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06 October 2019

Forest Hill Society AGM

By Michael Abrahams, Chair, Forest Hill Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 September 2019

City Airport Masterplan - Response

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

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

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

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

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

18 September 2019

First Lewisham Sketch Crawl

By Simon McCormack

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 September 2019

Bampton Estate Green an Asset of Community Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 September 2019

£30,000 Investment for Baxter Field

By Sybil Barker, Secretary, Friends of Baxter Field

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

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

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

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

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

13 September 2019

Architecture Quiz

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

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

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

For more on the history of pineapples in London visit:
tiny.cc/pineapplefacts

12 September 2019

Smoddy Sharp — Redefining the Norm

By Jason Kee

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 September 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Environment Committee Update

By Quetta Kaye, Chair, Environment Committee

London is in Bloom!
Here, in the Forest Hill Society, we are playing our part in making London bloom in our town centre — especially on Forest Hill station's forecourt and platforms — as we enter for our seventh year in the RHS’s London in Bloom “It’s Your Neighbourhood” challenge. Judging day was on the 9th July, so we are keeping our fingers crossed for another “Outstanding” award.

This year, as part of London Underground/Overground’s “100 years ... celebrating our heritage” theme, our team of green-fingered volunteers has endeavoured to recreate the London Underground roundel with red, white and blue petunias in one planter on each of the platforms; and each planter displays a small placard depicting Forest Hill station in the past, contrasted with our modern-day station. Flowers in the platforms’ other planters are designed to reflect Overground’s roundel in orange, white and blue colours. These colours are repeated in the main entrance’s planters.

Hydrangea Danger!
For rail commuters who were wondering what happened to the magnificent pink Hydrangea which was in full bloom behind the bike shelter on Platform 1 of the station: one of our volunteers saw a railway employee hacking it down … two days before our judging day! He was told that it was a security risk as “someone could be hiding behind it doing something they shouldn’t” — as opposed to any of the other areas on the platform where hiding to do “things” could be done. Poor Hydrangea flowers … gone, but not forgotten.

Greening the Streets
Outside the Sylvan Post pub on Dartmouth Road, with contributions from the Ward Assembly and the pub, we have added aromatic herb planters between the groups of seats which were positioned on the road’s recently improved pavements, thereby adding yet another element to our town centre’s carbon-capturing planting.

Working with Street Trees for Living, spaces have been identified for 50 trees on pavements on our stretch of the South Circular as well as for 32 trees to be planted elsewhere on grass. These proposed sites include the area near WHSmith, where a permanent Christmas tree would be planted instead of the temporary one. The proposals have been forwarded to Transport for London for consideration under their street trees scheme and we await their approval for installation of at least some of these trees.

Trees, as we are becoming increasingly aware, are good for us — and birds, bees and other insects — by not only absorbing pollutants but also by exhaling oxygen to create purer air.

Help is always needed …
With more volunteers, the efforts of the Environment Committee could be expanded. If you have ideas of ways in which we could do more, and would like to help us achieve them, please join us and let us hear your views. 

10 September 2019

Forest Hill's Secret Fishmonger

 By Jeremy Cutler

Many residents, especially newcomers, bemoan the lack of a permanent fishmonger in Forest Hill. However, there is one which people may not know about but has been well-established for over 30 years. The business does not have shop premises, but trades from a van on Thursday mornings, parked on the slip road adjacent to WHSmith near Forest Hill station.

Grant Stanley is the man with the van and has been in the family fish business himself since he was a boy — out on the fishing boats as well as helping with all aspects of the business.

I spoke with Grant recently, and he said he had reluctantly reduced his visits to Forest Hill to fortnightly instead of weekly. He gave me three reasons for this: firstly, Lewisham Council had been unhelpful, telling him that he had no right to park and trade where the family had been doing so since 1977; secondly, Network Rail had also challenged Grant about parking on 'their' road (although I understand that ownership of the roadway may not be fully established); and thirdly, business had dropped off, as loyal customers had died or moved away.

The selection of available fresh fish depends upon what has been caught and landed in Hastings, where Grant is based. This is supplemented with Scottish Salmon, as well as fresh cod and haddock, which are also usually from Scotland. My own experience has been one of excellent choices which are reasonably priced, cleaned and filleted (if required) on the spot, with expert cooking advice if needed.

Not many areas of London are fortunate in having fresh fish supplied directly from the coast, and I would encourage residents to try Grant’s fish. If we don't use him we might lose him. Grant indicated that, if there were more interest, he might bring back his weekly visits. Some appreciation could go a long way in ensuring he doesn't become ‘the one that got away’!

Grant also does home deliveries (call 01424 441745).

Children's Book Sale - 14th September


09 September 2019

Open House London - 21st-22nd September

Walter Segal Self-Build Houses, Walters Way, Honor Oak, SE23 3LH
A well-known close of timber-framed, self-built houses, constructed in the 1980s.

Forest Mews (access from Rockbourne Road), SE23 2AT
10am-1pm Sunday 22 September only.  No advance booking - may need to queue.
Three modern houses around a communal courtyard.  One house open to the public.
 


JAWS (James and Wakana's Studio), Sienna Place, Honor Oak, SE23 1DZ
Purpose-built pottery studio within a private mews, behind a Victorian terrace.
11am-4pm both Saturday 21 September and Sunday 22 September

Hive House, Hawskesfield Road, Forest Hill, SE23 2TL
Rear extension to a family home
10am-5pm Saturday 21 September.
Architect-led tour every 60 minutes from 11am-4pm.

06 September 2019

Relaunch of Friends of Forest Hill Library


Forest Hill Library has been operating successfully as a community library since October 2016. The library is run primarily by volunteers but relies on a couple of staff employees to ensure the smooth running of the library and its IT systems and to maintain a clean environment for all library users. We are incredibly lucky to have so many volunteers to keep the doors open and to help people with their books and computer needs.

The library has 16 computers that are well-used by the public and large book collections for children, teenagers and adults. There are also regular Origami classes, Baby Bounce and Rhyme Time events, a Book Group for adult readers and a Lively Minds discussion group for the over-50s. All of these activities are also run by volunteers from the local community!

Although our focus is on running the best-possible community library, we also need to consider the financial viability of its operation since, over the past couple of years, expenses have begun to outweigh income.

There are four main sources of income: room rentals on the upper floors of the library building, profits generated by Leaf and Groove — a second-hand book shop in Dartmouth Road — and grants and donations.

When we first took over running the library, we received many generous donations from members of the public, but we have not asked for any more donations since then. We now need to re-institute our Friends’ scheme in order to supplement our regular income, and we would welcome additional donations that individuals and business would like to make.

Our community library will always be free to use by anyone in the community. To ensure that we can continue to provide this service for over 60 hours a week, we need to appeal to the generosity of the local community.

Please consider supporting our much-loved library by becoming a Friend or Patron.

Becoming a Friend of Forest Hill library costs:
£29 for individuals per year
£99 for a business per year

 Becoming a Patron of Forest Hill library costs:
£300 for individuals
£500 for a business

We also welcome any one-off donations, no matter how small or big; and, since we are a charity, we can collect gift aid from personal donations made by UK taxpayers.

To become a Friend of Forest Hill Community Library download the form here.

05 September 2019

Forest Hill Society Visits Parliament

By Belinda Evans

Thursday the 6th June was an inspirational day for members of the Forest Hill Society, who joined our local MP, Ellie Reeves, for a tour of the Houses of Parliament.

It was a sunny, balmy evening and, once through security, we entered the grand building’s interior. Funnily enough, the first stop was the gift shop! (Surely it should be ‘exit via the gift shop’?) Many of us purchased something, including some of their excellent whisky.

We met up with Ellie in Westminster Hall, a vast and imposing building which, interestingly, is the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate. It has a magnificent hammer-beam roof which was commissioned in 1393 and is the oldest example of such a roof in Europe. On the floor were plaques which signify who has lain in state in the hall with details of their dates, the most recent one being for the Queen Mother in 2002. There were also plaques celebrating events which took place in the Hall, such as historic addresses by famous visitors such as Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Pope Benedict XVI.

Ellie also pointed out the Hall’s statues and other important aspects, and told an interesting story of how some suffragettes in 1909 handcuffed themselves to the statues. One particular statue — of Viscount Falkland — was damaged by Margery Humes, who handcuffed herself to the spur on his statue! No charges were brought, but the same statue was damaged many years later when school children managed to break its sword.

We were very impressed with a modern installation at the far end of the Hall called “New Dawn”, created by artist Mary Branson. This is a spectacular glass, metal and light sculpture which marked the 150-year anniversary in 2016 of philosopher and MP John Stuart Mill having presented a petition to Parliament calling for votes for women. It was designed in the colours of the suffragette movement and its lighting changes over a twelve-hour cycle, governed by the ebb and flow of the Thames.

Once we left Westminster Hall, we entered Central Lobby — a bustling and busy interchange at the core of the building where members of both houses can meet, MPs can meet their constituents and where you can lobby your MP. There are beautiful mosaics above each of the four exits depicting the patron saints of the four constituent countries of the UK, and there is even a working post office! This Lobby is also the place you see in televised news broadcasts when MPs are interviewed inside Parliament.

Our next stop was the Members’ Lobby, which was designed to be a working anteroom to the House of Commons Chamber, where we saw statues of past Prime Ministers. There weren't any statues on display which were more recent than a bust of John Major, but there are portraits planned for the more recent Prime Ministers. The 2007 bronze statue of Margaret Thatcher was imposing, if not scary, as she is portrayed with her arm outstretched and posed as if addressing the House. She seemed to dominate the room! She is famously quoted as saying, “I might have preferred iron (a reference to the iron lady), but bronze will do.” We then moved to the Commons Chamber via the Churchill Arch.

While the Commons Chamber is probably very familiar to everyone from televised debates, it still gave us all a “Wow!” moment when we entered it via one of the two voting corridors, where MPs, when voting or discussing an amendment, have to queue up to register their votes. Ellie explained the process for voting and it did seem to be quite a tedious process. The Chamber was impressive with its familiar green seating, tiered benches, Speaker’s chair and central debating area. Interestingly, there still remains, delineated on the floor, a distance between the Government and the Opposition of 3.96 metres (13 ft). This is equivalent to the length of two outstretched swords, and was marked so that members could not lunge at each other. It is purely symbolic, of course, especially as weapons have been banned in the Chamber for hundreds of years!

Ellie pointed out a significant, recently placed plaque in the memory of Jo Cox, the murdered MP.

We stayed in the Commons Chamber for the remaining time we had on our tour, asking Ellie questions about parliamentary procedures, changes and updates; and what the life of a modern MP is actually like in very interesting and challenging times.

It was a fascinating visit, and one which afforded us a glimpse of what it’s really like to be an active and passionate MP, as Ellie Reeves obviously is. Many thanks to Forest Hill Executive member Paul Corley for organizing it!

If you get a chance to visit the Houses of Parliament, please go as it’s a beautiful, inspirational building, steeped in history.

31 August 2019

EVENTS FOR YOUR DIARY


Children’s Book Sale: Saturday 14th September, 10am-4pm. 
Outside Forest Hill Library; a fundraiser for the community library.



Clean Air for SE23 Meeting: Saturday 28th September, 10am.
Forest Hill Library.


Forest Hill Society Social: Thursday 3rd October, from 7:30pm.
Sylvan Post Pub, Dartmouth Road. A chance to have a chat with other local residents, old and new.


Forest Hill Society AGM: Thursday 17th October, 7:30pm.
Louise House, next to Forest Hill Library, Dartmouth Road.
Including a presentation by TfL on their plans for extending the ULEZ to the South Circular in 2021.

11 July 2019

Consultation on local NHS Services - 16th July

 A local GP writes:

The NHS Long Term Plan was published last January 2019. One of many suggested changes was that each Sustianability and Transformation Partnership(STP) should become an Integrated Care System (ICS). To help achieve this, NHS England (NHSE) would like there to be one Clinical Commissioing Group (CCG) for each STP area. It is not explained, but the reason is to give the STP/ICS legal footing.  The CCGs are set up in law by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The STP/ICS are a later idea, and currently only have legitimacy insofar as it is shared by their constituent CCGs. 


The changes would mean moving from the current 191 CCGs to just 44, one per STP "footprint".  The Plan suggests that should be achieved by April 2021, but in SE London they want achieve it by 2020.  


CCGs are important because they commission most of your local services. A few are commissioned by the local council. NHSE and Public Health England commission services nationally. The commissioners  decide what work they want to be done, and contract with providers to provide these services. The providers are GPs, hospitals, community health services, mental health trusts etc. The providers have some choices about how they provide the services, but little choice over what services they provide.


In Lewisham, the opposition of Lewisham CCG was a significant factor in throwing out the plans to close the A&E and maternity services at Lewisham hospital. If we had a CCG covering the whole of SE London would we have had such support?


The consultation period is now!  There is one consultation event for each of the 6 boroughs/CCGs (Currently boroughs and CCGs are co-terminus). It does not give you the date until you click on the Eventbrite link, but the Lewisham one is on Tuesday 16th July, 16.30-19.30 St Laurence Centre, Bromley Road SE6 2YS

https://www.ourhealthiersel.nhs.uk/get-involved/help-us-to-shape-the-future-of-the-nhs-in-south-east-london.htm

Some of the issues you may wish to consider:

  • Will mergers on this scale cause a loss of accountability?  
    • Local accountability was a big feature of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.  They may say that there will be sub-committees at borough level, but will these have decision-making powers?
  • Will meetings still be held in public? 
    • The Act says that CCG Governing Body and certain other meetings must be held in public. If the CCG is at SE London level, you may have to travel a long way to attend meetings, and much may be about other parts of SE London in which you have little interest/knowledge.  They may say local meetings could still be held in public, but there will be no statutory responsibility to do this.
  • Will clinicians still have the same influence? 
    • This was another big feature of the 2012 Act - more clinical involvement, less managerial.
  • Has it really been made clear what is proposed? 
    • The website does not say anything about mergers!
  • What will happen if local GPs vote against merger?

08 July 2019

Death of well-known Forest Hill resident

Last week news spread that Stefania, the woman who often sat in the Forest Hill railway subway, had passed away, apparently from complications following an operation.

Stefania had occupied this spot for a number of years and was a familiar face to the pedestrians who use the subway.
She was a friendly and popular woman, which is reflected by the many tributes to her placed in the subway and posted online. 

A Go Fund Me page has been created in her memory, to raise funds for her funeral and to support people in similar situations. If you have been touched by Stefania's plight, you may wish to contribute to her memorial fund.
Update: Details of the memorial service are now available.
Saturday, 20 July 2019 from 10:00-12:00 at Sydenham School, Dartmouth Road
If you will be attending please let the organisers know by marking yourself as 'going' on the Facebook page

01 July 2019

Future Framework for the Horniman

Horniman Museum are consulting on an ambitious plan to develop Horniman Gardens including:

  •     New Garden Arrival Square
  •     Spacious Reception with Improved Facilities
  •     Reorganised and Reimagined Museum Spaces
  •     Nature Zone and KindercafĂ©
  •     Stepping Gardens
  •     Horticultural Hub and Winter Garden

To find out more about their plans view the exhibition in Gallery Square or view online here.


Blythe Hill Fields Festival


The 2019 Blythe Hill Fields Festival will be held on Sunday 7th July. The festival is a local community event, attracting about 4,000 people, with a great line-up of stalls, performers and musicians coming together for yet another brilliant day out.

You can expect an eclectic mix of music on the main stage; family events on the woodland stage; huge varieties of stalls to browse and fabulous food and drink. Not to mention great activities such as the funfair, crazy golf, giant games and a treasure hunt!

To find out more visit https://www.blythehillfields.org.uk/festival-2019/festival

29 June 2019

Forest Hill Ward Assembly - 2nd July

Tuesday 2nd July 7.30pm  at Sydenham School, Dartmouth Road, SE26 4RD



What's on the agenda?
  • Mais Housing Update
  • Clean air for Forest Hill update 
  • Update on tree planting in Forest Hill 
  • Consultation: Introducing licensing for all private rented homes in the borough
  • Tewkesbury Lodge & Thorpewood Avenue Traffic/Parking Working Groups updates
  • Community Updates and question time
WHAT IS THE FOREST HILL ASSEMBLY  ?

Your Forest Hill Assembly discusses issues of concern to you and your neighbours. It’s a place where you  and other local residents can work together with the local councillors, police, local organisations and the  wider community to make Forest Hill a better place to live, work and learn. Anyone who lives, works or  studies in Forest Hill Ward can come along and get involved.

Organised by Lewisham Council and Forest Hill Ward councillors

13 June 2019

Devonshire Road Festival in the Forest

Saturday, 6th July, from 1pm to 11pm, Deveonshire Road Nature Reserve



An afternoon full of live Country, Folk, Americana, Blues and Irish music in South London's hidden natural paradise!

To book your tickets go to their Eventbrite page.

10 June 2019

Lark in the Park

Saturday 22nd June, 12 noon - 4pm, Mayow Park

Lark in the Park is the community festival brought to you by Perry Vale Assembly, designed to bring local people and community groups together for a day of fun in the park. This year, the theme will be celebrating world cultures.  We hope to have a music and performance stage, and we are also looking forward to welcoming the police #together team with their police horses and dogs.  Plus all the usual attractions including free face painting and storytelling for under-fives, free tennis tasters, Dr. Bike and all our favourite local community groups and charities.

Thanks as usual to Friends of Mayow Park for helping to plan and publicise the festival – find out more about the Friends on their Facebook page: @FriendsofMayowPark.



07 June 2019

SE23 Jumble Trail - Sunday 9th June


SE23 will host its first Jumble Trail this June. Jumble Trail is a community event where people sell their unwanted goods- (bric-a-brac, music, toys, clothes, books, tools, plants and cakes) from a tabletop outside their home. A map is available with locations of sales across SE23.

Simply follow the trail and bag a bargain.


 

02 May 2019

Edible Plant Give-Away

Saturday 4th May, 2:30pm at Forest Hill station’s forecourt.

A selection of edible plants, grown by the Horniman Gardens and surplus to requirements, will be given away by volunteers from the Forest Hill Society.

Possibly with some music to enjoy too!

25 April 2019

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

Clean Air for SE23 operates as a working group for the Environmental Committee of the Forest Hill Society. 
It covers the same area as Forest Hill Society i.e.” SE23 and beyond”.

Aims:
1. To reduce air pollution in Forest Hill which will improve the physical and mental health of its residents especially children.
2. To reduce car emissions by promoting behavioural change and to mitigate emissions through greening and street planting projects. This will have welcome secondary effects of reducing CO2 and climate change and creating corridors for wildlife.

We will split the work into two strands:
a. “Mitigation” Greening projects: Planting Trees, Hedges, Green walls, “Green Benches”, “Parklets” (planters outside shops and businesses) Green Bus Stops.
b. Reduction (Expanding ULEZ; Challenging Airport expansion and route changes which affect Lewisham; Enabling Cycling, Reducing Car Use, Promoting Electric Cars; Schools Streets)

Forest Hill has lots of green space but we need people who are passionate about making it even greener. We need volunteers with lots of different backgrounds to make this happen including: Green fingered Gardeners and horticulturalists, Creatives and Designers, Scientists, Fundraisers, Social Media Whizzes, Admin Organisers, Press and PR champs, Campaigners, Local Area Experts, General Helpers and Enthusiasts. We need you!

Please contact michael@ fhsoc.com or Clean Air for SE23 Facebook group.

Horniman Play Park Community Cleanup - Saturday 11th May


Organised by Tewkesbury Lodge Estate Residents Association

18 April 2019

Planning Application: Duncombe Hill Green

There has been a planning application for 7 two-bedroom flats on the green space at the junction of Duncombe Hill and Brockley Rise. You can read the full details of the application on Lewisham's website.

The Forest Hill Society has written to object to this planning application with concerns about:

  • Loss of Green Space
  • Impact on trees with Tree Preservation Orders in place
  • Poor quality of design and over-development

The full details of our objection can be viewed here.

01 April 2019

Lewisham Drivers to Switch Sides

Last week Lewisham Council, in an act of defiance against Brexit, took the decision to fully implement the European Union Traffic Convergence Directive from the 1st April 2019. The main change that we will see on Lewisham’s roads will be the switch from driving on the left to driving on the right side of the road – in line with all other EU countries.

Although drivers in Lewisham will need to drive on the right on all Lewisham roads, this will not apply to TfL roads (red routes) – including the South Circular. Drivers will be expected to change lanes as they turn and Kate Ford, Director of Roads in Lewisham, has said that “interchanges will actually be easier as there is more space for turning when you are switching form one side of the road to the other” - just remember not to turn into on-coming traffic!

Sidney Hampden has been leading a campaign to reduce speeds on roads and has welcomed the changes, stating that “Lower speeds can be achieved through a variety of road interventions. Road humps and cameras have been shown to reduce speeds in 20mph zones, but researchers have speculated that asking road users to switch lanes at regular intervals encourages them to drive more carefully and at lower speeds – resulting in safer road conditions for pedestrians and zebras crossing as well as for drivers”.

But there is no doubt that one of the main drivers of this policy is a last-ditch attempt to keep Lewisham in the EU. Councillor Evelyn Ward has said that Lewisham wants “EU nationals to feel welcome on our roads, and what could make them feel more welcome than driving on the right? We want to show that Lewisham is a forward-thinking borough that is open for business in all directions”. The changes are predicted to give a huge economic boost to Lewisham, which is expected to become a tourist hub for visitors from Europe, and even from America.

The Forest Hill Society is not convinced that this is the right move. We are concerned that road users will not know where the red routes begin and where they end as red markings on the road continue for 50 metres away from the official red routes. It is also not clear what will happen on boundary roundabout, such as on Sydenham Hill. Unlike other Lewisham roundabouts, where road users will orbit counter-clockwise, this roundabout is officially in Southwark despite residents on three sides being classed as Lewisham – so it would be easy for drivers to forget which way to go on the roundabout and end up being too polite to go anywhere!


There has been further opposition to the plans expressed in parliament, led by Lady Wellbrooke. Lady Wellbrooke claims that Lewisham’s 70% remain vote in the 2016 referendum does not constitute a mandate to shift to the right, and the signs being displayed across Lewisham are contrary rules relating to political advertising.

The new rules, scheduled to start on 1st April 2019 will only apply to cars – buses will be exempt, so that passengers can safely embark and disembark from buses using existing doors. However, all buses operating in Lewisham will be required to have ambidextrous entry and hover board storage facilities by January 2015.


* Press release issued by the Forest Hill Society on 1st April 2019. Some of the details in this article may not be valid on any other day of the year.

31 March 2019

Dates for Your Diary - Spring 2019

Spring Walk: Sunday 28th April, 2:30pm. Meet at Honor Oak Park station

Edible Plant Give-Away: Saturday 4th May, 2:30pm. Forest Hill station’s forecourt
A selection of edible plants, grown by the Horniman Gardens and surplus to requirements, will be given away by volunteers from the Forest Hill Society.

Guided Walk through the Woods along Sydenham Hill Ridge: Tuesday 7th May, 6:30pm. Meet at Bluebell Close off Sydenham Hill. (Organised by Sydenham Hill Ridge Neighbourhood Forum)

Spring Planting at the Station: Saturday 11th May, 2.30pm. Meet in Forest Hill station’s forecourt

24 March 2019

Summer Visitors to SE23

 Swifts are seen (and heard) in the UK from May to August, and they are regularly seen over parts of SE23. There are swift

nesting colonies in Wynell Road (off Perry Vale), Kilmorie Road, Lowther Hill and Devonshire Road/Tyson Road.

Swifts are small, fast and agile with a distinctive silhouette. They are often seen in groups circulating high in the sky and have a distinctive 'screaming' call.

They are migratory birds, flying from Africa to northern climates where they nest and raise their young, before flying back to Africa. Amazingly, swifts spend most of their lives flying and never land, other than to nest. They even sleep whilst flying!

Swifts have adapted to nesting in buildings, not trees, which means cities are ideal nesting grounds. However, swift numbers have declined dramatically because their existing nests are under threat from building renovation, and there are few alternative nesting spaces in modern buildings.

Swifts depend on gaps and small holes high up in buildings, for example under eaves or behind gutters. But as houses are repaired these holes and gaps are blocked up and swifts lose their nesting places.

Each swift pair return to the same nest every year. Unfortunately if their nest has disappeared they cannot breed unless they find a new site, which is difficult because modern building design does not provide nooks and crannies.

A local swifts group (known as Lewisham Swifts) was created by Rebecca Headd, a Forest Hill resident who wanted to protect her local swift colony in Wynell Road. The group, which aims to raise awareness of swifts and tries to protect and extend nesting sites to increase the swift population, has now grown to cover the whole borough.
Lewisham Swifts maps reported swift sightings across the borough. This forms a picture of where swifts might be nesting and is also a way of encouraging people to take an interest in the birds.

Last May, ten swift nest boxes were installed on the side of a block of flats in Wynell Road by the London Fire Brigade, who used it as a training exercise to use their ladder platform. The boxes are visible from the top of Wynell Road at the junction with the alley, so passers-by can keep an eye out to see if any swifts take up residence.


23 March 2019

Heathrow Airport’s Flight Path Consultation

By Tim Walker, Forest Hill Society’s Flight Path Group

Many people are bothered by noise from aircraft heading over our area to Heathrow and London City airports, though research shows that the decibel level and frequency of aircraft at which people become significantly disturbed varies. Surely, some aircraft noise is part and parcel of living in London? When planning huge expansions, airports are under environmental pressures as expectations rise for less noise and pollution. How then should Forest Hill ensure that its interests are taken into account?

In August 2018, I published a report on aircraft flying over our area, entitled No respite from aircraft noise in SE23. This explained how two airports, Heathrow and London City, combine their aircraft’s flight paths over Forest Hill, with each airport’s planes flying different paths and changing flight direction in different wind conditions. One of the report’s surprising findings was that south east London was unique in getting this double overflight situation; there was never a day when we did not get either one airport or the other’s planes, and quite often we get both at the same time. The Times picked up on this recently, name-checking Honor Oak and Forest Hill when the London Assembly reported on the issue.

London City airport controls the lower-level airspace over Forest Hill. In February 2016 residents along a line from Sidcup to Catford, Forest Hill, Dulwich, Herne Hill and north to Vauxhall noticed a sudden change: Aircraft that were previously dispersed were now flying along a very precise path over the same homes and schools at or under 2,000ft. People living under this relatively new low-altitude concentrated route are now affected significantly worse than before.

Until 4th March Heathrow is running a huge consultation, the first of several, on a complete redesign of the higher -level airspace they control over London. A third runway is planned for 2026 and, whether or not it is built, the airspace that has evolved piecemeal over 70 years will be redesigned.

After these issues were discussed at the last Forest Hill Society AGM, a group of members has been intervening where it has seemed effective, for example by:


  • Taking a seat on behalf of the Society on the Heathrow Community Noise Forum
  • Approaching Lewisham’s councillors and environmental protection officers to see how Lewisham might engage more — and act on our behalf on consultations like Heathrow’s
  • Discussing shared issues with the Dulwich Society
  • Briefing London Assembly members and members of the new Heathrow Community Engagement Board on south east London’s overflight issues
  • Preparing a guide for south east Londoners on the current Heathrow consultation


We’d like to see regular breaks from aircraft noise for all communities, planes flying higher for longer and an end to the crossing of flight paths above us. We'd also like to make sure that the voices of Forest Hill and neighbouring south east London communities are heard on plans that affect us. Each individual can make a small difference by participating in consultations and by complaining, when disturbed by noise, to airports.

Aside from our overflight issue being noted by The Times, it has also been acknowledged by London City airport, which has for the first time carried out some initial noise monitoring in our area; and by Heathrow airport, whose consultation specifically mentions the need to address the double overflight situation. 

22 March 2019

125 Years of Bowling in Forest Hill

The Forest Hill Bowling Club is celebrating its 125th Anniversary this year, and they will be hosting three Special Celebration Matches plus other events throughout the summer season.

Bowls is a sport and pastime for everyone. You can make new friends at the Club and spend summer afternoons and evenings in safe and pleasant surroundings.

For those who have not bowled before or who have limited experience, the Club can provide the assistance of its qualified bowls coaches.

Their outdoor season starts on Saturday 20th April and runs until Sunday 22nd September. From the beginning of May, they meet for practice, skills and coaching on Tuesdays and Fridays at 5pm.

The Club’s members play matches on Wednesday afternoons, Thursday evenings, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Why not pop along to try bowls for yourself?

Address: 28 Wynell Road, Forest Hill, SE23 2LW
Website: www.foresthill-bowling-club.com

21 March 2019

Water Bottle-filling Fountain at the Horniman

By Brendan Cuddihy

You may have noticed something new at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in late 2018. The museum is one of twenty well-visited locations chosen by the Mayor of London for the first wave of new public water fountains that provide free access to healthy tap water for refilling water bottles. This is part of an effort to reduce the more than 20 million single-use plastic bottles that Londoners consume every week, many of which end up in landfill or polluting the environment.

We think this is a great initiative and would love to see more of these bottle-filling fountains around Forest Hill.

What do you think, and where would you like to see them located? Let us know in the comments

20 March 2019

New Street Trees for Forest Hill

Stuart Checkley, member of Street Trees for Living, told us about their project to increase the number of trees around Lewisham and beyond.

Last winter at least 30 new trees were planted on the streets of Forest Hill. Each new tree on a particular street required the street's residents to raise the necessary funds to purchase it (£270) and to find someone to water the tree for its first two years. When more than one tree was to be planted on a street, a planting plan to increase the attractiveness of the street had to be formulated by the residents or their representative. In each case the resident in front of whose house each tree was to b
e planted had given their written consent to the planting.

After all this was done, Lewisham Council surveyed and approved the planting sites, and ordered the trees. The Council supervised the planting of the trees and organised their insurance.

But none of this would have happened without the voluntary organisation Street Trees for Living, which has supported local groups of residents through all of the above and has done so working closely with the Council. Street Trees for Living has helped to get over 200 trees planted before spring in different parts of Lewisham.

If you would like to get trees planted on your street next winter, contact Stuart@streettreesforliving.org. Stuart will help you to get started by giving you leaflets for surveying the views of residents in your street, through which you will undoubtedly discover other tree enthusiasts. You will then be able to work with your neighbours and Stuart to decide upon the trees that you would like, and before long you will get them planted.

And there are a lot of attractive trees to chose from. As our summers get hotter, so trees from hotter climes are starting to flourish on our streets, like this Crepe Myrtle (above), which this summer brightened up a sheltered stretch of Forest Hill Road in nearby Southwark.

19 March 2019

200th Anniversary of the Enclosure of Sydenham Common

By Andrew Orford, Friends of Albion Millennium Green

Between 1810 and 1819, we tragically lost our very own ‘jewel’, a 500-acre common, in a lengthy process of enclosure. This would take away access to our natural landscape, and a way of life, permanently, and set the course for the eventual creation of the suburbia we recognise today. To contemplate this loss requires a leap of the imagination, as it seems there are so few clues left until you start to look for them. When you next pass The Greyhound pub in Sydenham, be sure to read the interpretation plaque that accompanies the large mural facing Sainsbury’s. However, if you stand in Sydenham Wells Park, you can experience the gentle undulating hills which once characterised the common, a space about 25 times larger than the park. Just imagine the park before its neat horticulture, where animals grazed and some ramshackle buildings provided shelter; you might capture something about Sydenham Common, which was previously called Westwood Common.

We do know that in 1813, when Washington Irving visited the poet Thomas Campbell (whose house on Peak Hill overlooked the Common and the reservoir which topped up the Croydon Canal), he was surprised and delighted that it reminded him so much of the countryside in his America. Campbell’s house was a hotspot for such visitors and one of the more accessible centres of a complex social network in Sydenham. His distant cousin was society hostess Lady Charlotte Campbell, who was the daughter of the 5th Duke of Argyll and
lady-in-waiting to Princess Caroline, and keeper of an anonymously published series of diaries, among which records the first known written encounter with William Blake. She lived nearby in the mansion house called Westwood House, for whose earlier owner a fine grove of Elms were planted in an avenue, leading toward the centre of the mansion, that today we know as Jews Walk.

In what seems like an improbable twist, Eleanor Marx, who would live in Jews Walk much later, is also descended from the House of Argyll — which we know because Karl Marx was questioned by police when he pawned his wife’s silver. The crest of the house of Argyll was identified on the silverware and Jenny Marx had to explain that her great-grandmother was a Campbell.

These little vignettes transport us back to a completely different age, yet something recognisable to visitors of Hampstead today. The thought that we, in south east London, had lost the equivalent of something like two-thirds the size of Hampstead Heath is lamentable. But the works, letters and diaries of contemporaries mean that we can piece together a substantial picture of life in Sydenham and Forest Hill at that time.

We can verify many of the described locations by cross-referencing them, and plotting them by using online maps spanning the last two centuries. We are living with the paradox that, if we piece together the evidence, we would come to know more about life around Sydenham Common than would have been known to its most observant and well-connected residents. The capability of Wikipedia to provide this type of evidence has been a sea change in the fortunes of local historians. We can be grateful to the voluntary contributors to Wikipedia and reflect on the fact that it is founded on a model called ‘Creative Commons’, which itself draws from the original traditions of commoning, showing the reinvention of this deep-rooted need.

In July 2019 London will be designated as a National Park City, exactly 200 years after the final enclosure of Sydenham Common. The Forest Hill Society had the pleasure of hearing campaigner Daniel Raven-Ellison talk to us at our last AGM, describing the genesis and development of this astonishing idea. I think Forest Hill and Sydenham should seize this opportunity to celebrate the launch of London National Park City and commemorate the Common by promoting the understanding of, and access to, nature. One month beforehand in June, the London Festival of Architecture will explore its theme of ‘Boundaries’. I wonder if we can somehow work towards physically marking the historic boundary of the Common, perhaps (eventually) permanently and, in doing so, use social media to welcome in the National Park City.

One special space that sits within the former Common at the very boundary of SE23 and SE26 is Albion Millennium Green, a gift from the nation. 'Albion' was one of 245 green spaces across England that was created under the Countryside Agency’s Millennium Greens scheme with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to commemorate the year 2000. We have been working with volunteers to secure the future of the Green and its health, and we know that to continue this we must appeal to our collective sensibilities.

The Green (like the Common once before it) is something we all need to look after, for the benefit of everyone. Being located so close to Forest Hill Library and Pools, it feels like it is our own village green even though it seems so much like a secret garden. It is even used for 'Forest School' activities which combine outdoor learning with appreciating nature. The Friends of Albion Millennium Green would like to thank all our visitors, volunteers and supporters, for keeping alive such a vision — not just as a 'Sleepy Hollow' but as our very own part of "England's Green and Pleasant Land".

18 March 2019

Solar Panels at Forest Hill Station

Let there be lights... and there were lights — but the festive feel is not just for Christmas!

Environment-friendly solar-powered lights have been installed as a permanent fixture in the trees in Forest Hill station’s forecourt. Financed through the Forest Hill Ward Assembly, Repowering and the Forest Hill Society, the lights were fitted just in time for Christmas by Repowering’s Felix Wight and Ali Hammoud, ably assisted by volunteers from the Forest Hill Society. As the daylight hours lengthen the lights will switch on for longer periods so that, by mid-summer evenings, Forest Hill town centre will have a truly festive and welcoming feel.

Elsewhere the Environment Committee is hard at work with plans to install more planters in Dartmouth Road and, we hope, to add pollution-absorbing trees to the empty forecourt of the BT Openreach building on Waldram Park Road. Watch these spaces!

 With current awareness of the need to eat well and to cut obesity, and the importance of fruit and vegetables in our diets, we are pressing our local councillors to insist that Lewisham Council makes a healthy eating option a requirement in the food franchises in all its parks.

Raising awareness is also why we are working with the Horniman Gardens’ head gardener, Wes Shaw, to produce edible plants for our annual “Edible Plant Give-away” which will be on Saturday May 4th. Think and eat green and grow your own… and save money in the process!

The Environment Committee is seeking to initiate a Lewisham-wide campaign to raise awareness of the toxic effects of leaving stationary car engines idling. Our local councillors have agreed to work with Council officials to pursue this issue. Updates on both campaigns will be presented in future newsletters.

 Our planting efforts in the town centre and on the station’s platforms received its sixth consecutive Royal Horticultural Society “Outstanding” award in 2018. To keep up the good work, Saturday May 11th will be the day we renew and tidy up our planters. Meet at 2.30pm in Forest Hill station’s forecourt with protective gloves and, if possible, a trowel. To do this work we need volunteers; so please join us and enjoy a convivial hour or two tidying up the old and planting the new. No previous experience is required; however, because of the proximity to busy roads and parking cars, this activity is not suitable for children.

 And look out for the new Forest Hill Society poster near the bike stand on Platform 1 of Forest Hill station, designed in cooperation with Repowering. We hope this bit of self-advertising will encourage more people to volunteer and join the Forest Hill Society to help make our town an even better place in which to live, work and work.

Article by Quetta Kaye, Chair, Forest Hill Society's Environment Committee