11 September 2017

Walters Way: 30th Anniversary

This year Walters Way in Honor Oak Park is celebrating its 30th anniversary — with a new book and a special Open House event.  Alice Grahame, author and resident tells us a bit more about these unusual houses.

If you have ever explored the Honor Oak area you may have seen the unusual box-like half-timbered houses that make up the Segal self-build estates. They are the result of an innovative housing experiment in the late 1970s and early '80s that was supported by Lewisham Council and led by pioneering, German-born architect Walter Segal. The scheme gave ordinary people from the council’s waiting list the chance to build their own homes using a technique designed by Segal.

The self-builders spent around 18 months building, mostly working evenings and weekends. Instead of bricks and mortar the houses were made from timber, panels and bolts — materials that were easy for novices to work with. The resulting homes were light and airy, and raised above the ground on stilts. The two most famous streets were named after their architect: Walters Way and Segal Close.

As a Segal resident myself, I was fascinated by the stories behind the houses. I did not build my own house; rather, I bought it from the original builder, who provided intriguing tales about the circumstances that made the scheme possible and about the experiences of the builders.

I set out to find out more and this resulted in a book: Walters Way and Segal Close, The Architect Walter Segal and London's Self-Build Communities, produced with Segal Close resident and photographer Taran Wilkhu. For the book we spoke to people who remembered working with Segal on the self-build projects. We included current residents, who explained what the houses were like to live in and about the strong community spirit. The book is now available in bookshops and online.
We hope that this book will generate interest in Segal and encourage people to consider self-build as a housing option. Self-build is sometimes pitched as a possible solution to London’s housing shortage. While the government has committed to enabling more self-build homes, it continues to make up a far smaller proportion of the housing stock than in other European countries.

One of the direct legacies of Walters Way is the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS), a new community self-build project set up by Kareem Dayes, who is the son of one of the families who built a house on Walters Way. RUSS has been working with Lewisham Council to create 33 homes on a vacant site in Ladywell, and they  are currently crowdfunding to build a community space in the Segal self-build style. RUSS is a membership organisation and is keen for more people to get involved.

Walter Segal never saw the Walters Way scheme finished, as he died in 1985, two years before it was completed in 1987. This year we are celebrating 30 years since Walters Way was finished. We are having a special London Open House event on Sunday, 17th September. Both Walters Way and Segal Close will be open to the public, who will have the chance to see inside some of these unusual buildings. There will also be representatives of RUSS on hand to discuss their new self-build project and future plans for community self-build.

As part of London Open House on Sunday 17 September, Segal Close is open in the morning and Walters Way is open in the afternoon.
“Walters Way and Segal Close: The Architect Walter Segal and London's Self-Build Communities”, published by Park Books
Ladywell Self-Build Community Space Crowdfunder — www.spacehive.com/ladywellselfbuild
Rural Urban Synthesis Society — www.theruss.org

Photo: Taran Wilkhu

Fewer Trains — Not If We Can Help It!

Earlier this year Govia Thameslink Railways (which includes Southern) consulted on changes to be made to services from 2018. Together with the Sydenham Society we met with rail planners and discussed our concerns about the planned changes.

Initially, Southern were planning to remove extra peak services from our line, leaving just four trains per hour from Forest Hill to London Bridge. Local residents responded that they did not wish to lose peak services of six trains per hour, and these now appear to be safe.

The first draft of the consultation included plans to scrap all direct services from Forest Hill to East Croydon — diverting the existing services to West Croydon. Following our representations, we understand that the existing half-hourly services to East Croydon will be retained.

Nevertheless, three outstanding issues remain where we need to ensure that Southern does not cut our services, as proposed in the latest draft timetable:
Although most East Croydon trains will be retained, no trains are scheduled to run between Norwood Junction and East Croydon before 8:30am. At certain times of the day, particularly in the morning peak, passengers from Forest Hill would need to travel via London Bridge to get to East Croydon and beyond.
In the opposite direction — from East Croydon to Forest Hill — there will be no direct trains during the evening peak (as is the case today), but services between East Croydon and Norwood Junction will be reduced to half-hourly, making it harder to connect from East Croydon to Forest Hill.
There is to be a reduction in late-evening trains from London Bridge to Forest Hill, resulting in a half-hourly service after 10:30pm.

We had hoped that the completion of the Thameslink upgrade would mean a better service for South Londoners, but in the latest plans this is not the case. We will continue to fight to retain our train services and look for further improvements, such as upgrading all Southern’s services via Forest Hill to 10-carriage trains.

10 September 2017

Dates for Your Diary

Autumn Walk in the Woods: Sunday, 8th October, 2:30pm. Meet at the main entrance to Horniman Gardens for a walk through Sydenham Woods

Autumn Planting at Forest Hill Station: Saturday, 14th October, 2pm

Forest Hill Society AGM: Thursday 19th October, 7:30pm at Louise House

Members and non-members are invited to our Annual General Meeting on Thursday, 19th October 2017, 7:30pm at Louise House (adjacent to the library on Dartmouth Road).

Our AGM sets the direction for the Society in the year ahead and elects  the Executive Committee. If you are interested in getting more involved on the Executive, or in any other way, please contact michael@fhsoc.com for more details.

18 August 2017

01 August 2017

Summer Festival at Community Market Garden - Saturday 19th August

Sydenham Garden charity is holding its annual summer festival in its community market garden. It is being held on the De Frene Road site (between 35 and 37 De Frene Road, Sydenham, London, SE24 4AB) on Saturday 19th August 12-5 pm.

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As well as live music from local bands there will be workshops. These include crafts, childrens activities (den building, magical clay faces on trees, creating bubbles and nature crowns), garden sustainability and bee keeping talks, hula hoop taster, pizza spinning and more.

The majority of the workshops are free, those that are charged for are all under £5 and there in a small charge on the door. All money raised is for Sydenham Garden which supports people recovering from mental and physical ill-health in Lewisham and surrounding London boroughs.
As well as on the door tickets can also be bought in advance online or alternatively email: david [at] sydenhamgarden.org

02 July 2017

Garthorne Road Family Afternoon

Family fun on Monday 10th July from 3:30pm at Garthorne Road Nature Reserve

27 June 2017

Challenge launched to create a vision for future development of Forest Hill town centre


Discourse Architecture*, working with the Forest Hill Society, call for a debate about the future of the area around the station and a challenge to uncoordinated commercial development

A review of opportunities to reconfigure Forest Hill town centre will be presented at Forest Hill Ward Meeting at Sydenham Girls' School at 7.30pm on Tuesday 27 June. In consultation with the Forest Hill Society, Discourse Architecture propose that currently under-used sites around the station should be developed as part of a coordinated vision, which improves the environment for local residents and businesses. They argue that without a new approach unsatisfactory piecemeal development will continue unchecked. As part of their study they have researched the history and development of Forest Hill, from the short-lived canal, which was replaced by the railway, and the three stations of increasing magnificence to the current unprepossessing station, built after bomb damage to the last Victorian station. Discourse Architecture, who include local resident Simon McCormack, Michael Badu and Italian architect Bruno Tonelli, have prepared the proposals out of a sense of frustration that the absence of an ambitious strategy is creating a vacuum and that a once-in-hundred-years’ opportunity to improve the town centre will be lost.

View a map with all the images here.

Ideas include:
- A new main station building on the site of WH Smiths with step-free access to the shortened existing pedestrian underpass
- Reducing parking adjacent to the main station and creating a west-facing parade of shops and cafes with housing above. New buildings will be set back from the South Circular, which will be lined with trees
- Improved parking on the sorting office site at lower ground level, with housing at upper ground level and step-free links to the main station and Forest Hill Pools
- Making a new Perry Vale station entrance with lift access to platform level
- Creating new housing on the triangular site currently occupied by the former coal depot    Consideration of  an alternative approach retaining the Victorian coal depot, perhaps as a market or hub for start-ups
- Making the S Circular end of Perry Vale one-way to promote a better street environment for local people and businesses
- Creating an improved connection between the existing alley and the main station: improved sight lines and possibly some Havelock Walk style studio buildings

Public feedback is invited on the proposals, which can be viewed above, in an exhibition at Forest Hill Library from 28 June to 6 July. It is proposed to incorporate the feedback in a revised proposal that can be taken forward for consultation with Lewisham Council, TfL, Railtrack and other interested parties.

*Discourse Architecture was established in 2016 by Michael Badu, Simon McCormack and Bruno Tonelli to create a platform for people with an interest in the built environment to exchange ideas. Michael and Simon live locally while Bruno is based in Brescia, in Northern Italy. They communicate via email and Skype with occasional face to face meetings. Their work on Forest Hill is unpaid

23 June 2017

How to be a Curious Entomologist

Insects are everywhere. They are so many, and so varied — fascinating, beautiful, mysterious, bizarre. Through their mind-boggling biodiversity they offer us a window into the ecological complexity of life on Earth, and give us a powerful insight of the workings of the natural world. But their small size means they can easily be overlooked or ignored. However it doesn’t take much specialist equipment to have a closer look.

Using simple methods and materials provided, this 1-day workshop will look at techniques to find and observe a wide variety of different insects, then how to preserve sample specimens for examination under the microscope.

In the morning, we’ll tour the reserve, finding and discussing the many different insect groups — looking at their structure, behaviour, life histories, and some easy identification pointers. In the afternoon, during the laboratory session, there will be the opportunity to look at some in more detail, and consider how studying insects can contribute to our understanding of nature, and the contribution it can make through citizen science.

Curious? Why curious? Entomologists might, at first, seem a bit eccentric, but they pursue their study of the natural world with a passion fuelled by curiosity.

Richard Jones is an acclaimed expert entomologist, a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and a former President of the British Entomological and Natural History Society. He writes regularly for BBC Wildlife, Countryfile, Gardeners’ World and Sunday Times. He has written several books on insects, including Extreme Insects, The Little Book of Nits, House Guests — House Pests, and Call of Nature — The Secret Life of Dung.

£35 for the one day course
Booking essential via nick.pond@lewisham.gov.uk