05 May 2014

Festival in the Forest, June 29th

High summer brings the music festivals out and if you don’t have tickets for Glastonbury and hate the idea of camping, why not keep it local and spend the day at the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve’s annual Festival in the Forest on Sunday 29th June from 1pm until 10pm.

With an emphasis on Folk and Country music and some Jazz thrown in for good measure, this boutique festival showcases great music, superb home-cooked food and locally brewed beers and cider.

It includes two stages and ten bands and featuring headliners The Fire Pit Collective along with Charlie Hart, Alan Tyler, Steve ‘Boltz’ Bolton, Bruise, The Rude Vandals, The Twangers, Ezra, No Frills and Paul Astles with Bobby Valantino you’re guaranteed a great day in a beautiful setting right in the heart of Forest Hill; and all for £7 entry (under 18’s £4).

Tickets available in advance from

Photo: Last year’s headliners ‘Hungry Grass’ ripping it up on the main stage. 

04 May 2014

Crystal Palace High Level Line

Did you know there used to be a station at the junction of Wood Vale and Lordship Lane? And another at the other end of Wood Vale, where it meets Forest Hill Road?    We asked local historian, Steve Grindlay, to take us on a journey down the line.

Like much else in this area, the Crystal Palace High Level Line was a direct result of the opening of the Crystal Palace on Sydenham Hill in 1854. The building was designed by Joseph Paxton as a temporary structure to house the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations (to give it its full title) in Hyde Park. By the time the Great Exhibition closed, on 11th October 1851, plans were already afoot to rebuild a much larger version of Paxton’s iconic building, already dubbed “the Crystal Palace”. To achieve this, the Crystal Palace Company was formed with a board of nine directors. One of their first objectives was to find a suitable site for the new building.

It may not be coincidence that four of the nine directors of the CP Co had lived in Sydenham or Forest Hill since the mid-1840s, long before the original building in Hyde Park had even been proposed. One of them, Samuel Laing, lived in a large house near Mayow Road from 1847. He was chairman not only of the Crystal Palace Company but also of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, which ran from London Bridge through Forest Hill and Sydenham to Croydon and beyond.

The railway companies had done very well out of transporting visitors across the country to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park and were keen to have a say in where the new Crystal Palace should be built. Another local resident, Leo Shuster, was deputy chairman of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway Company (he took over as chairman when Samuel Laing retired in 1855). He was also one of the directors of the Crystal Palace Co. Furthermore he owned a very large estate called Penge Place, conveniently situated between what is now Crystal Palace Parade and Thicket Road, which he was prepared to sell to the Crystal Palace Company.

By August 1852 work had begun on erecting the Crystal Palace on Sydenham Hill. The building was formally opened by Queen Victoria on 10th June 1854. On the same day, thanks to the efforts of Laing and Schuster, the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway opened a branch line from Sydenham to Crystal Palace, extended to Victoria by 1860. This allowed visitors to travel from London Bridge through Forest Hill and Sydenham to the present Crystal Palace station. The Palace proved highly popular and, from the outset, the railway struggled to cope with some 10,000 visitors daily (on one occasion 112,000 visitors arrived by this route) coming to enjoy the music, exhibitions, festivals and other events that were on offer.

In order to control this vast volume of traffic, and to make the line safer, the LB&SC railway decided to install an “electronic railway telegraph”. This consisted of an electric cable suspended from posts alongside the line with sensors that could detect the passage of trains. This information was relayed to the signal boxes, allowing signalmen to control the movement of trains. This was presumably quite a significant feature because a new public house opened in Forest Hill, at the junction of Sunderland Road and Stanstead Road, called the Railway Telegraph.

By 1860 the branch line from Sydenham to Crystal Palace had been extended to Victoria but it was still having difficulty coping with the large number of visitors. Several proposals were made for a second line to the Palace. By 1862 agreement had been reached on a branch line from Nunhead to Crystal Palace, terminating at a grand station on the west side of Crystal Palace Parade. There were several challenges, not least the steep incline from Nunhead to the height of Sydenham Hill and the need for two tunnels.

Eventually, on 1st August 1865, the Crystal Palace High Level Line was opened. The intermediate stations between Nunhead and Crystal Palace weren’t yet ready for the formal opening. Lordship Lane opened on 1st September 1865 and Honor Oak station opened on 1st December 1865 while Upper Sydenham station didn’t open until 1st August 1884.

The High Level station was considered London’s most imposing branch line railway station, outshone only by mainline stations such as St Pancras and Euston. It was designed by Edward Barry and situated on the western side of Crystal Palace Parade, between the parade and Farquhar Road. The site is now occupied by Bowley Close. The entrance to the Paxton Tunnel still survives at the northern end of the site as does part of the long, arched retaining wall below Crystal Palace Parade.

The finest survival of the High Level station is the arched, brick-lined subway which allowed 1st class ticket holders direct access from the station to the Palace. Others had to come out of the station and walk across the road.

On leaving the High Level station on the train back to London passengers would almost immediately enter the Paxton Tunnel, emerging in what is now the Hillcrest Estate. At the far end of this estate is the site of Upper Sydenham Station and the entrance to the Crescent Wood Road tunnel. Above the tunnel, in Wells Park Road, the station building still survives and is converted to flats.

The train emerged from the Crescent Wood tunnel into what is now Sydenham Hill Woods. You can follow the track through the woods, over the Cox’s Walk footbridge and continue in the same direction through the Sydenham Hill Estate towards Lordship Lane.

The station at Lordship Lane was built on land owned by the Dulwich College estate and, as with other bridges and stations on their land, they insisted on high quality buildings. In this case it was an elaborate Gothic style building of red brick and stone. Nothing, apart from sections of the embankment, now survives.
The track continued along what is now the Horniman Nature Trail, under a bridge at Langton Rise, and on towards Forest Hill Road.
Honor Oak station was near the junction of Forest Hill Road and Wood Vale, opposite Brenchley Gardens. Again, there are signs of the embankment in Buckley Close and the Woodvale Estate.
Of course, the main purpose of the High Level Line was to offer quick and easy access to all the events and exhibitions that the Crystal Palace had to offer. The fate of the line was finally sealed on 30th November 1936 when the Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire. Although the line struggled on, closing briefly during World War 2, the inevitable happened and it was finally closed on 20th September 1954.

Much of the line is now woodland and nature trails, with bats roosting in the tunnel underneath Sydenham Hill, while other sections of the line became housing.

01 May 2014

Dulwich Arts Festival comes to Forest Hill

Next month between 10th–18th May, the Dulwich Arts Festival will take place across Dulwich, Forest Hill and Sydenham to celebrate the arts in all their forms; there will be a host of events taking place across south east London ranging from music, literature and art. Havelock Walk in Forest Hill (just off the South Circular, behind Canvas & Cream), will be a central part of the festival’s Open House Studios event. Now in its 11th year, the festival’s Open House Studios is a unique chance for the public to view and purchase one-off pieces directly from talented artists in the area and thereby avoiding the usual gallery commissions and premiums.

One of the artists showing her work during the festival is Pip Tunstill who has been a long time resident of the artistic community at Havelock Walk. She recollects, “Twelve years ago, my husband & I came to look a site that was for sale on a cold rainy winter morning, very early before work. We were walking a up and down Havelock Walk and as we passed a workshop, the door was open and a voice said ‘would you like a cup of tea?’ That was it! Coming from an area where you barely knew your neighbours this was a welcoming introduction to a street that has a very strong sense of community”.

Pip Tunstill has been working as a professional artist for more years that she cares to remember and studied Fine Art at Hornsey College of Art & Design (now Middlesex University). Pip teaches Design at the University of the Arts, and combines this with working as an abstract painter. In simplistic terms, abstract art uses form, color and line to create a composition which generally exists independently from a true representation of reality. Pip takes inspiration from the whole world around her; everything from colour itself to nature, the built environment, the sea, books and music. She uses oil, pencil and occasionally collage to translate her ideas onto canvas.

Pip is currently busy getting some new work completed for the festival’s Open Studios but generally her work is sold via art consultancies and galleries. Pip really enjoys taking part and says, “It’s good to stand back from your work and see it through other people’s eyes. You meet a wide variety of people and in Havelock Walk we put out the bunting, blow up the balloons, get out the barbecue and make it a very festive occasion”.

Pip has been a resident of Forest Hill for many years and her favourite things about the area are Havelock Walk itself, the Horniman Museum, Reeves Garage and The Overground.

Pip also loves the toasted cheese sandwiches at Aga’s Little Deli on Dartmouth Road, a relatively recent addition to the high street and a success story of the original farmer’s market run by the Society at the train station. Pip also enjoys swimming at the Forest Hill Pools and really relishes being able to pick up fresh produce at the Horniman Farmers market each Saturday (both of which the Forest Hill Society has been fundamental in getting off the ground). Moreover, it’s encouraging that Pip has identified the growing cohesiveness of the community spirit in Forest Hill. She says, “There’s a much more active local community with an increasing concern about local environmental issues pursued with energy by the ‘Totally Locally’ group and Forest Hill Society.”

If you would like to see Pip Tunstill’s beautiful work, the Open House Studio’s event will run at Havelock Walk during the weekends of 10/11 May and 17/18 May. You may also like to visit other studios across the area and more information can be found at www.openhouseart.co.uk/art-trail/dulwich-festival.

30 April 2014


Edible High Road Launch - Saturday 10th May, 2.00pm at the station forecourt.

Sydenham Garden Spring Fair - Saturday 10th May, 11am-3pm. 28a Wynell Rd, SE23 2LW

Havelock  Walk Open Studios - 10th-11th May, and 17th-18th May - 11am-6pm

Bike Ride, Sunday 11th May, from 8am at Devonshire Road Nature Reserve. Going to Richmond. Details contact jake@fhsoc.com

Teddy Bear’s Picnic, Devonshire Road Nature Reserve, Saturday 31st May

Visit the Olympic Park - Saturday 21st June

Festival in the Forest - Sunday 29th June, Dacres Wood Nature Reserve

Sydenham Arts Festival - Sat 5th July – Sun 20th July

Forest Hill Film Festival - 14th July

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve Open Day - Saturday 19th July

29 April 2014

The History and Collections of the Horniman Museum

A Talk by Finbarr Whooley, Assistant Director, Curatorial and Public Engagement at the Horniman Museum
7.45pm on Tuesday April 29 at the Golden Lion
116 Sydenham Road SE26 5JX
Admission £3

There are over 350,000 objects in the Horniman Collection.
Founded in 1901 by Frederick John Horniman, heir to the world's biggest tea-trading business, the museum first housed Frederick's eclectic collection of objects from around the world.
But the collection slowly grew adding to the museum's core focus on  Anthropology, Musical Instruments and Natural History, making it a local favourite and an institution of world renown.  

Organised by the Sydenham Society

25 April 2014

Forest Hill Street Piano


Forest Hill Station now has a street piano, located in the cycle shelter near On the Hoof’ coffee stand. The piano can be played by anybody at any time and we encourage you to stop by for a minute for a quick tickle of the ivories or for a full scale knees-up round the old Joanna.

22 April 2014

Plans for Miriam Lodge

There was an open meeting on 3rd April at Miriam Lodge to discuss the current management of Miriam Lodge and their plans for expansion. There was a general feeling from those present that they did not want to see a large extension to the existing hostel. A similar application in 2012 was rejected by Lewisham council planning department.

The developer had said that the documents shown on the wall would be made available for publishing on this website. To date this has not occurred, so the pictures below were taken on my phone. Below are a few photos of the proposed expansion to the hostel at the site:

1. The existing garden of the hostel which is planned to be built on (subject to planning permission), with a view of existing flats on Willow Way.

2.  Another view of the garden looking towards Holy Trinity church hall.

3. Typical floor view of the new building 'Willow Lodge'. This will not be joined to the existing Miriam Lodge except at ground floor level.

Lift will stop at all floors and half floors.

Windows are generally angled to reduce overlooking of neighbouring buildings.
 4. End-on view (from the south) with Miriam Lodge behind the five storey extension.
 5. Side on view (from the east) of the extension and the existing building to the right.
6. Impression of the expected view from Sydenham Park and the conservation area.
This can be compared with the existing view on Google Street view.