Showing posts with label newsletter0920. Show all posts
Showing posts with label newsletter0920. Show all posts

22 September 2020

Forest Hill Society AGM 2020

All members and non-members are welcome to attend our Annual General Meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, 7th October from 7:30pm.

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 who wish to get even more involved by standing for the Executive Committee, or joining one of our committees focused on Planning, Environment, Transport, or Communications. And we continue to be on the look out for a new chairperson for the Society.

Please register in advance of the meeting to receive joining instructions:

If you are interesting in discussing any of the roles in the Society or how you can get more involved, please email

19 September 2020

Surviving Lockdown at Shannon’s

By Linda Shannon of Shannon’s Garden Centre

Since the official lockdown on 23rd March we have had to adapt several times to new ways of trading. With our doors firmly shut to the public and a lockdown in place, it was hard to imagine how we would  sell plants. In our industry, March to June is our busiest season so it couldn't have come at a worse time. Stock had arrived, having been pre-ordered at the beginning of the year, and a lot more was already on the way to us.

We realised quickly that people still wanted to buy plants. We did not have an internet-selling platform as our stock changes weekly, even daily in busy seasons, and comes from many suppliers. We asked customers to email their wish-list orders to us. We were overwhelmed with emails, which sometimes reached 250 per day with all sorts of enquiries; and for seven weeks we worked 12-hour days answering emails and preparing orders for collection and deliveries for a quarter of our normal sales. Since we are a family-run business, we created our own small family ‘bubble’ and worked together in isolation. We had to be careful like everyone else because, if one of us got ill, we could all catch the virus.

Since the weather at the time was glorious, people were enticed into their gardens. Whether they were sheltering at home, working from home or home-schooling their children or were just busy frontline workers looking for escapism, they all needed gardening supplies to be able to grow plants; for that, it was worthwhile to keep going as a business. 

It was a relief when our industry was allowed to reopen and let customers back in to choose their own purchases. We realise how lucky we were, as other local businesses could not open at that time. Customers came back and initially we had queues around the block!

We had good stock levels when we reopened but, as things started to sell through, we realised that new stock was either not available or on a long delay.  Understandably, upon lockdown, plant growers had to stop growing their plants. Instead of us choosing which plants we need, we now have to be content to take what the growers have. It's always a mystery what turns up! Compost was the new toilet roll as people bought it in large amounts in a small period of time; and we had to limit the quantities being purchased. The manufacturers of compost then went into lockdown and ultimately furloughed staff, which resulted in reduced stock levels and only larger bags of compost being packed for sale. 

During this strange time we have seen new gardeners who, whilst being confined to their houses, have rediscovered their gardens. With an enthusiasm to sow and grow their own vegetables and plants and the time to tend and care for them, they have been able to reap the benefits of gardening. 

It’s heart-warming to see people venturing back out and choosing our garden centre as the place they feel safe to shop in, and we are thankful we have been able to open for business. Many have commented since restrictions have lifted how grateful they were that they were able to source their gardening needs while under lockdown, and that gardening helped keep them sane.

18 September 2020

Could the Horniman Gardens bee any more friendly?

By Quetta Kaye

The new installation in front of the Horniman Museum has a variety of bee ‘hotels’ sited around raised beds of insect-attracting flowers in hexagonal (bee cell) frames, surrounded by a wildflower meadow. The centrepiece is a sculpture with nitrogen-dioxide absorbing properties, ‘Flower Girl’, created by Jasmine Pradissitto, a painter and physicist, who has been pioneering pollution-absorbing sculptures to address an increasingly Anthropocene world.

In the main part of the Gardens, the dry Prairie area continues to dazzle with its colourful display and frame of fluttering grasses.

The Great Big SE4 and SE23 Raffle

Back in April, when we were under serious lockdown, and virtually all local shops were shut, a couple of local ladies, Amanda Pearce and Nicola Johnson, had the excellent idea to run an online raffle: It would generate income for local business and offer prizes for people to look forward to after lockdown.

In total they sold over £17,000-worth of tickets, with all the money invested in future prizes from local businesses. 

As well as generating income for local independent businesses, it was a great reminder of all the wonderful independent shops in Forest Hill, Honor Oak, Crofton Park and Brockley. With hundreds of people entering the raffle to win random prizes, it was heart-warming to see such community spirit during the toughest of times.

Daily publicity for these businesses occurred via social media and provided information about which shops were gradually able to reopen.

Sadly, not all shops have been able to continue after lockdown, and we have seen a few businesses, such as Rob’s Barbers, not reopening since lockdown, and the Dartmouth Arms closing its doors. 

The raffle, and the shop closures, are an important reminder that local independent businesses only survive if we use them.

Full disclosure: I won a voucher for drinks at Subplot 57, the bar underneath Leaf & Groove that has a newly opened garden space.

Gardening Through Lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 September 2020

Millie Small (1946‒2020)

 By Gary Thornton

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

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

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

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

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

“One day there'll come a time

When all men will be brothers

They'll talk as well as dance

And live and love with each other”

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

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

“I Am a Man”

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

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


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

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

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

16 September 2020

Swifts Take Up Residence

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

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

15 September 2020

Ellie Reeves MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Lewisham West and Penge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, I can be contacted on

Positivity Rocks!

By Belinda Evans

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

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

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

Then the positivity rocks appeared!

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

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

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

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

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

Sans Store

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

Bakery items and seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables

Hand-picked artisanal produce from across London and the UK

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

Greeting cards and flowers

Pop in or visit them at

14 September 2020

From Our Foreign Correspondent on Lockdown … Blythe Hill Fields

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

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

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

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

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

Railway Station Recipes

By Belinda Evans

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


Serves 4


1 pack of sausages (meat or veggie/vegan)

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

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

2 onions, sliced

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

300ml vegetable stock

250ml double cream

1‒2 tbsp Wholegrain, French or English mustard 

75g Parmesan, Pecorino or other hard cheese, grated

A handful of breadcrumbs 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Serves 2


2 cups water 

15 fresh mint leaves (peppermint or spearmint)

Optional: 1—2 teaspoons sugar (or honey)

Optional: lemon slices

Optional: fresh lemon juice

Optional: ice


Bring the water to a boil.

Remove from the heat and add the fresh mint leaves.

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

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

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

12 September 2020

Birley House Open Air School

By Sheila Carson

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Prioritising Pedestrians at Forest Hill Rail Station

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

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

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

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

11 September 2020

Booking Your Library Books

By John Firmin

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

Tuesday, 10am ‒ 2pm

Thursday, 3pm ‒ 7pm

Saturday, 10am ‒ 2pm 

To reserve books you can call the library service on 020 8314 8024, email or order your books using the online library catalogue by going to

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

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

Good reading!