15 June 2008

LETS Trade

Lunch in Forest Hill for three Anchors? The alternative economy of LETS is alive and well in Forest Hill writes local resident, Maggie Smith.

A group of people meet in my home on the first Saturday in the month to trade plants, home-made bread, outgrown children’s clothes, books – anything, really - and lunch on home-made soup (three varieties, seconds welcome). Cost? Three Anchors. What kind of money is that?

LETS - Local Exchange Trading Systems - are local community-based mutual aid networks in which people exchange all kinds of goods and services without the need for money. Introduced originally in Canada, LETS for several decades revitalised communities. Most popular in the eighties, when there were some 450 LETS schemes, there are now fewer - perhaps 30,000 members in the UK - but this has been accompanied by an increase in related initiatives, such as Timebanks, Freecycle and other Community Networks.

A group of people within a local community pool resources and compile a directory of skills, services and goods, plus requests for anything they need. Each member is given a personal account with a currency usually reflecting the locality, which they use to pay for goods or services they offer and use. Lewisham LETS, active for the last 14 years, began in Greenwich and still uses Anchors as its currency, with 1 Anchor equivalent to £1. Members earn Anchors by providing a service, and can spend the credits on whatever is offered by other members - transport, gardening, decorating, the hire of tools etc. It is not necessary to make direct exchanges. New members receive a ‘starter credit’ of 20 Anchors.

As a founder member of LETS in Harrogate (Nidderdale LETS, currency in Nidds); when I moved back to London a year or so ago I naturally joined Lewisham LETS. As I live alone, how else would boxes have been unpacked and curtains hung within a couple of days of the move? In Harrogate, I organised plant and book sales and attended a monthly soup lunch, but found that no similar events existed in Lewisham LETS. The soup lunch took off and there will be a plant sale later this year. It’s a good place for new members to meet and find out what skills are on offer or needed. For people on a restricted income or living alone it is useful to have one shelf put up (hard to find a professional joiner who will accept such a small job); help with computer glitches, babysitters who don’t add to the cost of an evening out. I’ve recently been providing home-made, mainly organic frozen meals for an ultra-busy executive and two tired new parents.

How does Lewisham LETS work? Its website posts ‘Offers and needs’ with profiles of many of the members. Non-members cannot access personal details. For those without Internet access, a Newsletter and lists of offers/needs is sent by ‘snail mail.’

Find out more at http://letslewisham.org or ring the Lewisham LETS Administrator: 020 8692 8417

This Green and Pleasant Land

If you'd ever like to impress your visitors with the greenness of SE23, then we can recommend the walking route from Sydenham Wells Park to One Tree Hill. Well-kept gardens, dense woodland, panoramic views - we have everything on our doorstep.

On 25th May, Peter Frost of the Friends of One Tree Hill led this walk in perfect weather - in spite of the torrential rain throughout the morning. It took us two hours at a leisurely pace with lots of stops whilst Peter filled us in on local history, flora and fauna.

Without the stops, you could do it in an hour. It's a tricky route to do with a buggy because of the swing gates in Sydenham Woods but the 7 month old in our group certainly enjoyed herself being carried in a sling. The vicar of St Augustine's on One Tree Hill had very kindly invited us to use the church's facilities at the end of the walk and there were refreshments there as well.

There are plenty of buses that go past both ends of this walk so you can certainly leave the car at home.

11 June 2008

Public Transport Liaison meeting

Cllr Paschoud (Perry Vale), Cllr Nisbet (Sydenham) and representatives from the Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society attended a meeting last night with bus and train managers, as well as Lewisham Council officers and London TravelWatch.

Forest Hill station ticket barriers will be in operation from 7th July. At this time the Perry Vale exit will remain closed during the day until 3pm. At 3pm-8pm ticket inspectors will be present on the Perry Vale exit and after 8pm the gate, along with the ticket barriers will be left open when the station is unmanned (Open gates after 8pm is a concession that Forest Hill Society were able to get previously in communications with Southern Railways).

Sydenham Station is expected to have the barriers and gates in operation from today. At Sydenham they have a buzzer on the back entrance to enable step-free access to the platform but this is not planned for Forest Hill.

Points raised by stakeholders that require action by Southern:
  • Will consider a Sydenham style buzzer for Perry Vale gate in daytime hours, but not likely. This would give the same accessibility to Forest Hill as currently available. I have spoken to older rail users who commute southbound or Victoria bound off-peak on a daily basis and will likely drive to Sydenham rather than walk across four staircases to get to southbound platform at Forest Hill
  • Continue to look at the barriers at platform 1 for Sydenham
Other points raised by stakeholders that may require further follow up:

  • Risk assessment for Forest Hill was only done on the new ticket barriers on platform 1, no risk assessment was done on the manned exit from Perry Vale and congestion on the platform.
  • We recommend a policy of self-certification for mobility restricted access to Sydenham platform 1, i.e. if a customer says they need the gate opened the staff should not question this. Customers should not be forced to state their medical condition into an intercom system. Staff are not medically qualified to make such judgments.
  • We need to keep pursuing the long-term Perry Vale car park access to the station. Basic access could be achieved in a few minutes with the demolition of a single wooden fence or removal of a padlock [by qualified professionals of course]. Proper access would take a little longer to achieve.
  • Len Duvall (our London Assembly Member) has written to Mayor Johnson as well contacting the transport authorities directly regarding this issue.
  • London TravelWatch has written to the rail authorities expressing concern about the plans at both Forest Hill and Sydenham stations but have yet to receive a reply.

Prompted by demand on se23.com and East Dulwich Forum for the extension of the 63 route to Honor Oak / Brockley Rise, I raised this issue with the bus companies. The 63 route is currently under review and there will be a consultation shortly. This is an excellent opportunity to extend the service and I shall be writing to TfL buses to fully argue the case.

When the public consultation happens members of the public will have the opportunity to express their opinion on this possible route extension which I feel would be of great benefit to local residents wishing to travel between Peckham, Honor Oak Park, and beyond.

05 June 2008

Latest news from Forest Hill Society

Forest Hill Day and Devonshire Road Nature Reserve Open Day - Sunday 8th June
Horniman Gardens will host the annual Forest Hill Day organised by the Forest Hill Traders Association from 12 noon to 5pm, and Devonshire Road Nature Reserve has an open day running from 12:30pm-4pm on the same day.

Forest Hill Station Barriers and Gates
According to the latest information from Southern Railway, this weekend will see the introduction of ticket barriers in Forest Hill station ticket hall. At the same time the Perry Vale gate will be closed for most of the day - possibly even when the ticket barriers are open on the other side of the station after 8pm. The Forest Hill Society oppose the closure of this important access point for people on the Perry Vale side of the station and the inconvenience that will result from the closure.

If you wish to comment on this policy of gate closure you can write to: comments@southernrailway.com
You can also speak to one of the managers from Southern Railway at London Bridge station on 19th June - 7:30am-9:30am.
Full contact details for Southern Railway can be found at http://www.southernrailway.com/main.php?page_id=438

Pools to be demolished in August
At the latest meeting of the stakeholders group for the new pools we learnt that demolition of the existing pool and Louise House will begin in August this year. Completion is not due until March 2011, which is later than previously proposed. Further notes from the Forest Hill Society representative on the stakeholder group can be found at http://www.sydenhamsociety.com/ForestHillPoolsStakeholders2.html

A petition has been set up by local residents concerned about the demolition going ahead before the public have seen the designs for the new pool. You may wish to sign the petition at http://www.gopetition.com/online/19745.html

23 Club
The first meeting of the 23 Club will take place on the 23rd June at Kafe La, 15 Perry Vale. The club is open to all members, their friends and relatives and is a simple idea - to try out restaurants in and around SE23 on the 23rd of each month. This is a great way to support local restaurants and to chat to others with an interest in the local area. If you wish to book please call Kafe La directly to reserve your place 020 8699 2028. Each person is responsible for their own booking and bill.

Further meetings of the 23 club will take place on the 23rd of each month and details of the next venues will be published in the newsletter.

19 May 2008

Green Chain Walk - Sunday 25th May, 2008

Sunday 25th May, 2pm at the lake in Sydenham Wells Park.

The Forest Hill Society has organised a guided walk from the park to One Tree Hill. It should take about 2 hours and be suitable for most types of buggy, even though there is an off road element through Sydenham Woods. If you are planning on driving to Sydenham Wells Park, you can return on the 363 bus which goes from Forest Hill Road up Sydenham Hill.

The idea is to celebrate the plan to extend the popular Green Chain walk linking South East London’s open spaces to SE23.

The more green corridors we can keep open in our urban environments, the more pleasant it is for us all to enjoy walking. At the moment, the Green Chain covers 16.5 miles of green walks from Crystal Palace to three points on the River Thames.

According to its website, http://www.greenchain.com, the Green Chain has “helped to protect and improve our open spaces so helping to prevent further building taking place.”

The plan is to create a spur which heads out from Crystal Palace to Sydenham Wells Park, through the woods, across the Horniman Gardens, to One Tree Hill and then on to Nunhead cemetery.

We've just found out from the vicar of St Augustine's on One Tree Hill that there will be refreshments available at the church on the afternoon of our Green Chain Walk. There is a concert at the church which starts at 3pm so, if we up the pace, we might get to enjoy some music as well!

17 May 2008

Local Ward Assemblies

Forest Hill Ward Assembly
Date: Tuesday 20 May 2008
Venue: Living Springs International Church, 8-10 Devonshire Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3TJ
Map of location of meeting (next to the station)
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm

Perry Vale Ward Assembly
Date: Monday 2 June 2008
Venue: Perry Rise Baptist Church, Perry Rise, SE23 2QL
Map of location of meeting
Time: 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Crofton Park Ward Assembly
Date: Wednesday 2 July 2008
Venue: St Hildas Church Hall, Brockley Road, SE4 2DG
Map of location of meeting
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm

And don't forgot next Sunday, 25th May, is the Forest Hill Society Green Chain Walk. More details in the previous posting.

12 May 2008

Letter to Southern Rail

Thank you for passing on this information [passenger counts at Forest Hill station]. What I do not see included (and what I do not believe was measured) was the flow of people onto or off the station from the Perry Vale entrance on the Southbound platform and Forest Hill. During peak hours this can be a significant number of people as I believe you have accepted (particularly in the evening peak).

At a recent General Meeting of the Forest Hill Society we listened to views of local people who make use of Forest Hill station and, while they were pleased that the gates would continue to be open after 3pm, there was an overwhelming feeling that shutting the Perry Vale entrance before 3pm was not in the interests of passengers. For many passengers heading south, towards Croydon and Victoria before 3pm this will mean they will need to use four sets of stairs to access platform 2, at a time when we are meant to be seeing improvements in accessibility. This retrograde step goes against accessibility improvements that are more widely planned on the railway.

There was also significant concern regarding the placement of two ticket inspectors on the southbound platform, as this will further slow down customers wishing the enter and exit the station between 3pm and 8pm. There were fears that such a large number of people queuing to get through the gate, whilst others are trying to move past them to access the footbridge, will lead to safety issues on a daily basis. Forest Hill is a very busy station with over half of people in the evenings using the Perry Vale exit and this will lead to congestion, and pushing, especially with new shelters for the ticket inspectors further restricting the flow of people. No safety assessment has taken place on this side of the station regarding the changes you plan to make, unlike the installation of the ticket barriers on in the ticket office which have been carefully subjected to the necessary tests.

We know that when the East London Line comes to Forest Hill in 2010 there will be Oyster barriers / posts at all entrances and exits to the station. If Southern Railways are not willing to implement a proper barrier or post at the Perry Vale entrance, then we believe no changes should be made until such time as TfL make plans for proper access to the station, with the gate on Perry Vale remaining open at all times until such plans are implemented. There is no reason to make life a misery for passengers in 2008 and 2009 prior to a better implementation in 2010.

I would like to thank you for the information provided in other communication that indicated that, as I requested, the Perry Vale exit will remain open and unmanned after 8pm (when the barriers at the ticket office will also remain open and unmanned). But in speaking to other local residents it is clear that there is strong feeling that this gate must remain open at all times throughout the day, whether manned or unmanned. This entrance provides import access to the station with only a single set of stairs to the southbound platform.

I hope you will also consider the health and safety implications of two ticket inspectors checking the tickets of over half the passengers at one of the busiest stations on your network, at a point in the middle of the station platform.

Until a new exit can be built to the Perry Vale Car Park, the best solution for the accessibility and safety of passengers at Forest Hill is to leave the gate open on the southbound platform, as it is at present.

Michael Abrahams
Chair, Forest Hill Society

Copied to Jim Dowd MP, Len Duvall MLA, London Travelwatch and local councillors.

10 May 2008

Garthorne Road Nature Reserve

10th May was a guided tour of Garthorne Road Nature Reserve. Below are a few photos from the area that is not normally open to the public.

Bitter Vetchling. A plant in the pea family which is rare in London. This is possibly the only site where they are found in Inner London.

A butterfly spotted beside the meadow.

Dave Smith, our guide for the morning, emerging from a field of Cow Parsley.

Giant Hogweed. A phototoxic plant found in small numbers in parts of the nature reserve. Contact with this plant can cause server itching in sunlight.

More photos on Flickr.

08 May 2008

Presentation on the Pools from the General Meeting

This is the presentation by Steve Gough and Aileen Buckton from last nights general meeting.

03 May 2008

General Meeting - 7th May

The Forest Hill Society will be having a General Meeting on Wednesday 7th May at 7:30pm (doors open 7pm) at Forest Hill School on Dacres Road. This will be a chance to discuss issues that you feel are important for the Forest Hill Society to address in the local area. We will have two guest speakers from Lewisham Council; Aileen Buckton, Executive Director for Community Services, and Steve Gough, Director of Programme Management and Property, who will be giving us the latest information on the rebuilding of Forest Hill Pools, one of the most important issues for the development of our town centre.

Members and non-members are welcome.