15 September 2017

A Liveable Neighbourhood for Forest Hill

In late July the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced a programme of ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ across London, to reduce reliance on cars and to encourage walking, cycling and use of public transport. £85.9 million has been made available to London’s boroughs for projects which seek to create healthier and more attractive places in which to live, play and do business. In anticipation of this, the Forest Hill Society and the Sydenham Society have been working behind the scenes to pave the way for a bid for a Liveable Neighbourhood covering Forest Hill, Perry Vale and Sydenham wards.

In the coming months, we will be holding community workshops across the area and engaging with key stakeholders, such as schools and elderly people’s groups, to create a truly community-driven plan for walking and cycling. Keep an eye out for our e-newsletters for details, but in the meantime we look forward to getting your input on this unique opportunity to make Forest Hill more liveable and healthier.

14 September 2017

Slow-worms: They’re Not Slow and They’re Not Worms!

Have you ever heard someone explain that a slow-worm is a snake, and a slow-moving snake at that? Or even a large worm? These myths are wrong, although a slow-worm does look rather snake-like at first glance.

They are, in fact, legless lizards that can shed their tails and blink with their eyelids, just like other lizards. They are smaller than snakes — around 30cm long — with a shiny, smooth grey skin, and they can live for up to 20 years!

Slow-worms are the most common reptiles to be found in London, and can be found in nature-reserves in south-east London (including along our railway line) where they seek out invertebrates to eat. 

They spend the winter hibernating in underground tunnels and log-piles until they emerge in March. Like other lizards, they give birth to live young. They like curling up in compost heaps and in warm spaces under corrugated metal, but if you find them they will wriggle away quickly. Cats will catch slow-worms and kill them, so be aware if you have a cat!

Slow-worms are a protected species; if you find any in your garden Lewisham Biodiversity Partnership would be happy to know. When waste ground comes up for redevelopment, it is important to establish whether slow-worms live there in order to ensure they are protected and new homes found for them.

You can help slow-worms by leaving log piles in underused areas of your garden for them to hibernate in through the winter.

Article by Alona Sheridan, Executive Committee

Photo by Grace Barrett of a slow-worm spotted in SE23

12 September 2017

Forest Hill Library - Volunteers Needed

Forest Hill Library is now run by volunteers from the local community who keep it open seven days a week. Thanks to their dedication the library continues to thrive, with visitor numbers up year-on-year and a great atmosphere at many events, especially in the ‘Baby Bounce’ group.

The library is always on the lookout for helpful people who can spare a few hours each week. This is a great way to do something worthwhile for the community — helping children and adults to access books and computers.

If you are interested in being part of a great volunteer team, please speak to anyone in the library or contact rota [a] fhlibrary.co.uk.

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