26 June 2016

Planters for Perry Vale

The railway wall on Perry Vale is not the most attractive part of Forest Hill. So the Forest Hill Society decided to do something about it and work with Rockbourne Youth Club and AeroArts to create new planters out of old tyres (kindly donated by A A Tyres & Wheels of Standstead Road).  Huge thanks to all those involved in the preparation work and setting them up just as the rain came down.
We hope you enjoy these colourful additions to the streetscape and if you see rubbish in them it would be great it you could help by removing it!

25 June 2016

Community Library a step closer in Forest Hill

The Forest Hill Society have been working with V22 and Forest Hill Traders Association to bid to manage Forest Hill Library. We have now been recommended as the preferred partner group to take on management of the library.

Lewisham Council's Safer Stronger Communities Select Committee will meet on Monday 4th July to discuss library services. Documents online show that council officers are preparing a report to Mayor and Cabinet will recommend that:
"V22 is approved as the preferred partner for Forest Hill and that the Executive Director for Regeneration is delegated to negotiate a lease for the Forest Hill Library building for a minimum term of 25 years to enable the provision of a community library in partnership with Lewisham Council."

One other organisation had submitted a bid for Forest Hill library, however their bid stated that they would require ongoing revenue support from the council and that proposal was therefore not taken forward by the council.

There will still be a number of contractual and technical issues to sort out before the transition occurs, but we are confident that we can work with the council to create a good community library for Forest Hill.

In the last few months more than 80 people have got in contact to offer their help volunteering in the library once it becomes a community run library. Thank you to all our members who have been in contact to tell us the importance of the library in the community, and who are willing to put their time and energy into ensuring a successful future for this important asset in Forest Hill.

However, the library is currently open for 66 hours per week, so we will still need more volunteers to help staff the library properly and safely. Whether you are available during the day or in the evenings for a few hours per week, it would be great to hear from you.

If you would be interested in volunteering for a few hours per week at the library we would like to hear from you so that we have a great volunteer list ready for the transition in the autumn. At this stage we don’t know what your duties would be, but an interest in books and internet research would be a big advantage. If you would be interested, please contact michael@fhsoc.com

19 June 2016

Festival in the Forest

Festival in the Forest is an unforgettable summer's day filled with great music, food and drink. Listen to the best Jazz, Folk, Country Rock, Indie and Blues on two stages in a hidden paradise, right in the heart of Forest Hill.

17 June 2016

Shakespeare in Forest Hill

A short video from when Shakespeare came to Forest Hill in April 2016

15 June 2016

Planning Application: 41a Dartmouth Road

An application has been made for the conversion of part of this site to residential.

You can read the planning application on Lewisham's planning website.

The Forest Hill Society has written to object to this development:
"We believe that dividing the ground floor retail unit to provide access to the upper floors is detrimental to the retail unit because of the reduction of its size and the poor design quality of the frontage. This will affect the future viability of the retail unit at a time when Dartmouth Road is at last coming back to life as a retail area, with promised street development and many small businesses starting up. We do not want to see any of the retail units suffering a reduction in their viability."

Full letter of objection can be read here

12 June 2016

Transport Update

Some good news ... The new platforms 8 and 9 will open at London Bridge station on August 30th, which will allow us to travel to Waterloo East and Charing Cross again without having to use the Tube.

Part of the new underground concourse will open beneath Southern Rail’s platforms. Passengers will be able to alight from their trains and then use the new escalators, stairs or lifts — which are currently boarded up on each platform — to reach the new concourse, which connects with the new platforms for Charing Cross.

However, work will then start on rebuilding the Cannon Street platforms. This means there will be no interchange at London Bridge with Southeastern rail services to Cannon Street from late August until 2018. As with the Charing Cross services, National Rail tickets will be valid on London Underground to complete your journey.

Once the work is completed, London Bridge should have all of its services restored (we will be keeping an eye out for the return of the 08:32 from Forest Hill), as well as a much-increased and improved Thameslink rail service, giving us more rail connections than before.

On the Buses

Route 185 has been re-awarded to Go-Ahead London  with new battery-hybrid buses. This new contract will begin in October, so we should start to see new quieter, less-polluting buses appearing on this route.

The peak-hour vehicle requirement on this busy route is going up from 24 to 25, which would suggest a slight increase in peak-hour buses, possibly to one every 7 minutes towards Victoria in the morning and towards Lewisham in the evening.

The 363, which runs along Wood Vale and Sydenham Hill, is also going hybrid from October this year.  

09 June 2016

A Folly In Forest Hill

The new notice board of the Forest Hill Traders Association at the station is a welcome addition to our neighbourhood. However, a few yards away, in front of WH Smith at the pedestrian crossing to London Road, is a minor blight on our streetscape. There are three poles, one with legitimate street signs and directions to bus stops, but the other two are inexplicable, misleading, redundant, or all three.

One of these puzzling poles has three signs: one to a Police Station which has been closed for three years; one to a Post Office in the vague direction of Brockley or Catford but which, of course, has been located right behind the sign inside WH Smith for about five years; and a broken sign to the Horniman Museum — or at least to the ‘Horni’ or the ‘Jseum’. Times move on and buildings and organisations come and go but this peculiar pole remains.

Even more baffling and irritating to me is the “Emergency Help Point” pole, with no explanation of who is responsible for it, who will help in an emergency and how. But what kind of emergency? Victims of crime, in a neighbourhood which no longer has a police station? Or Confused and Lost in Forest Hill with its misleading street signs? I have a picture in my mind of Lewisham Council providing this help point in the far-off days when money was less tight and of a Council employee, even now, sitting in a dusty office in a corner of Laurence House waiting patiently for the emergency calls which never come. But, I don’t even know if the Council is responsible for it. I have long resisted the temptation to press the button but maybe if I do, I will find out!

Article By Alistair Dey

Lark in the Park - Mayow Park - 18th June

Lark in the Park Community Festival 12.00 noon – 4.00 pm 18th June
Mayow Park SE26

You are cordially invited to Lark in the Park – Perry Vale Ward Assembly’s community festival with FREE activities for everyone.  Come along and take part in a host of FREE summer fun and activity including:

For kids
·         Teddy Bear’s Picnic – bring your bear and a picnic to share!
·         Soft play for under 5’s
·         Storytelling in the make-believe tent
·         Tennis and croquet sessions
·         Face painting
·         “Make a protest” placard-making fun

For everyone
·         Fun fitness class tasters
·         Love your Bike - Cycle Security Marking from Safer Neighbourhood Team, and bike health checks by Dr. Bike
·         Pet health checks & advice
·         Find out how Friends of Mayow Park volunteers protect and improve our green space and how you can get involved
·         Launch of Big Mix-Up Cook Booklet by Forest Hill Boys School
·         Brent Knoll School crafts
·         Outdoor gym equipment demos
·         Sample Fair Trade goodies

And much more!

German Aerial Bombing of South East London

In this first article of a two-part series about wartime bombing of Forest Hill and South East London, Alistair Dey looks at German bombing in the First World War.

When walking the streets of Forest Hill (or indeed in most big cities of the UK) you come across houses that are out of character with the immediate buildings and architecture. This can be caused by the action of developers or the local Council, but sometimes it is a result of German aerial bombing in the Second World War. However, German bombing of London did not start in September 1940 with the Second World War Blitz. London had also been bombed in the First World War.


In a curious parallel with Hitler’s initial reluctance to bomb London in the Second World War, Kaiser Wilhelm II initially vetoed the demands of the German military to attack Britain by air. With his close ties to the British royal family, and believing like many that the war would soon be over, he did not want to be held responsible for destroying London’s cultural heritage.

As pressure mounted on him, and more Zeppelins became available, the Kaiser finally approved the bombing of England, and in January 1915 Great Yarmouth was bombed. But the Kaiser continued to exclude London until May of that year, when he approved bombing east of the Tower of London. In July 1915 that approval extended to the whole of London.

On the night of 31 May 1915, a single German Zeppelin airship appeared over North London and began dropping its deadly cargo on the darkened streets below. This was the first time that the capital had been bombed from the air. The Zeppelin raids on London continued in 1916 but tailed off in 1917.

There were 9 successful Zeppelin raids over London between 31 May 1915 and the last raid on 19-20 October 1917. But only four of these bombed South East London: on 7-8 September 1915, 13-14 October 1915, 24-25 August 1916 and 19-20 October 1917. Forest Hill was unscathed, with the nearest bombs landing on Hither Green on the last raid. This last Zeppelin raid over London killed 33 people in all, 15 of them in Glenview Road (now Nightingale Grove), Hither Green.

At the top of One Tree Hill above Honor Oak Park there was a gun emplacement to counter the threat of Zeppelins. A naval gun was mounted here in 1916. The plaque next to the remains of the gun emplacement suggests that not only did the gunners not shoot down any Zeppelins (there’s no shame in that) but might have caused damage to tramlines near Peckham Rye Common with a missed shot.


By 1917 Zeppelin raids were being phased out and replaced by the superior Gotha and Giant aeroplanes. One of the technical developments which helped make these aeroplanes serious weapons of war was the introduction of proper bomb-sights in 1915.

The first daylight raids by aeroplanes on London took place in May 1917 and further daylight raids followed in June and July 1917. In September 1917 the Germans switched to night raids, the last one being on 19-20 May 1918. Of about 15 night raids, seven or eight bombed South East London, mostly near the River Thames.

Again Forest Hill escaped damage but Hither Green was once more hit on 17 May 1918 — with thankfully no casualties. The last German bombing raid of World War One was on 19-20 May 1918 and it was one of the deadliest. Lewisham, Lee, Hither Green (2 killed), Catford (1 killed) and Sydenham (18 killed) were all hit. The single 100kg bomb which hit Sydenham caused the most casualties in that last raid and fell on the corner of Sydenham Road and Fairlawn Park, killing 18 people, including 5 soldiers, and destroying 3 shops. There is a memorial to the dead in nearby All Saints Church in Trewsbury Road.

Effectiveness and Consequences of the Bombing
It is easy to forget how new aircraft were in the First World War. The first Zeppelin flew in 1900 and the first powered aeroplane had its first very tentative flight in December 1903, less than 11 years before the outbreak of the First World War. Louis Bleriot had only flown across the English Channel in 1909. And as weapons of war, the first ever bomb from an aeroplane was dropped by the Italian air force on Turkish troops in Libya in the little-known Italian-Turkish War of 1911-12.

The sporadic German bombing of London in the First World War may at first sight seem militarily pointless. It is true that by later standards the bombing had little material effect. Even so, by the end of the war 668 Londoners had been killed, and the government had had to withdraw fighter squadrons from the Western Front and set up anti-aircraft defences. Most attacks were random but some military installations were targeted and hit, albeit to limited effect (Woolwich Arsenal being a case in point).

There also seems to have been a morale effect: while there were no mass panics, many people were understandably very frightened, and the fear persisted and grew in the 1930s — a major factor in the peace movement of that time. After all, if a few airships and bi-planes could inflict such damage, their successors might flatten entire towns and kill hundreds of thousands. To an extent the British Government agreed, hence the policy of appeasement and (more positively) an improved provision of air defences and an evacuation scheme. These were certainly needed in World War Two when London, including Forest Hill, suffered severely.

There is information on First World War bombing of Lewisham in the website of the Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre under “Lewisham War Memorials”.

Pictures of gun emplacement and ‘history’ from one of the seven signs on One Tree Hill. Also shown is a recent picture of the gun emplacement today.

07 June 2016

News from Albion Millennium Green

We started the year with an ambitious programme agreed at our AGM, and already we have doubled the number of volunteers coming forward for our regular second-Saturday-in-the-month workdays.

Our ‘Shared Vision’ involves enriching both nature and people’s experience and use of the Green, cultivating and nurturing the orchard keeping the Green tidy, providing signage and better information about the Green and, crucially, raising funds. The programme includes:

  • filling in the gaps in the railway path’s mixed species hedge with new plantings
  • renovating Privet hedges
  • planting perennial woodland edge and shade species
  • replacing self-seeded Sycamore with a Hazel coppice
  • in a proposed ‘natural play area’ 
  • replacing boundary Sycamores and chain-link tennis fencing with native broad leaved species
  • constructing a new pond with a low fence from materials found on site, to replace our existing pond, which had been damaged by large dogs piercing the membrane. The pond will be dug in August and its first day after completion will be marked by a lively Teatro Vivo procession
  • increasing the variety of native perennials in the flowering slope next to the area where the tennis clubhouse once stood
  • developing a fruiting hedge beside the labyrinth, with native species such as Blackthorn and Damson
  • creating a bee-friendly wildflower 'river' on the bank of a 15 meter section of curving pathway
  • creating a living roof for our new metal storage container, and insect habitats for the walls of the container
  • installing signage to guide people around the Green
  • Continuing to work with local schools, groups and organisations
  • improving the effective use of notices — possibly replacing them with weather-proof notice boards which are less vulnerable to vandalism.

In this year we are making a special appeal for funds to enable us to buy the equipment and materials needed to carry out this programme of work. Full details of our ‘Shared Vision’, the calendar of events for the year and how to donate can be found on our website: www.amgfriends.org.uk 

Article by By Ann Field
Photo: An emerging bluebell wood

05 June 2016

Looking Out for Stag Beetles

Among the wood-boring insects found in the UK, stag beetles (lucanus cervus) are surely the most magnificent as Britain’s largest land insects. In 2006 an article about stag beetles in the first issue of the Forest Hill Society’s newsletter noted how they were declining in number; and that South East London was a ‘hotspot’ for the beetles— with the area round Crystal Palace, Forest Hill and Sydenham particularly favoured.

In the 10 years since that article was published, I have observed that numbers continue to decline. Although there are thriving colonies in areas such as Devonshire Road Nature Reserve, and among the ancient woods of Sydenham Hill Woods, they are no longer common in Mayow Park, despite plenty of suitable wild areas within the park’s periphery. Damage to their habitats in gardens or parks — as well as being dug up by predators, such as foxes — are significant factors in their loss. Another possible cause is that they are clumsy fliers, bumping into objects and landing on the ground, where they are caught by cats or crushed by cars. Larvae being dug up before they reach the adult stage and adult stags dying before finding a mate also work against the survival of colonies.

What is their ideal habitat? Piles of dead wood with some logs below-ground make the ideal habitat for stag beetles to lay eggs. White larvae then emerge from the eggs and spend up to seven years underground, eating their way  through dead wood before pupating and becoming the large insects we can all identify. Tidy gardens are not suitable habitats but wooded corners with log piles are more attractive.

The ‘antlers’ of male stags are harmless to us and are in fact jaws, used to fight other male stags. The female stags have small pincers which can give a pinch, so beware if you hold one. You can tell stag beetles from similar looking larvae: the lesser stag beetle larvae feed on decaying wood above ground while cockchafer larvae feed on living roots.

Article by By Alona Sheridan
Photo by Ernie Thomason

03 June 2016

New Waiting Room at Forest Hill Station

Regular users of Forest Hill station may not have noticed, but there is a new waiting room on Platform 1. It is located south of the station building, beyond WH Smith. This is not an area of the platform that is used so much, as the Overground trains stop further up the platform, but for those waiting for a London Bridge service it may be particularly  useful when the new platform interchange becomes available at London Bridge.

The waiting room contains quite a few seats, is sheltered from the elements and even has automatic doors. However, as yet they do not appear to let people in or out!

So, the next time you’re waiting for a train, why not turn right onto the platform and explore this new area on the platform!

02 June 2016

Dates for Your Diary

Sun 5th June: Mayow Park Family-friendly tree walk, 10.30am-12pm

Sat 18th June: 'Lark in the Park', 12pm-4pm in Mayow Park - organised by Perry Vale Ward Assembly

Tue 28th June: Forest Hill Ward Assembly, 7pm (venue TBC)

Sat 2nd July: Festival in the Forest - 1pm-10pm at Devonshire Road Nature Reserve. Tickets £9 adults, £5 for children

Sat 2nd July: Friends of Blthye Hill Fields Festival - 12pm-3pm

1st-10th July: Sydenham Arts Festival. Further details at www.sydenhamarts.co.uk

Sat 23rd July: Nature Walk in the Woods, Starting at 2pm at Dulwich Woodhouse pub, Sydenham Hill