12 December 2007

Forest Hill Society December Newsletter

Welcome to another edition of the Forest Hill Newsletter, and a special welcome to all the new members who have signed up in the last few months, swelling our membership numbers considerably.

It has been a busy few months for Forest Hill with some key developments taking place. This month the library reopens with some great new facilities. October saw the refurbishment of Forest Hill’s favourite Comedy venue – the EDC at the Hob. In November, demolition work began at the Finches site, paving the way for a mixed development. And last but not least, we have finally got a coffee shop in Forest Hill – welcome to the Lemon Grove on London Road.

Public consultations have taken place in Forest Hill and Perry Vale wards regarding the allocation of the localities fund - £10,000 for worthwhile projects in the local area. No decisions have been made yet but there have been some great ideas about how to spend the money to improve the local area. Many of these ideas were put forward at the Society’s AGM in October. These include more greenery in the shopping centres, particularly around London Road, possible traffic calming measures in key locations, youth services, and opening up access to the station from the Perry Vale car park. We look forward to seeing how the money will be spent.

If you haven’t yet renewed your membership subscription for 2008, contact us for a form to use. You can now set up a Standing Order which should make it easier.

And finally, I hope many of you will find time to join us at the Rockbourne Youth Club’s Christmas Fayre on December 15th. You’ll find details of the Society’s contribution inside this Newsletter. See you there!

Michael Abrahams
Chair, Forest Hill Society

Jeff Lowe - an artist speaks out

When I was asked to talk at the Forest Hill Society’s Annual General Meeting in October, I wasn’t completely sure what to talk about, writes Jeff Lowe, internationally acclaimed sculptor and founder of the Havelock Walk artists’ quarter. Should I talk about my sculpture, the Havelock Walk community or my views on Forest Hill from an artist’s perspective and as someone who has lived in Forest Hill for the last fifteen years?

I tried to combine all of these aspects but, in particular, I wanted to talk about my pet hates and disappointment at the virtually unchanged nature of what I would consider to be the centre of Forest Hill.

In my view, regeneration starts with small and obvious changes and from people who care about the environment in which they live.

I have been particularly critical of Lewisham Council’s planning department. Although it has absolute power over the granting of planning for shop fronts and signage, it does nothing to enforce this, nor does it even seem to have a particular design policy to deal with this.

By showing a series of images in my talk, I think everyone present was very aware of how hideous many of these shop fronts and signs are and how they detract from the quality of the architecture they hide. They present a visual barrage, which is completely unnecessary in terms of advertising. There is a complete lack of harmony and any sense of overall planning. Although I believe in organic growth, this has to develop within certain parameters.

Forest Hill is still seen as a run-down area and the fact that the centre is uncared for by Lewisham Council is a disgrace. The streets are filthy and full of rubbish. Refuse collectors should be encouraged to work to create a generally cleaner environment instead of having the belligerent attitude which most of them have. Rubbish should be removed from the centre of Forest Hill even if it falls outside of the weekly collections. For there to be regeneration, we have got to start with these obvious problems.

I have often said it would take the catalyst of perhaps five or six entrepreneurs, opening at the same time, to start the process of regeneration and in order to encourage others to have the confidence to follow suit. If we don’t deal with the obvious problems we do not create a framework in which this can develop.

If I were a visitor to Forest Hill walking to the Horniman Museum from the station, I would be appalled.

Havelock Walk is a good example of regeneration but it has developed from the efforts of the residents who live and work there with little support from Lewisham Council.

The recent farce of the aborted re-cobbling is a classic example of bureaucratic bungling. Because of a few potholes within the street, the highways department’s answer was to tarmac a major part of Havelock Walk and cover the original cobbles. When I called the planning department, Steve Isaacson – to his credit - agreed with me that this was an act of vandalism on a major scale. There followed meetings, site surveys and the usual reams of paperwork.

Eventually it was decided that the only way Havelock could be re-cobbled was to use new cobbles. When I pointed out that this was a conservation area and that the existing cobbles were part of its history, I was told they would be used somewhere else in the borough, “possibly Blackheath!” I commented that I didn’t want to go to Blackheath to feel that I was standing in Havelock Walk. We were also told that because of financial restrictions it would have to be done in two stages, but we were not able to get any guarantee as to when this second stage would be implemented. We have heard no more.

Havelock Walk is heralded within Lewisham Council as a successful example of regeneration, a vital, lively community and a real example of live/work. Why are they not prepared to help?

The examples I have listed are simple ways in which Lewisham Council could contribute to the regeneration in Forest Hill. Let’s hope we can persuade - or embarrass - them into action.

Forest Hill Library – Reopening 11th December

By Christine Dixon, the FH librarian

Forest Hill library, much loved and cherished by local residents, will be reopening on December 11th.

It has been completely refurbished with an emphasis on making it lighter, brighter and enhancing the beautiful decorative features of this stunning listed building.

The new library, which is fully accessible for disabled people, will have thousands of new books, up-to-date IT facilities and a new lay-out with a welcoming leisure area in which users can relax on comfortable chairs and sofas with a drink from a vending machine. DVDs will be stocked for the first time, there will be a multi-purpose meeting room, which will be available for community use, and younger users will have access to playstations.

The library will operate in a new and exciting way. No longer will there be queues to check books in or out. Instead readers will be able to issue and discharge their own books, as they can already in the new Downham library which has successfully pioneered self-issue for Lewisham libraries. Library staff will be freed up to extend the excellent personal service which they have given in the past. And the library
will be open for many more hours in the week!

Forest Hill Pools

It’s great to see that the refurbishment of the library is nearing completion. But two doors down at the swimming pools, things aren’t looking so good.

The Pools were closed in March 2006 when the roof was deemed unsafe. The Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock, took the decision to refurbish rather than rebuild. According to the Council’s timetable, work should be starting in February next year with the pools reopening twelve months later.

However, things seem to be on hold. We sought clarification from Heidi Alexander, the Deputy Mayor of Lewisham. She told us that the Council had been “carrying out some structural investigations of the pool tanks to ascertain what our options are going forward. We have also been looking at the site including Louise House to see whether a comprehensive redevelopment scheme is possible.”

Louise House is the building sandwiched between the library and the pools. It used to be a Girl's Industrial Home which provided accommodation and basic education to destitute girls. More recently, it became a social services office but it closed in 2005 and remains unused.

The Forest Hill Society has suggested in the past that Louise House be incorporated into plans to create a much more comprehensive swimming/sport and community facility on that site. Perhaps the Council is now coming round to this idea.

The Leisure Sub- Committee is seeking further clarification and we hope to have more details in our next Newsletter as well as on our website www.foresthillsociety.com


We all like to think of ourselves as unique, but Forest Hill does have an alter ego in New York City.

Forest Hills is in the borough of Queens and used to be the home of the US Open tennis tournament. Our funds don’t quite cover an all-expenses-paid research trip to New York so we had to rely on the internet to get us in touch with Peter Dutton who’s lived in Forest Hills for 11 years. He writes a blog (online diary) about the area and beyond, which you can read at http://joeshlabotnik.livejournal.com

Why did you decide to live in Forest Hills, Peter?
We moved here because my wife works in Manhattan and I work on Long Island. It's close to both. And you get the amenities of the city with a suburban lifestyle. It's not perfect, but we like it enough.

So how many forests and how many hills do you actually have?
The pithy answer is "Forest Hills has neither forests nor hills". There are nicely tree-lined neighborhoods now, but before it was developed, Forest Hills was farmland. It was named after nearby Forest Park, which does have a big forest. And the land slopes away on the border of Rego Park, but it's hardly a real hill.

What’s the best thing about living in Forest Hills?
Living in such a beautiful quiet peaceful neighborhood about 20 minutes from Times Square, 10 minutes from the airports, 30 minutes from the beach...

And the worst?
Lots of negativity; lots of people who complain about *everything*.

Any famous residents?

(His “real” name is Peter Parker and, according to Marvel Comics, he was orphaned at the age of six and went to live with his aunt and uncle in Forest Hills, New York – ed)

Where would I go for a great night out?
Manhattan. Our restaurant situation isn't exactly dire - there are places worth eating here in Forest Hills, though not much worth travelling for. And we're only 10 minutes by subway from Jackson Heights where you can get some of the best ethnic food in the city (and by extension, the best ethnic food in the country). As for bars, well, that's never been our strong suit. I don't mind having to go to Manhattan for a good place - if I'm going to stay in the neighborhood to drink, I may as well just stay home.

Forest Hill has a large, stuffed walrus in the Horniman Museum. What’s your equivalent?
Well, the most famous landmark is the decaying tennis stadium where they used to play the U.S. Open. But for strange, "Civic Virtue" comes to mind, but that's just over the border in Kew Gardens.
(Civic Virtue is a statue of a muscular, nude, male youth with two vanquished women representing corruption and vice at his feet. It is not universally loved, to say the least - ed)

What’s public transport like?

Fantastic. 24-hour subway and railroad lines. Gets you to Manhattan easily.

And what would make life in Forest Hills even better?
A better selection of restaurants and cafes.

Save our Services

The Forest Hill Society is joining forces with the Sydenham Society as we step up our campaign to oppose cuts to our rail services.

Our area is being asked to pay a high price for the new East London Line extension. The current timetable review proposes cutting the current number of trains to and from London Bridge by a quarter. In the evening, through-trains from Charing Cross will be scrapped. On top of this, the twice-hourly service from London Bridge to Victoria may also be axed.

The Societies are jointly lobbying our local MP, Jim Dowd, our London Assembly member, Len Duval, and several others about the loss of trains to/from London Bridge and the cancellation of through trains to/from Charing Cross in the evening. Part of this lobby effort concerns the possible cancellation of the London Bridge to Victoria loop trains.

Although many people use this service, when the East London Line extension opens in 2010, there will potentially be a better service, starting much earlier in the day. However, it will involve a change of trains at Crystal Palace in both directions. We are lobbying to find out what any possible rebuild at Crystal Palace will involve since accessibility is, obviously, a concern there.

At the same time, we have issued a press release highlighting our campaign. We will be presenting the petition – which now has over a thousand signatures – to Network Rail and Jim Dowd MP.

We still feel our efforts should be concentrated on resisting cuts to our London Bridge services. The big problem is that London Bridge will be losing up to 3 'terminal' platforms to accommodate the Thameslink 2000 services that will run from St Albans to Brighton. But that service will not benefit any Forest Hill or Sydenham residents unless some trains stop at New Cross Gate. At the moment, there is no indication that this will happen. We will continue lobbying.

The East London line will be closing on 22nd December until it reopens in June 2010.

Then there will be 8 trains an hour of 4 carriages each in both directions, passing through Forest Hill and Sydenham, on their way to West Croydon (4tph) and Crystal Palace (4tph) in the south and Dalston Junction in the north (8tph). These trains will be part of Transport for London's network and will be called the London Overground. At last, Forest Hill will be on the Tube map. Also, although not directly a Forest Hill affair, TfL took over the running of the North London line on 11th November. There will be a link at Highbury and Islington with the ELL when the northern extension is opened in February 2011.

Elsewhere, the Transport Sub-Committee is looking into the water leak onto Honor Oak Road from the Havelock House flats area; the continuing problems with traffic passing through Forest Hill on the South Circular Road, particularly the dangers to pedestrians crossing the road outside Forest Hill station; the continued speeding in Perry Rise; the need for Yellow Box junctions on the South Circular outside Forest Hill Station and probably at the bottom of Honor Oak Road. We’ll report back on results in the next Newsletter.

New History Tour of Forest Hill

Steve Grindlay led over 80 residents on a history tour around the streets of Forest Hill in what proved to be the most successful social event of last year.

Steve has now agreed to host another event, this time in the more convivial surroundings of The Hob, to look at how Forest Hill was built, including the origins and growth of Forest Hill and Honor Oak. It will look at the buildings, transport, entertainment, trade and even some notable residents.

Come along to hear Steve at The Hob: Wednesday, January 30th 2008 at 7pm.

Holding the event in-doors this time will allow Steve to share his wealth of rare photos and documents, and it also allows those of us less inclined to march 5 miles up and down the local topography to enjoy the event in comfort.

Members and non-members welcome.

Christmas Walk

How well do you know Forest Hill? One man has made it his mission to walk every street in SE23 by the end of the year and has built up an impressive knowledge of the area as a result. Now, together with the Forest Hill Society, he’s inviting people to join him on 15th December for the final leg of this epic journey.

Rob McIntosh has been pounding the uneven pavements of SE23 all year, taking photos and making inquiries as he goes. He then shares the experience with the wider community through his entertaining blog (online diary) http://se23streets.blogspot.com.

Rob works from home and, as he explains, “sometimes you need an excuse to get out the front door and stretch your legs. Most importantly, I hope to pass on some of my enthusiasm for the area.”

So, if you fancy keeping him company as he completes his task - and sharing a few mince pies along the way - do join us at 11am on 15th December at the corner of Brenchley Gardens and Brockley Way.

We’ll walk down to the Horniman, past Forest Hill Station and finish at the
Rockbourne Youth Club’s Christmas Fayre (41a Rockbourne Road) - approximately 2.5 miles.

The Forest Hill Society will have its own stall at the Rockbourne Christmas Fayre with plenty of information about the Society, and a few SE23 cakes to get you in the community spirit. At 1 o’clock, Rob will give a short presentation about his walks, the best views, the prettiest streets and most interesting places in Forest Hill.

The Fayre is 12-4pm and promises plenty of stalls, food, games and raffles. For more information, contact Cerys or Jane at rockbourneyouthclub@gmail.com or call 020-8699-0163.

Pub Crawl

Around twenty lucky souls met on the evening of September 23rd for a tour of the varied drinking establishments in SE23.

We started with the cavernous Capitol, the Art Deco cinema restored to its full glory. Some of the braver amongst us risked the candlelit ghost tour of the upper circle and beyond, kindly led by “Bean.” As luck would have it, Bean is psychic and was able to point out several ghosts who appeared along our route.

Then onto the Forest Hill Hotel, hidden away off Stansted Road, and, sadly, often overlooked by many of us. It’s a modest and traditional back street boozer complete with a nice array of hanging plants outside.

We then traipsed on to the much talked about The Honor Oak where James and Jamie had laid on a small feast.

Backways past the former games' factory, and the former hemp factory, to the edge of the known SE23 universe and the Blythe Hill Tavern. We just fitted into the cosy snug of this real Irish pub. As ever, the Guinness was near perfect. Thanks to Con for that.

Views on the next itinerary - and the best day of the week to do it - to the editor please!

Hanging on in Forest Hill

It’s Halloween and Mayow Park is pitch black, save for the ghoulish faces of the pumpkins flickering in the cold night air. The children have morphed into witches, devils and worse. And there’s an overwhelming smell of sticky sweets, which they tricked or treated earlier in the evening. We’re all set for a Bat Walk!

It was late in the year for bat hunting. As the insects they eat disappear, the bats start thinking about hibernating. But they made a special effort for Halloween. We didn’t actually see any but we did pick up a couple on our bat detectors – electronic devices, which convert the bats’ ultrasonic, echolocation calls into audible clicks. These were pipistrelles – small, fluttery bats, which are the ones we’re most likely to encounter in our parks and gardens. They may even roost around our houses in summer without us knowing they’re there. They weigh less than a pound coin but they eat up to three thousand insects a night.

Our guide for the night was Colin Higgins, the new warden of Sydenham Hill Wood who works for the London Wildlife Trust. He says we’ve got at least six bat species in Forest Hill out of seventeen species nationally, which is pretty good seeing as they are in decline due to loss of habitat and the overuse of pesticides which kill off the insects they eat.

At Sydenham Hill Wood we’re lucky enough to have brown long-eared bats - one of the more attractive UK species. They normally prefer rural locations, such as farms, but the wood has a good supply of insects and plenty of places to roost.

There is a Woodland Bat Roost Project, funded by the SITA Trust, with extra help and money from Southwark and Lewisham Councils, which seeks to improve the wood as a habitat for bats. This involves surveying the woods with bat detectors and putting up bat boxes to provide extra roosting spaces. There are also plans to carry out building works on the disused railway tunnel to improve it as a bat hibernation site.

The best way to see and hear bats is to go on a bat walk. These are public events held in many parks and public places generally between May and September, when bats are most visible.

And if you’d like to do your bit for bats, you can contact the Bat Conservation Trust at www.bats.org.uk or 0845-1300-228

02 December 2007

Rail Campaign in the South London Press

Press Release from Forest Hill Society taken up by the South London Press.

24 November 2007

Find us on Facebook

The Forest Hill Society now has a group on Facebook. If you are a member of the Society, or just want to show your support, you can join us on Facebook's Forest Hill Society Group.

By joining the group you can spread the word about the Forest Hill Society to your Facebook friends and help us to increase our visibility and membership.

At this point in time the Forest Hill Society (not the Facebook group) has almost 400 members. If you wish to join you can download a membership form.

A date for your Christmas diary

Keep a little time free in your diary on December 15th 2007.

The Rockbourne Youth Club's Christmas Fayre takes place that day from 12pm to 4pm, and the Forest Hill Society will have a stand to meet and recruit new members and also to raise funds for the Youth Club.

Robert McIntosh will present a short talk on Walking the Streets of SE23, his project to walk every street of this area in 2007, with some of the stories and photos from the attempt.

If you are interested, Robert's final walk will start at 11:00 and finish at the Rockbourne Youth Club in time to for the Fayre. If you want to come along for the walk all are welcome. Meet at the corner of Brenchley Gardens and Brockley Way (you can read more details and get a map of the route here)


Rockbourne Youth Clubs Christmas Fayre
Saturday 15th December 07
Rockbourne Youth Club, 41a Rockbourne Road, Forest Hill, SE23 2DA

Click here for a map

We would like to invite you to our first Christmas Fayre, there will be stalls, food, games, raffle.

If you are interested in getting involved or having a stall on the day please contact Cerys or Jane on 020 8699 0163 or email us at rockbourneyouthclub@gmail.com

10 October 2007

Further dates for your diary

All events in this article are non-FH Society events but are happening in the local area. If you would like to publicise events in Forest Hill that are open to all members of the public, please send us details.

Perry Vale ward meeting
There will be a Perry Vale Ward meeting hosted by the ward councillors, Susan Wise, John Paschoud and Alan Till to dicuss how ward members would like the next round of the Localities Fund to be spent. The £10,000 is funded by the Mayor Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock, and the meeting will take place at St.George's Church (at the junction of Vancouver and Woolstone Roads SE23) on Monday, 29th October, at 7.30pm. All ward members welcome.

Rockbourne Youth Club - 25th Birthday
All members of the community, young and old, are invited to the 25th birthday of Rockbourne Youth Club. With information about the history of the club and current activities plus light refreshments.
20th October, 2-5pm, 41a Rockbourne Road, SE23 2DA
RSVP - Cerys: rockbourneyouthclub@gmail.com

The Lemon Grove - Coffee shop
News is coming in on se23.com that, after much waiting, a coffee shop will be opening on London Road. This is welcome news and we wish all new businesses in the area every success. More details here and on SE23.com as we hear them.

05 October 2007

AGM 3rd October

Many thanks to all of you who attended the second Annual General Meeting. There was a really good turn out with over 90 people and, although we did overrun a bit, plenty of people stayed to the bitter end to take part in a useful discussion of Forest Hill issues.

We’re very grateful to our guest speaker, Jeff Lowe - sculptor and founder of the Havelock Walk artists’ quarter- for inspiring us to fight against ugly shop signs, unsightly wheelie bins and filthy pavements. It was quite a call to arms and a real eye-opener seeing our streets through the eyes of an artist!

John Hughes from the Library gave us an update on the refurbishment. It’ll be reopening on 11th December and it sounds like it’s going to be a real asset to the community. There’ll be much better access and facilities for young and old and did he really mention the possibility of showing FILMS there?

Keeping up the community theme, the Rockbourne Youth Centre appealed for help running the youth facility as it celebrates its twenty-fifth year.

For the remainder of the evening, we got through various bits of Society business including electing (in many cases, re-electing) officers. We’re delighted that Michael Abrahams will be continuing his excellent work as Chair of the Society. And some new faces volunteered to be Committee members bringing fresh blood to the organisation.

So, one year on from our inaugural AGM, things are looking pretty healthy for the Forest Hill Society and we look forward to many dynamic and successful campaigns in the year ahead.

The full minutes of the meeting will be posted on this website very soon and we look forward to seeing you all next time.

25 September 2007

Forest Hill Society Response to Rail Utilisation Strategy

Letter to Network Rail in response to the RUS consultation document:

The Forest Hill Society wish to provide some feedback on a number of aspects on the South London RUS. Overall we are disappointed that while the RUS recognises the existing overcrowding and suppressed demand on our line, it fails to deliver any significant improvements for passengers on the Forest Hill / Sydenham line. In many ways we will have a worse service as a result of the RUS than we do at present and we urge you to reconsider a number of key areas for the passengers from Forest Hill.

From the end of last year the Forest Hill Society, in conjunction with the Sydenham Society, has collected almost 1,000 signatures which can be viewed at http://fhpetition.notlong.com/. These are from local residents opposed to a reduction in services to London Bridge. The RUS provides no immediate solutions to the reduction in services that we take effect with the introduction of the East London Line.

Executive Summary of our recommendations:
  • No cuts to the existing peak services to London Bridge on the Sydenham line
  • Earliest possible introduction of 10-car or 12-car trains on the Sydenham line
  • No cuts to services on the Sydenham line to Charing Cross
  • We are pleased that the RUS recommends the continuation of direct services from Forest Hill to Victoria. We would like these to be extended to the morning peak [ed. - it is still not entirely clear that this service will continue but there is some evidence in the RUS document that it will still be run]
Option 2.3 – Increased am peak frequency on the Sydenham Line

We are disappointed that the recommendation to have an extra 2 tph refers to the East London Line rather than the London Bridge service. At present there are 8 tph on the services into London Bridge but this will be reduced to 6 tph in the current plans. Replacing these with trains on the East London Line will not make up for the loss of services to London Bridge as the trains will be shorter (4 carriages rather than 8 or 10 carriages) and the destination is wrong for the majority of commuters, who will continue to travel towards the centre of London via London Bridge and the Northern and Jubilee Lines.

The RUS (page 112) makes quite clear that the London Bridge service would be a preferable option to the East London Line option and would reduce crowding on the train services as well as at Canada Water station, which is barely able to cope with the expected increase in passengers changing platform via a single escalator.

Network Rail must look again at the capacity made available for services from Forest Hill to London Bridge and make sure that our existing capacity is not diminished. We do not request more trains than we currently have (although demand would support this), just the same level of service as is currently available on the line. The only issue here is capacity at London Bridge which appears to be being taken away from the people of Forest Hill and other stations in Lewisham.

Option 4.3 – 10-car or 12-car peak services on the Sydenham Line

We welcome the recommendation to run 10-car trains on the Forest Hill / Sydenham line. This will reduce some of the impacts of the proposed reduction in train numbers (option 2.3), but does not address the existing overcrowding and suppressed demand on this route into London Bridge. We would like to understand more about why 12-car trains would be impractical on this route as the phrase 'This is likely to lead to the conclusion that 12-car operation is impractical on this route due to constraints elsewhere limiting the suburban network to 10-car' (page 130, emphasis added). We do not believe that limitations on other parts of the network should hinder the necessary provision of services on a route with such high levels of suppressed demand.

It is disappointing to see that this increase in the lengths of trains shall not be delivered until the completion of the Thameslink Programme. We believe this is an excuse for inactivity and lack of development on our line which is not justified by any Cost Benefit Analysis. Many platforms at London Bridge low-level station are already capable of having 10-car or even 12-car trains, so it should be possible for at least some of the services on our line to be increased to 12-car trains, even if not all of them before the completion of the Thameslink Programme.

The biggest concern for us is that with the proposed reduction in services to London Bridge following the introduction of the East London Line services (and even before that with the closure of the ELL from this December), we will see an increase in overcrowding on the remaining services to London Bridge. The immediate effect of the East London Line for passengers from Forest Hill will be a reduction in services and increased overcrowding. The RUS does nothing to solve this problem until many years after the introduction of the East London Line Extension.

We recommend that work begins immediately to extend all the platforms on the Forest Hill / Sydenham line to allow for 12-car trains and that plans are built into the timetable from 2011 to allow for 10-car and at least some 12-car trains on this route. In terms of passenger demand and economics this plan is more effective than the short-term strategy of inaction outlined in the RUS.

Option 20.4 – Operation of trains from Sydenham line through to Charing Cross

The evening services from Charing Cross to Forest Hill are extremely beneficial for passengers coming home from the West End of London and are 'extremely well utilised' (page 176). Because these existing services operate outside peak times there should not be any issues with capacity beyond London Bridge. We recognise that it is not possible to run these services during peak hours, but consideration must be given to the continuation of these services into the evening off-peak hours.

Again we are not demanding any increase over our existing services (although demand would justify such an increase), but wish to see our existing services remaining during the evenings. There is no justification for the removal of this extremely well utilised service.

Existing Loop Line to Victoria

From the route map on page 203 of the RUS it appears that plans are in place to continue to run trains between London Bridge and Victoria via Forest Hill. This is already a useful service at off-peak times and enables services to run into London Bridge without using capacity south of Norwood Junction. We would like confirmation that the plan is to maintain this service in the short to medium term.

Ideally these services would run into Victoria or Clapham Junction in the morning peak to cater for the large number of commuters in the area heading for west and south west London.

Additional Options that have not been considered in the RUS:

Stopping some Thameslink trains at New Cross Gate

We propose that at least 2 tph on the Thameslink service stop at New Cross Gate after the introduction of the East London Line.

Passengers from the East London Line would then be able to change to these services to London Bridge, Kings Cross, Bedford , Gatwick and Brighton. This would reduce overcrowding on the remaining services from New Cross Gate to London Bridge by adding additional capacity, provide faster travel from Gatwick to Canary Wharf and City Airport, reduce passenger overcrowding at London Bridge station with customers changing platforms (this is recognised as a problem area in the RUS), and it would reduce overcrowding on the Northern Line for a significant number of passengers from South London wishing to continue beyond Kings Cross.

Additionally, there is a need for peak services on the Thameslink route through London Bridge. At present there are no Thameslink services before 9:30am , which adds to the inconvenience of travelling to Luton Airport, Kings Cross (for Eurostar), and other key destinations on this line. We recommend that consideration is given to running at least 2 tph on the Thameslink service via London Bridge.

We would also like to take this opportunity to make clear our opposition to the removal of terminating platforms at London Bridge which Forest Hill services currently use. It is clear from the current Thameslink plans that there will be a reduction from 9 terminating platforms to just 6, this is not enough platforms for all the South London services that make use of London Bridge. South Londoners seem to have been given little thought when developing plans for the Thameslink service.

ELL trains on the Loop Line to Victoria

There are many commuters from Forest Hill and Sydenham wishing to travel via Clapham Junction and Victoria in the morning peak. With the extension of the East London Line there will be greater interchange potential at Crystal Palace to other services to these destinations. However, we would like consideration to be given to the continuation of some of these East London Line or London Bridge service to Clapham Junction or Victoria. This would provide a useful loop for passengers from South East London travelling to South West and West London , reducing congestion at London Bridge and on Jubilee Line services from London Bridge to Westminster.

We understand that there are capacity issues at peak times around Victoria as well as London Bridge , so termination at Clapham Junction, or joining the 4-car ELL trains with other short services to Victoria may be viable options.

It is disappointing that no consideration was given to better use of this service as part of the RUS.

I hope that you will incorporate our feedback and suggestions in the future development of train services in South London.

17 September 2007

Autumn Dates for your Diary

Sunday 23rd September: Forest Hill Pub Crawl

Meet at The Capitol, London Road, 7:30pm

Members and non-members welcome

Forest Hill Ward Meeting (non-Society event)

Residents of Forest Hill Ward are cordially invited to the third Forest Hill Ward Meeting hosted by the ward councillors on Monday 24th September 2007, at 7.30pm, Christian Fellowship Centre on Honor Oak Road.

The Meeting is part of a regular series open meetings hosted by the ward councillors where issues of interest to local residents can be discussed.

On the agenda for this meeting are planning & development and how to spend this years' Localities Fund monies

Wednesday 3rd October: Forest Hill Society AGM

Christian Fellowship Centre, Honor Oak Road (opposite Fairlawn School)

Doors open 7pm (meeting starts 7:30pm)

Members and non-members welcome

Chairperson's Report

The Forest Hill Society is only one year old but for a one year old it is extremely active.

Over the last year we have been mentioned in parliament in a debate specifically about trains through Forest Hill, we have lobbied and worked with MPs, Assembly Members, Mayors, Councillors, and the rail industry, and we have made sure that the views of the people of Forest Hill have been heard. We do not want any cuts to train services to London Bridge.

We have worked to make Forest Hill more of a community through our activities over the last year, including two local pub crawls, a nature walk through Devonshire Road Nature Reserve, and 80 people braved the rain for an historical walking tour of Forest Hill.

We have worked with local residents to improve a footpath behind Sunderland Road and are helping to improve the top of Stanstead Road. People who use Forest Hill station will have noticed the removal of the graffiti from the footbridge earlier in the year as well as minor improvements to the Perry Vale entrance and the guttering in the underpass. Traffic calming has been put in place on Honor Oak Road and Honor Oak Park. All of these changes have made Forest Hill a slightly nicer and safer place to live, and would not have happened without the Forest Hill Society.

Concerns have been raised by the Forest Hill Society about a number of other issues, from the continuing closure of the swimming pool and the lack of use of Louise House, to the state of Sydenham Park / Dacres Road footbridge, as well as the need for traffic calming on Kirkdale, and further improvements to the underpass and Forest Hill station.

Forest Hill is lucky to be a lovely, friendly, and green place to live. On the whole things are continuing to look up for Forest Hill, with the East London Line arriving in a few years, the station being made disabled accessible, plans to reopen the swimming pools, and plenty of shops ready for new businesses to come into the area and join the many great businesses we already have.

After one year we have proved that the Forest Hill Society can make a difference and make Forest Hill an even better place to live. But we do need you help and support to keep campaigning, to keep you informed of our activities, and to listen to the opinions of all residents of Forest Hill. Click here to become a member of the Forest Hill Society. We already have 300 members but we would love to have you as a member as well. So please support us in supporting Forest Hill and join up for just £5 per year. And if you want to get more involved please come along to our AGM on 3rd October and tell us your views, or join the committee and get even more involved in transport, planning, leisure, events, or anything else that you think we should be doing for Forest Hill.

Michael Abrahams
Chairperson, Forest Hill Society

Rail Utilisation Strategy

This summer Network Rail published the Rail Utilisation Strategy (RUS) for South London. This official consultation document explores a number of options for improving rail transport in South London with mixed news for Forest Hill passengers.

Some positive recommendations from the RUS:

  • Longer trains through Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park to London Bridge (up to 10 carriage trains compared to the current average of 7 carriages per train during peak hours)
  • Need for increased trains even after the introduction of the new East London Line Services
  • Trains will continue to operate to Victoria from Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park
  • The East London Line Extension will provide an additional 6 trains per hour from Forest Hill through to Hoxton, finally putting Forest Hill on the 'tube' map

However there is also plenty of bad news:

  • Longer trains will not be introduced until the Thameslink service is upgraded and significant work is done to London Bridge station. Until then (which is at least 7 years away) they recommend running only 8 carriages trains during the peak
  • Direct services from Forest Hill to Charing Cross and Waterloo East will no longer be available
  • Trains service to London Bridge will be reduced (from 8 to 6 trains during the rush hour) with the introduction of the East London Line in 2011
  • East London Line trains will only have 4 carriages
  • With 'surplus demand' on our line and expected increases in passengers numbers, trains will become more overcrowded on our line

The Forest Hill Society have already expressed our concerns to MPs, our GLA member, local councillors, Lewisham Council officials, Transport for London, Network Rail, Southern Railways, and local radio. Jim Dowd MP has asked questions and even dedicated a debate to the future of our train services.

If you have not done so already, we urge you to sign our petition at http://fhpetition.notlong.com which already has over 900 signatures, and we will continue to fight to:

a) Keep our existing services to London Bridge
b) Call for 10 car trains at the earliest opportunity
c) Keep existing evening and weekend services from Charing Cross
to Forest Hill

According to Network Rail estimates, if there were space on the trains today there would be an extra 40% of people using our services to London Bridge
. We already have a poor quality train service and their proposals only make things worse for us. The Forest Hill Society shall be opposing the current recommendations and we hope you will support us, by joining the Society or by signing our petition.

Post Office Update

The current timetable is for the Post Office on Dartmouth Road to close and to move to the WHSmith (upstairs) in February 2008. There are many questions about posting facilities and access, particularly for the elderly and disabled, as well as the long term implications of this site if, and when, the station is redeveloped. Unfortunately the decision appears to have been taken without prior consultation, but the Forest Hill Society will make what representations it can to improve the plans.

Station Improvements

Working with local councillors, the Forest Hill Society has already helped to ensure that Network Rail will replace the bridge across the tracks to include lifts either end to allow better disabled access.

We are, however, still keen to allow direct access to the Southbound platforms for wheelchairs and prams. Our preferred solution is that the platform is widened and lengthened to allow direct access from the Perry Vale car park.

Along with increased disabled parking bays in the car park, this could have a dramatic effect on ease of access at what is already the UK’s 111th busiest railway station.

The Society has already got local councillors on board and hope to get the necessary support from Lewisham Council. Unfortunately convincing Network Rail to make such changes is a long and frustrating experience, but we feel this should be made a very high priority.

If you have strong feelings about this proposal, please contact the Forest Hill Society with your comments and we can share them with the interested parties.

18 August 2007

Jersey Tiger Moths

Forget the Island of Rhodes and its famous Tiger Moths. You can see them right here in Forest Hill! The stunning Jersey Tiger Moth has, for slightly mysterious reasons, started breeding in the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve and is the only inland colony of the species in Britain. The other colonies are in the Channel Islands and on the South Coast.

They have black and white striped forewings and orange hindwings, decorated with black spots. And, unlike most moths, they go about their business during the day so there are plenty of opportunities to spot them.

They were first seen in small numbers at the Nature Reserve in 2004. But this summer, there have been numerous sightings around SE23.

It’s thought that a female tiger moth discovered the Nature Reserve in 2003. And, like so many of us who found our way accidentally to Forest Hill, decided to make it her home. And breed…

03 August 2007

Forest Hill Craft Market

Saturday 18th August brings a craft market right here, to Forest Hill!

The market will take place in the Forest Hill station car park from 10am-3pm, so come along and show your support for this innovation.

Horniman goes Batty

Tuesday 28th August 9pm-10pm is the Horniman Bat safari. Limited places are available for this chance to see bats in Sydenham Hill Woods.

Admittedly the photo here comes from my honeymoon in Dominica and is almost certainly not a species that would be seen in London, but amazingly bats do live in this corner of London.

To book a place on the safari contact the Horniman museum on 020 8699 1872 ext 129.

30 July 2007

Archaeology in Forest Hill

On Sat 25th and Sun 26th August (8am - 6pm) the Great War Archaeological Group are organising an exploratory dig around the WWI gun emplacement at One Tree Hill (sometimes erroneously called the bandstand). They want to encourage community involvement in the first instance by inviting people to come and watch the dig (and there will be someone to talk about their work) and possibly contribute local family recollections of the time. If this study reveals findings of interest there will be further explorations when they would hope to involve local groups (such as schools) and individuals.

If you need any further information please contact:
Sandy Pepperell
Chair, Friends of One Tree Hill
Tel: 020 8699 2812

29 July 2007

View from Forest Hill in 2012

We all know that some of the best views of London are from Forest Hill, but this view may seem just a little unfamiliar. A recent article in the Evening Standard had this picture to show what London's skyline could look like in 2012.

Update 13/3/08: Since this is one of the most popular entry points to this site I felt I should provide a link to an even better picture from Skyscrapernews.com this is again taken from Forest Hill looking across all of London - what a great view!

Planning News from Forest Hill

There have been a number of planning developments in Forest Hill in which the Society have been taking a close interest.

The redevelopment of Pizza Hut and the Red Cross shop on London Road DC/07/65320 was rejected by the council planning department on the grounds that there was 'insufficient design quality for this prominent location and would not preserve or enhance the Forest Hill Conservation Area'. We are pleased that the council took account of the objections by us and others.

William Hill will be moving from their current location to the site of Blockbusters on London Road, as was mentioned in the last newsletter. This follows approval from the council.

The site of McDonalds is being considered for redevelopment with a proposal (DC/07/65749) for demolition of the first floor and construction of three additional storeys at first, second and third floor levels, incorporating balconies and roof terraces, over the commercial shop units. Comprising 2, one bedroom and 7, two bedroom, self-contained flats, together with the installation of a new shop front.

The Forest Hill Society has written to oppose the current plans on a number of grounds:

1. The design of the proposed development may compliment the design of the Sainsbury’s store, but it does nothing to preserve the character of the high street within this conservation area. This building will significantly change the balance of architectural styles in the centre of Forest Hill, further detracting from the character if this conservation area.

2. Unlike neighbouring sites on London Road, the proposed design has residential upper floors directly above the shop front, rather than stepped back from the pavement. This reduces the light on the pavement and again alters the character of this road in a negative way.

3. With the increase height of this development and the increased profile along the side of the site, there will be a negative impact on the alleyway between this site and the Sainsbury’s site. This is an important pedestrian route from the council car park to the high street and it is our concern that with the reduced daylight to this area it will attract anti-social behaviour and discourage people using the high street for their shopping.

4. There are further concerns from the Society over the impact of any construction work on the site and would seek assurance that the passageway from the car park to the high street would remain accessible throughout any period of construction. We also ask that consideration is also given to the impact of construction on pedestrian and vehicle use of London Road during this period.

Finally, we have recently heard that two appeals have been received by the council regarding their rejection of plans to build 84 flats behind Tyson Road (DC/06/63803) and 10 flats on Sunderland Road, on the site of the old Conservative club (DC/06/63172). The Society believes that the council were right to reject both of the proposed developments and will be closely watching the appeals process.

If you are aware of any other planning issues that require the Society's attention then please let us know about them.

03 July 2007

Tyson Road in the Local Development Framework

Under the proposals Lewisham’s preferred option for the Tyson Road/Christian Fellowship Site is for residential development. If you agree or disagree with this view you have until 2 August to submit your comments.

It is not easy to navigate the documents on the Lewisham website and so if you want to find the references to the Tyson Road/Christian Fellowship Site here are some directions:

Document name – Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment - Preferred Options Report - Development Policies and Site Allocations.

This looks at various plots of land in the Borough and, in Appendix C, sets out the Council's preferred development option for each site. The Tyson Road/Christian Fellowship Site is listed as Site 20 and discussed on page 239 (numbered 541) of the document.

Document name – Development Policies and Site Allocations - The Preferred Options Report

This summarises the Council's preferred development option for each site. The Tyson Road/Christian Fellowship Site is again listed as Site 20 and discussed on page 281 of the document.

Local residents have prepared feedback to this proposal asking for the area to be designated as public space. This will protect biodiversity on the site, avoid over-development on the site, avoid issues of drainage and flooding to surrounding properties, and protect the trees on the site. If you would like to back their campaign you can send your views to planning.policy@lewisham.gov.uk

Two sample letters have been written which you may wish to use in whole or part. There is a long version as well as a summary of the key points.
(The views in these letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Forest Hill Society)

24 June 2007

Welcome to the Society's June Newsletter

The following articles on the blog are from the June edition of the Forest Hill Society Newsletter. Paper copies are delivered to all our members - if you have not received your copy please contact us.

To view all the newsletter articles in one go click here.

We kept the Newsletter shorter this time to reflect the summer lull but we hope you’ll still find plenty of information about what the Society gets up to – and what is happening around Forest Hill.

Since the last Newsletter, we’ve had another chance to exchange views at our General Meeting on May 10th. It was great to see so many members there and to welcome new ones. The Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock, was the Guest Speaker and dealt with a wide range of questions including the future of Forest Hill Station, playgrounds and traffic. We were also joined by representatives from the Horniman Museum discussing the plans for the Gardens. See the latest update on this story here.

Liz Hannaford, Editor, Forest Hill Society

Last Post?

The Forest Hill Post Office on Dartmouth Road is to close down and relocate to WH Smith in front of the station. The move is supposed to happen by the end of next summer and is part of a nationwide strategy for creating a “sustainable network of flagship Post Office branches.” But what will it mean for local residents?

Forest Hill Post Office is among fifteen in London, which will be moved into a local WH Smith branch. Mayor Steve Bullock told the FHSoc General Meeting that he was “deeply suspicious” of this proposal and described it as a “straightforward attempt by the Post Office to put commercial interest above public service obligations.” He says he is making his concerns known to Post Office Ltd.

WH Smith, unsurprisingly, insists that in the six locations across the country where this move has already been piloted, it’s been a success with customers welcoming “the pleasant environment, good levels of customer service and convenient locations.” And the Post Office believes this commercial decision makes sense because the two businesses have a lot in common.

But let us put aside for a moment the arguments about whether or not the relocation of post office business into the private sector is a Good Thing or not. There are other very local concerns about moving our Post Office into the WH Smith store. Is the retail space available actually big enough to accommodate a busy post office with long queues? What happens to the site vacated by the Post Office? Will it become yet another gap on our high street?

Of course, the optimistic view is that this could be a great opportunity. WH Smith may decide to redevelop their premises to fully exploit this new line of business. At the same time, money is being directed at Forest Hill Station in coming years to improve accessibility and to make it ready for the ELL.

Perhaps these projects could somehow come together to produce the town centre we’ve all been waiting for – the town centre envisaged by Lewisham Council not so many years ago when it said the station should be relocated to the WHSmith site.
The local councillor, Philip Peake, says the current proposals from the Post Office are short on detail and promises he will be pursuing the issue.

UPDATE: Jim Dowd Lewisham West MP has also organised a Parliamentary petition urging the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to use his powers to ensure that the Post Office does not reduce the level of services currently available to customers under its new partnership agreement with WH Smith.

And, of course, the Forest Hill Society, is on the case!

Society News (including Transport & Planning)


Since the last newsletter, there have been traffic management improvements to Honor Oak Park and Honor Oak Road. We are pleased that Lewisham Council has done something to improve the quality of life for residents on these busy roads but we are concerned that the speed bumps (or pimples!) do not seem to be big enough to slow down the HGVs. We will be investigating the possibility of getting a Speed Sign, which tells drivers when they are going too fast.

Our lobbying of Esso, TfL and Lewisham Borough Environmental services has
stopped the leaking water at the Esso Petrol/Tesco Food store on the junction of Honor Oak Road and London Road. But we will continue monitoring the area to ensure that the water leak does not reappear.

In Parliament

The Forest Hill Society has lobbied hard to alert people to the threatened reduction in our London Bridge train service. So we were delighted on 9th March when our local MP, Jim Dowd, raised the issue in Parliament. He asked the Transport Minister for reassurance that the benefit of the East London Line Extension would not be diluted by cuts to other services.

Gillian Merron, the Transport Minister, replied that no final decision about timetabling had been made and hoped that this would “reassure” Jim Dowd’s constituents. It does not! Her whole reply seemed to suggest that a reduction in the train service to London Bridge was a given.

We’re maintaining our campaign on this important issue. The Forest Hill Society and other local community groups were congratulated in Parliament for putting so much work into analysing the implications of the ELL project. So the campaign is definitely having an impact in the right places.


The Society is currently reviewing a proposal for the redevelopment of Pizza Hut and the Red Cross shop on Dartmouth Road. The plan is to refurbish the shop units and to add flats above.

There’s also an application to convert part of Blockbusters on London Road into a William Hill betting shop. Unfortunately, our options are limited here since this is more a matter of licensing than planning. However, we are actively looking into this because we know it concerns many people.

We’re also looking at the bigger picture. How do we want to see Forest Hill develop in coming years? With this in mind, we're going to be undertaking a “Living Streets” assessment, which looks at the quality of the streets that we live on and what can be done to improve them. “Living Streets” used to be the Pedestrians Association and describes itself as the “champion of streets and public spaces for people on foot.”

The Society is always available to review planning applications and to support residents where development is proposed. Our email address is foresthillplanning@gmail.com

One Tree Hill Allotments – The True Story

We always like seeing SE23 get the recognition it deserves in the media. But when ‘Time Out’ magazine featured the One Tree Hill Allotments (Tree Amigos, February 21) there was some unhappiness about the way the journalist portrayed the plot holders. So, Ian White, the vice chair of the One Tree Hill Allotments Society, thinks it’s time to set the record straight.

When ‘Time Out’ came to the One Tree Hill allotments, it was to attend the Wassail - a festival held in January in praise of next year's apple crop. But the article seemed to portray the good denizens of Forest Hill and Honor Oak as hippies, crusties and New Age travellers. Now, we may be an exceptionally enlightened and liberal community, but the journalist did exercise a large degree of artistic license.

The allotments are close to Honor Oak Park Station. It’s a challenging area being clay and on a hill. It covers nine acres and holds 70 plots. Over the last few years, the very active committee has cleared large amounts of rubbish, created better access, reinstated derelict plots and created new ones. The result is a thriving community with plots fully occupied and a waiting list. Many think of flat caps and 'Dig for victory' but members are from all walks of life, across the age, cultural and ability (both physical and gardening) spectrum. You will see a variety of gardening styles, from formal regimented rows to Cottage Style gardens. Organic/sustainable activities are encouraged as are measures to support wildlife through set aside areas, tree planting, bird and bat boxes and a number of ponds. This has resulted in a wide variety of fauna and flora.

Plot-holders share and take part in communal tasks and hold events including barbecues, Apple days, Green Man Fayres and Bonfire night.

You may now understand why some members were annoyed at the incorrect picture ‘Time Out’ portrayed. The magazine focused on one aspect of the activities of the Permaculture group who rent just one plot. Even more frustratingly, ‘Time Out’ could not get the musical instrument right in the article. It isn't a Tambourine, but a Bodhran!

The site is open to the general public on certain days and guided walks are often organised. The next open day is on Sunday 8th July 12-6pm. You can get more information here or email Ian White at contact@onetreehillallotments.org.uk

Could this be Forest Hill's Next Beauty Spot?

For my neighbours and me, there's just one thing that spoils our enjoyment of life in Forest Hill. We live on Stanstead Road (the quiet part, round the back of the South Circular) and our houses look out on bricks, thousands of bricks, in the form of Travis Perkins' enormous warehouse wall. In front of the wall is an ugly 3 metre-wide strip of paving, currently home to a motley collection of scrubby bushes and fly-tipped rubbish.

Last autumn, we called the council to see if they could plant some trees. But then, an article in Lewisham Life about the community garden at Brockley Cross caught our eye. If they could do it there, could we do the same here?

We contacted the Forest Hill Society to see if there were members on Stanstead Road who could support us. In January, we had our inaugural meeting and the Stanstead Road Garden Project was born. John Paschoud, our local councillor, found out who owns the land, set us up with a dedicated email address and gave us good advice.

The next step was to find a garden designer. A couple of phone calls one rainy afternoon yielded fantastic results when Saina Tebble of "Gardens by Design" in Kemble Road, uttered the words: "I'd love to work on your project, and I'm happy to do it for free!" Not only that - the next day she visited Travis Perkins and Shannons garden centre next door and won promises of free or cost-price materials and plants!

The environmental regeneration charity, Groundwork, will help with funding bids and have promised the services of their 'Green Team' who will help with the heavy labour. Envirowork Lewisham has also pledged support. In fact, everyone has been very positive, with many neighbours offering help and saying how nice it will be to have an opportunity to meet each other.

Plans for the garden will soon be circulated to the street. The feel is Mediterranean and herby, with creepers to cover the ugly wall, beautiful trees, and plants to attract birds and bees. There will be flowerbeds for children to experiment with and scented and textured plants for older people to enjoy. We're hoping to involve local young people, too.

The next step is to apply for funding. If you would like to get involved, we'd love to hear from you! Please email us at stanstead.gardeners@lewisham.org.uk


In our previous issue, we looked at facilities for young people at the Rockbourne Centre. Now, Mary-Anne Finkelstein of our Leisure Sub-Committee looks at what’s on offer for older members of our community.

There’s a stately-looking building on Stanstead Road that has always appealed to me: “SENIORS,” says a colourful, hand-painted sign in front of the building. So when I was asked to look into resources for older people in our community, this was my first stop.

“Seniors” is a registered not-for-profit charity, the official name of which is Lewisham Elders Resource Centre, run by and for people aged 50 and over. Their patron is Rudolph Walker, OBE, known to most of us as Patrick Truman on Eastenders.

About 750 people use Seniors each month. They come for activities ranging from line dancing to art appreciation, as well as keep-fit classes and a newly-formed creative writing group. Seniors celebrates maturity, working on the concept that older people should be appreciated as valuable resources for the whole of the community. At Seniors, says Mary Jeremiah, the Director, ‘people are able to make friends and find new avenues of expression.’

The house itself, which is Grade II listed, is undergoing a £1.5 million refurbishment to make it completely unique and accessible; the charity has raised about half their target amount already. Phase One, now completed, meant replacing the crumbling roof, and Phase Two will see the beautiful conservatory to the side of the building restored to its former glory.

Two advisers work from the building, helping anyone 60 and over to fill in benefits forms and such like. There is an open surgery on Thursday mornings, or a home visit can be booked by ringing 020 8291 1164.

A lifetime membership costs £1; the charity encourages contributions and runs various fundraising schemes to cover costs. However, says Mary, money should not be a bar to anyone wishing to use Seniors as a resource.

Seniors is located at 260 Stanstead Road, SE23 1DD. Buses 185 and 171 run past the front door.

Document updated 27-Jun-2013. Phone number updated and their new website is www.seniorslewisham.org.uk

There be dragons!

Wildside – our regular look at the non-human residents of SE23

With names like Ruddy Darter and Broad-bodied Chaser to inspire the imagination, Dragonflies are every bit as exciting as their fire-breathing counterparts. And, unlike the fire-breathing variety (rarely spotted in SE23 since the arrival of fried chicken outlets and nail parlours), dragonflies are on show in Forest Hill – if you know where to look.

These beautiful insects have been around for more than 300 million years – that’s 55 million years longer than the dinosaurs - although back then they could have a wingspan of up to one metre.

Like so much of our wildlife, their existence depends on streams and ponds. The dragonfly’s larvae live in water for as long as 7 years before emerging. So, as our ponds disappear and streams are diverted underground, dragonflies have fewer places to breed and their numbers dwindle.

There aren’t many big ponds in Lewisham so, again, the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve is a vital haven. Azure & Large Red Damselflies, Southern Hawker, Black-tailed Skimmer, Broad-bodied Chaser and Common Darter have all been recorded in the ponds there in recent years.

Now is the perfect time of year to observe their incredible ability to fly forwards, backwards and sideways. Dragonflies love the sun so a warm day between late morning and early afternoon is the best time to see them.

The British Dragonfly Society is currently running a survey on where the Broad-Bodied Chaser lives. The male has a pale blue coloured abdomen and the female a brown abdomen. Both have dark brown triangular patches at the base of all four wings. To take part in the survey go online at www.brc.ac.uk

20 June 2007

Horniman Gardens Revamp

The Horniman Museum is planning a major overhaul of its much-loved gardens and has carried out the first stage of its consultation process. All the suggestions and comments made by local people and users of the gardens have been passed on to the landscape architects, Land Use Consultants (LUC), who have now produced their first draft design. On 18th June, two members of the Forest Hill Society Committee – together with representatives of other local groups - were invited to view these plans. LUC – one of the UK’s leading environmental and design consultancies – presented its vision for the Horniman Gardens.


LUC explained that the Horniman Gardens have evolved in a piecemeal fashion over the years and, as a result, there is no cohesive design to the layout. There is little integration between the Museum and the Gardens. The design team wants to rectify that and devise a garden, which creates a closer relationship between the two.

As a result of the consultation, several key requests came up again and again. Adults wanted water features. Younger users of the Gardens wanted to keep the kick-about area and remove the dog poo from the grass!


The designers want to realign many of the existing paths, getting rid of some completely, so that there is a more fluid feel to the Gardens. They feel this will help people move naturally from the Museum itself into the centre of the Gardens.

The focus of the Gardens would be the central avenue, which would be upgraded.

They suggest relocating the hugely popular (but not very attractive) animal enclosure closer to the back of the Museum so that it is better integrated.

The existing sunken garden could be given a water feature of some sort.

The hardstanding around the bandstand is seen as a problem area, which has become an eyesore over the years. LUC suggest reducing the width of this area by bringing in additional planting. They would like to improve the panoramic views by removing some trees.

The designers want to restore the bandstand. This would include restoring the glazing at the back.

The old paddling pool/kick-about area would be turned back into a more natural pool as part of an expanded nature area. This pool could be linked thematically with the Horniman’s new aquarium. The pool would be fed by harvesting water from the hardstanding area via a series of small pools.

Another quite radical idea is to bring the Nature Trail into the Gardens by changing the existing boundaries of the cycle path and footpath (obviously, subject to approval from Lewisham Council). The designers feel the Nature Trail is an underused resource partly because it is a dead end. So they would like to build some kind a facility at the Langton Rise end – London Wildlife Trust have expressed an interest – or perhaps key worker housing. This would then provide access to the Nature Trail from that end and the buildings would bring a form of passive security.

The designers suggest introducing a wild play area at the South Circular end of the Nature Trail for young children. Instead of metal climbing frames and swings etc it would make use of natural materials such as sand, gravel and logs for children to explore and climb. A more teen-friendly facility could be located over the road in the Horniman Triangle.


The Horniman team was at pains to stress that these designs are at a very early stage and some of the points mentioned above have already been modified. Nothing has been decided yet and, indeed, no funding has been secured. So this is still very much a work in progress and it’s good to know that they value the input of local groups and users.

Those of us at this meeting asked a lot of questions, made a lot of suggestions and these were noted and will feed back into the design process. For example, there were concerns about the realignment and loss of some paths. And there was a plea to keep the kick-about area because it is such a good meeting point for older children.

So, the design process continues. Eventually it will form part of the application for Lottery funding. If that bid is successful, the final design details will be worked out.

This is a long-term project and it’s important for local people to stay involved. We’ll keep you up-to-date with developments via our website and Newsletter.

17 June 2007

Sir Steve Bullock

The Queen's birthday honours included a knighthood for Forest Hill resident Steve Bullock, the mayor of Lewisham. Congratulations to Steve from the Forest Hill Society.

07 June 2007

Summertime! And the living is easy

Summer is well and truly here which, for many of us on the Hill, means dodging the Stag Beetles in the evening as they fly around in search of a mate.

The spell of good weather also means that all the Open Days, which seem to be happening in SE23 this month, should be well attended and great fun. So why not pack a picnic hamper (plenty of local food shops where you can pick up supplies) and make the most of the world on your doorstep?

9th/10th June – Devonshire Road Nature Reserve Open Days – 12-4.30pm.
This truly is a hidden gem in Forest Hill, tucked away behind the houses and running along the railway line. It’s normally open on the last Sunday of the month, but it’s open on the 9th June as part of the London Open Garden Square Weekend. There’ll be music, a plant stall, wine tasting and refreshments.

The following day is the Big Open Day, which promises a drum workshop, garden tour, storytelling and a variety of LIVE amphibians and reptiles on display in the visitors centre.

10th June – Forest Hill Day – Horniman Gardens - 1-6pm
The Forest Hill Day is in its ninth year but this year offers something a little different. As well as the usual craft activities, inflatables and live music, the Tour de France Roadshow will be there. For the first time in the Tour’s history, the race will start from London and Stage One actually passes through Lewisham. So the Roadshow is a chance to familiarise yourself with the history and spectacle of this great sporting contest. For more information, see www.tourdefrancelondon.com
Food and refreshments will be provided by Provender and All Inn One.

16th June - Blythe Hill Fields Fun Day – 11am-4pm

If you’ve got the legs to get to Blythe Hill Fields then you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views. The Fun Day is a family event featuring live music, a barbecue, donkey rides, children’s crafts, cakes and jam stall, an egg and spoon race, sack race, three-legged race, tug-of-war and the opportunity to sponsor your own bird box. It’s organised by the Blythe Hill Fields User Group whose aim is to improve the facilities and promote the enjoyment of this space for the benefit of the whole community. For more information, see www.blythehillfields.org.uk