Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts

24 March 2019

Summer Visitors to SE23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

07 June 2016

News from Albion Millennium Green

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

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

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

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

Article by By Ann Field
Photo: An emerging bluebell wood

05 June 2016

Looking Out for Stag Beetles

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

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

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

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

Article by By Alona Sheridan
Photo by Ernie Thomason

09 April 2013

Call for Volunteers

If you would like to lend a hand on Saturday afternoon at Forest Hill station (13th April at 2.00pm) we need people who can push seeds into the platform planters, the street tubs and help with some planting under the trees.  There's a free cup of tea/coffee at the Question Bar afterwards.

You could also make a note that our Edible High Road project (part of the Chelsea Fringe) also needs help with potting up fruit trees and prettifying their containers on 27th April (10am Devonshire Road Nature Reserve).
On EHR Launch Day (Saturday, 18th May). Anyone with sufficient strength would be welcome to help transfer the potted up trees onto a truck at Devonshire Road Nature Reserve (also 10am) and/or off load them at FH station and then help to deliver to the various participating shops.

03 September 2012

30 years of conservation at Sydenham Hill Wood

Celebrate the 30th birthday of London Wildlife Trust's first nature reserve at free events starting this September. Sydenham Hill Wood, saved from a series of development threats in the 1980s, was opened as
a freely accessible nature reserve in the autumn of 1982, as one of the first steps by London Wildlife Trust to demonstrate people's desire to protect sites in the neighbourhood for wildlife.

Over the next few months London Wildlife Trust will be holding a number of public events to celebrate Sydenham Hill Wood's 30th birthday, beginning with an Open Day on Sunday 9th September. There
will be walks and talks to discover more about the Wood's wildlife and its history, as well as cake stalls and a chance to meet people who have been involved at the Wood down the years. The event will run from
12noon to 16:30 with the main congregation being situated at the top of Cox's Walk, near the footbridge.

Despite the development and upheaval since the 1850s Sydenham Hill Wood is home to a number of species of plants and animals indicative of an undisturbed, natural environment, including English bluebell,
wild garlic, wood sorrel, early dog violet, woodruff, wild strawberry and wood anemone, a member of the buttercup flower that takes a century to spread 2 metres across the ground. This diversity is all
the more impressive due to the Wood's standing within one of the world's largest cities. This underlines the importance of a long-term effort in conserving the Wood's ancient character. Surprisingly, Sydenham Hill Wood is home to a number of butterfly species, including the often unnoticed purple hairstreak, a canopy-dweller in old oak woodland.

Today the Wood is a popular place to visit, and is the focus for a devoted volunteer group that help assist the Trust in maintaining the Wood as a critically valuable nature reserve for central south London.

02 September 2012

A curious entomologist - free course

A one day introductory course offering the opportunity to learn the simple techniques of finding a wide variety of insects, collecting, examining, selecting sample specimens to be killed and preserved for future reference and identification.

You will learn the simple techniques of finding a wide variety of insects, collecting, examining, selecting sample specimens to be killed and preserved for future reference and identification. Led by Richard Jones who is a nationally acclaimed entomologist, a former president of the British Entomological and Natural History Society, This course is aimed at anyone with an interest who wants to expand their knowledge base. It offers hands-on experience of the best ways to find and capture insects, how (and why) to start a collection and how to go about researching and identifying finds.

Places are filling up fast, but we still have some spaces on 13th October 9.30-4pm.  If you are interested please email Nick Pond or call him on 020 8314 2007.

09 July 2011


Eighteen volunteers joined members of the Forest Hill Society in replanting Forest Hill station’s forecourt, as the Society’s entry to the London in Bloom ‘It’s your neighbourhood” category’.

Many of the volunteers became involved through leaflets or were just passing by on the day. Expert help was also given by the head gardener of the Horniman Gardens, Shannon’s Garden Centre and Lewisham’s Green Scene.

Judging will take place in mid-July so we need to make sure that the forecourt continues to look its best.

Constant watering will be needed for the coming summer months, plus occasional weeding, a watering rota of eight regulars has been established but additional volunteers would be really welcomed.

The beds have suffered a little from littering, even with bins right next to the beds, so if you feel like helping you could help here, or with dead heading, then please do.

LOROL have been very supportive of the scheme and have now agreed that the Society can use a bed on platform 1 and we plan to plant bulbs in autumn for a delightful spring display

Posters were kindly donated by Willmott Dixon

09 March 2010

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve

There are plans for a new exemplar building to replace the old hut at the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve. We want a sustainable, attractive building that will demonstrate the best in renewable technology as well as become a valuable resource for the local community and visitors from further afield. We have applied for funding for workshops to be run over Easter by RESET as the first stage in exploring and developing the possibilities. We have lots of ideas, but more are welcome.

If you might be interested in any aspect of this project - as potential user, adviser or helper - you can learn more at the AGM which will be held at the reserve on Sunday 14th March at 2pm. We are particularly keen for people who have skills in accountancy, communications, IT and plumbing systems for grey water! If you cannot make the AGM, watch out for notices about the workshops, or contact Forest Hill Society member Penelope.

Albion Millenium Green - The Next Decade

Ten years ago the Albion Millennium Green Trust was established to protect and preserve this tiny green oasis, tucked away at the end of Albion Villas Road, off Sydenham Park Road. Now with the help of Nature’s Gym volunteers, they’re planning for the next decade.

Nature’s Gym is organised by Lewisham Council and is designed to help people improve their fitness by getting involved in conservation work in the parks and green spaces around the borough. They can also organise environmental projects tailored for specific local groups, like the Albion Millennium Green Trust.

So, on a damp January morning, despite snow still lying on the ground, ten bold members of Nature’s Gym gathered to attack, hack, sift and generally sort out the litter and undergrowth in preparation for the Trust’s spring programme. More ground preparation work was carried out in February.
If you’d like to get involved in the next Nature’s Gym day at the Albion Millennium Green, do come along on April 8th 11am-2pm where they’ll be carrying on the good work and preparing six plots on the west side for MAY DAY!

Bank Holiday Monday May 3rd will be a fun day. To mark the Green’s tenth anniversary, a small orchard of six heritage apple species are going to be planted at the west end of the Green. Several local eminences have already agreed to be official tree planters. We may get a surprise celebrity!

Starting at 12 noon, the programme will be:
12.00-1.00 - tree planting
1.00-2.00 - bring-your-own picnic lunch;
2.00-3.00 - traditional May Day Morris dancing.

The Dacre Lady Morris dancers will give two performances and then invite audience participation in two teaching sessions.

Come along to mark this historic occasion. Bring friends and family, food and drink, skittles, boules or cricket bats and have a really fun celebration of May Day and the continued success of Albion Millennium Green!

To find out more about Nature’s Gym, you can visit the Lewisham Council website or email them at

Visit to see Brogdale in Blossom

Can it be possible that spring is here? To celebrate, we’ve joined forces with the Sydenham Society to organise a trip on Saturday, April 17th to Brogdale Farm in Faversham, Kent - the home of the National Fruit Collection.

The aim is to arrive at Brogdale by 11.00 and have a cup of coffee; do the guided tour of the collection of blossoming fruit trees (approx 1 hour); lunch in the Brogdale cafe and either browse the rest of the site at leisure or linger in the gift shop. You can read about the farm at

We’re going in individual cars rather than a coach but the idea is that drivers with spare capacity offer lifts to other members. Contact should be made with Jackie Aldridge to let her know how many to expect.

Green Chain Walk Extended

During the summer, Forest Hill will be joining the Green Chain network, opening up some of London's best opportunities for recreational walking.

Stretching around South East London in a great arc from Crystal Palace to Erith, the Green Chain Walk was London's first long distance footpath. Whilst the 'main line' to Erith is some twenty one miles long the entire system accounts for just over forty. Its popularity lies in the remarkably pleasant landscape through which it passes. It's possible to walk miles without evidence that you're in a city and the views extend right out to the North Sea.

The new Forest Hill route will roughly follow the old railway line from Nunhead to Crystal Palace. There'll also be a branch to Dulwich Park for the Picture Gallery.

The extension will go through Nunhead Cemetery, One Tree Hill, both the Camberwell cemeteries, Horniman Gardens and Sydenham Hill Woods Nature Reserve.

The new footpath has been under consideration for some years so we’re delighted it’s now so close to becoming a reality.

There are free guided walks on the Green Chain throughout the year but meanwhile you can see how SE23 fits in by going to
Happy walking!

Friends of One Tree Hill - Annual Meeting and local history talk

One Tree Hill lies at the northern end of a prominent ridge of hills that has marked the boundary between kingdoms, counties, manors and ancient parishes for many centuries and has been an open space since time immemorial. In 1896 a golf club attempted to enclose the hill.

Local people campaigned successfully and on 7th August 1905 One Tree Hill was “opened to the public, and dedicated to their use, forever”.

The talk will cover the history of the hill, real and fictional, and describe the successful campaign to save it. For further details, contact Sandy.

16 December 2009

Red Grape Vines Flourish in SE23

Yep, you can grow large bunches of grapes outdoors in Forest Hill - and eat them! Tony Petim, a Forest Hill Society member, shows just some of his many bunches of grapes - many measuring over 25cm in length - from his small garden in SE23.

Tony was brought up growing grapes and making wine with his parents in Portugal but today he just enjoys them for garden decoration and eating. The tradition where he comes from is that you share excess harvests with friends, family and neighbours, which is how we found out about them. They are delicious! So we asked Tony to share his secret.
“Actually there is no Secret – It’s simple and probably only needs about 2 hours effort per year. Here are my tips:”
Position – Pick a reasonably sunny position, although not essential. Large pots are OK but a well drained hole in the garden soil is best.
Purchase - Get a grape vine from a local garden centre. Plant it and leave it alone. Variety is not important as most of the ones sold here will handle the average English weather.
Pruning – In late February or March the following year, prune back to the main stem, leaving one stem or the main two “brown” stems (if any).
Training – As new green buds grow, keep only 10-20 green bud shoots, depending on the size and age of your vine. Pick off the ones that grow low along the main stem. These sap the strength from the green shoots above. When you have your 10-20 buds, be merciless with any new ones and nip them off! The 10-20 buds will grow and grow.
Fertilizer – When buds start to appear in late February or March, feed the vine with a high potash fertiliser every 2 or 3 weeks. If growth is poor, then give it a boast with some nitrogen based fertiliser.
Nipping – OK, this is the real secret. i) when the grapes start to grow, nip 1 or 2 leaves nearest the grapes. ii) as the vine grows, say, another 50-100cm from the grapes, nip the ends of that vine to stem its growth. This means more of the plant’s energy goes into growing grapes.
Pests – Use standard pest control sprays to treat problems such as vine weevil, downy mildew, grey mould, etc.
Eating – Wait, wait,...wait...and then, in early to mid-Sept, pick the grapes off and enjoy them with friends, family and neighbours.

24 October 2009

200th Anniversary of the Croydon Canal

Over 120 people from the Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society celebrated the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Croydon Canal with a walk from Sydenham station to Forest Hill station, via the last remaining section of the canal in the area in Dacres Wood.

Steve Grindlay provided the historical details with stops along the route and a talk and slide show at the Hob.

We had traditional bargeman's songs along the route provided by Andrew King, including a special song composed for the opening of the Canal 200 years ago!

After the walk many of us went to the Dartmouth Arms, where a traditional bargeman's lunch had been prepared of beef or vegetable stew with beer.

If you have other good photos from the day, please send them in for us to include on the website, and we hope to make the slide show available soon. In the meantime, you can read the article on the history of the Canal from our latest newsletter.

18 April 2009

What's On In April

There’s a lot going on at the moment so we thought we’d better send out a mid-month reminder of what’s happening so you can get involved in whatever takes your fancy. That’s if you can drag yourselves away from Forest Hill Beach, of course, which seems to be the big attraction at the moment. OK, so it’s just a big sand pit by the side of the South Circular but it’s proving very popular along with the rest of the renovation work at the Horniman Triangle play area. There’s even a welcoming cafĂ© so make the most of it whilst the sun is shining!


This month’s 23 Club coincides with St George’s Day and Shakespeare’s Birthday so definitely a reason to celebrate. A number of people – regulars and first timers – have already said they’ll be attending so do book your seat at the table.

Thursday, April 23rd at 8pm - The Dartmouth Arms pub, 7 Dartmouth Road SE23 3HN Phone 8488 3117. Please book directly with the restaurant making it clear you’re with the 23 Club or Forest Hill Society. We look forward to seeing you there.


Thursday, 30th April.
We’ll be starting at 7.30pm at the Railway Telegraph, 112 Stanstead Rd, SE23 1BS. We’re aiming to get as far as Mr Lawrence's Wine Bar, 391 Brockley Road, SE4 2PH but that may be a bit ambitious. Anyway, we’ll certainly make a point of trying out the new Stone Bar in Honor Oak Park. There’ll be more details of the route nearer the time on our website.


The Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies are joining forces for the Bank Holiday on the 4th of May. We'll be celebrating spring with a day at a hidden green space on the border of Forest Hill and Sydenham - the Albion Millennium Green.
The Green, formerly a tennis club, was landscaped into an attractive, informal park at the turn of the century under a government scheme to develop 'Millennium Greens.’ Its entrance is at the end of Albion Villas Road (just off Sydenham Park Road), one of the prettiest streets in the area.
It's a haven for flowers and wildlife but it does need a little sprucing up. So we'll start the day with a group tidying up session and then savour the fruits of our labours with a picnic (please bring your own), games and traditional May Day activities for all the family.
So mark your diaries now. It'll be a great Bank Holiday day out - just around the corner.

13 March 2009

Environment and Leisure Committee

We love being close to the big metropolis and having all the amenities that come with urban living. But we also love the tranquil, green spaces that make SE23 so special. James Marmion is on a mission to make Forest Hill a community we can all enjoy and we’re delighted that he’s volunteered to chair the Society’s Environment and Leisure Committee. We asked him to set out his vision.

I’ve lived in Forest Hill for ten years and in southeast London for twenty. Before coming to London, I lived in Liverpool, overlooking a lovely beach now filled with figures made by Anthony Gormley, the Peckham sculptor (which makes it even lovelier).

In SE23 we benefit from all the good places to go out that come with being close to a big metropolis. But the main reason I became involved with the Forest Hill Society was to try to round off some of the sharper urban edges that come with being next to that great metropolis. So what do we need to do?

We need to foster our green spaces. It’s been great to see the continuing development of the green chain walks and we have an active community presence at our several local nature reserves at Devonshire, Garthorne and Dacres Roads. We’ve organised a walk around Dacres Road reserve to raise its profile, stimulate involvement and, not least, admire the last remaining remnants of the canal that preceded the railway line. We’ve also combined volunteering with relaxation by organising a tidy-up followed by a picnic in one of our hidden away green spots. Elsewhere, I’d like to build support for the excellent community idea of using the vacant lot next to One Tree Hill allotments as a family allotment space.

We should promote green issues too – such as supporting the Eco Street project running in the “Rockbourne Triangle” and persuading the council to rollout benefits such as improved recycling schemes across SE23.

We need to smarten up our streetscape and immediate surroundings. The Honor Oak Park Action Group has performed wonders to improve the look of Honor Oak’s Parade and station. Wouldn’t it be good if we could have a similar, community driven group to smarten up London Road and Forest Hill station? Friends and neighbours often complain about how development of our area is handicapped by the presence of the South Circular Road. So how do we turn a handicap into a virtue? Can we improve the road with street art or planting? The railway bridge too is in desperate need of smartening up - a shame as it has the potential to provide a wonderful welcome point to Forest Hill with a good clean, a lick of paint and a well-designed sign.

Most of all I’d love to see children and families get involved – harnessing that sense of civic pride for those growing up or settling down in the area – and having our local schools and youth clubs join in with environmental projects.

I need to hear your ideas too. If you want to drop me a line about them, or if you’re inspired to get involved with what we’re doing, you can write to me at

06 January 2009

Consultation of Green Spaces

Press Release from Lewisham Council:

Consultation on recreational spaces in Lewisham

Lewisham residents are invited to give their views on what improvements they would like made to open spaces, outdoor sports and recreational provision across the borough.

The public consultation, which opened on Monday 22 December, is seeking feedback on parks, natural green-space areas, outdoor sport facilities, provision for children and young people, and allotments. Local people, groups and organisations are encouraged to give their opinion about the quality of the facilities they use at the moment and what their needs are both now and in the future.

The study has been commissioned by Lewisham Council and will be carried out by Strategic Leisure Limited, a management consultancy company specialising in the planning, development, management and evaluation of sport and leisure facilities, services and events.

The consultation will end on Saturday, 31 January with the findings expected to be published at the beginning of April 2009.

The study will provide the Council with a clear framework for planning and future management. It will also provide targets for future improvement and provision, and ensure local needs are met.

Residents can have their say by completing the online questionnaire at:

07 June 2007

Summertime! And the living is easy

Summer is well and truly here which, for many of us on the Hill, means dodging the Stag Beetles in the evening as they fly around in search of a mate.

The spell of good weather also means that all the Open Days, which seem to be happening in SE23 this month, should be well attended and great fun. So why not pack a picnic hamper (plenty of local food shops where you can pick up supplies) and make the most of the world on your doorstep?

9th/10th June – Devonshire Road Nature Reserve Open Days – 12-4.30pm.
This truly is a hidden gem in Forest Hill, tucked away behind the houses and running along the railway line. It’s normally open on the last Sunday of the month, but it’s open on the 9th June as part of the London Open Garden Square Weekend. There’ll be music, a plant stall, wine tasting and refreshments.

The following day is the Big Open Day, which promises a drum workshop, garden tour, storytelling and a variety of LIVE amphibians and reptiles on display in the visitors centre.

10th June – Forest Hill Day – Horniman Gardens - 1-6pm
The Forest Hill Day is in its ninth year but this year offers something a little different. As well as the usual craft activities, inflatables and live music, the Tour de France Roadshow will be there. For the first time in the Tour’s history, the race will start from London and Stage One actually passes through Lewisham. So the Roadshow is a chance to familiarise yourself with the history and spectacle of this great sporting contest. For more information, see
Food and refreshments will be provided by Provender and All Inn One.

16th June - Blythe Hill Fields Fun Day – 11am-4pm

If you’ve got the legs to get to Blythe Hill Fields then you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views. The Fun Day is a family event featuring live music, a barbecue, donkey rides, children’s crafts, cakes and jam stall, an egg and spoon race, sack race, three-legged race, tug-of-war and the opportunity to sponsor your own bird box. It’s organised by the Blythe Hill Fields User Group whose aim is to improve the facilities and promote the enjoyment of this space for the benefit of the whole community. For more information, see

10 April 2007

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve - Guided Tour

This Sunday 15th April, Nick Pond (who's in charge of nature conservation in Lewisham) will be leading a guided tour of the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve (entrance opposite Tyson Road). It's a great opportunity to explore this beautiful, secluded spot and learn about the rich biodiversity that SE23 enjoys. Iris Borger will also be on hand to talk about wildlife gardening. We're even promised refreshments! Meet at 2pm in the classroom. We look forward to seeing you there.