20 September 2021

Forest Hill Society AGM

All members and non-members are welcome to attend our AGM, which will take place at the Horniman Museum Pavilion (near the animal walk), on Wednesday 13th October at 7:00pm.   

We are pleased to welcome Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham as our guest speaker.   

The event is free to attend and there will be refreshments on sale.   

The AGM is an opportunity to find out more about what is happening in Forest Hill, to share your concerns and to shape the future of the Society. We would encourage all members to get even more involved by standing for the Executive Committee, or joining one of our committees focused on planning, environment, transport or communications. If you would like more details about getting involved, please contact claus@foresthillsociety.com

10 September 2021

Electoral Boundary Changes Proposed

By Gary Thornton

The Boundary Commission has published its initial proposals for changes to Parliamentary constituency boundaries which will be effective from 1 July 2023.

For the UK as whole, the total number of constituencies will remain at 650, with 10 additional seats in England compensated for by a reduction in the seats available to Wales and Scotland.

London will have 75 seats instead of 73. With some exceptions, the size of each electorate must be between 70,000 and 77,000.

For the Forest Hill area, the proposed boundary changes are significant. Currently SE23 falls into two constituencies. Lewisham West & Penge (which includes Sydenham, Crystal Palace, Clock House and Beckenham Hill), serves most of the area, with Lewisham, Deptford (which extends to the river just below Surrey Quays) taking in the roads north of the South Circular and west of the railway line.
Under the Commission’s proposals, Lewisham, Deptford will be renamed Deptford, and retain most of its existing boundaries, losing only Hither Green to Lewisham East.

The majority of SE23, however, will fall within a new Dulwich & Sydenham constituency. The southern boundary retains Beckenham Hill but will run further north from Lower Sydenham to Gipsy Hill, following the border of Lewisham Borough. The constituency will then be shared by Southwark council, rather than Bromley.

The western boundary (currently marked by Sydenham Woods) will be extended to include all of Dulwich as far as Herne Hill. The Bromley side of the existing Lewisham West & Penge constituency will become part of Beckenham, and those currently in Dulwich & West Norwood will fall under a new Norwood constituency.

In terms of voter demographics, and based on the last general election results, the proposals are unlikely to change the local political map. All constituencies in the area — Lewisham Deptford, Lewisham West & Penge and Dulwich & West Norwood — returned large Labour majorities in 2019, as did Croydon North, which will form a large part of Norwood. The next general election though could see a new MP in Forest Hill, as Ellie Reeves in Lewisham West and Helen Hayes in Dulwich & West Norwood will have only one seat between them.

09 September 2021

Louis Drysdale – the Musical Professor of Westbourne Road

By Gary Thornton

In January 1906, a rather unremarkable boat left Kingston, Jamaica, bound for Bristol. Its passengers included the dozen or so members of the Kingston Choral Union, a local choir who specialised in spiritual, traditional and religious music. The singers were due to appear at an exhibition of ‘Colonial Products’ in Liverpool later that month, billed as a ‘Native Choir from Jamaica’, followed by performances in Swansea, Worthing, Whitby, Bridlington and Wrexham. Such was their success that the ‘Jamaica Choir’, as they became known, returned in 1908 for a further tour.
One of the two tenors in that 1906 choir was Louis Drysdale (‘Dri’), a carpenter’s son from Kingston. With the encouragement of the exhibition’s founder, ship-owner Sir Alfred Lewis Jones, he remained in England after the tour, studying at the Royal College of Music, where he trained under Gustave Garcia, one of the influential family of singers who had shaped 19th century Italian bel canto, and whose members included some of the finest singers of their generations, who had variously performed in premieres of operas by such as Rossini, Verdi, Donizetti and Bellini.

Drysdale’s ambition though was not to perform, but to become a vocal tutor, training opera and concert singers in the art of bel canto, the tradition he had inherited directly from the lessons of Garcia. Working initially as a tailor to support himself, he began to attract more and more students and soon established himself as a popular and accomplished teacher.

Dri had divorced his first wife in 1911, and when he remarried an English woman, herself a talented accompanist, the pair set up a studio at their home at 11 Westbourne Road (now Westbourne Drive). His reputation spread, and when in 1926 the American cabaret singer Florence Mills (at the time starring in Lew Leslie’s Blackbird revue) visited him for lessons, she was so impressed that she wrote to the editor of the New York Age, which in turn led to work from many other artists, eventually enabling him to set up further studios in central London and Margate.

During his lifetime, the ‘palatial’ studio setting at Westbourne Road became a haven for black singers and musicians, where the Drysdales welcomed and taught luminaries such as Paul Robeson — who spent many years in London during the 1920s and 30s — and Marian Anderson, the renowned contralto who would become the first African-American to perform at the New York Metropolitan. At a time when racial prejudice was often far too obviously on display, overseas visitors could be assured of a warm reception and accommodation for their stay in England.

In a few short years Drysdale — known affectionately as the ‘Professor’ — had become one of the most highly-regarded vocal tutors in Europe, a view shared by his close friend, the ground-breaking composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, as well as the many famous singers whose talents he had helped nurture and develop, and whose photographs and testimonials adorned the walls of his studio.

After a short illness, Louis died suddenly in 1933, aged only 49, and was buried in Ladywell cemetery, his missing grave and headstone most likely destroyed by stray bombs during WW2.

Long forgotten after his death, his story is recounted by the notable historian Jeffrey Green (www.jeffreygreen.co.uk), author of Black Edwardians.

More information from Black People in Britain 1901-1914 and the Jamaica History website (jamaica-history.weebly.com/).

Local Olympians

By Gary Thornton

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, held over to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will be especially memorable for each of the Team GB medal winners, who between them secured 65 medals, including 22 golds.

And for Forest Hill, these games will also be remembered as the first gold medal for one of our local athletes. Alex Yee followed his silver medal in the triathlon by anchoring the mixed relay team — also comprising Jessica Learmonth, Jonny Brownlee and Georgia Taylor-Brown — and obtaining the gold medal. Although Alex grew up close by in Brockley, he attended Stillness Infant School, so here in SE23 we can claim at least part of him as one of our own.

The 23-year-old first attracted attention when he won the 2012 Mini London Marathon and took gold for Lewisham in the London Youth Games, where he competed in cycling and the aquathlon. He recovered from a serious cycling injury in 2017 and began competing in the triathlon in 2019, finishing second in his first event, and winning his first World Triathlon Championship Series in Leeds earlier this year. 

Local artist Lionel Stanhope was also quick off the mark, commemorating Alex’s success with an addition to his Brockley sign:


There are few past Olympians from Forest Hill, and we have to look to our neighbours to bask in their reflected glory:
Tasha Danvers attended Sydenham Girls’ School. A finalist at Sydney in 2000, she won bronze in the 400m hurdles at Beijing in 2008.

Lesley-Ann Skeete was born in Sydenham and ran in the 100m hurdles at Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992.

Duncan Goodhew lived at Wells Park Road in Sydenham during the 1980s. He famously won gold in the 100m breaststroke and bronze in the 4x100m medley relay at Moscow in 1980.

Linda Ludgrove lived on the Sydenham Hill Estate, and took part in the 4x100m relay and the 100m backstroke at Tokyo in 1964. Linda also won 5 gold medals and 1 silver at the Commonwealth Games of 1962 and 1966.

Photo: Linda Lovegrove, Nederlands: Collectie / Archief : Fotocollectie Anefo

Victor Gauntlett was born in Forest Hill in 1884, but after his family emigrated, he represented South Africa in the 1908 London Olympics, playing in the men's singles and reaching the quarter finals of the men’s doubles.

Richard Barnett was born in Forest Hill in 1863 and finished fourth in the Men's Free Rifle 1,000 yards in the 1908 London Olympics. He later served as the MP for St Pancras South West.

These, and other Lewisham Olympians, are recorded in the London 2012 legacy website,

Tewkesbury Lodge Folly

By Sheila Carson

This Folly tower, also known as the Bayer's Folly or the Forest Hill Folly, is medieval in appearance and can be found in the garden of a private house next to the Honor Oak covered reservoir. It sits on the ridge of Forest Hill at what is possibly its highest point of about 104 meters above sea level. Its position is shown on the map below (from the 1913 Ordnance Survey map). The tower is approximately 10 meters high including the staircase turret. From the top there are spectacular views of London in every direction. The Folly was built in the grounds of a large mansion in Honor Oak Road, Tewkesbury Lodge, which was built around 1855.


The Folly is Grade II listed by Historic England and constructed of random sized undressed ironstone blocks in a warm ochre colour. The tower is octagonal with a narrow spiral staircase contained within a turret which abuts the tower. There are concrete dressings such as quoins (corner blocks), a drip moulding at first floor level, a bow tell moulding at second floor level and a corbel table supporting a parapet which may have originally been crenelated. A section of the parapet over one of the octagonal sides collapsed many years ago. There are rooms on the ground and first floors and a flat viewing area at the top enclosed by the now incomplete parapet.

The original entrance door was badly damaged when the Folly suffered a fire and the door frame still has some burn marks on it. The door was first replaced with a pine one and more recently a hardwood one. The door has a hood mould which continues over the windows on either side. There are three pairs of windows on the ground floor. One pair either side of the door and one pair at the rear of the tower. Each of these windows has elliptical lintels which are reminiscent of the Tudor period. The room on the first floor is lit by four large windows with three smaller ones in between. These windows are of a different design to those on the ground floor being rectangular and housed in plain chamfered frames. There are also four slim windows in the turret which give some illumination to the spiral staircase within. The windows were vandalised many years ago so the glass and lead glazing is not original.

Opinions vary as to when the Folly was built (either around 1880 or about 10 years later) and who built it (Alfred Richards or Charles Bayer). Some sources say it was built about 1880 by Charles Bayer who made his fortune as a stay and corset manufacturer. However, Alfred Richards, a very wealthy barrister and probably the second owner of Tewkesbury Lodge, was living there at the time of the 1871 census and his death certificate states that he died in the house in 1887. So if it was built in 1880 Alfred Richards would have commissioned the project.

Charles Bayer appears to have bought Tewkesbury Lodge from the trustees of the estate of Alfred Richards in July 1889 and the 1891 census confirms that he was living there with his family. Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre hold the conveyance for this sale which might, if the Folly was built prior to the sale, be itemised in the document. However, at the time of writing it is not possible to view this document as the Centre remains closed to the public and it is not available digitally. So, if the Folly was built in 1890 it would have been by Charles Bayer.

At some point either Alfred Richards or Charles Bayer extended the grounds of Tewkesbury Lodge by purchasing a large area of land to the west and northwest of the Lodge's gardens. Charles Bayer was planning to leave this land and the Folly tower in his will to the London County Council as an extension to the Horniman Gardens. This would have provided an extensive area of grassland, bushes and trees for the public to walk in and enjoy the views over London. Sadly he died before this could be completed and his beneficiaries decided to sell the land which was rapidly built over to form the Tewkesbury Lodge Estate.

Many thanks to the owners, Sharon and Michael, for showing me the Folly, letting me climb to the top to see the wonderful view and being so helpful with information about it.

08 September 2021

Environment Update

By Quetta Kaye

Forest Hill station forecourt
General chasing — no, not a little-known military personage, but what has been happening over the last few months, which resulted in a meeting of interested parties (but without a representative of the Forest Hill Society) being held at the station the last week of July. It seems things are beginning to move in the right direction regarding the partial closure of the Forest Hill station car park. If finally approved this will mean a trial closure of the WH Smith side of the car park to allow pedestrians safe access, unimpeded by vehicle movements, with the hope that, if the trial goes without incident, we can then have permanent closure. In anticipation of positive action, we have applied for small grant funding from Lewisham’s Creative Change Fund to be ready to transform the area into a ‘parklet’ as soon as the go-ahead is given — with any luck later this year.

Good news, too, that following a complaint made in September 2020 (which apparently ‘went off the radar’) the collapsed wall in the forecourt next to the pavement is now on the books to be repaired. There is no news, however, on the repair or removal of the hulking loo despite representations to Lewisham Council.

The return of the plant life!
Weather-wise the extremes of hot, then wet, then hot, then wet again throughout spring and early summer have really stimulated plant growth this year, as can be seen in the luxurious greenery in parks, gardens and planters across Forest Hill.

But at Forest Hill station, two days before the judge came to inspect for the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ competition, the white rose overhanging the underpass had reached record measurements, the ‘danger’ hydrangea was in massive full bloom — and then they were cut down and removed, along with all the herbs in the herb container, when a decision was made by some unknown person that in order to tarmac the garden area on platform 1 ‘to relieve the rat problem’ all the plants should be destroyed.

An apology from Arriva for the removal of the plants which we had provided has been received by the Forest Hill Society, and some monetary compensation offered. Undeterred, as the picture below shows, volunteers have already been at work to regreen the area. Small planters have been replaced, the large herb container refilled, and as soon as new planters arrive, they too will be restocked. Meanwhile our wheelbarrow has been stolen from the platform 1 ‘secure’ gated area which had been left unlocked!

Clean air?
Have you ever wondered what the air in your neighbourhood contains? This picture was taken following the annual change of a filter in an air intake sited in the second floor flat of Frobisher Court, some 50 metres from Sydenham Rise — and opposite a park. Imagine what the air quality for someone actually living on the south circular road is!

Can you help?

Volunteers are always needed to support for the Forest Hill Society’s environmental work whether with our planting efforts, litter picking, adding street trees to our area, or to join in our campaigns to protect Forest Hill’s green spaces. Our work towards improving our air quality and our environment generally will continue in 2021 and 2022. No previous experience is needed, so please contact quetta @ foresthillsociety.com.

07 September 2021

Marvellous Greens & Beans

By Nicola Johnson

Opening a new business is a risk at any time. Some would say opening a business in the height of a pandemic and the middle of a lockdown is not just risky, it is crazy. Yet this is what three guys from South East London did. And over a year later, Marvellous Greens & Beans has become part of the fabric of Honor Oak Park.

Marvellous Greens & Beans are business partners Mat, Mattia and Berouz. Now in their early 30s, they are childhood friends. Mat and Mattia met as toddlers, then when Mat met Berouz at college, he introduced him to Mattia and the trio was formed.

They agree that growing up in South East London can be challenging for young men, but with their solid friendship and the values instilled in them by their families, they kept out of trouble. They fondly recollect hopping into their car for mini-adventures, driving for miles and parking up to embark on hikes through woods to find lakes and other landmarks they’d pinpointed on Google maps. Even back in those days, they would excitedly discuss going into business together, mulling over gaps in the market and Unique Selling Points, but their ideas never quite translated into actions and they each embarked on their separate careers.

Mat studied business, moving into hospitality and building a CV packed with managerial experience at London hotels. Meanwhile, Berouz worked his way up to managerial positions in the short-term rentals industry and Mattia worked for 10 years for an autism charity. Whilst on their individual career paths, Mat and Berouz started families and the trio remained firm friends. Then, in early 2020, Covid-19 struck and Mat and Berouz lost their jobs in the hard-hit hospitality sector. Although Mattia’s job was not affected, he was on hand to support his long-time friends, and the trio came together and reframed the pandemic challenges as an opportunity to finally fulfil their childhood dream of going into business together.

Passionate about great coffee, their aspiration was to open a coffee shop. But they realised the market was saturated and that it would be difficult to come up with a concept that stood out. They were attuned to the collective desire, resonant at the start of the first lockdown, to support communities and individuals facing restrictions and isolation, and the idea of a bespoke fruit and veg box delivery service was born. They then decided to open a shop too and invest in a top-notch coffee machine in a nod to their original intention.

When the unit on Brockley Rise came up, they jumped at the opportunity — they’d seen how Honor Oak had transformed over recent years and they instinctively felt it was a great community to invest in. It took just two weeks from getting the keys to open their doors, doing the entire fit-out themselves whilst being welcomed by locals passing on their daily lockdown walks, who’d heard about the shop via street WhatsApp groups and community Twitter accounts.

They quickly established themselves as a business selling good quality fruit and veg at competitive prices and, of course, great coffee. But it’s their congeniality and personal touch that makes them really stand out. When you visit Marvellous Greens & Beans, you feel amongst friends. The boys say it was important to them to place their personal values at the heart of the business, and they’ve done just this.

Touching stories abound of them surprising customers with impromptu deliveries or complementary coffees when they’ve heard that someone’s experiencing a challenging life event. Involvement in community initiatives has been a priority from the outset — they donate to FareShare, are in partnership with Lewisham Food Bank, fundraised to provide fruit to Stillness School pupils, and give out free fruit during the morning school run. Their creativity was showcased when they organised fun, interactive window displays and activities at Halloween and Christmas, to the delight of their younger customers.

Another Unique Selling Point is their fruit and veg box delivery service, which differentiates itself by its flexibility, again reflecting Marvellous Greens & Beans’ commitment to personalised customer service. They cater for weekly subscribers and one-off purchases and provide customers with as much freedom as possible — you can choose whatever you want, however you want it, with next day delivery for orders placed by 10pm.

Going into business with friends is undoubtedly challenging, but these guys have the most solid of friendships and an impressive ability to transmute challenges into growth opportunities. And growth is the name of the game for Marvellous Greens & Beans — with the opening of their second shop on Grove Vale in East Dulwich on 1 July, we ask them where they see Marvellous Greens & Beans in 5 years’ time. They say the dream would be to have at least a couple more shops, with a family of staff that embraces the trio’s ethos, whilst expanding their uniquely flexible delivery service beyond South East London and continuing to be involved in community projects.

Marvellous Greens & Beans is open weekdays from 8am to 7pm, and on weekends too. Next-day delivery is standard for all orders placed by 10pm.

72 Brockley Rise, SE23 1LN
Twitter: @MarvellousBeans

Taste of Greek, 63 Dartmouth Road

By Rob Owen

Greek cuisine is, at its best, a combination of simple ingredients, prepared in traditional style. The mainland and islands offer a wide range of local variations and dishes, but in each Greek town there are thriving local grills offering the reliable staple of fresh, spiced and grilled meats, served with salad, chips and homemade tzatziki – reasonably priced and with no silverware in sight.

In recent years, Taste of Greek’s owner Andreas (Andrew) studied the techniques and ingredients of such grills across Athens, with a view to bringing the best of this concept to London. Luckily for us, Andrew found suitable premises in Forest Hill’s Dartmouth Road.

In March 2021, along with his supportive parents, Andrew began serving classic gyros and skewered meats (kanonaki) in Forest Hill. In typical Greek style, there was no major opening event, but rather a steady focus on sourcing and preparing the best Greek food around — and working efficiently to meet the growing peak-time demand.

Taste of Greek has become available for delivery on all major fast-food ordering platforms, but we also recommend stopping by to collect your order from time to time — to witness the dedication and craft that goes into the perfect gyros.

Taste of Greek is open from noon to 10pm each Friday through Wednesday.
63 Dartmouth Road, SE23 3HN

Me and Mr. Jones

by Jason Kee

Last November a new business, Mr. Jones Watches, opened at 61 Dartmouth Road in a unit once occupied by the Forest Hill Supermarket.  

Glimpse inside through the coloured shutters and you’ll see a bright and airy workshop with a team of artisans leaning over tables surrounded by an array of small tools. If you’re really lucky you’ll see Stanley in the window, the owner’s dog keeping a close eye on local shoppers. Our new arrival is only open by appointment, but a look at their website shows off a collection of the most ‘unique and unusual’ watches. The designs range from the colourful and fanciful to the monochromatic and macabre. But with names like ‘a Perfectly useless afternoon’ and ‘the Promise of happiness’ you feel each must have their own story, perhaps just as mysterious as some of the watch movements themselves.

Mr. Jones is Crispin Jones and on one hot summer day (there have been so few) I met up with Crispin for a chat about this new business, watches and his unusual journey from artist to watchmaker.

Mr. Jones Watches’ new Forest Hill location was born of necessity. With customers from around the world, many of them collectors, Crispin found himself in need of more space after 13 years of operating in the Oxo Tower and Camberwell. Now living in Honor Oak Park, Crispin and his partner Amy had fallen in love with the area. Saturdays included visits to Dartmouth Road, lunch at Aga’s Little Deli and visits to the many independent stores. So when the shop at 61 Dartmouth Road became available they had no qualms in buying it. This was followed by a complete refit with part of the rear turned into a double height space bringing it lots of natural light and perfect for a new workshop for their exquisite watches.

This is their third location. Mr. Jones Watches first opened in a small unit in the Oxo Tower in 2009. Crispin describes this as the smallest unit in the building but from there he assembled his watches and sold them to the public. After repatriating production to London from China around 2012, they opened a dedicated workshop in Camberwell. This Forest Hill location was intended to house their entire team, but business has been good and now they plan to keep both Camberwell and Forest Hill operating along with the store in Bankside.

Crispin did not start out as a watchmaker. His undergraduate degree at Kingston University was in sculpture through which he developed a fascination in Photoshop (then a new design tool) and in graphic design. His output focussed on the documentation of imagined pieces through photography. A Masters at the Royal College of Art in computer-related design encouraged him to look at the social function of technology. In his own words, this was a ‘playful’ way to look at the world using technology and the interface with it. Following graduation, he began work with Phillips Design (of shaver fame) and for IDEO London — a multi-national design and consulting firm.

It was while with IDEO, in the early 2000s, that he created ‘Social Phones’, an exhibition of mobile phone designs that forced users to be more aware of their environment. This included a phone for people who spoke too loudly (think Dom Joly), delivering an electric shock to the user dependant on how loudly the person on the other end was speaking. Another recreated the phone as a musical instrument with the numbers ‘played’ to dial the phone.

This led naturally to Crispin’s next project, an exhibition of watches designed to question the function of the watch itself. He produced seven designs, among them Fallax, a lie detector and Summissus a watch to remind the wearer of their mortality. The exhibition and these watches were a success and gave Crispin an international profile.

While a success, Crispin also found the process unsatisfying. The watches were one-offs and while provocative in their function, they were simply exhibition pieces. He began to imagine a watch that was both unique in its design but affordable in price. It is here we see the fine artist with a computer design degree become the watchmaker.

In 2006, Crispin’s first five watches were all self-designed. Some drew inspiration from past exhibition work, like the Summissus — now re-created as ‘Remember you will die’, this has become one of his best sellers. By replacing the conventional hands with transparent disc hands, he was able to explore designs that step away from traditional watch faces allowing the face itself to be an integral part of the movement. Today the watches move between the macabre to the sublimely beautiful.

At first Crispin designed his own watches. Often the designs did reference mortality. As he himself noted, timepieces by their nature offer a narrative on death. After four years, he began to collaborate on designs, where his collaborators were people with a connection to time. For instance, a collaboration with Graeme Obree, A Scotsman who twice held the world hour record in cycling.

Today most of Mr. Jones Watches’ new designs are realised through collaboration. Many are from artists known to Crispin, though some originate through unsolicited submissions. This includes their best-selling watch ‘A perfectly useless afternoon’ which came from working with Kristoff Devos, a Belgium illustrator and author. Keeping with the theme of ‘time’ and storytelling, this watch serves as a gentle reminder to take it easy and spend time enjoying the moment.

Britain once had a clockmaking industry, but after the war, much of this art was lost to the Swiss and then the Chinese. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that Crispin’s journey to watch making was unconventional.

His first attempt to manufacture came by randomly contacting Chinese manufacturers, finally finding one only requiring a minimum order of 500. After visiting the manufacturer in China in 2012, he became confident he could shorten the design process by printing the prototypes in London. By bringing this process in-house, Crispin also discovered he could introduce more colour, texture and affects. He found he could create a scene inside the watch face, and the time becomes part of it.

Today all the watches are designed AND produced right here in London including in Forest Hill. This makes Mr. Jones Watches a very rare business today. Watches are still designed in small production runs, but the printing is now done in house and by the hand of artisans. Crispin continues to create a few new designs each year, with the most popular joining the permanent collection.

Speaking with Crispin it is very clear he is passionate about his watches, proud of the design collaborations and their accessibility to the public. These are truly unique artworks, designed and produced right here in Forest Hill, and enjoyed by customers and fans all over the world. When it comes time to buy a gift that special person, be it a friend, a loved one or even you give some thought to a Mr. Jones Watch. After all, a timepiece is timeless.

61 Dartmouth Road, SE23 3HN

Pantry, 14 Perry Vale

By Rob Owen

Opened in April on Perry Vale, Pantry is a bright and airy produce shop and coffee bar run by husband and wife team Niya and Septembre.

Offerings include seasonal British produce from London and the South East. There's a vibrant vegetable selection and daily-fresh doughnuts and pastries, along with a range of natural wines. Excellent coffee comes courtesy of Herne Hill roasting company Press.

Septembre is working up a schedule of collaborations with other local outfits, starting with a pop-up oyster bar from Rocks Oysters in Dulwich. Details of these events are shared on Pantry's Instagram feed.
Pantry is open weekdays from 8am, with late opening until 10:30pm each Wednesday through Saturday — perfect both for your morning coffee or evening purchase of a great bottle of wine.

14 Perry Vale, SE23 2LD
Instagram: pantry_foresthill

06 September 2021

Review of 2021 in Forest Hill

By Claus Murmann

I’m sitting at my desk reading former chair Michael Abrahams’ 2019 AGM invitation where he announced he was standing down and also the impressive list of achievements throughout his 8-year tenure. A few months after that he tapped me on the shoulder saying the Forest Hill Society was looking for a new chair, would I be interested. Long story short, here I am another year later wondering how time could fly by so fast during such an unprecedented period. Thanks to everyone for the friendly welcome aboard.

Firstly, I hope that everyone has managed the pandemic as best they could. It’s difficult to say “hope you’re OK” because I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected in one way or another. For the Forest Hill Society it has perhaps also been more subdued; we haven’t been out much, have partially met as an executive only once all year in person and have had to conduct all our meetings across subcommittees on this thing called Zoom, which most of us hadn’t heard of a couple of years ago.

So, what have we been doing during a year mostly in lockdown? We break down the Forest Hill Society into four committees; Environment, Planning, Transport and Communications. We also organise popular community events and activities as well as engaging in wider local issues such as our response to the draft Lewisham Local Plan.

Quetta leads our Environment team. She keeps Forest Hill Society involved in various outdoor pursuits, with volunteers engaging in activities to enhance the green spaces around the town centre including the Forest Hill Station and town centre planters. These are regularly spruced up and watered by volunteers, we even have help from the lovely people at London Energy Garden, and more recently we’ve been talking to the Horniman Gardens team about picking up surplus plants to redistribute around the town planters (rather than buying our own) — win-win for everyone. Volunteers are always welcome to help with planting. It’s fun, fresh air and sociable! There’s more about the environment team on page 11.

The Planning team look at many of the larger planning applications which might affect Forest Hill, regularly investing time and effort into making considered responses both in support of and against various projects. We get many emails asking for advice, comments, or support with various local issues. Notable progress also includes supporting neighbouring societies with opposition voiced about the Mais House proposals on Sydenham Hill and opposition to 5G mast proposals specifically on public land where they would block pavements for pedestrians.

Lewisham Local Plan
We wrote a long response to the council’s proposals contained in their Lewisham Local Plan (available for review on the website). This was fairly involved and consolidated a lot of work and thinking around the Town Centre redesign plans including site allocations, public realm issues, cultural and environmental concerns and of course another opportunity to mention the flight path issue. In general, the Town Centre proposal is something that I hope will pick up steam again as we begin to emerge from lockdown as it has been difficult to get people together on a virtual round table to engage and plan. We’re expecting a response to our response towards the end of the year, so we’ll see what if any impact this has had.

We’re actually looking for a Transport committee chair so volunteers are welcome — speak to me before the AGM. It’s been a tough year to progress things here: we’re aware of concerns still outstanding about the Perry Vale crossing as well as the crossing in front of the station. We had tried late last year to discuss this with both local councillors and representatives from TfL with a somewhat disheartening Mexican standoff of responsibilities and who owns what in terms of governance and oversight (quite an eye opener in terms of local government function I have to admit). Generally, the message was along the lines of “we have no budget to do anything anyway, even if we wanted to”, applied both to TfL and the Council.

We’ve had questions about traffic and speeding around the area, mostly from residents bounded by the area around the Dartmouth Road and Honor Oak Road which include some popular ‘cut-throughs’. At the suggestion of the council we spoke to Sustrans who offered to run a consultation for a not insignificant amount of money which we had to politely decline. My impression is that the pandemic has thrown a spanner into the works, from everything TfL budget related through to council workers being reallocated to deal with more urgent public health and safety matters. Any kind of consultation on LTNs looks a way off. I should probably reiterate that in this regard we’re facilitating a discussion and not campaigning.

On a brighter note I wanted to highlight the on-going excellent work by Tim and John on flightpaths and airspace redesign by continuing to highlight the issues and tirelessly challenge the airports to address the issue of flight corridors in the skies right above our heads. It was recently even picked up by our MP, Ellie Reeves.

Events & Communications
Our year began with the AGM in October 2020. For the first time this was held virtually, following the trend of most meetings during the pandemic. While we missed the in-person social aspect, this allowed more people to participate and we were very grateful to have Ellie Reeves MP as our special guest. Ellie updated us on her role as an MP and local area issues in which she is actively engaged.

This year the Horniman Museum has kindly agreed to host our AGM in their Pavilion. We’re also pleased to announce that Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan will be our guest speaker. I’m really looking forward to this as it will be great to meet and greet everyone in real life.

All of our events were held virtually over the last twelve months. This included two history presentations. The first centred on a history of Forest Hill, first created by local historian Steve Grindlay, and updated by our vice-chair, Michael. The second was a history panel where we had three excellent panelists who talked about their personal experience of living in Forest Hill, including stories about surviving second world war bombings and businesses long gone but not forgotten.

We hosted two quiz nights. The summer lockdown quiz in July and the Christmas quiz in December included both seasonal and local questions. Thank you to Andy and Gary who organised and compered these events.

Importantly both quizzes raised several hundred pounds for the Lewisham Foodbank which supported families and children in need during the pandemic and beyond. We also organised a collection drive for old laptops, to be refurbished and were donated to a very happy and grateful local school. Special thanks to John for all the work on this.

This year we were not able to organise carol singing in the town centre, but we had a bumper crop of Christmas Trees, with the Forest Hill Society taking particular responsibility for the tree at Forest Hill station, which was decorated by Lee Jackson (a.k.a. Mr Christmas).

We continued to use social media including Facebook, Twitter and occasionally Instagram to promote local events, provide local information and to support local businesses. Our #ShopSE23 highlighted the many local businesses that continued to serve us during lockdown, and promoted their services and wares leading up to Christmas. Thank you for all those the businesses who used our campaign and to our followers who amplified our posts. Thank you to Jason for his work on this.

We also produce two newsletters per year and the March edition was one of our largest. We also produce a monthly e-newsletter and encourage all to sign up for these through our website. Once again thank you to Michael for his editorial work and to our many contributors. Should you wish to contribute an article let us know.

As the world returns to some sort of normality, we are looking forward to organising more events in-person. Keep an eye out for more announcements.

And finally…
Thank you all for staying involved with the community and helping to make Forest Hill a nicer place to live, work and play. Please do stay engaged, email us or get in touch on social media with feedback, ideas or comments. We hope to see many of you at the AGM on 13th October at the Horniman Pavilion.

01 September 2021

Gin Tasting

Friday 24th September, 7:30pm.
The Forest Hill Society has teamed up with Subplot 57 to bring you a taster of Gin.

Charlotte Rose — Gin Judge, Gin Blogger and Gin Festival Organiser will introduce us to the world of Gin, including three gins for £10 at Subplot 57 — beneath Leaf and Groove at 57 Dartmouth Road.

Due to social distancing places are available limited and advanced booking required. Please book early via Eventbrite at https://tinyurl.com/FHGin21

28 August 2021

Children's Book Sale at Forest Hill Library

Saturday 11th September, 10am-4pm. Outside Forest Hill Library; a fundraiser for the community library. 

Come along to choose from a range of donated children's books and help support Forest Hill Community Library.

05 July 2021

Jerk Cookout is Back

As part of the 696 festival of Black music in south London, the Horniman Museum is hosting the Jerk Cookout, a family-friendly food and music festival on Saturday 31st July.

Back in 2009, this proved to be possibly the most popular event ever hosted in Forest Hill. With over 20,000 people attending the event it was a little too popular for a small park!
This year's event will be much smaller and will require tickets to be booked in advance. Adults £13.56, concessions £8, under 16s go free.

To find out more and book tickets, visit:

Planning Application: 59-61 Dartmouth Road

The Forest Hill Society has written to object to a recent planning application at 59-61 Dartmouth Road

I am writing on behalf of the Forest Hill Society regarding the proposed development at 59-61 DARTMOUTH ROAD, application DC/21/121195: The construction of an additional storey at 59-61 Dartmouth Road, SE23 together with an additional storey on the existing rear projection at No. 61, a four storey enclosed stairwell to the rear of No.59 and rear dormers to provide a 5 person HMO, 1x two bedroom and 1x three bedroom self-contained units and all associated works.

Recently we have been made aware of aspects of this application that we cannot support, and we wish to register our objection to this application.


The plans and application form state that the first floor of this property is an HMO. There is no record of a previous planning application for this change of use in a conservation area, nor is this property registered with Lewisham Council as an HMO. The application states that there is existing permitted use for C4 (HMO) for 131.7m. We believe this to be inaccurate information that significantly changes the nature of this application.

This planning application should be considered with reference to Lewisham Local Plan DM policy 6

DM Policy 6 - Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

1. The Council will only consider the provision of new Houses in Multiple

Occupation where they:

a. are located in an area with a public transport accessibility level (PTAL) of 3 or higher

b. do not give rise to any significant amenity impact(s) on the surrounding neighbourhood

c. do not result in the loss of existing larger housing suitable for family occupation


The conversion that has already been made (without planning permission) has resulted in the loss of an existing larger housing suitable for family occupation. There have also been numerous reports by neighbouring residents and shopkeepers of anti-social and criminal behaviour in and around the existing HMO.


The addition of two units above a poorly managed HMO would make it unsuitable for families due to the existing anti-social behaviour, as a result there continues to be a net loss of family housing on this site, which goes against planning policy.


For the reasons set out above, we would encourage Lewisham Council to refuse this planning application.

28 April 2021

New Shops in SE23

It has been a hard year for our local businesses, particularly those who have opened their doors in the midst of the pandemic. We’d like to celebrate those who in the last six months have started new businesses in SE23 offering lifestyle products, clothing, art, antiques and food and drink and much more. 

Alkemi – 2a Westbourne Drive

Alkemi is a lifestyle store focused on simple, functional items from the best in Korean and Japanese designers and contemporary local makers.  The Forest Hill shop is their second location.

Twitter – AlkemiStore
Facebook - @AlkemiStore
Instagram - @alkemistore

Ansa – 95 Dartmouth Road

A vintage and pre-loved women’s fashion store.

Instagram - @ansa_vintage_london

ArtDog gallery – 23 Brockley Rise

This new commercial gallery represents a select and diverse range of artists from the UK and globally  They have a strong emphasis on contemporary abstract painting and photo-realistic work as well as range of etchings, prints, ceramics and studio glass. 

Twitter – artdoglondon

Instagram - @artdoglondon
Facebook - @artdog.london

Greenjay Boutique – 5 Devonshire Road

A boutique where you can find quirky, retro bling, vintage fashion, nostalgic nik-naks, object, art, old tech & unique upcycled desirables.

Facebook - @greenjayboutique



Pantry – 14 Perry Vale

Pantry is a refreshing addition to Perry Vale, selling high quality season vegetables and fruits, cheeses and charcuterie along with deli items, coffee and pastries.

Instagram - @pantry_foresthill

Pat & Rob’s Emporium – 37-39 Honor Oak Park

A new addition to HOP featuring fruit & veg, baked and fresh goods and other sundries.  Run by the people next door at Dondes Tapas. 


Magazyn 105 – 105 Dartmouth Road

A brand new sustainable, eco-friendly shop selling beautifully curated homewares and gifts for the conscious buyer.  Magazyn 105 champions sustainable and planet friendly homewares and gifts from all over the world, making it even easier to spend your money wisely and consciously.

Instagram - @magazyn_105


21 April 2021

20th Century History of Forest Hill


If you are unable to see the recording in this post, you can view it on YouTube.

Recording of the discussion that took place on 20th April 2021 with panelists:

Pip Wedge lived in Forest Hill from 1928 to 1954, including most of the Second World War, and assisted people when Forest Hill station was bombed. He will be joining us from Canada where he has lived since 1965.

Angela Finch is part of the Finch family who have been trading in Forest Hill since 1947. Finches currently focus on bikes, skiing and extreme sports, but once they were one of the largest removal firms in London.

John Hodgett moved to Forest Hill in 1949 when he was two years old, and has lived in the area ever since - in a variety of different streets. John remembers many of the old shops around Forest Hill, some great concerts at the Glenlyn Ballroom in the 1960s, and taking steam trains direct from Forest Hill to Brighton.

12 April 2021

Lewisham Local Plan Consultation

The Forest Hill Society has responded to the Lewisham Local Plan Consultation. While broadly supportive of the draft LLP, we would like to see some changes in priorities on some specific issues and these are described in the submission. We also feel some elements should be more precisely articulated all to bring a clear vision for the Forest Hill area over the next twenty years.

The Forest Hill Society’s (the Society) response to the Lewisham Local Plan (LLP) stems largely from the Forest Hill Station and Town Centre Master Plan (Master Plan) created in 2016 in partnership with the Society and Forest Hill-based Discourse Architecture. This Plan focussed on the urban renewal of the town centre particularly around Forest Hill Station and embodied many of the LLP’s Strategic Objectives, particularly around economic growth and housing and are reflected in this submission.

“We have a once in a 100 years’ opportunity to shape the centre of Forest Hill, reflecting the needs and aspirations of people who live and work in the area.”

Included within the response is consideration of:

  • Forest Hill Station and Town Centre
  • Site Allocations in Forest Hill
  • Public Realm Issues
  • Cultural Heritage Issues
  • Environmental and Local Green Space 
  • Aircraft Noise and Flight Paths

You can read the full submission here.

08 April 2021

Town Centre Planting

Springtime in Forest Hill, so it’s planting/tidy-up time:
If you would like to join in some light community gardening we meet in front of the main entrance to Forest Hill station at 2.30pm on Saturday, 10th April. Gloves are essential, and a trowel, although we do have some spares.

No experience needed, but please note that because of the proximity to moving traffic this event is not suitable for small children. We look forward to meeting new gardeners as well as old.

How it started, ten years ago in 2011:


01 April 2021

Forest Hill Tunnel Bypass to Open in April 2023

While the high street has suffered under lockdown over the last year, underneath the high street the Forest Hill Society embarked on a top-secret project to radically improve the future of Forest Hill town centre.

In April 2020 a small group of local residents started digging the tunnels to enable the South Circular to travel beneath the town centre, providing a pedestrianised surface level shopping, with all the traffic going underground from Dulwich Common to Waldram Park Road.

Three sites were chosen for the secret tunnel entrances to begin the three sections of tunnel; the former site of the Coop - once rumoured to become a hotel - has been turned into the eastern entrance tunnel, the western tunnel entrance has started from the car park of the former Harvester, and a mid-point tunnel had begun from the former Fairlawn nursery site on Waldenshaw Road. Until they are connected, the three separate tunnels have been nicknamed ‘Rod’, ‘Jane’ and ‘Freddy’. The first “break-through” is expected to occur in June this year, when Jane and Freddy will meet for the first time, completing the first half of the project.

At the Harvester site, volunteers have donned baggy jeans and beanie hats to smuggle out earth and have constructed a skate park as a distraction from the tunnelling.

Lockdown and Covid restrictions presented some difficulties for the mining volunteers, but the use of breathing apparatus and the three separate entrances, has allowed work to continue below ground with up to 18 people at any time while maintaining social distancing. Many of the volunteers are from the Forest Hill library, but the temporary closure of the library has meant that many have had spare time to devote to digging - it turns out library staff make excellent miners - and remarkably quiet. The school closures during lockdown allowed us to make use of child labour, with children as young as four able to enter the smaller tunnels sections before adults.

The entrances were strategically chosen to avoid the need to dig down very far to pass under the hill. The South London Clay is easy to dig through without the need for machinery and will yield important raw materials for the local pottery industry.  In fact, there is now so much clay available that local schools have been drafted in to produce hundreds of vases for families and friends.

The lack of heavy tunnelling equipment has been challenging, particularly the use of small garden appliances borrowed from local allotments. Yet, the hardest part of the project has been keeping it secret until this point, and before it was discovered by the authorities.

In total, the tunnel will run for one mile and will be tall enough for a double-decker bus. Air shafts will bring in air from Sydenham Woods, and exhaust gases will be vented from a chimney at the top of the Horniman Hill. Concerns of how fumes might affect Horniman Heights are expected to blow over, but they are being addressed at the highest levels.


Flora Pilo, from the Network for Urban Transport Safety, said in a statement “Digging underneath TfL roads is not recommended and should be left to professionals, but would you be able to help with the Bakerloo Line extension?” 

The Forest Hill Society continue to look for new volunteers to join the digging, if you would be interested in helping, please email us.

* Press release issued by the Forest Hill Society on 1st April 2021. Some of the details in this article may not be valid on any other day of the year.

31 March 2021

Forest Hill History Panel

On Tuesday 20th April (7:30pm), the Forest Hill Society is organising a panel discussion on the 20th Century history of Forest Hill. We are bringing together a group of people who live or have lived in Forest Hill since the 1920s. They will share their recollections of Forest Hill before and after the Second World War and how the area, the shops, and the transportation system has changed over the last hundred years.

As well as our panel, attendees are encouraged to share their own memories or ask questions about how the area has changed.

The event will take place on Zoom and pre-registration is required via https://shorturl.at/xFOR2

29 March 2021

Tom Keating: The Forest Hill Forger

By Gary Thornton

Havelock Walk may be known for its community of artists, but 100 years ago, at the other end of Forest Hill, a small boy grew up to become the 20th century’s most notorious and gifted art forger, responsible for 2,000 fake painting by over 100 artists, many of which still hang undetected in galleries across the world.

Tom Keating claimed that his “Sexton Blakes” were his response to the corruption and vested interests he saw in art dealers and galleries, profiting whilst impoverished artists suffered and starved. In a practice meant to undermine these experts and give him a possible defence against charges of fraud, each painting contained a deliberate ‘time-bomb’ which gave a clue to its deception. He would write comments such as “You’ve been had!” on the blank canvas (revealed only under X-ray), deliberately use a modern pigment, or even add a layer of glycerine under the paint so that the painting would be destroyed when cleaned.

The early chapters of Keating’s fascinating autobiography, The Fake’s Progress, paint a detailed and affectionate portrait of the neighbourhood around Herschell Road, where he was born in 1917 in one of the 36 flats in a terrace of three-storey houses opposite St Saviour’s Church. It was then a poor working-class area of overcrowded and unsanitary dwellings, but where everyone looked out for everyone else. It was a nice enough place, writes Keating, better at least than the slums of the East End.

Keating’s father worked as a house-painter for the same building firm for 37 years, until the gas in his lungs from the Great War left him unable to work, and he was sent home with an hour’s pay in his pocket. The family were left to rely on the wages earned by Tom’s elder siblings for their survival.

Tom’s education started at Dalmain Road school, where he first found his talent for painting, although he soon ran away to Eltham, and spent three years living there with his grandparents. Returning to Dalmain Road, he passed the entrance exam for St Dunstan’s College in Catford. However, with his family unable to afford the fees, he left school for various jobs, selling parts for early wirelesses, and working as a barber’s assistant.

Called up to the Royal Navy for the Second World War, Keating married whilst at home on leave after his ship was torpedoed. After he was invalided out, the couple took a room in Sunderland Road. Ellen worked in munitions and Tom as a door-to-door salesman, selling Lazy Lady’s furniture polish. 

Then, in 1952, whilst studying at Goldsmith’s College, Keating met Albert Fripp, an art dealer on Dartmouth Road. Fripp’s business involved buying copies of Dutch flower paintings made by ‘little old ladies’ in Bromley, which he would age in an oven and sign before selling to West End galleries as period originals. When he realised that Tom — now living in Westbourne Drive — had a particular talent for restoring and copying paintings, he took him on, and Keating had found his vocation.

Tom scoured antique shops around Forest Hill, Sydenham and Dulwich for supplies of cheap old canvases and frames which would be the basis of his forgeries. Using descriptions found in old sale catalogues, and with meticulous background research, he would recreate ‘lost’ paintings by Dutch, English and Italian masters, French impressionists, and even German expressionists, which would then find their way into the hands of dealers, and were often authenticated using the very catalogues Keating had used to invent them in the first place.

In 1976, and by now living in rural Suffolk, he was charged with fraud when a collection of Samuel Palmer paintings in a London gallery were traced back to him, but the case was dropped when Keating fell dangerously ill. He recovered to become a minor celebrity, presenting a Channel 4 television series on the techniques of the Old Masters (Tom Keating on Painters), before he died in 1984 at the age of 66.

Since his death, the appreciation of Keating as an artist has risen, and his once worthless fakes now reach considerable prices. In a neat reversal of fortune, this has in turn fed a thriving market in counterfeit Keatings. Tom would probably have approved.

27 March 2021

Public Service Broadcasting

By Claus Murmann

The Forest Hill Society’s communications committee thought it would be interesting to spotlight local artists in the Forest Hill area, and there was a rumour that a band called Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) were based in SE23. Since I happen to be a fan, I reached out to J. Willgoose, Esq., one of the band, on Twitter, and to my delight he offered to answer a few questions. 

If you’re thinking “Who are PSB?” then check out the ‘The Race for Space’ album, especially if you’re into anything related to the history of Sputnik, through to the Apollo landings. The album contains fantastic historical storytelling via archive recordings blended with synths. Check out his ‘best kept secret’ about SE23 below and you’ll see he’s posted some pictures of local owls on his Twitter @jwillgoose_esq.

Q: Describe PSB to someone who’s not familiar with the band.

We write new music based on old source material, essentially — we started off using only audio samples from public information films, archive footage and propaganda (especially for our 2012 release ‘The War Room’), but over the years it's diversified to include poems, oral history, fragments of melodies and even some original lyrics. I think we write, essentially, narrative albums, using music to tell a story.

Q: Which song (or album) would you recommend as a PSB starter?

I'd say the ‘The Race For Space’ is the most popular, because space is such an imagination-catching topic, and the source material for that record was very strong indeed.

Q: Best kept secret in SE23?

The local birdlife, I think. I've always loved birds, but I've got better at recognising them by their calls, which means I also see a lot more. In 2020 I've seen kingfishers, green & great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatches, goldcrests, blackcaps, long-tailed tits and our new local resident, the peregrine falcon. I even saw an owl recently. This is all without having to walk more than a mile from my front door, so I think we're very lucky to have so much wildlife on our doorstep.

Q: Do you shop locally — what’s your favourite local shop?

We try to, yes. One of the few benefits of the past year has been being on foot in the neighbourhood more and noticing how many new local shops are springing up and, it seems, flourishing. We've also started using the independent book shop Moon Lane Books more recently. As for pubs, there are loads of good ones (and a couple of dodgy ones). The Dartmouth Arms, the Blythe Hill Tavern and the Chandos are all good pubs that I enjoy visiting. Hopefully, all our locals will come through the other side of this in okay-shape.

Q: Have you ever been recognised whilst out and about in SE23?

No, thank god. I was walking down my street once and noticed that the man coming towards me was wearing one of our t-shirts, but, thankfully, he sailed right on by. It's nice to be anonymous.

Q: What new music are you looking forward to in 2021?

There's a new Mogwai album imminently — other than that, I'm keeping my head down for the moment, trying to finish ours. I don't listen to much new stuff when I get to this phase of finishing something as I just don't have room in my head. I'm looking forward to getting this done though and then being able to relax with music again, properly.

Q: Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties have been great in 2020 — Which ones (aside from the PSB’s!) were your favourites? Have these helped to promote music and support artists during lockdown?

I loved the British Sea Power’s 'The Decline of British Sea Power' one, The Avalanches’ ‘Since I Left You’ and The Flaming Lips’ ‘The Soft Bulletin’. I've lurked for quite a few more of them but I think those are the ones I got actively involved in. All three are very important records for me. 

Q: Did you record your solo ‘Late Night Final’ album this year from home? Do the neighbours ever bang on the walls? 

Yes, I've mixed all our records so far at home, and ‘Late Night Final’ was no different. We're on a corner so I think I'm relatively safe, plus I don't listen at insane levels.

26 March 2021

Back from the Brink: Trees of Significance

By Quetta Kaye, Environment Committee chair

At the top of the hill in the Horniman Gardens, near to the Butterfly House, there is a prehistoric park. Next to the model of the 75 million-year-old Velociraptor among the ferns, Cycads, Horsetails, Ginkgo and Monkey Puzzle is a specimen of the brilliant green Wollemi Pine.

The Wollemi Pine, which first appeared during the Cretaceous period around 90 million years ago, was thought to be extinct until 1994 when a specimen was found in the Blue Mountains of Australia, from which seeds were taken, distributed to specialised botanical institutions around the world and germinated. Now an example of this prehistoric survivor has had a chance to live again … in our Horniman Gardens’ prehistory patch.

Elsewhere, near the beautiful Victorian conservatory, is another magnificent survivor from prehistory: the Chinese (or Dawn) Redwood. This Redwood holds an interesting place in the history of palaeobotany as one of the few living plants known first as a fossil record until, in 1944, living trees were discovered in China. There are several specimens in the Horniman Gardens.

How lucky we are to be able to enjoy these throwbacks from the time when dinosaurs walked the earth, and when flowering plants had yet to develop. These are our direct contacts with the past, to be enjoyed in the present and, we hope, to survive for future generations. Significant trees indeed!



Scientific names of the trees mentioned:
Cycads (Cycas revoluta), Horsetail (Equicetum hyemale), Ginkgo  (Ginkgo  biloba), Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria Araucana), Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis), Chinese Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides).

25 March 2021

News from St Christopher’s, Your Local Hospice

By Suzy Fisk, Communications and Marketing Lead, St Christopher’s Hospice

At St Christopher’s Hospice we have been serving the community of South East London for over 50 years since our founding by hospice care pioneer, Dame Cicely Saunders, in 1967.

From our main building in Sydenham, and another in Orpington, we offer high-quality palliative and end-of-life care for the boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark. The aim of palliative care is to help people live well until they die; it’s not just about care for the very final days of life. Last year the hospice provided care and support to over 7,500 local people in need: from gym sessions and art therapy to complementary therapies, social work and welfare support, end-of-life care and bereavement support.

St Christopher’s aims to be both part of the community and for the community, and never has this been truer than in the last ten or so months. We have felt so appreciated and supported by our local community, just as our staff and volunteers have been finding new ways to safely keep supporting local people, despite the difficult circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak.

So much appreciation has been shown to our staff and volunteers, and the practical support that we received as the pandemic began to be felt in 2020 was overwhelming. From simple messages of thanks for the care that people have continued to receive through to donations of ready meals for staff, to the wonderful response that we received to our Emergency Appeal while we were forced to temporarily close our 26 charity shops and curtail fundraising events — thank you so much to everyone who have been behind us.

Meanwhile, at St Christopher’s, we continue to provide care and support for over 1,100 local people every day, despite the challenges. Our care teams, wearing PPE to keep everyone safe, have looked after patients and families both on our wards and in the community, where the vast majority of our care takes place. In fact, last year, over 14,000 visits were made to people’s homes or care homes. Where possible at the moment, however, teams use video consultations or telephone calls, to reduce the risk of infection by connecting people virtually.

To support our community, over Christmas 2020, volunteers with our Community Action Team delivered 175 gift bags, filled with small treats and presents donated by our staff and volunteers, which were given to isolated and vulnerable local people in their homes.

Despite these difficult times, we are also pleased to have something to look forward to in 2021. If you have travelled down Lawrie Park Road recently, you will have seen that our impressive new education building is nearly finished. St Christopher’s Hospice is a nationally and internationally recognised provider of palliative care education, and our new, purpose-built building will mean that we can offer our facilities for community use, as well as use state-of-the-art teaching facilities to support local families who want to learn how to better take care of a loved one at home. The building will be officially opened later this year, and we look forward to welcoming everyone inside.

At St Christopher’s we have over 500 dedicated staff and over 1,200 talented volunteers who make it the wonderfully positive, compassionate and skilled place that it is. However, St Christopher’s is a charity, and it costs £23 million every year to keep running our wide range of services. Around a third of this funding comes from the NHS, and the remaining £15 million has to be fundraised with the help of our community.

If you would like to offer your support, especially while we are facing lower income due to the temporary closure of our charity shops and curtailed fundraising events, you can give to the hospice in many ways, such as through donations, gifts in Wills, or volunteering. At the time of writing, our charity shops were closed but, when we are able to safely welcome you back inside, you can also support us by donating goods to one of our 26 high street shops, and perhaps finding a lovely bargain while you are in there! We sincerely hope that we will be able to see you soon.

Forest Hill Library Garden

By Lauren Goddard

After months of passing by the empty green patch behind the Forest Hill Library, and speculating about its emptiness, Harwood and I decided to go to Lewisham Council and apply for community garden funding. Fortunately for us, the council and the library were on board and we have begun to work on the space in the hopes of welcoming the community to an all-seasons edible community garden — once it is safe to do so of course. 

We have both worked and volunteered across a broad scope of local private and communal gardens over the years, including mental health gardens, and we have seen first-hand the absolute magic that comes from gardening alongside a group of people. It is now well known that horticulture has an incredible effect on mental well-being, but it also has the ability to enable a community to form from people who may never have met each other otherwise. 

As we come from a therapeutic-horticulture background, we want to offer a warm and welcoming space to members of the community who may have become isolated due to the pandemic. By scheduling session times with a set number of volunteers and providing personal gloves, a hand-washing station and strict tool disinfection we will be able to offer assurance that the garden accommodates social-distancing requirements and is as Covid-safe as possible.

So far, we have gathered advice from various contractors and green charities on how to make the most out of the small space whilst also making it as accessible as possible given its sloping topography: elongated raised beds will be incorporated into the slope whilst flatter paths will be carved out to wind around them.

Our main aim is to grow edible and medicinal plants, along with some ornamentals to lift one’s spirits. We want to share the unbeatable joy and satisfaction that comes from sharing and eating crops that you have grown yourself. The space will demonstrate ways to grow your own food, even if it’s just on a windowsill or balcony, and we know that we’ll all be sharing lots of crafty growing tips amongst us!

From then on, we will welcome local people for sessions and encourage participants to determine what we grow at the Library Garden and at home. By working together to grow, tend and share plants, we hope the same camaraderie and care will help us to navigate these difficult times as a community.