18 September 2020

Gardening Through Lockdown

Wesley Shaw, the Horniman Gardens’ Head of Horticulture, was interviewed by Quetta Kaye, chair of Forest Hill Society’s Environment Committee.

QK:  Congratulations on keeping the Gardens open to the public throughout the lockdown and initiating new planting schemes.  How did you manage this?

WS: We have all been really pleased with the Gardens this year. As you say, everything looks lovely and all credit should go to the Gardens’ team who have really done a great job. When the lockdown was introduced my team were designated Key Workers to enable the Gardens to remain open and provide a place for the local community to exercise in. To safely do this we split everyone into separate teams and each team worked alternate days. Unfortunately, this meant we weren’t able to provide cover into the evening, so we temporarily reduced the closing time to 4.30pm. 

QK:  Since you became Head Gardener 7 years ago, you have altered or created new planted areas in the Gardens. Where does the inspiration come from? 

WS: My brief is to try and create displays that complement the Museum’s collections and temporary exhibitions as well as keeping all the amenity areas looking good. We try and do at least one ‘pop-up garden’ each year. The ideas usually come from myself and the team, and I then present them to the senior management team.

This gives us a great opportunity to do some interesting and innovative horticulture. Last year we used the Brick Wonders exhibition as inspiration for the summer bedding display in the Sunken Garden and created a modernist version of a bedding scheme using blocks of colour to represent Lego bricks. Visually it made a big impact and even got a full-colour spread in The Times and The Daily Telegraph.

Our last big project was to create the Grassland Garden in conjunction with the landscape designer Professor James Hitchmough and the plantsman Neil Lucas. This was intended to complement the new World Gallery that opened in the Museum in 2018. The idea was to celebrate grassland habitats and the relationship indigenous people have with them, as well as providing a beautiful long-lasting floral display that is low maintenance and great for wildlife.

QK: The newly installed bee-friendly garden at the front of the Museum is particularly apt, as is the pollution-absorbing sculpture.  Where did this idea come from and how long has it taken to create and install?

WS: The area that is now the Bee Garden has been given over to wildflowers in recent years, but we decided to step it up and create a garden dedicated to supporting bees.

The inspiration for a bee garden came after our CEO Nick Merriman declared a climate and ecological emergency. We wanted to build a garden that would really benefit wildlife, particularly bees, and to hopefully provide some inspiration to visitors about how they can create something similar in their own gardens. 

Coincidentally around that time I met local artist Dr Jasmine Pradissitto. Jasmine was really keen to exhibit some of her work in the Gardens, so I told her about our plans for a bee garden.  This worked perfectly as she has been sculpting with a material called NoxTek that removes harmful respiratory NOx pollutants from the atmosphere. NOx is thought to interfere with the ability of bees to find and pollinate flowers. It’s a great example of how public art can not only drive awareness but also create a beneficial intervention which is fitting for the ‘Culture Declares’ mission statement of increased sustainability and protection for the environment and the biodiverse creatures that need it to survive.

The garden is really quite simple: we have a series of hexagonal raised beds planted full of bee-loving plants, surrounded by meadow turf and two rather marvellous bee hotels created by my team. Jasmine’s sculpture takes centre stage in the raised beds as a focal point for the whole display.

Lockdown made it a bit tricky getting materials and plants, but we managed to get everything we needed and by mid-May we were finished and Flower Girl was installed. It looks great and, more importantly, it is absolutely crawling with bees! If you haven’t seen it, you really need to!

QK:  Did you come to the Horniman Gardens with preconceived ideas of what you would like to do, or have ideas evolved around the landscape and the educational aspects involved?

WS: A bit of both really.  I started shortly after the Heritage Lottery-funded redevelopment was finished in 2012. There were a few areas that hadn’t been completely finished and other areas that still needed improving, so over the last seven years we have been working our way through these, as well as trying to create pop-up gardens at the same time. But there’s always something that needs improving or changing, which is a good thing because it means the Garden continues to evolve and improve.

QK: Without revealing any secrets, is there a budget for planting in the Gardens? By which I mean, how strictly are you constrained financially in what you are able to do? 

WS: There isn’t a budget purely for planting.  I have a budget that covers all operational elements of the Gardens, and plants are included in that. We are obviously constrained by what money is available.  Our pop-up gardens are built on a relatively low budget, but the advantage I have is that I have a very skilled team, which means we can do a lot of things in-house. For example, the hexagonal timber beds used in the Bee Garden were built on-site, so this saved us a lot of money. 

For bigger projects we have an excellent fundraising team who will help us fund projects. For example, the Prehistoric Garden was partly funded by Tesco’s Bags for Life scheme.

QK:  In addition to the flower-planted areas, the Horniman Gardens is home to an enormous number of mature and some newer trees which must need regular monitoring and appropriate care.  This is a very important legacy to have inherited.  How is this managed?

WS: We really love our trees, and the Horniman has a fantastic collection, but, as you say, many of them are mature and entering the later stages of their life so we have been really proactive at planting the ‘next generation’ that will continue the Horniman tree legacy.

We try and plant trees that are quite unusual and aren’t generally seen outside a botanic garden or arboretum. It is important to provide good aftercare especially through a hot dry summer, so you will regularly see my team out with a water bowser watering all the young trees and weeding tree circles to prevent competition from weeds and grass. 

All our trees are risk-assessed every two years by an independent tree expert, who gives me a prioritised list of works for our tree surgeon contractor to carry out. This keeps them safe and healthy.

QK:  Congratulations on creating an exciting educational and pleasure garden — an inspiration to us all!

17 September 2020

Millie Small (1946‒2020)

 By Gary Thornton

The singer Millie Small, who died aged 73 in May, may be one of the more surprising musical connections to Forest Hill. 

Born in Jamaica, the daughter of a sugar plantation manager, Millie arrived in London aged just 17, having been spotted by Chris Blackwell, the music producer and founder of Island Records. Blackwell brought Millie to Forest Hill, where she took dancing and elocution lessons, and recorded her best-known song, My Boy Lollipop, which reached No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart in 1964. 

Originally recorded by The Cadillacs in 1956, Millie’s version was arguably the first international hit with the distinctive rhythm of Jamaican ska music, influencing a generation of musicians and leading to a 1980s revival with bands such as The Selecter and Bad Manners (who had a hit with their own re-gendered version, My Girl Lollipop). 

Much less well-known is Millie’s 1970 cover version of Mayfair, written by Nick Drake but itself quite obscure, not appearing on any of the three albums released in his short lifetime. Although Drake’s typically fragile English melancholy is replaced by upbeat ska rhythms and calypso brass, the song retains its mystery and sense of detachment. In their very different ways, in Mayfair both artists were strangers in a strange land. 

Mayfair was released as a single to moderate success, but it was its remarkable B-side, Enoch Power, which still resonates today. Here, Millie is an immigrant living in Birmingham, where her brothers “work all week, to keep the British country running” and dance to reggae music at the weekend. Originally titled Enough Power, the chorus was changed in response to the Midland MP’s infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech, but this is a positive song about unity and harmony, not division: 

“One day there'll come a time

When all men will be brothers

They'll talk as well as dance

And live and love with each other”

Banned by the BBC, Millie performed the song at Wembley Stadium in 1970 as part of the landmark Caribbean Music Festival ― her performance is documented in Horace Ove’s film Reggae, where it appears alongside footage of Powell's speech.

Her second and final album was released in 1970, following which Millie withdrew from both the music world and public life, leaving a brief but important legacy to the influence of Jamaican music.

“I Am a Man”

In June this year, after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in the American city of Minneapolis, two new artworks appeared in Forest Hill. The first, on Waldram Park Road; simply stated ‘Black Lives Matter’ ― a recognition of the difficulty Black people continue to have, even today, in being seen and treated equally.

The second artwork, created by Nathan Bowen, can be seen on Perry Vale, close to the underpass. It is a powerful image in its own right, but it is also a representation of the 1968 Memphis, Tennessee sanitation strike.


The Memphis sanitation strike was provoked by the death of two sanitation workers who were crushed to death in a garbage truck that malfunctioned while they sheltered from the rain. This led to strikes and marches, with the protestors taking up the placards shown in the photo, in a peaceful protest against poor working conditions and a host of other grievances.

Martin Luther King Jr was a strong supporter of the cause of the sanitation workers and led some of the marches in Memphis. It was on 3rd April 1968, in Memphis, that King gave his last speech ― “I've Been to the Mountaintop” ― and on the following day he was assassinated on the balcony of his motel room.

Bowen’s artwork reminds us of the injustice and inequality for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people, not only in 1968, but also today. "For at the heart of racism is the idea that a man is not a man, that a person is not a person. You are human beings. You are men. You deserve dignity." ― Rev James Lawson 1968.

16 September 2020

Swifts Take Up Residence

Two years ago, the Lewisham Swifts group enlisted the help of the Forest Hill Fire Brigade to install swift nest boxes on the side of a block of flats in Wynell Road, SE23. Swifts are migratory birds and visit the UK from May to July to breed and fledge their young, before returning to Africa for the rest of the year. As swifts only nest in buildings, providing nest boxes is vital in trying to reverse their declining numbers. 

This year a local swift spotter was very excited to see two of the new nest boxes in use by swifts. It is not known whether the new residents were breeding pairs, but now that swifts have found the boxes it is highly likely they will produce new generations of swifts over the coming years. Look out for them when they return in May!

15 September 2020

Ellie Reeves MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Lewisham West and Penge

The last few months have been the most difficult since being elected to Parliament three years ago ― the pandemic has been extremely challenging and not surprisingly I have been dealing with an unprecedented amount of casework from constituents.

I am heartened though by how the community has pulled together. Through volunteering, fundraising and many individual acts of charity, residents in Forest Hill and across the constituency have been exemplary, and I want to thank everyone for the work they have done.

I do not underestimate the challenges that people have faced, but I know that by working together we have been able to get through the lockdown. As restrictions are eased it will be by continuing to work together that we will be able to recover from this crisis. 

Although my Forest Hill office is closed and my team have been working from home in line with Government guidance, I have continued to work with the local community. I have visited the Lewisham food bank in Forest Hill, which has been getting out £10,000 worth of food each week to Lewisham residents. I sent a video message of support to Holy Trinity on their celebration of Trinity Sunday, thanking them for their work over these past months.

I have written to schools, supermarkets and care homes asking them what I can do to support them. And I have also made representations to Transport for London to carry out urgent upgrade work to the pedestrian crossings in the centre of Forest Hill, as it is almost impossible to socially distance when crossing the road there.

As we now start to see the easing of lockdown restrictions, it is important to get things right. If we are going to reopen our society and economy safely and successfully, we also need to have confidence in the Government’s advice and handling of the pandemic.

To date, guidance and communication has been confusing and many decisions have come with an unnecessary delay. In my view, the Government was too slow to implement the lockdown, too slow on testing and getting PPE to frontline workers and too slow in getting a task force of education stakeholders together to build consensus on the wider reopening of schools.

As we move to a new normal, we need to have total confidence in the Government. That means we need absolute assurances that test, track and trace is working properly, that all children will have support over the summer and can return to school in September, and that parents will be able to get back to work safely.

In the middle of lockdown, in April I was extremely proud to be appointed to the Labour Front Bench as Shadow Solicitor General. In this role, I work with the Shadow Attorney General to scrutinise the Government Law Officer’s oversight of prosecuting bodies and the legal advice they give the Government, as well as ensuring they fulfil their duty to uphold the rule of law.

For my despatch box debut at Attorney General Questions in April, I was able to participate virtually, under the Hybrid Parliament. I have been campaigning for a long time for Parliament to reform and modernise, and so I welcomed remote participation and voting.

Despite the new system working, the Government disappointingly scrapped it after just a few weeks and required all MPs to be present in Parliament, leading to a mile-long queue to vote.

In my role as Shadow Solicitor General, I obtained urgent legal advice on shutting down the virtual Parliament which found that if MPs were ‘employees’, then the Government’s decision would likely amount to discrimination on grounds of disability, age, sex and/or pregnancy under the Equality Act.

Nevertheless, the government was reluctant to back down but have since introduced limited measures for proxy voting and virtual participation. As a result, my questions from the despatch box have been both virtual and in person. I’ve been able to cover a range of issues ¬— from Dominic Cummings’ apparent breach of lockdown rules, to ensuring that domestic abuse cases are prosecuted swiftly and effectively.

As always, I can be contacted on ellie.reeves.mp@parliament.uk.

Positivity Rocks!

By Belinda Evans

There has been a fabulous project running at Brent Knoll School on Perry Rise called “Positivity Rocks”. 

Pupils at the school have been creating many different artwork projects to raise awareness of the issues of Covid-19 amongst the school community and to help the local community stay safe, keep well and support our key workers. 

As part of the curriculum, pupils have created posters to reinforce the hand-washing message and posters thanking key workers for their hard work and commitment. These posters don’t just adorn the school’s walls; they are put outside the school on the fence for the general public to take away and display them to spread these important messages to all. Quite sensibly, the posters are put outside with an explanation letting people know when they were created and the time to wait before taking them away, which again reminds us all how to keep safe. They certainly have brightened up the neighbourhood.

Then the positivity rocks appeared!

In the same vein as the posters, beautifully painted stones then appeared outside the school for people to take away. The stones were simple pebbles painted with images and patterns of the pupils’ own designs. The idea was that the stones would be picked up by locals who would be passing by, and then travel away from the school, and for the pupils to then find out just how far they had travelled. The coordinator of this project at the school said that, as part of the project, the pupils were using their geography lessons to map out where their rocks had been taken. 

People who did let the school know where the rocks ended up got a lovely response back from the school ― here’s the response I received: 

“That's absolutely amazing, thank you. This rock was painted by one of our Year 11 pupils, whose mum is a front-line worker in Lewisham Hospital. We think that her choice of rocks shows her personality.

We will share this with the children tomorrow, they will be very happy.”

We hope you agree that this project really brought the school and the local community together in a very positive way, as well as making passers-by smile and feel positive!

Sans Store

Opened in August, this new shop at 5-7 Brockley Rise (close to Stanstead Road) offers a wide range of produce including:

Bakery items and seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables

Hand-picked artisanal produce from across London and the UK

Dry-store and refrigerated items, including veggie, vegan, free-from and organic ranges

Greeting cards and flowers

Pop in or visit them at https://www.sansstore.co.uk.

14 September 2020

From Our Foreign Correspondent on Lockdown … Blythe Hill Fields

Opportunities for far-flung exploration have been curtailed during the coronavirus lockdown and you probably don’t want to read about a three-mile walk to Waitrose in Beckenham. So I will focus on a destination that is only partly foreign: Blythe Hill Fields, which straddles the border of SE23 and SE6.

Firstly, as anyone familiar with the topography of SE23 knows, the word ‘hill’ in a local place name indicates a substantial incline not suited to a gentle stroll. Blythe Hill Fields is no exception. Sitting on the summit of Blythe Hill, the park is reached by a determined walk up one of the many surrounding access roads. However, it is less strenuous than walking up to Horniman Gardens and the views are just as good, if not better.

Blythe Hill Fields has panoramic views of central London to the north, from Canary Wharf to the Shard and the City of London. To the south are glimpses of a far-reaching treescape, hinting at what the Great North Wood might have looked like.

The park has a lovely mood on summer evenings. The light from the setting sun casts a warm glow over the city skyline — a warmth that extends over the park itself, creating a magical atmosphere over the small clusters of park visitors. The midsummer magic wasn’t confined to this correspondent, as a member of a group of youngsters doing cartwheels was overheard to exclaim “We came here to drink and ended up doing gymnastics!”.

A visit to Blythe Hill Fields is further rewarded by including  a walk up or down nearby Lowther Hill (warning: steep hill alert). Looking west to the Sydenham Hill Ridge reveals a wonderful view of Forest Hill and the top of Horniman Museum’s clock tower nestled among the trees.


Railway Station Recipes

By Belinda Evans

Our previous newsletter’s recipe of spaghetti with sage and butter went down so well with some readers that we thought you might like another recipe, again using some of the herbs freely available from Platform One at Forest Hill station. On your way back home, why not pop into the garden area behind the bike shelter and pick some sage or thyme for the following gratin, along with some mint for a refreshing tea?


Serves 4


1 pack of sausages (meat or veggie/vegan)

500g sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1cm thick rounds

200g any other root vegetables you have at home (e.g. turnip, parsnip, celeriac, carrots), peeled and cut into even-sized slices or chunks 

2 onions, sliced

2‒3 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried sage, or thyme)

300ml vegetable stock

250ml double cream

1‒2 tbsp Wholegrain, French or English mustard 

75g Parmesan, Pecorino or other hard cheese, grated

A handful of breadcrumbs 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a large mixing bowl combine all the vegetables including onions.

In an oven-proof dish, layer half the mixed vegetables.

Pour over the vegetable stock, scatter the fresh herbs, and dot with a few teaspoons of mustard on top.

Repeat with the remaining onions and vegetables. Pour over the cream to coat the top layer of vegetables.

Mix the breadcrumbs and grated cheese together in a small bowl, and season with salt and black pepper.

Scatter on top of the dish and place in a preheated oven (190C / 170C fan) for 50 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the top is golden. You can cover the dish with some tinfoil for the first half of the cooking time to stop the top from over-browning.

If you have space in your oven, place the sausages in an oven-proof dish and cook for the remaining 20 minutes of the gratin’s cooking time. Alternatively, fry or grill whilst the gratin is cooking.

Serve the sausages and gratin together. The leftovers will keep in the fridge for 2—3 days and can easily be reheated in the oven or microwave.

All washed down with a refreshing mint tea using your freshly picked mint…


Serves 2


2 cups water 

15 fresh mint leaves (peppermint or spearmint)

Optional: 1—2 teaspoons sugar (or honey)

Optional: lemon slices

Optional: fresh lemon juice

Optional: ice


Bring the water to a boil.

Remove from the heat and add the fresh mint leaves.

Steep for 3—5 minutes, depending on desired strength.

Add optional sweetener. Start with 1 teaspoon per cup and add more as desired.

If serving iced, fill tall glasses with ice and pour the tea over. If serving hot, pour the tea into mugs. Garnish with optional lemon slices and/or lemon juice to taste.

12 September 2020

Birley House Open Air School

By Sheila Carson

In the latter part of the 19th century it was recognised that pollution, overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions in many cities contributed to the development and spread of infectious and debilitating diseases. Children were particularly affected, primarily with tuberculosis, but also with asthma and anaemia. These children were often described as 'delicate', meaning that they were malnourished and underweight.

German studies in the 1890s showed that the health of children with tuberculosis could be improved with good nutrition, fresh air, exercise and rest. Purpose-built schools implemented these interventions alongside education. The first of these ‘forest schools’ or ‘open air schools’ opened in Charlottenburg, near Berlin, in 1904. As a result of the success of this school the idea was copied in many European countries and further afield. A delegation from London County Council visited Charlottenburg, and were so impressed that it was decided to repeat the experiment in London. The first Open Air School in London opened in Bostall Wood, near Abbey Wood in 1907. The following year three more were opened including Birley House School in Forest Hill.

Birley House was a mansion with a large garden located at 108 London Road next to the newly built Horniman Museum. Being high on a hill it was above urban pollution and benefitted from a steady breeze. The school was open all year round but was not residential. Children were brought up daily by tram from the slums on the south bank of the River Thames. The school buildings initially consisted of prefabricated wooden sheds; later, some permanent pavilion-style classrooms with open sides were added. Staff consisted of a trained nurse, a head teacher, three assistant teachers and some domestic help.

By 1913 the school accommodated 90 children from 6 to 14 years of age. At this time, children left school at 14 years old and started work. The children arrived at 9am and were given a breakfast of porridge or bread and milk. During mid-morning they had a snack of bread and butter or dripping or hot soup in the winter. The main meal consisted of meat or fish with two vegetables followed by a pudding or stewed fruit. Before they went home at 6pm they were given tea with bread, butter, jam and a slice of cake. The staff ate with the children but at their own table. The children sat at tables of ten and elected a monitor who supervised table manners and made sure that children ate their food.


After the main meal the children had two hours of rest every day. They laid in reclined deck chairs or on the grass and were given blankets. There were weekly checks of underwear and heads for lice followed by a hot bath. The children regularly had their height, weight and haemoglobin measured and recorded. Education focused on developing useful citizens through cooperation, division of labour and self-reliance. Activities for boys and girls included gardening, acting, dancing, cooking, domestic skills and infant care. Other subjects studied included mathematics, geography, music and nature study. The school was successful in improving the health of the children and gave them skills to succeed at work and in their personal lives.

After the Second World War the health of children improved greatly as a result of the use of antibiotics to treat tuberculosis, improved standards of living and the introduction of the National Health Service. Open Air Schools were no longer required. Many closed and some were repurposed as Special Schools for physically handicapped children.

Birley House Open Air School moved and was incorporated into Brent Knoll Open Air School in Sydenham in 1927. Birley House was demolished in the 1950s and the land used to extend Horniman Gardens. No trace of this pioneering school in Forest Hill is visible today.

Prioritising Pedestrians at Forest Hill Rail Station

 After many years of campaigning on the issue, the Forest Hill Society is pleased to see that their proposals for prioritising pedestrians at Forest Hill station are being given serious consideration, but it is early days and there are many partners to consult. 

Our proposal is for a temporary closure of the WHSmith side of the station forecourt’s car park, to allow pedestrians a safe access to the station’s entrance, unimpeded by moving or parked vehicles.

If successful, and assuming no possible adverse effect on traffic on the south circular road outside the station, this closure could lead to the permanent removal of car parking on that side of the forecourt next year. This would allow for improved paving and planting, and installation of a drinking water fountain. Keep an eye on those four parking spaces!

In addition to improving the station’s car park, we will continue our campaign for improved pedestrian crossings on both sides of the station: on the South Circular, by making the pedestrian island more safe from vehicular traffic; and on Perry Vale, by improving vehicular sightlines for pedestrians attempting to cross the road. In July, we highlighted the difficulties of social distancing on the pedestrian island on the South Circular outside the station, which prompted Ellie Reeves MP to write to TfL requesting that “works are done as soon as possible to upgrade this crossing”. We wait to hear if any action will now be taken to make this busy crossing safer for pedestrians.

11 September 2020

Booking Your Library Books

By John Firmin

Forest Hill Community Library has partially re-opened for a ‘click and collect’ book service. Sadly, we are not able to fully reopen the library due to Covid-19, but we are pleased that volunteers are running the click and collect book service three days a week:

Tuesday, 10am ‒ 2pm

Thursday, 3pm ‒ 7pm

Saturday, 10am ‒ 2pm 

To reserve books you can call the library service on 020 8314 8024, email libraries@lewisham.gov.uk or order your books using the online library catalogue by going to https://lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/libraries/using-the-library

You will get a call when your books are ready to be collected from Forest Hill Library.

As well as reserving books you can drop in to the library during opening hours and pick up a ‘lucky dip’, which will be three books chosen according to genre or subject. If you need help with click and collect you can also call Forest Hill Library when it is open on 020 8244 0634.  

Good reading!

25 August 2020

Children's Second-hand Book Sale

On Sunday 20th September we will be attending Horniman Farmers' Market with second-hand books for children. This is organised in conjunction with Forest Hill Library and Leaf and Groove bookshop and to raise money for the library. Actually, our main priority is not to raise money but to get more children reading books, particularly while access to the library is limited.

If you have books to donate please make sure that are donated to Leaf and Groove before 13th September so that all books can be quarantined for at least three days.



History of Forest Hill Talk


On Monday 14th September, 7:30pm, The Forest Hill Society presents a free online talk on the History of Forest Hill.

Find out about the history of the local area, its buildings and its people.

Please register in advance of the meeting to receive joining instructions: https://historyfh.eventbrite.co.uk


Gardening in the Town Centre

Forest Hill Society will be undertaking gardening ‘tidy up’ from 2:30pm on Saturday, 29th August. Please join us for some socially distanced weeding, trimming and tidying up for the autumn.


Meeting point: Forest Hill station forecourt, 2:30pm.
Tools provided, no experience necessary just enthusiasm!
Face masks may be needed in some locations and please bring your own gardening gloves.

24 August 2020

Make Mayow Road Safer

The high number of road accidents on Mayow Road, close to schools and the park, is a cause of concern for local residents. They have set up a petition for safety on this road to be improved.

The residents of Sydenham and Mayow Road request immediate action from Councillor Sophie McGeevor. We recommend a full review of Mayow Road's safety risks and propose the following safety measures are put in place:

     - Full length speed bumps
     - Pedestrian crossings by all Mayow park entrances
     - A speed camera

You can sign the petition at:https://www.change.org/p/lewisham-councillor-sophie-mcgeevor-cabinet-member-for-environment-and-transport-make-mayow-road-safer

23 June 2020

Summer Lockdown Quiz

While it is difficult to organise community events during the present time, we still want to bring people together across the community, so we invite you to join us via Zoom for a quiz evening, including some questions specifically about Forest Hill.

8.00pm, Thursday 2 July 2020

Entry is free but donations to Lewisham Foodbank welcome
You can play by yourself or as a household, and once you have registered details of the Zoom link will be sent to you close to the event. We hope you can join us for a bit of fun with your neighbours and local community. (Bring your own bottle!)

23 May 2020

10th Anniversary of London Overground Reaching Forest Hill

23rd May 2010 saw the first services from Forest Hill to Dalston Junction.

After ten years, it is a route that many of us take for granted (or at least we did until Covid-19) but the Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society were there on the first day; leading a group of intrepid explorers into the unknown realm of North East London, and to such enticingly names places as Haggerston and Shoreditch High Street. All returned from the adventure safe and well - leading the way for closer ties between these previously unconnected communities. 

Below are a few photos from that first trip 'Up North' on Day One of the Overground service on the East London Line.

23 April 2020

The Great Big SE4 & SE23 Raffle

Small independent businesses have been hit hard by the lock-down and a raffle has been organised to help them.

There are some great prizes you can win - all purchased from local businesses.

Enter the Great Big SE4 and SE23 Raffle to support local business and win great prizes!

Over £6,000 has already been raised from local people.
Find out more and enter the raffle here.

15 April 2020

Helping Local Families

Two ways to support local families struggling at this time:

You can support the local food bank with one-off or regular donations:
At present all food is being delivered to clients by the food bank.

Revd Edd Stock is also raising money for food for local families:


14 April 2020

Helping Each Other

We encourage all members to help other members of the community. A number of streets, estates, and areas across Forest Hill have Mutual Aid groups on Whatsapp and there is a map available here.

Lewisham Local, Voluntary Services Lewisham and Age UK Lewisham are working with Lewisham Council and local partners to coordinate support for people who are vulnerable or self-isolating.  This support will include the delivery of food and supplies, befriending and provision of accurate information.

If you need support or wish to volunteer to help you can:

Call 03330 150 378 (Mon-Fri 9-5) or complete an online form at https://www.lewishamlocal.com/request-support/

Call a Neighbour
Many people will feel isolated if they cannot leave their homes. Perhaps give elderly friends and neighbours a call on the phone, just for a friendly chat, and to safely break the monotony of lock down.

Local Shops Collection / Delivery

Residents have been compiling a list of businesses in SE23 and SE4 that are open for business in some way during the current crisis. This list includes many local restaurants which can provide you with a break from cooking as well as Butchers, delis, greengrocers and pharmacies.

View the full list at: http://croftonaid.org/2020/03/28/local-businesses-being-brilliant/

If you can, please try to support local business during this difficult time.

01 April 2020

A Giant for the Horniman

Horniman Museum kicks-off April 2020 with plans for a celebration of Neolithic Art including the installation of their own Giant Hill figure that will be visible from across London!

Hill figures have been part of the British landscape for millennia and these imposing figures are often associated with fertility. The figure will be created by cutting turf and filling the trenches with crushed chalk recreating the way similar figures have been carved in the British countryside for thousands of years. To complete the authentic nature of the art, local Druids will imbibe the figure with mystical fertility powers.

However, many local residents have expressed concern about the anatomical explicitness, dubbing the piece the Horniman “Horny man”. The man will stand 100 metres tall with the phallus itself stretching just over 13 meters (40 feet). 

Visitors are expected to come from far and wide to enjoy the spectacle of this cultural colossus in the heart of South London, and the “Horny man” is expected to become as symbolic of South London as the “Angel of the North” is for Manchester.

The Horniman Giant will be visible from a variety of locations across London and as far away as Cockfosters.

All figures are correct at time of publishing – 1st April 2020.
All details will be incorrect on any other day.

26 March 2020

The Lazy Chef

Located in Forest Hill station’s forecourt, it is easy to overlook this surprising little café, where the staff are anything but Lazy!

First impressions on entering this family run café are of a warm, friendly place to eat, featuring a menu with something for everyone. The large range of breakfast options has an international flavour with Mediterranean and American combinations to complement the standard European fare. There is also an equally varied list of lunch options ranging from chicken dishes to pasta, fish and burgers. These can be washed down with a glass of wine from Italy, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia or Chile. It’s the wide range of different meals available that makes the Lazy Chef special.

I met with Serkan, one of three brothers, the others being Sidar and Serdar who have worked together for 20 years and have run the Lazy Chef for two years — alongside their uncle Ercan, who does the cooking.

My first question was obvious: Why the name when it’s very clear this is not a lazy establishment!? Serkan explained that the name is fun, a laugh and something different to catch the eye. Continuing, Serkan said 90-percent of his customers are locals who visit regularly. Serkan takes pride in making them feel welcome. He wants the Lazy Chef to feel like a warm sanctuary where you can enjoy excellent coffee and tasty food.

Serkan and his family are Kurdish and come from Turkey, though Serkan has now lived in Devonshire Road for 23 years and loves working in Forest Hill. Before the Lazy Chef, Serkan and his brothers owned kebab shops including one in Dartmouth Road. Asked if he had any plans for the Lazy Chef, Serkan said he would like to expand the café and be able to serve more customers. Given the location, this would be difficult. I wondered whether Serkan and his brothers might want to move to a larger premise elsewhere, but he was adamant he had no intention of leaving Forest Hill.

If you fancy a good cup of tea or coffee and a tasty bite to eat, the Lazy Chef may be the place for you. And if you do visit, try the Gorlette — savoury Turkish flatbreads which are home-made by Serkan’s mum!

24 March 2020

Where Did You Get That Hat?

This past Christmas our community was aflutter with the Forest Hill Hat Caper when not just one, but two of the handmade Santa hats for the Christmas tree were stolen. Local Forest Hill designer and resident Lee Jackson of Jackson Morgenstern Ltd created this fantastic feature. Jason Kee sat down with him to find out more about the designer behind the decorations, and the man under the hat.

Now very much in demand, Lee didn’t start his career in design. His first foray was an extensive year-long refurbishment and redecoration of the house he shared with his then partner. It must have been a triumph as a friend then introduced him to the BBC. It was the 1990s and makeover programs were all the rage. Lee found instant success and began working on home makeovers for daytime magazine shows. He had no formal training, but he was creative, could do the work himself and was an excellent presenter, a rare combination for this new emerging TV format.

After the BBC, Lee started working with a growing number of interiors’ magazines and began to focus on styling rooms for photoshoots. There is a very good chance you have a feature in your house which Lee inspired. But the fortunes of TV home-décor shows and those glossy magazines waned. Lee set up Jackson Morgenstern Limited twelve years ago and has built a business focusing on exhibition design, and experiential and PR stunts. Stunts have included setting up a full-scale wedding for Bertie Bassett at the Bassett’s factory, and an ambush by Scottish Clansmen in Soho.

He said, “I love it most when I answer the phone and someone says: I’ve got a really bizarre request...” He has been asked to recreate a jungle and 1950s Cuba, and even to create an edible set. In an industry where burn-out is common, Lee attributes his success to keeping ahead of the curve, and embracing new technology and media.

Today, styling photo shoots accounts for a lot of his work and takes him all over the World. When we talked he was getting ready to head to Milan for two weeks. When he heard about the theft of the hat (the first time) he was in Tenerife.

Lee became a Forest Hillbilly just over six years ago on a day his partner Alex is unlikely to let him forget: Valentine’s Day.

Lee is a native North Londoner, living in both Century Park and Watford before venturing south to SE23. Like many other recent arrivals, he knew very little about the area but was encouraged here by friends who live and work in Havelock Walk. In Forest Hill he found a converted sausage factory (or so he has been told) with room for a studio and a home for him and Alex. Lee speaks with great fondness now of Forest Hill though, from our chat, I suspect it is the cheese toasties from Aga’s Little Deli that keeps him in the ‘hood.

Over the past few years, Lee has also carved out a niche line of work in styling photo shoots and events for Christmas. For him, Christmas begins in May lasting often through to October. A few years ago at a photo shoot for Dobbies Garden Centres, he admitted to decorating over 1,500 trees — a number he now thinks was conservative. It should be no surprise that he has earned himself the title Mr. Christmas. Forest Hill was very lucky to have Lee not only design but also supply the decorations and make those two erstwhile hats for our Christmas Tree.

  • Fun Fact 1 – The Forest Hill Hat was made from an elephant-knit throw, padded with a 5-tog duvet and trimmed with a lot of fake fur.
  • Fun Fact 2 – In case the second Forest Hill Hat was stolen, it had the message “we hope you get no presents” printed on the inside.
  • Fun Fact 3 – Lee is obsessed with television shows from the 60s and 70s, which in part explains the Morgenstern in Jackson Morgenstern. If you think you know why, then tweet us at @FHSoc or leave us a post on Facebook.
  • Fun Fact 4 – Lee will be decorating the Forest Hill Christmas Tree again this year and has already started on design concepts.

Environment Update

Pots against pollution
As a trial, in a further effort to mitigate against the pollution produced by traffic on the South Circular, Forest Hill Society volunteers have attached pots of trailing ivy to the railings near the former Barclays Bank in Forest Hill. These plants form the beginnings of a “green screen” in an effort to reduce the negative impact of vehicle emissions on people, and especially small children, using our roads. If the trial is successful similar pots will be attached to other railings around the traffic junction.

Cleaning — not just greening
The Forest Hill Society’s cleaning squad turned out in force on February 22nd to spruce up the subway. Sloshing suds and waving wipers, it didn’t take long to return the walls of the subway to whiter than white.

How Clean is Your Air?

The Forest Hill Society’s “Clean Air for SE23” campaign began last year aiming to raise awareness about the dangers of air pollution and improve air quality.

You may have met us at the Horniman Farmers’ Market where we encouraged people to plant a tree for SE23. We asked you to take away an acorn or conker seed and come back in the spring to plant the sprigs at the Horniman Triangle, to create a green screen next to the playground. At the same time, we raised £120 to plant 120 trees in developing countries through “Just One Tree”, so thank you for your donations. We realised the sprigs would be too small to plant in March (we’re still learning about trees!) and are asking people to keep your plants until November when we will have set up a planting event alongside Street Trees for Living who will be planting six large oak trees and other saplings. The best place for oak and horse chestnut trees is actually at the opposite end of the park to the playground, because of ground conditions, but we hope to get funding to fill in the gaps in the hedge and plant some more suitable saplings in this area. We hope the plants will help to screen the traffic fumes from the busy road to some extent. Watch this space or the Facebook group for news of the November planting event.

Last year we also set up an air quality monitoring programme to look at the levels of pollution in our area and measure particulate matter in the air. Lewisham Council and Kings College Air Quality Network have a useful map of air quality, but their maps are made by modelling data from just a few actual monitors across Lewisham. Their data gives an average across the day and does not account for peaks during rush hour traffic, when children are walking to school.

We are working with Jennifer Gabrys from Cambridge University and Goldsmiths to develop an enhanced monitoring programme. Jennifer has designed a small monitor called a dustbox, which is designed to look like a particle of air pollution. She has already run a successful citizen science research project in Deptford. We identified sites that we think will have bad air quality (mainly along the A205, especially where traffic idles).

We will have monitors at about 10 sites including Horniman Gardens (one by the road and one by the bandstand), Dalmain school, along Brockley Rise and Honor Oak Park, and near Forest Hill station. The monitors will collect data for 2-3 months. Jennifer will calibrate the data against the existing monitoring stations at New Cross and Honor Oak, to identify what pollution is caused by local sources (traffic) and external sources (e.g. pollution that can be blown here from European factories and from Saharan dust).

We hope to use the data to lobby for things like the London Mayor’s Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme, cycle lanes, school streets, air filters in classrooms and more green spaces and trees. We also hope it will strengthen our campaign to reduce car use, something which is also key to Lewisham Council’s climate action plan.

If you would like to find out more or have a little time to spare to help with future campaigning please email cleanairSE23@hotmail.com or see our Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/cleanairSE23.

Have a Look at Havelock Walk

Havelock Walk is one of Forest Hill’s great treasures. It is a cobbled mews off London Road which is home to a diverse community of creative people, who all live and work there. Its small entrance off the South Circular gives little indication of the creative hub a few meters from our busy high street. It feels almost hidden despite the large blue and white Hello and Goodbye mural, by resident artist Supermundane.

Havelock Walk’s history is far from clear. Some suggest the name derives from the Have Lock, an offshoot of the Croydon Canal providing stables for the horses which pulled the barges. This may be more of an urban legend since there is no written evidence. Furthermore, the Croydon Canal closed twenty years before the first noted reference in 1862 to a Havelock Street on the site. Businesses then included a blacksmith, carpenter, coach-maker and zinc worker. It likely borrowed its name from the terrace of shops on London Road which now includes the Red Cross, then called Havelock Terrace.

It is much more likely that Havelock Walk is named after Major-General Sir Henry Havelock, then considered a hero of the unsuccessful Indian Rebellion in 1857. Havelock died shortly after the end of the Rebellion; subsequently, streets, building and even pubs came to bear his name. Today, a statue of Havelock stands on one of Trafalgar Square’s plinths.
While once an area of industry, fast forward to the 1980s when Havelock Walk was a grim, cobbled terrace used by mechanics and metal workers for storage. It suffered bomb damage during the war and had remained unwanted. Yet, despite the squalor, it had something that Lancashire-born artist Jeff Lowe was looking for.

Jeff Lowe FRSS was a student of the New Generation of British sculptors in the 1960s which included Anthony Caro and William Tucker. Lowe came to prominence in the 1970s winning the Sainsbury Award in 1975 and today is internationally acclaimed for his monumental architectural-inspired abstract sculptures.

Lowe had been looking for cheap warehouse space in which he could work on his large abstract sculpture and make a home. Havelock Walk fit the bill, and in 1987 he bought his first unit followed by several more over the next ten years. Each one was converted into live/work studios and often sold on to other artists. As shells, their new owners could create the spaces they needed for both their professional work and personal needs.

Fast forward to today, and Havelock Walk is now home to a vast array of artists, sculptors, ceramicists, architects, photographers and craftspeople. They include Royal Academician David Mach, who is now one of the UK’s most successful and respected artists, and known for his large-scale sculpture, collages and installations. His 1989 installation Out of Order, of fallen red telephone boxes, dominates the centre of Kingston. Supermundane’s (aka Rob Lowe’s) geometric images and typography are instantly recognisable, playing with line, colour and optical illusions. Another resident is visual artist and mental health advocate Liz Atkin. Atkin’s work is in part a response to her  compulsive skin picking condition and she can often be found giving away work to passengers on the Overground. Resident photographers Wayne Parker and Lenka Rayn produce haunting landscapes (Parker) and portraits (Rayn) from their unit at the end of Havelock Walk.

In the 30-plus years since Jeff Lowe bought his first unit, Havelock Walk has become more than a street of live/work spaces. Havelock Walk is now a thriving community of artists, often collaborating with each other; and a community of families, many with children born and raised there.

Throughout the year, visits to studios are often by request only. But twice a year the studios’ doors are opened, and this creativity explodes onto the street with Havelock Walk’s popular Open Studio Weekends. Colourful bunting leads visitors to original art and crafts for sale, alongside street music, street food and the families of Havelock Walk.

For further information, visit www.havelockwalk.com

Forest Hill Society Seeks New Chairperson

The Forest Hill Society is looking for a new Chairperson to oversee its activities and to help manage its future direction. The role is important — chairing both the Executive Committee meetings and the Annual General Meeting. Though much of the work done by the Society is at the Committee level  — which currently includes environment, planning, transport and communications — it is important to coordinate all our activities and campaigns.

Should you be interested in the role of Chairperson, please send us an email or arrange to speak with any member of the Executive Committee who would be more than happy to meet and talk about this.

The Society has grown to become an important part of Forest Hill life. We oversee activities like the annual flower planting in and around Forest Hill station. Of course, there was much discussion on the Christmas Tree this year and its errant hat — that’s us too.

The Society continues to provide input on major planning applications and has been instrumental in recent decisions around the SE23 postcode in the last year — including the creation of the Christmas Conservation Area. And, of course, there are the many ongoing efforts of the Society often mentioned in this newsletter, such as the Clean Air and Aircraft Noise campaigns.

Since the wonderfully attended Christmas Tree lighting ceremony with carols and Santa, the Society has hosted a public meeting of the Clean Air for SE23 campaign; organised a history walk around Perry Vale and Blythe Hill; and recently spring-cleaned the pedestrian subway. We have a plethora of events and activities coming up this year, including a number of themed social events to connect local people in real life.

If you would like to help out in other ways, there’s always room on our committees for more members.

For more information contact us via:

The Streets are Filled with Art

Forest Hill and surrounding areas have seen a growth in the use of public art to better address the needs of 'dressing the street'. These works do more than brighten up a drab area, they also play a role in our sense of collective purpose. But what constitutes public art and how is the commissioning process able to support community goals?

With momentum building behind interest in these questions, the time is right to capitalise on the trend. The “Lewisham School of Muralism” is a proposal by Artmongers. A Spacehive crowdfunding-campaign has been launched to fund this initiative to teach participants the process of creating murals.

To find out more or to donate, visit www.spacehive.com/lewisham-school-of-muralism

15 March 2020

Looking out for your Neighbours

Our community is faced with some challenges ahead, and it is at this time community is at its most important. Right now, is a very good time to introduce yourself to a neighbour and swap telephone numbers.  Particularly elderly ones, stay at home parents, neighbours with disabilities and even those who just moved into the area. If your neighbour is not at home consider leaving a note such as this one with your contact details.

Think about creating a WhatsApp group for your neighbours or street.  And remember that some people are 'off-grid', consider sharing important information whenever you hear it.

There is a Lewisham-wide Covid-19 Mutual Aid group on Facebook which is intended to put people in contact and share information on a wider scale.

Related to this are local whatsapp groups based on ward areas:
Forest Hill https://chat.whatsapp.com/BGzBE202C6cELrzhg2SMFc
Crofton Park https://chat.whatsapp.com/BBw6zHu1G4ZG4F6jJ4njbf
Perry Vale - https://chat.whatsapp.com/GLijgM6K7AyK3pkvfjTVFJ

Shop Locally

While major retailers are finding it difficult to keep stock levels replenished, please consider shopping at local independent shops. Many continue to have good stock levels and need the support of the local community to keep it that way.

Similarly, why not consider ordering in a take away from your favourite local restaurants? (and keep your stockpile for another day).

From our foreign correspondent…

Goings-on from beyond the borders of SE23

New Cinema in Catford
Catford has been cinema-less since the ABC closed in 2001 — but no longer! 2019 saw the opening of “Catford Mews”, an independently-run venue comprising a three-screen cinema, café, bar, five local food vendors and a community space.
Located in the shopping precinct off Rushey Green, the cinema is open seven days a week with screenings throughout the day. It shows both the latest releases and independent films, and also hosts comedy nights, live music and the occasional live theatre broadcast.

Film ticket prices are under £10 and there are various membership packages entitling members to free tickets, discounts on further tickets, and 10% off food and drink.

For more information visit www.catford-mews.co.uk

New Shops and New Locations

Olives and More now open

New to 13 Perry Vale is ‘Olives and More’, which sells the finest Spanish extra virgin olive oils, made from a number of varieties of olive, each of which has its own distinctive taste. There are monthly Olive Tasting Workshops where you can learn how olive oil is produced, its uses and health benefits (for details and booking visit mardeolivos.co.uk/olivesandmore).

The shop also sells olives by weight, and other products made with extra virgin olive oil such as tapenade, chocolate and honey.

Forest Hill’s Co-op has moved
The Co-op grocery store has moved to Stanstead Road, next to Shurgard Self-Storage. The new store is much larger and more spacious than the previous one. There is more retail space for fresh fruit and vegetables, chilled and frozen food, groceries, household goods and off-licence sales. There is also an in-house bakery.

There is a small car park at the side, but note that Co-op parking is at the back (access through the gate) and limited to 30 minutes.


The following events have been cancelled:

Gin Tasting: Thursday 23rd April, 7pm. Sample a selection of English Gins to celebrate St George’s Day.

Spring Planting: Saturday 25th April, 2pm.

Havelock Walk Open Studio Days: May 9-10th and May 16-17th.

Walk Through History: Sunday 17th May, 2:30pm

We will be postponing the Edible Plant Give-Away and looking for a safe way to continue with this project without congregating in one place while the government advice is to stay indoors.

The Monsters are Coming … to the Horniman

The Horniman Museum’s temporary exhibition space is going back to a time BEFORE the dinosaurs to showcase fossil skeletons as well as full-size models and animatronics which bring the Permian back to life after 250 million years!

Visitors to the Permian Monsters exhibition can sift through interactive dig pits, get creative in an art area, and see a collection of artwork offering a glimpse back in time through the eyes of award-winning palaeoartist Julius Csotonyi.

The exhibition lasts until the end of October and is free for members (tickets required for non-members).

For more information visit www.horniman.ac.uk

01 February 2020

Subway Cleaning - 22nd February, 11am

As our unofficial contribution to the Great British Spring Clean we will be attack the subway with sponges and buckets on Saturday 22nd February at 11am.

Many hands make light work, and we can usually clean the subway in less than 50 minutes with a few people with sponges and your favourite household cleaning products. Please come along and lend a hand and be amazed at how quickly the subway can be transformed from dirty to sparkling!