.honoroakparkrecreationground.blogspot.com

Forest Hill Pools Open Day

Lewisham Council has arranged a drop-in session for all residents as an opportunity to meet the Willmott Dixon team and ask any questions they may have about the construction works. The first session takes place today in Louise House, from 5 pm to 7 pm. There will be a further opportunity on 5th April.

Willmott Dixon Construction have been on site at Dartmouth Road for just over two months and in that time they have made a great start to the programme:
  • The first few weeks were dedicated to enabling works, which included extending the hoarding line, carrying out remedial works to Louise House, setting up welfare facilities for the staff
  • Lewisham Planning Department granted approval for all pre-commencement conditions, which allowed Willmott Dixon to commence building works.
  • Construction work began in early February with ground excavation and levelling, using crushed material from the demolition of the pool halls to form a ‘piling mat’ - a temporary surface to carry the weight of heavy machinery such as the piling rig.
  • To date Willmott Dixon have excavated and removed approximately 2,500m3 of soil, to be re-used on another site, and are currently carrying out piling works (piling 22 metres below ground level), in preparation for the new building’s foundations.

15 March 2011

Drop in to the Swimming Pool

Taken from Forest Hill Pools Resident Newsletter - March 2011

Following on from the ‘Stakeholder Presentation’ which took place on 9th December, which we believe was well received, two further ‘Drop-In Sessions’ for local residents have been arranged for 22nd March & 5th April 2011 between 5pm & 7pm.

This is an opportunity for you to meet the Willmott Dixon team and ask any questions you may have about the building works. A representative from Lewisham Council will also be there to answer any other questions you may have on the scheme.

The latest plans and Computer Generated Images of the new building will be on display for residents to view. Both sessions will take place in the 1st Floor Meeting Room in Louise House, which we are using as temporary office accommodation for the duration of the project and afford an excellent view of the site. The sessions are open to all local residents and there is no requirement to pre-book ... please just ‘drop-in’!

13 March 2011

Oyster Simplified

One of the most confusing aspects of Oyster usage on National Rail is coming to an end. As of 22 May, the Oyster Extension Permit (OEP) will no longer be required for travel on the trains.

As explained in our earlier article an OEP was required if you had a Travelcard loaded on your Oyster and travelled from a station covered by your Travelcard to a Network Rail station outside your zones. For example, if you had a zone 1-3 Travelcard and travelled to Croydon from Forest Hill, then you needed an OEP if travelling to East Croydon (operated by Network Rail), but not West Croydon (operated by TfL).

This simplification will be welcomed by all Oyster Travelcard holders who will now simply tap in and out on their PAYG journeys.

Free Composting Days

Lewisham Council is running its free weekend garden waste recycling scheme again this year. From March 19 until November 27, residents can dispose of their garden waste every Saturday and Sunday between 9am and noon at four sites including Girton Road car park, Sydenham SE26 5JX and Laurence House Car Park, Catford SE6 4RU

Gardeners are being encouraged to take their waste including flowers and plants, grass clippings, hedge trimmings, leaves, and twigs and branches up to four inches in diameter in plastic or reusable bags. Kitchen waste, trade waste or trailers, vans or open back vehicles will not be allowed.

The service is free, but residents should take a proof of address and ID. For more information visit lewisham.gov.uk.

If you cannot make it on a Saturday or Sunday, there are two other options open to you. Either get rid of your garden waste seven days a week at the re-use and recycling centre at Landmann Way, New Cross or pick up garden waste sacks from your local library. The sacks come in rolls of 10 and cost £10 per roll (cash payments only) which covers the costs of collection and transporting the waste to a composting site. Once one or more bags are full, contact CallPoint on 020 8314 7171 to arrange a collection.