26 September 2016

Forest Hill Society AGM

The Forest Hill Society’s Annual General Meeting will take place on Thursday 20th October, 7:30pm at Louise House (Dartmouth Road, beside the Library) in the rear building.

This meeting will provide further information about the plans for the Library, Louise House and hopefully news of some progress on Dartmouth Road Improvement Works.

It is also your opportunity to stand for the Executive Committee or get more involved in the activities of the Forest Hill Society. We look forward to seeing you there!

Outstanding Again!

The RHS In Bloom It's Your Neighbourhood award for 2016 to The Forest Hill Society is.... "Outstanding".

Well done all those who have put in the hours and done the hard work (planting, pruning, building flower towers, etc) to make this award possible.

But we really need some additional volunteers to help keep up the good work and make Forest Hill look lovely. So PLEASE put in your diary Saturday October 15th at 2.30pm to join us at Forest Hill Station to cut back, chop down, turn over and replant so that we are establishing a good base for next year.  Even if you can only spare half an hour it would make all the difference when combined with everyone else's half hour.

Many thanks again to all the hard grafters.

25 September 2016

An Oral History of Forest Hill

Article and photos of paintings, by John Wysocki

As part of their celebrations to mark 30 years of treating NHS patients, ‘Dentistry for You’, 3 Dartmouth Road, have recently installed a couple of paintings of very familiar-looking scenes in their waiting room.

Entitled 'Station and Crossroads, Forest Hill, 1955' and 'Dartmouth Road, Forest Hill, 1955', the scenes (see right) were painted by Kenyan artist Zuber Bakrani, cousin of the practice's owner Esmail Harunani, and based on historical photos.

Readers of this newsletter may be familiar with the Station and Crossroads view since it is somewhat similar to an iconic photograph that was featured in our Spring 2015 newsletter — and that is also featured in local historian Steve Grindlay's book ‘Sydenham & Forest Hill Through Time’ — albeit with the roof missing from the station's clock tower.

24 September 2016

Albion Millennium Green: An Ambitious Programme

By Ann Field, Friends of Albion Millennium Green
We started the year with an ambitious programme and already we have increased the number of volunteers coming forward for our regular, second-Saturday-in-the-month workdays. Our “Shared Vision” programme involves enriching 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 raising funds.

One of the key elements of the programme was the construction of a new pond, to replace the previous, smaller pond damaged by large dogs and foxes. The pond was dug in August and a frog has already taken up residence. There will be an official opening event on 1st and 2nd October. Look out for details on our website.

Forest Hill School Geography Ambassadors’ Group

This group conducted a survey among 120 KS3 students earlier this year. They discovered that most of the students had not heard of the Green; and then they asked for the views of those who had and how the space could be used more effectively. The second stage of the school’s research involved a survey of the parents of all students living in the area, and included questions about publicity, better use of the space and how to attract more volunteer support. In addition, a focus group of students was asked to come up with a more detailed list of activities and publicity methods that the Green’s organizers could use. Among the conclusions was the comment that “more needs to be done to publicise the existence of the Green and promote the work that the many volunteers do by means of social media and general publicity”. The Friends group will be seeking to work with the school and other local partners to organize events and to promote the Green.

We have had some bad luck with our existing notice boards so we are looking at replacing them with weather-proof notice boards which are also less vulnerable to vandalism.

Our efforts have been unsuccessful so far to raise sufficient funds and obtain permission to erect good quality signage for the Green on lamp posts in the area, but we will be having another go. If you would like to help us with these two initiatives or with any other aspect of our efforts for the Green, just get in touch. There is 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, how to join the Friends or make a donation can be found on our website www.amgfriends.org.uk or Twitter: @albionmilgreen.

23 September 2016

A Little Bit About Litter

By Belinda Evans
Have you ever thought about how clean the streets of Perry Rise are? Did you know we have our own ‘litter warrior’? I have noticed this lovely person diligently picking up waste and litter, and was intrigued. So here the mystery is solved — in local resident Neville Bailey’s own words:

“Having lived in Perry Rise, Forest Hill, for 16 years I have walked to collect my newspaper each and every morning, along one side of Perry Rise to the paper shop in Perry Vale and back along the other side, collecting the litter dropped or blown into the street. I pick up cans, bottles (often including broken glass) cigarette packets plus various packages and dispose this refuse in the council bins.

The amount of discarded rubbish has increased so much that I now use a carrier bag to collect it all up, when once I only had to use one hand! It seems that the recent opening of the fast food take away at Bell Green has resulted in cars parking along the side roads and throwing out the left over waste packages, bottles and cans onto the kerbs and pavements.

I love Britain and where I live. Can’t more be done to ask parents, schools, neighbours and others to instil a bit of pride into where they live? Perhaps you, the readers, have ideas to help cure ‘litter –itus!”

So there you are, what a good idea — on a regular walk or trip to the local shop — carry a plastic bag and even if you only pick up a couple of bits of litter you are doing your bit to tidy up and improve where we live.

22 September 2016

A Cycling and Walking Masterplan for Forest Hill and Beyond

By Brendan Cuddihy (Planning & Transport Committee)
One of the aims of the Forest Hill Society is to enhance the quality of life in SE23 and over the years the Society has had some great successes in this respect. However, two aspects of life in Forest Hill and the surrounding areas that remain below par are cycling and walking. Car use is relatively high as more active travel modes are not seen as attractive by many. The hilly nature of the locality, of course, plays a part in suppressing bicycle use, but the reality is that our streets are simply too hostile for most people to even consider getting around on a bike. Walking can also be an unpleasant experience as many of our streets are blighted by high traffic levels. Sadly, serious injuries and fatalities are not unknown on our roads.

In light of this, the Forest Hill Society is teaming up with the Sydenham Society and SEE3 to prepare a cycling and walking masterplan for the local area. This masterplan will look at our streets and consider physical measures to make them better places in which to cycle and walk. It will also look strategically across the wider area, and will identify where people want to walk or cycle.
For instance, safe routes to schools would certainly play a central role. The ultimate aim will be to make cycling and walking the most attractive choice when deciding how to travel around Forest Hill and Sydenham.

Getting more people cycling and walking would provide many benefits to the community. As well as improving road safety, there would be: reduced noise and pollution for people living on busy roads; economic benefits for local businesses from increased spend associated with cycling and walking; greater social equity from improved access and reduced travel costs for non-car users; and increased independence for children, the elderly and those with disabilities. And for those times when we need to drive, fewer cars on the roads means reduced congestion.

However, there are challenges — chief amongst them being our unique geography. The South Circular and the railway line present significant barriers to ease of movement around the area. Some creative thinking and bold ideas may be needed to deal with these barriers.

Our initiative to develop a masterplan comes at an opportune time, as Lewisham Council is set to adopt its first Borough Cycling Strategy; and in Sadiq Khan we have a Mayor of London who is keen to promote cycling and walking, and combat poor air quality and the public health epidemics of obesity and inactivity.

We are currently engaging with the councillors from Forest Hill, Sydenham and Perry Vale to build political support for this initiative. We are also continuing to monitor announcements from City Hall regarding cycling and walking — one of Sadiq Khan’s election pledges was to implement a ‘mini-Holland’ cycle scheme in each borough. Mini-Holland funding would allow for the rapid implementation of the masterplan. However, we are determined to push ahead with our local initiative even in the absence of mini-Holland funding, albeit as a longer term vision for the area.

Over the winter and spring we hope to kick off a series of community workshops inviting residents and workers to design the cycling and walking masterplan. By working with the community and relying on the help of organisations such as Lewisham Cyclists and Lewisham Living Streets, we can make Forest Hill a great place to get around by bike and on foot, for the benefit of all.

21 September 2016

Great North Wood

By Sam Bentley-Toon, London Wildlife Trust

Stretching from Deptford in the north to Croydon in the south, the Great North Wood was once a vast tract of woodland and wooded commons. The wood was largely managed through coppicing — an ancient sustainable way of harvesting wood — which allowed it to thrive for centuries. As the industrial revolution transformed traditional woodland industries the value of woodland lessened, paving the way for destruction and urbanisation.

Today, the Great North Wood lives on in isolated fragments of woodland scattered across its original footprint. Key sites include Sydenham Hill Wood, Dulwich Woods, One Tree Hill, Beaulieu Heights and Long Lane Wood. The ancient character of these woods is revealed by the presence of plants such as wood anemone, bluebell and Solomon’s seal.

The Great North Wood continues to support a rich fauna with rare insects such as the fearsome-looking stag beetle which spends up to seven years burrowing through deadwood as a larva before emerging as a splendid antlered adult. The great spotted woodpecker, whose distinctive drumming can be heard ringing out through woodland in spring, is another successful inhabitant of the Great North Wood.

Unfortunately, a lack of management in some of these woodlands has led to critical threats to wildlife and to their continued existence. Amongst these threats are erosion and trampling, encroachment by invasive plant species, fly-tipping and vandalism.

London Wildlife Trust’s new Heritage Lottery funded project: The Great North Wood will seek to address these threats by enlisting local people in activities to manage woodland for wildlife.

Working alongside the five borough councils which the project area encompasses will be the Forestry Commission, the Greater London Authority and numerous Friends groups and community groups. Working together with these groups the project aims to make significant improvements to south London’s woodland environment over the lifespan of the project and beyond. An extensive programme of community engagement events will allow a diverse audience to learn about and experience the woodland and remind people about the largely forgotten landscape of the Great North Wood.

To find out more about the project and how to get involved, contact Sam (Project Development Officer) at sbtoon [at] wildlondon.org.uk / 07734 599288 or visit the Great North Wood online:

www.wildlondon.org.uk/great-north- wood

20 September 2016

Flower Towers

By Quetta Kaye (Chair, Environment Committee)
A step in the right direction to brightening up the Perry Vale side of the railway has been our installation of towers of recycled tyres for planters. The next step will see London Overground Rail Operations Limited (LOROL) cleaning and smartening up their perimeter wall — although this work has been delayed due to the repairs to a collapsed sewer.

Meanwhile, the recycled tyre towers have been greeted with many approving comments. Cllr Susan Wise gained permission from Lewisham Council for the installation. James of Aeroarts worked with Rockbourne Youth Club to spray-paint the tyres (donated by A.A. Tyres & Wheels of Stanstead Road), and Forest Hill Society volunteers filled them with plants just as one of July’s torrential downpours began. So the planters had a really good initial watering and the staff of the All Inn One pub have taken over watering duty (when access is possible).

Bringing colourful plants to the town centre as a way to brighten our environment, while at the same time encouraging bees, insects and other wild life to flourish, is very rewarding at many levels. The constant care and attention of a dedicated few has resulted in the Forest Hill Society being able to enter the RHS’s In Bloom “It’s Your Neighbourhood” competition for the fifth year — having been awarded “Outstanding” for three successive years. At the time of writing we haven’t heard this year’s results which will be announced on 21st September. This year the judge was impressed by the work that has been done to brighten the station area and the street corners — he even took photographs of the tyre towers! He also liked the idea that some local businesses have adopted nearby planters and are taking care of them, and that some of our Edible High Road trees are in their second year and continue to flourish.

LOROL also has a competition for various categories in their Best Station award for which we have also entered — again the results have yet to be announced.

LOROL and the Forest Hill Ward Assembly have contributed towards the cost of renewing our planters and the Horniman Gardens has donated spare plants, while we have endeavoured to plant species which are self-seeding, environmentally friendly and require minimal maintenance. This has not always worked, partly because of the extremes of weather, but also because for some bizarre reason people continue to use the planters as rubbish bins. Tipping paint on lavender is not conducive to growth!

To continue this work we need active volunteers. If you would like to join us in tidying up the planters, general pruning, cutting back the aromatic lavender and planting bulbs for Spring flowering in the tyre stacks, we will be organising an afternoon for doing just this on Saturday, October 15th, meeting at the station forecourt at 2:30pm. Not suitable for children because of the passing traffic; protective gloves, secateurs or scissors, a trowel and a spare plastic bag would be useful. If you have none of these items, just come along anyway and enjoy being creative in our town centre to help those awards continue.

19 September 2016

V22 at Louise House

 By Tara Cranswick, Director of V22
In 2013, V22 was proud to have won the tender for a long leasehold of Louise House from the London Borough of Lewisham. Occupation of the premises in Forest Hill commenced in 2014 after extensive repair works were undertaken, after which the main building has been fully let to artists ever since. We have been very pleased with the feedback we have received about how helpful it is to have such provision in the neighbourhood for local artists, and our tenants who have moved to the area have reported how welcoming the community has been and how much they have grown to like the area. As envisioned, we have artists at a variety of stages in their careers, from Turner Prize nominees to those just starting out.

V22 has engaged with the local community extensively since moving to the area. We have made contact with traders, businesses, organisations and individuals. Past, current and proposed future works have been informed by this community engagement, which has generated a fantastic response to our ideas and plans which have come about as a result.

In 2015, in partnership with SEE3, V22 was successful in applying for funding from the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund. We were also successful in our application to the Arts Council England’s Small Capital Grants programme for the redevelopment of Louise House.

With this funding V22 have been able to:
Renovate the ground floor of the rear building of Louise House (the Laundry) as an exhibition space, community studio, small café and events space and start the development of a community garden
Redesign and build the front garden of Louise House to form a single space with the adjacent library

V22 were very pleased to open these new spaces at Louise House at a Community Open Day in July. It was wonderful to get positive feedback from the community and to celebrate with those who have contributed to making these works possible. The Open Day was followed by a six-week Summer Club hosting a variety of screenings, talks, workshops and family events. The Summer Club will become an annual event.

Part of our aim for the Summer Club was to engage with future partners for the Community Studio. This is a space in the old Laundry building at the rear of Louise House, which will be used to host a variety of community-focused events throughout the year. One of our largest partners will be the Forest Hill Library and its anchor tenant, The Philosophy Foundation — but we are also in discussions with a local art teacher who wants to run regular children’s classes, a yoga teacher who wants to host her sessions there, and a storyteller who is interested in hosting regular events.

We really want to engage with the local community about how the Community Studio and garden are used going forward and are looking for people interested in running events or workshops in the space. It might be coffee mornings, language classes, adult learning sessions of all kinds, pilates, crafts… the list is a long one. The space could accommodate a variety of events or activities from purely commercial ones — like product previews, a Christmas party venue for local businesses or a location for filming (which would all contribute to the costs of running the space) — to entirely not-for-profit initiatives. So, whatever your budget or idea, whatever your interest, we would love to hear from you; please email katherine [at] v22london.com.

One of the great things about knowing we will be in Louise House until the year 2141 is the ability to plan long-term partnerships with our neighbours. Thank you all for your support thus far!

18 September 2016

A New Building for the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve

By Hilary Satchwell (Planning Committee)

As anyone who has been to the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve in SE23 will know, their current 1970s portacabin building is not in the best of shape and for several years the Friends of Devonshire Road Nature Reserve have been talking about a replacement. Ideally this would be a project that could be largely built by volunteers, and would allow the reserve to expand its educational programmes and improve access for all.

In May 2016 the Forest Hill Society and the Nature Reserve worked together to organise a design charrette (or workshop) to look at designs for this new building and to gauge what it might be possible to achieve on the site. This was organised by Hilary Satchwell from the Forest Hill Society and Richard Robinson and Jake Twyford from the reserve.

Based on the model that Forest Hill Society used for the 2014 Forest Hill town centre charrette, we invited a group of local architects and other built environment professionals to give up their time over one weekend in May to help the reserve develop its brief for the building, to determine what could be accommodated on the site, and to come up with design ideas.

We had a great response and about a dozen local people got involved and,  over a weekend in late May, gathered together in the existing portacabin. We spent Saturday morning measuring and understanding the site’s levels — which slope down towards the railway line — and understanding the way the building fits in with the houses along Devonshire Road. We developed the project brief to account for the timber-building skills the reserves' volunteers had gained from their earlier green oak building projects (part funded by the Forest Hill Ward Assembly). We then worked in two groups to test different ideas: the first was for a larger, single-storey building to replace the existing one; while the second group investigated whether a two-storey option with a terrace overlooking the reserve would be possible. This included drawing up plans, sections and sketches of the different options.

Over a lovely lunch cooked by Jake, we presented our schemes. As a group, we concluded that the single-storey option would be the best approach — in order to make sure the project would be as 'buildable' as possible, and that it would be accessible without the expense of a lift across two floors.

The single-storey timber-framed approach was then developed by the group over the afternoon. This work included looking at the design merits of: an internal ramp that would allow wheelchair users access through the building; a large room for groups and a second room that would allow two school classes to visit the reserve at the same time; a small separate kitchen; and improved toilet facilities including a disabled WC.

The design ideas for the building focused on a simple grid construction that would allow the main structural sections to be built in advance as a 'kit of parts', for later assembly. The proposed design includes lots of glass, timber cladding and a raised roof pointing into the reserve itself. The spaces are designed to be flexible, with sliding partitions between rooms so that they can be used in a number of different ways.

On the Sunday, when some of the group were able to return, we concentrated on refining the single-storey scheme and looking at its buildability and detailing.

Although we made good progress there is still much to do. The next steps for the project will include building a model, drawing up the plans more accurately in CAD, and meeting again with the volunteers in the autumn for further project development. Professional quality plans will be needed for a future planning application, and also for funding applications to get the project off the ground and into construction. The Nature Reserve would like to get going on this project soon and, ideally, see it built during 2017!

The Forest Hill Society and Devonshire Road Nature Reserve would like to thank those who took part in the weekend’s design charrette: Thom, Jason, Helen, Brendan, Andy, George, Rupert, Nigel, James, Wendy, Jorge, Jonny, Jake, Hilary, Richard, Quetta and Rupert.

How you can get involved: Devonshire Road Nature Reserve will be looking specifically for volunteers to help during site preparation work and construction. We plan to create a database of local volunteers, skills and tradespeople who may be able to assist. Once we know more precisely what is needed it would be really great to be able to receive donated materials for the build.

To volunteer or donate materials, please email hilary [at] fhsoc.com.

Photo of draft sketches courtesy of Richard Robinson

16 September 2016

Forest Hill Fashion Week

22nd-25th September is Forest Hill Fashion Week. FHFW showcases local talent in a festival of fashion, design and craft.
Featuring established and up-and-coming designers, the fashion week is organised by Forest Hill Arts — a group of volunteers. Along with local shops, cafés, bars, and other venues and community interest groups, everyone joins forces to fund and host an exciting line-up of fashion-themed events. FHFW illustrates Forest Hill’s community spirit, creativity, love of sharing and commitment to high street regeneration. Find out more at http://fhfw.co.uk/

Coming Soon: Forest Hill Community Library

October 2016 will see a new start for Forest Hill library as a Community Library. We have made no secret of the fact that the shift from direct council management to community management was something that concerned us, but once Lewisham Council made the decision to turn this into a community library, we wanted to make sure it would be the best community library possible.

In Forest Hill we are fortunate to have a number of local traders (particularly Pauline Wright and Simon Higgs) who are passionate about our community, and next door to the library we have V22 who have great experience in the management of heritage buildings, rental of studio space, and a real desire to be part of the community. Together with the Forest Hill Society and a few other individuals passionate about the library, we were able to submit a successful bid to the council, setting out our vision for its future — with book lending playing a critical role.

This October will see the transfer of management from Lewisham council to the Forest Hill Community Library team. It will be overseen by representatives of V22, Forest Hill Traders and Forest Hill Society. This is a major undertaking for all of us, but we are confident that we will be able to deliver a community library of which the community will be proud.

The upstairs space in the library has been under-utilised in the past and, in order to generate income for running the building, we are letting this space to tenants as offices and deskspace. There should be little or no impact on existing library services and the workspace will be managed and administered by the experienced team at V22.

This offers a unique opportunity to have workspace in this great location and to support our community library. Interested creatives, freelancers, social enterprises and entrepreneurs are invited to contact deskspace [at] v22london.com.

A major part of running the community library will fall to volunteers. We already have over 80 volunteers, but we need more to ensure the library stays open for 66 hours per week! People are needed to assist with book borrowing, book returns and many other aspects of running a library. Now is a great time to volunteer, even if you can only manage a few hours a week or even a month. Please complete the form below to join our list.

Volunteer for Forest Hill Library
* indicates required

More information about the Library at:
Website: Foresthilllibrary.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ForestHillLibrary
Twitter: @LibrarySE23