04 April 2015

Transport Update

London Bridge Station UpdateBy David McKenzie (Chair, Transport Committee)
6th February, 2015

You will no doubt be aware of the difficulties and disruptions affecting services on the Southern rail network as a consequence of the rebuilding of London Bridge station. The good news is that the rebuilding work on the southern side of the station is mostly complete. The bad news is that there is still one line down at Bermondsey until 2017, which is causing performance issues. Over the last few weeks, it seems that performance has improved (although infrastructure reliability remains a concern). However, Forest Hill passengers have been severely affected by the emergency withdrawal of 50% of Southern’s services during the evening peak hours.

The Forest Hill Society has been putting great pressure on Southern and Network Rail to fully reinstate the frequency of services to Forest Hill — as well as to improve on-time performance resulting from timetable changes — and we are hopeful that this will soon happen. We believe the Society is very effective at having its voice heard by Southern: for example, when it was announced that the 08:31 to London Bridge would be withdrawn starting in January, we successfully pressed for the 08:21 and 08:42 services to be consistently formed of 10 coaches, which is the maximum length possible that can be accommodated at Forest Hill station.

Our Response to London TravelWatch's London Overground Research Paper
By David McKenzie (Chair, Transport Committee)

On 31st October 2014, London TravelWatch published a research paper entitled ‘Value for money on London Overground — what passengers think’.* As a whole, the Forest Hill Society welcomes the recommendations in the paper. Key recommendations directly affecting Forest Hill are to:
• Upgrade London Overground ticket vending machines to allow the direct purchase of tickets to London Underground and DLR stations
• Eliminate gaps in the timetable to provide a ‘turn up and go’ timetable from first-to-last train on all days of the week
• Investigate the feasibility of providing extended canopies at busy stations
• Improve the amount and quality of information given to passengers, particularly in times of disruption and where multiple operators serve the same station

The Forest Hill Society will be especially pushing for the elimination of gaps in the timetable — particularly during the late-night service, which is quickly becoming sporadic and overcrowded. We would like to see the last Overground trains running as late as the last Southern trains (00:36 from London Bridge) or even later on Friday and Saturday nights in order to connect with the last Jubilee line trains at Canada Water (currently, the last southbound service to Forest Hill departs from Canada Water at 23:55).

On information provision, the Society attended a recent Lewisham Transport Liaison Committee meeting and pushed for a resolution to the issue of screens and announcements at Forest Hill station no longer stating the length of trains — this is particularly useful information when Southern services run with fewer coaches than expected.

* For the full article, visit www.londontravelwatch.org.uk. London TravelWatch is the passenger watchdog for all London transport users and is currently chaired by Stephen Locke, a resident of Honor Oak.

24-hour Overground in 2017?
By Michael Abrahams (Chair, Forest Hill Society)

In February, Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced that 24-hour services on the London Overground's East London Line will begin in 2017. However, these expanded night-time services would run only on Friday and Saturday nights.

While this is definitely a welcomed enhancement to services for South London, these services are only planned to cover the Overground section betwen Highbury & Islington and New Cross Gate. We believe that these services should continue further south to Crystal Palace or West Croydon all night, or at least until 2am. Over the next couple of years, we will be asking for serious consideration to be given to running these late-night trains as late as possible south of New Cross Gate.

Business Profile: The India Gate

David McKenzie from the Forest Hill Society met co-owner Amrit in his restaurant, The India Gate takeaway and dine-in restaurant. While David got down to his meal, Amrit answered some questions about taking over The India Gate, which is located at 47 London Road next to The Butchery.

Who owns the business and how long have you been open?It’s a one-off partnership between myself and the chef, Mr Mukti. We took over the restaurant in April 2014 and kept the name. However, the menu has been completely overhauled, offering a mix of Nepalese and Indian dishes.

Are you new to restaurants? No, I’ve got a lot of experience both managing and owning Indian restaurants. I moved here from Battersea where I owned a restaurant. Prior to this, I managed three restaurants in Crystal Palace.

Is takeaway/delivery or eat-in busier? At weekends, takeaway/ delivery is much busier though the restaurant is busy, too. Part of the strategy has been to do a lot of advertising online as well as in local newspapers. This advertising has driven a lot of business to our website (www.theindiagaterestaurant.co.uk), where orders receive a 20% discount.
(Certainly, on the night I was there, the restaurant was full but still had a relaxed atmosphere.)
What are your speciality dishes?• Pokhareli Duck: Pieces of marinated duck breast cooked in a Tandoor clay oven
• Jimbu Chicken: Chicken breast cooked in typical Nepalese style with Himalayan spices (Jimbu)
• Chicken Hyderabadi: A very hot combination of chicken and mincemeat in a Hyderabadi style of tangy sauce
• Lamb Xacuti: Lamb cooked with roasted aromatic fennel seeds, cloves, star anise, black pepper, and Goan spices in coconut sauce.

What’s the chef’s background? Mr Mukti grew up in Nepal where he was formally trained as a chef. Previously, he’d worked in Delhi and Ealing Broadway. He opened three restaurants in Dubai (which is where he and Amrit met) before moving to Forest Hill last year and when we took over The India Gate.

Why Forest Hill? As mentioned earlier, I used to live in Crystal Palace so I know the area well. While living in Battersea, Forest Hill started to become well known as an up and coming area and, with family still living locally, it made sense to move back here. The area is very busy with lots of passing trade and has a great feeling and vibe.

What are your future plans? 2015 will be a consolidation year here in Forest Hill before we look to expand next year.

03 April 2015

Forest Hill Society Member’s Profile:Quetta Kaye, Chair, Environment Committee

Have you ever wondered who is responsible for the beautiful flowers and plants in the planters on the forecourt and platforms at Forest Hill station, the distribution of over a 100 plant-filled tubs outside businesses and shops last summer (supported by the Forest Hill traders), and planting bulbs in Horniman Triangle, to name but a few initiatives? Well, her name is Quetta Kaye!

As Chair of the Forest Hill Society’s Environment Committee, Quetta is the driving force behind many high-profile green initiatives in Forest Hill’s town centre and surrounding green spaces.

Quetta would be the first to say that she has not achieved this alone; she inspires a team of committed FHS members and other Forest Hill residents who volunteer when they can. She also works closely with local businesses in Forest Hill to support her. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” is her motto when getting things done!

Quetta and her team’s hard labour has indeed borne fruit in the form of ‘Outstanding’ awards for Forest Hill from the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘London in Bloom: It’s Your Neighbourhood’ category for the second year running in 2014!

Quetta is often asked about her unusual name, which is a diminutive of the name Jacquetta, a feminine form of the French Jacques. Originally from a small village on Dartmoor in Devon, Quetta moved with her parents when she was a child to the Kent coast. These rural surroundings and her appreciation of the open air have stayed with her and shaped her life ever since. From Kent, Quetta moved to North London to study and work but, contemplating having children, she ‘reluctantly’ moved to Forest Hill 40 years ago, where property prices were cheaper.

She was soon very pleasantly surprised by Forest Hill: the accessibility to green space, parks (particularly Horniman Triangle park), and even woodlands close by, in addition to her own garden. Added to this, Quetta was impressed with good local schools, the Horniman Museum and Gardens, the local swimming pool and library, and good transport links both into central London and to Kent. This all proved to be a happy place in which to bring up her three children.

Quetta spent an interesting period working in politics at the Houses of Parliament, as Personal Assistant to various backbench MPs. Quetta was also able to work from home before flexible working became mainstream whilst bringing up her young children in the late 1960’s and 70’s. When her youngest child started school, Quetta fulfilled a lifelong interest to study Archaeology at University. She was soon working on excavations in England but for the last 12 years has co-directed an excavation project on Carriacou Island in the Caribbean, during which time she completed a PhD, looking at aspects of pre-colonial Caribbean archaeology.

Quetta strongly believes that individuals can make a difference if enough of them do the same thing at the same time and stand up for what they believe in order to effect change. She believes that participation in community-led pressure groups, like the Forest Hill Society, is a great vehicle to improve the life of Forest Hill residents.

Quetta joined the Forest Hill Society after getting involved in the campaign against the closure of the Forest Hill swimming pool, where she met members of the Society. Quetta then attended an AGM where she volunteered to join the Environment Committee — a natural place for her, given her background — and became the Chair in 2009.

Quetta has plans for the coming year to win a third Outstanding award from the RHS (to qualify for the Champion of Champion award!), and plant hops on Platform 1 at Forest Hill station perhaps leading to the creation of a Forest Hill pint to rival Crystal Palace’s Palace Pint. This is a real step forward considering several years ago, Forest Hill station had plastic flowers hanging in baskets!

More broadly, Quetta is also keen to see improved signage in Forest Hill, the removal of some of the ugly street furniture, and more environmental initiatives such as working with Sydenham School’s girls who recently picked up five large bags of litter along Dartmouth Road in one hour! She is also keen to make better use of the car park in Perry Vale, behind Forest Hill station, suggesting that even a simple, sloped wheelchair access path from the car park onto Platform 2 would be a good start!

If this profile has inspired you to get involved or help make Forest Hill greener, please contact the Forest Hill Society now!

Article  by Helen Wicks (Communications Committee)

02 April 2015

Everything's Going to Look Bloomin' Marvellous!

Quetta Kaye (Chair, Environment Committee) provided information for this report. See the Forest Hill Society’s website for updates, which will be posted when details become available.

Landscaping-improvement areas
Forest Hill station
*: A working group is to be organised soon to tidy up the station’s platform and forecourt planters. This is in preparation for the Forest Hill Society’s entry for London in Bloom’s annual It’s Your Neighbourhood scheme, which is run by the RHS Britain in Bloom campaign. Judging takes place between 29th June-17th July, 2015.
Job Centre Plus, 32-34 Dartmouth Road: Before Christmas nearly 600 free bulbs supplied by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association were planted beneath the trees in front of the Centre by volunteers.
Horniman Triangle play area*: On Thursday, 9th April from 11am-2pm, 30 hedgerow whips (young bare-root saplings) provided by the Woodland Trust are to be planted by Nature’s Gym and a general litter pick-up and tidying exercise is to be undertaken — volunteers are welcome! By early spring, 400 bulbs that were planted by volunteers in mid-December are expected to be blooming.
London Road pavement, opposite the Horniman Museum: Transport for London has advised us that two Indian Bean trees will soon be planted to fill in the gaps left by former trees.
London and Dartmouth Roads: The Edible High Road will continue its journey this year with local businesses sponsoring tubs of fragrant plants, adding vitality and interest to the town centre this summer. Each tub will comprise either a Bay tree, lavender or rosemary and be surrounded by Sanvitalia, a yellow trailing daisy-like plant. Potting-up day is planned for Saturday, 25th April (11:30am-3pm) at the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve, 170 Devonshire Road, with distribution planned for Saturday, 9th May (3-5pm). Volunteers are not just welcome, they are actively encouraged!

Hop growing in Forest Hill
The Forest Hill Society is encouraging people to plant easy-to-grow hops which, when ripe and harvested, can be combined with those of others as part of a community project to produce a local beer — perhaps even Forest Hill's own version of Crystal Palace’s Palace Pint?

Clutter clean-upTown centre: Plans are on-going, through campaigning work by the Society working with local businesses, but progress is slow, in tidying up the unsightly areas above and beside Forest Hill station’s underpass.

Long-term campaign
In the long term, we are working on an environmental campaign to consider car use in Forest Hill that will seek to address the problems of air pollution, noise, safety, and parking issues created by both through traffic and local traffic.

* Funding for plants and associated materials for these areas was awarded to the Forest Hill Society in November by the Forest Hill Assembly for the 2014-15 year, under the auspices of the Society’s Making Forest Hill Beautiful proposal.

Ward Assembly Funding 2014-15

At Forest Hill and Perry Vale Assembly meetings on 23rd and 27th November, respectively, local residents decided on how to spend the annual £12,500 Assembly Fund that each ward had been allocated for 2014-15 by Lewisham Council. Priorities for funding had already been identified at previous Assembly meetings: for the Forest Hill Assembly, these were youth engagement and provision, making Forest Hill more attractive, and community events and publicity; while for the Perry Vale Assembly the top priorities were the environment, roads and traffic, activities for younger people, antisocial behaviour and crime, and activities for the whole community.

At both Assembly meetings, residents were encouraged to talk to representatives of each of the groups who had submitted proposals for projects to be funded (up to max. £2,500) and completed by November 2015, and were then asked to mark each proposal out of 10. Based on the number of votes received (highest first), the following groups' projects were awarded a share of Assembly Funds.

Forest Hill projects• Crime Reduction Initiatives (CRI): Family Fun Day (£2,500)
• Lite-Waves Therapeutic Education: Re-Connect Programme at Platform 1 (£2,500)
• Lite-Waves Therapeutic Education: Therapeutic Art Project at Platform 1 (£2,500)
• Friends of Albion Millennium Green: Storage container (£2,475)
• Forest Hill Society: Making Forest Hill Beautiful (£600)
• Doopo Doopo CIC Art Hub And Gallery: Kelvin Grove Activities (£1,120)
• Sydenham Arts: Sydenham Arts Festival 2015 (£805*)

Perry Vale projects
• Grow Mayow: Beekeeping activities (£1,890)
• Dalmain Athletic Girl’s Football Project (£2,000)
• Safer Neighbourhood Team: Crime Prevention and Awareness Days (£1,584)
• Young Lewisham Project: Intergenerational Project Young Lewisham and Mind (£1,560)
• Sydenham Forest Hill Youth Forum: Consortium Development Project (£1,912)
• London Thunder: Community Basketball Project (£2,000)
• The Forest with the Big Hill: Storytelling Project (£300)
• Seniors: Young Enterprise Day (£1,254*)
* Projects that received partial funding.

It’s not too early to start thinking about a worthy cause or need that deserves support in 2016 since this funding is available only once per year.

For more info: www.lewisham.gov.uk/getinvolved/localassemblies/assembly-funding/Pages/Local-assembliesfunding.aspx
Article by John Wysocki, Newsletter Editor

01 April 2015

Woodlands — Springing Back to Life!

Three of Forest Hill’s natural assets are relatively small pockets of woodlands located next to the railway line running between Honor Oak Park and Sydenham stations. These sites are open to the public, albeit on limited days in two cases, and are managed by dedicated groups of volunteers. Now that spring has arrived after winter’s lull, activities — as well as plants — at these sites are starting to show signs of renewed life.

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve (DRNR) abuts the west side of the railway line between Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park stations, and has been run by the Friends of Devonshire Road Nature Reserve (FDRNR) for 15 years now, who have been awarded a Green Pennant year after year.

Since October, the Friends have been doing tree and brushwood removal around the edges of the reserve’s meadows, and improving paths. Starting this spring, guided school visits — or ‘Muddy Boots’ sessions — will be offered to primary school children.

The Friends are in desperate need of someone to help run their website and with publicity, as well as to volunteer in general; for more info, see contact details below or attend the Friends’ annual general meeting on Sunday 22nd March.

DRNR is open to the public on the last Sunday of each month (currently between 2-5:30pm). 170 Devonshire Rd, SE23 3SZ.
For more info: www.devonshireroadnaturereserve.org

Albion Millennium Green (AMG) is situated on the west side of the railway line between Sydenham and Forest Hill stations. It is managed by the Friends of Albion Millennium Green, who organise a range of arts-related activities and plantmanagement work days throughout the year. After a winter break, work days, which occur on the second Saturday of each month, will start again in March.

At the Friends’ annual general meeting held on 21st February at Forest Hill Pools, activities and achievements in a very productive year were highlighted, including:
• Work carried out by volunteers that resulted in a Green Flag Award being awarded again.
• The AMG’s owner, the Albion Millennium Green Trust, a charitable trust, being revitalized at its AGM in November with the election of a new board of trustees.
• Also in November, the Friends being successfully awarded a Forest Hill Assembly grant for a much-needed 10-foot storage container, in order to securely house equipment and materials.

AMG is accessed year-round from Albion Villas Road, SE26 or the path adjacent to the railway line. For more info: www.amgfriends.org.uk

Dacres Wood Nature Reserve (DWNR) abuts the east side of the railway line between Forest Hill and Sydenham stations, and is run by the Friends of Dacres Wood Nature Reserve (FoDWNR) committee.

Having closed for the winter months, the Friends group is planning to re-open the reserve to the public on 28th March for regular last-Saturday-of-the-month open days. A variety of outdoor sessions and activities, including nature trail days, will then be offered in the spring for pre-school children and school children aged 5-plus.

The Friends group is looking for more volunteers to help on open days, plan and run events, or even join the committee.

DWNR is situated behind Homefield House, Dacres Estate,Dacres Road, SE23 2NZ. Its main entrance is at the end of Honeyfield Mews, which is off Dacres Road and just south of Catling Close. For more info: dacreswood.org.uk.

Article by John Wysocki, Newsletter Editor

Local Dates for your Diary

Forest Hill Society’s Edible High Road, potting-up day: Sat 25th April, 11.30am-3pm. Devonshire Road Nature Reserve, 170 Devonshire Rd.

Forest Hill Society’s Edible High Road, distribution day: Sat 9th May, 3-5pm. Devonshire Road Nature Reserve, 170 Devonshire Rd.

Havelock Walk Open Studios: Sat 9th-Sun 10th & Sat 16th-Sun 17th May, 11am-6pm. Part of Artists’ Open House, Dulwich Festival 2015. For all participating SE23 artists and venues, see www.dulwichfestival.co.uk/openhouse

Forest Hill Society’s Edible High Road, launch day: Sat 16th May, 2.30pm. Forest Hill station forecourt.

Horniman Farmers’ Market: Every Sat 9am-1:30pm, Horniman Gardens’ bandstand.

Dacres Wood Nature Reserve: Open to the public on the last Saturday of each month, 1-4pm. 28th March, 25th April, 30th May. Behind Dacres Estate, Dacres Road.

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve: Open to the public on the last Sunday of each month, 2-5:30pm. 29th March, 26th April, 31st May. 170 Devonshire Road.

19 March 2015

Funding awarded for improvements in Dartmouth Road

The bid for £113,000 from the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund has been successful. The bid was submitted by SEE3, V22, and Lewisham Council with the support of the Forest Hill society.

The funding will help improve public space on Dartmouth Road and will help to develop a long-term cultural strategy. Plans include animating the underused spaces outside Forest Hill library, Louise House and Forest Hill pools, to ensure they are a key feature of the place.

V22 have also received Arts Council funding to renovate the old laundry at Louise House and the rear garden. The plan is that in a year from now there will be an integrated space around the library, Louise House and the pools that will provide a welcoming area for a range of events, markets and other community activities.

This grant adds to the £600,000 from Transport for London for pedestrian and road improvements from the library to the junction with the South Circular. The initial concept design work is now underway to see how the public realm can be improved with views being sought on areas such as parking arrangements.

More details from the South London Press.

12 March 2015

Local History Talk - Wednesday 25th March

The Forest Hill Society has organised a Local history talk by Steve Grindlay following the publication of his new book ‘Sydenham & Forest Hill Through Time’.

The talk will take place on Wednesday 25th March, 7:30pm. At The Hob pub (opposite Forest Hill Station). Entry is free to members and non-members.

Steve is a great speaker and his talks are always illuminating and well attended. If you want to know anything about the history of Forest Hill you should come along.

03 March 2015

Life is better in South London

Talk London have produced a survey of Londoners with over 3,600 people taking part. This paints a positive picture of many aspects of London Life, but particularly in South London.

They provide data divided by area of London and the results in South London stand out in a few areas. Below are a few of the areas where South London stands out. It shows that South Londoners like their local area more than other Londoners like their area - only Central Londoners come close to the 83% satisfaction rate. South London is more than 7 percentage points ahead as a pleasant place to live.

South Londoners feel safer walking in their local areas both during the day and at night, during the day this is up at 95%. They see the best relations between different ethnic and religious communities, and more generally they see local people working together to make the place better.

However, on the issue of roads South Londoners see less improvement and investment than other areas of London. 47% of South Londoners have seen no improvement in roads 'circling outer London' (there was not an options to say it has got worse) and only 10% have seen any reduction in congestion - less than any other part of London (again there was not an option to say it has got worse).

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with your local area as a place to live? Very or Fairly satisfied: 82.1% 69.8% 82.7% 69.5% 72.5%
My local area is a pleasant place to live Agree: 76.3% 69.1% 83.6% 70.3% 74.2%
There are good relations between different ethnic and religious communities in my local area Agree: 51.7% 51.3% 57.1% 51.9% 55.5%
People in my local area work together to improve the neighbourhood Agree: 37.0% 37.3% 41.6% 38.2% 37.7%
How safe do you feel walking alone in your local area during the day Very or quite safe: 90.6% 91.4% 95.1% 88.6% 88.1%
How safe do you feel walking alone in your local area during the evening Very or quite safe: 62.8% 55.2% 69.5% 55.7% 58.5%

Thinking about how you get around London, have you noticed any improvement in roads, and if so how much? - Road routes circling outer London not at all: 27.1% 36.5% 47.5% 41.4% 44.8%
Thinking about how you get around London, have you noticed any improvement in roads, and if so how much? - Road congestion A lot or a little: 14.8% 14.2% 10.4% 15.6% 15.4%

All figures come from the London Datastore.