24 April 2007

Mayor to speak to Forest Hill Society

Local resident, and Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock, will be speaking at the next Forest Hill Society General meeting on 10th May, 7pm at the Christian Fellowship Centre, Honor Oak Road (opposite Fairlawn School). This is a chance for members of the Forest Hill Society and non-members to ask the mayor about council services in Forest Hill and across Lewisham.

There will also be the first public consultation regarding plans for developing facilities in Horniman Gardens, so if you have any suggestions please come along and put them to the team from Horniman Museum and Gardens.

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve Walk

Glorious weather awaited as 25 or more residents from across Forest Hill, adults of all ages and several intrepid youngsters, gathered on Devonshire Road to explore a local hidden treasure, the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve.

The Reserve covers a large area along the tracks behind the houses on Devonshire Road (see map here). The Reserve functions almost exclusively with the work of volunteers. Nick Pond, in charge of nature conservation at Lewisham Council, gave us the introduction and tour. We also met Johanna Morley, Iris Borger and Tony Canning. Tony was our expert on all matters pond related. Iris manages the Wildlife Garden and also works with local schools to get younger residents involved with conservation, and Johanna is helping to energise more volunteers through the Friends of Devonshire Road Nature Reserve (if you want to know more, send her an email).

The wildlife garden is complete with "luxury apartments" at the wood pile for Stag Beetles and lots of attractive, yet wildlife friendly garden features, including the amazing pond teeming with young toads and even newts. As Nick pointed out, wildlife gardening, and supporting local wildlife, like birds, butterflies, beetles and frogs does not mean you can't garden, but you need to think a little more and maybe incorporate some 'wilder' features. If nothing else, it means that leaving that flower bed unweeded and the pile of logs in the back is not laziness, but positive action for the environment!

On our a gentle trek around the Reserve it was so peaceful, other than the occasional passing train, you could imagine yourself miles outside of the city.

Nick explained how important these areas are to our local wildlife and what small steps we can take to help, such as limiting our use of slug pellets (that also kill birds and spread chemical debris), leaving areas of taller grasses to support the breeding of butterflies, building ponds to help frogs, birds, dragonflies and plants, and more.

This is not untamed wilderness. There are open meadows, well maintained paths and the classroom has the important amenities! The Reserve is not ancient woodland so it is quite open, light and easy to walk.

After 2 hours in almost 25 degree weather, the tea and cakes (home made by Iris and Johanna) were very welcome and quickly devoured whilst we rested in the sun.

If you would like to take a look around it yourself, or even get involved, it is open in the afternoon of the last Sunday of every month. Iris is also there several days a week to welcome the school students to the wildlife garden, so you could speak to her there.

Please do get involved, even if it is just for raising awareness of this local oasis. I'm sure they'd appreciate the support.

To see more photos, you can click here.

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.

29 March 2007

Stanstead Road Community Garden

For a few months now a group of residents have been discussing plans to improve the area around 'Old Stanstead Road' (the bit that is not the south circular). With the support of the Forest Hill Society, and the active involvement of some of the committee members, local residents have been drawing up plans for a small community garden to improve the environment around Travis Perkins and a small plot of land.

What is particularly nice about this group is the way they plan to involve local people, from children to adults, and have been able to get the support of local businesses and Lewisham Council.

It is small scale projects such as this that help to create a sense of community and improve the surroundings for everybody in the area. We wish them the very best of luck in developing their plans for the community garden, and may what starts as a garden, blossom into even greater things!

27 March 2007

The walls come tumbling down

We are beginning to see some improvements in the path between Trilby Road and Sunderland Road. As previously reported plans are in progress to improve this pathway. Some of the pot holes have been filled in (not very well in my opinion, but it will do), but more importantly some of the concrete fences have been knocked down at the end of the path, assuming this work continues and the land at the end of the path is cleared, this should make a significant difference to safety on this path.

We are also discussing the possibility of straightening the route of the path on the corner of Trilby Road so that there are no surpises round the corner, although a mirror would also help to do this.

Update [15th April]: Posts have now been removed from the remains of the fence along the path. However, the area at the end of the path has been used to dump and burn household goods. This area needs to be cleaned up very soon, something which Forest Hill Society, Lewisham Council, and the neighbours are working on.

Update [8th May]: Resurfacing work has been carried out properly now and the path looks lovely. The burnt wood has been removed, but we are still waiting for the area to be cleared and for a new fence to be errected.

19 March 2007

Sydenham Society Public Meeting - Minutes from 14th March

Minutes from last week's Sydenham Society public meeting are available on the Sydenham Town website.

The presentation I made about the petition and survey conducted by Forest Hill Society can be downloaded from here. The presentation made by Peter Field from TfL can be downloaded from here but this is a big file (6Mb) so it may take a few minutes.

17 March 2007

Welcome to the second newsletter from the Forest Hill Society

All today's articles on the blog are from the March edition of the Forest Hill Society Newsletter. Paper copies are delivered to all our members - if you have not received your copy please contact me.
To view all the newsletter articles in one go click here.

Since the last edition we have been busy campaigning to keep the existing train services to London Bridge and we would like to thank you for your support. Our on-line petition has over 800 signatures from local residents in Forest Hill, Honor Oak, Sydenham, and beyond.

Due to popular demand we are planning to have our second General Meeting on 10th May, and I am delighted that local resident and Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock has agreed to speak at this meeting. So if you have questions about anything related to Lewisham Council, come along and put your questions to the top man. There will also be plenty of time to discuss other issues for Forest Hill and what you think the Society should be doing. This meeting is open to members and non-members and there should be seats for everybody (we have learnt from the popularity of our last general meeting). So I look forward to seeing everybody there.

Michael, Chair, Forest Hill Society

Dates for your diary

Guided Wildlife Walk
15th April 2pm, Devonshire Road Nature Reserve. Nick Pond, who’s responsible for nature conservation in Lewisham, will reveal the flora and fauna which inhabit this secluded spot. He’ll also give tips on encouraging biodiversity in our gardens. Meet in the classroom.

Forest Hill Society General Meeting
10th May 7.30 pm (doors open 7pm) – Christian Fellowship Centre, Honor Oak Road (opposite
Fairlawn School). Guest Speaker – Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham.

Non-Forest Hill Society Events:
Forest Hill Day organised by the Forest Hill Traders Association.
10 June 2007, Horniman Gardens.

The future of our Pools

So, after a long wait we finally know the result of the structural survey into Forest Hill Pools and what Lewisham Council intends to do now. The Mayor, Steve Bullock, has decided to refurbish the facilities rather than opt for a rebuild. The intrusive survey carried out on the building last year concluded that this is feasible but warns that the investment needed will be “significant.”

The Background
Forest Hill Pools (built in 1884) are amongst the oldest but certainly not the most spectacular of the Victorian era public baths. Many of the original features have been lost over the years. As a result, in May 2006 English Heritage turned down an application to have the building listed.

The long-term future of the pools has hung in the balance for some time. They’ve been run on a management-only (that is, no investment) contract since 2001 pending a decision on their future. Not surprisingly, the condition of the pools deteriorated.

A public consultation was held in October 2005 to determine whether local people wanted to refurbish the pools or knock them down and start afresh with a new build. The two options were limited but most people who replied chose the rebuild. However, the strength of feeling at public meetings and focus groups – which strongly supported refurbishment, retaining two pools – persuaded the Mayor to chose this option pending the outcome of the intrusive survey.

The pools have been closed since March 2006 when the roof was deemed unsafe.

The Timetable
April 07 to Oct 07 - design, consult, plan
Feb 08 to Jan 09 - construction
Jan 09 to Feb 09 - commissioning
Feb/March 09 - THE POOLS REOPEN!

The Cost
According to the consultants, Capita Symonds, it will cost £5.05 million to repair the pools complex. If you include inflation to 2008, the cost is nearer £5.6 million.

Is this the end of the matter?
Probably. But many people will be unhappy that other options for the pools have been lost for the time being. For example, the building could have been redesigned with a larger, more modern fitness suite if it went down to just one pool, rather than retaining both. Or perhaps the disused public building next to the pools (Louise House) could have been incorporated into the plans to create a much bigger community centre for Forest Hill, offering not only swimming and sport but a community hall and meeting rooms (sadly lacking in Forest Hill). The Mayor says financial concerns prevented other solutions being put forward and there are certainly some advantages to having two swimming pools rather than one. So perhaps we should just be glad that swimming is set to return to Forest Hill – perhaps in time to produce an SE23 champion for the 2012 Olympics!!

The Forest Hill Society will be keeping a close watch on how things progress but do let us know your thoughts. And if you have a question for the Mayor on this issue, then make sure you come along to our General Meeting on May 10th when you can ask him directly.

Walking the streets

What drives a man to map out his home postcode area, buy a pedometer and determine to walk every street in that area within 12 months? Health? Madness? Curiosity? Boredom?
Rob McIntosh explains his personal quest.

I moved to Forest Hill about 2 years ago with my young family having bought a house here. I grew up moving from one country to another and never had time to put down roots, so buying our first house seemed to be a good reason to look into the history of the property and the area.

This search in turn led me online and thus I uncovered a wealth of community events and forums. I had rarely felt properly part of a community before. This was fun!

Around December time, I discovered blogging and photo sharing. As with millions of others, I thought, “I can do this too!” I work from home and sometimes you need an excuse to get out and stretch your legs. So I determined to get out, see, learn, take some photos, get some fresh air and tell others about what I came across. Simple really.

The result was “Walking the Streets of Forest Hill, SE23”.

The blog gets about 70 visitors a week and one or two comments. It means I now feel an obligation to keep it up to date, and it is nice to know people are interested. But mainly I do it to learn about the area and try and stay sane.

As for the future, “how many roads must a man walk to be a called a man?” Well, not as many as I first thought, so the goal should be achievable. Most importantly, I hope to pass on some of my enthusiasm for the area and attract others here.

If you want to follow my progress, please do visit the site and leave me suggestions on routes, places to visit or any other comments. And if you fancy joining me on a walk, leave me a comment and we can try and arrange something.