28 March 2022

Asterley Bros − The Spirit of SE23

By Gary Thornton

An industrial estate on Dalmain Road isn’t the most obvious place to find Mediterranean-inspired treasure but, hidden away in a shed outside the Keynote Studios, you’ll find brothers Rob and Jim Berry carefully crafting a range of vermouths, amari and cocktails − inspired by traditional Sicilian recipes, but nurtured in Forest Hill.

I caught up with managing director Rob Berry to find out more.

Where did it all start, and how did you end up in Forest Hill?
We had both always worked in hospitality, but I married into a Sicilian family in 2009 and, like many families in the region, they had their own recipe for making Amaro, a herbal, bitter and sweet spirit commonly drunk as a digestif after meals. We started to make it ourselves, but then thought that as recipes for Amari differ from place to place, we should do a London version, using botanicals that are found locally rather than in the mountains around Palermo.

Using Culpeper’s London Dispensatory, we came up with our own recipe for Dispense Amaro in 2014, which uses some of the herbs and botanicals which are common in the area, such as chickweed, hops and yarrow. These produce a more medicinal, less sweet flavour which we think captures the essence of our region.

As we both live in Sydenham, we wanted to find a base nearby, and we moved into the Keynote Studios in 2017.

What is the origin of the Asterley name?
It’s our mother’s maiden name. We would have chosen Berry Bros, but obviously someone else got there first.

How do make your Amaro?
Our recipe calls for quite a complicated process − we take neutral grain spirit at 96% abv, cut it with filtered water, and use it to macerate citrus and dried fruits. Separately we macerate the bitter herbs and hard spices in another spirit reduction, and the remaining botanicals in English red wine. After a month the three liquids are combined with sugar, to produce the end result.

You sell a Britannica London Fernet − how does this differ from Dispense?
Common Fernets, such as Fernet Branca, are typically a super-charged version of Amaro, with a higher ABV and less sweetness. We have toned it down a little for British tastes, so we include London porter and coffee, making it more approachable and palatable by rounding off the more bitter notes.  

You also make two types of vermouth?

Yes, we have a dry version − Schofield’s, and a sweet − Estate. We again use English wine, a combination of whites (Bacchus, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay) for the dry, and red (Pinot Noir) for the sweet, and aromatics such as lavender, jasmine and camomile. European vermouths typically use a neutral wine, so the role of the botanicals is more important, For us, we wanted something which brings out the character of both. It’s a more playful and friendly version of a vermouth, and drinks as well neat over ice as in a cocktail.

How did the Asterley Bros Cocktail Club come about?

We already had a range of Christmas cocktails, but with the first lockdown in 2020 hospitality dried up practically overnight, and we knew we had to do something different to replace lost sales. As people were stuck at home, we had the idea of creating different cocktails and delivering them to members who sign up for a monthly subscription. We include mixers, snacks and also samples of different Amari from around the world.

How do you come up with the cocktail recipes?
We have different cocktails themed around the four seasons, and they are our own take on classics such as Negroni and Manhattan − the only condition is that we have to include one of our own spirits. We work with Joe Schofield, an award-winning bartender who runs his own bar in Manchester, and he develops and tests each recipe.

The cocktail packaging is very striking. How did you come by it?

It was a deliberate decision to be different from the classical look of the other products. We wanted it to reflect the fun of cocktails, and we found the artist Ryan Gajda on Instagram. Ryan creates a different image for us each season, which appears on the packaging and on a limited edition print which goes out to subscribers.

You have an online shop, but where else can we find your spirits?
They are stocked at places like Hawksmoor, Claridge’s and Harvey Nichols, but also more locally at Two Spoons, The Butchery and Clapton Craft.  

And finally, what does the future hold for Asterley Bros?
We’re raising funds for expansion at the moment, so we can take on more full time staff. It’ll mean moving to larger premises, but we want to remain in Forest Hill.

For more information, and for the online shop visit www.asterleybros.com.

Asterley Bros Cocktails

Cherry Americano
•  25ml Estate Vermouth
•  25ml Doghouse Distillery ‘Doppelganger’ Aperitivo
•  5ml Cherry Liqueur / Creme de Cerise
•  5 Dashes Aromatic Bitters
•  2 drops Citric Acid tincture (20g citric acid / 50ml water)

1.  Add the ingredients to an ice-filled glass
2.  Stir for 10 seconds
3.  Top with soda

Strawberry Spritz
•  25ml Victory Bitters
•  20ml SCHOFIELD’S Dry Vermouth
•  15ml Wild Strawberry Liqueur (Merlet Fraise de Bois)
•  2 dashes Orange Bitters

1.  Add the ingredients to an ice-filled wine glass
2.  Add 75ml tonic or rose prosecco
3.  Stir for 10 seconds
4.  Garnish with a slice of orange

27 March 2022

Forest Hill Library update

By John Firmin

Forest Hill Community library is emerging from coronavirus restrictions in good shape. Now open seven days a week, footfall each month is around 6,500 and while this is below the level before the pandemic, the recovery is faster than at other Lewisham libraries. Group meetings have resumed with the popular Rhyme time for the under 5’s at 10am on Tuesdays and children’s origami on one Saturday each month.

Throughout the pandemic, the library continued to receive a steady stream of new books from Lewisham libraries especially in the children’s section, which continues to account for the majority of book borrowing. More children completed the summer reading challenge at Forest Hill than at any other library in the borough. This year, children were asked to review the books they read and post their reviews in the library. Forest Hill accounted for almost half the reviews posted in all Lewisham libraries. Well done to our younger readers! For older children and students, the library provides a safe space to study after school.

Good use continues to be made of the computers available to the public in the adult section. This service is vital to people without access to the internet at home when most job vacancies require on-line searches. If this applies to you, the volunteers at the library are ready to help you use the computers there.

Most recently, the community library was successful in two NCIL bids: £2,900, which will be used to redecorate and refurbish the busy children’s library; and £2,075 for developing room at the rear of the library.  This will be divided in two to provide a dedicated space for community use and hire and a smaller space for volunteers.  Work on both projects will be completed this year.  Additionally, Library Garden is receiving £9,451, which will enable it to complete landscaping work including raised beds and a seating area”.

The Library Garden Group is continuing to carve out a productive vegetable and dye garden from the space behind Forest Hill Library. The dye garden proved fruitful last Summer and enabled the project stewards to run a series of natural fabric dyeing and sewing workshops.

Through seed sowing and planting out dye plant plugs, the garden was full of bright, profusely flowering, annuals and perennials. There were over 50 sunflowers, ranging from the simple yellow to a Hopi black, and our tallest, at 3.05m won London Harvest Festival's Tallest Sunflower competition. The first raised vegetable bed was completed last Autumn, and planted up with onions, garlic and winter cabbages at a Moonlight Gardening event full of lantern making and folk music.

Looking to the future, Library Garden is taking steps to finish the main infrastructure of the garden, seeking to complete all raised beds and provide a comfortable seating area for volunteers and visitors. After applying to the Forest Hill NCIL ward at the end of last year, the garden has been recommended for enough money to carry out this hard landscaping work. It will be delivered over the course of the next year in one 'Hands-On' session per week, focusing on the more physical aspects of completing the garden build.

A short maintenance gardening course for Lewisham residents is also on the horizon in order to restore the Louise House wildlife garden to a flourishing state (funding dependent). As always, the more volunteers the merrier, so contact hello@librarygarden.org.uk for more information about how to get involved.

From March the library has resumed opening on all evenings Monday-Thursday but does need more volunteers to cover these times. If you can do so, or if you are interested in volunteering at other times you are most welcome. Library volunteers include young adults on work experience and on schemes like that of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Future challenges for Forest Hill Community Library include doing more to bridge the digital divide and making the library eco-friendlier with more efficient heating and lighting. Both, however, depend on continued success in grant applications.

The library is self-funding. You can help by becoming a friend (£29 per annum) or a patron (a single payment of £300). And corporate friendship is also available for £99 or a single payment of £500. The library is a registered charity and when made by UK taxpayers donations qualify for gift aid.

If you would like to volunteer at the library or find out more about being a friend or a patron please contact the manager, Stephen Bruce at the library, or on 020 8244 0634 or by e mail to stephen@fhlibrary.co.uk.

26 March 2022


By Quetta Kaye

Watch the flowers spring up in your neighbourhood (squirrels and the weather permitting) because before Christmas hundreds of bulbs were distributed by stalwarts of the Forest Hill Society. The bulbs were donated by Energy Gardens and the Forest Hill Society, but the majority came from a Metropolitan Public Gardens Association grant. They went to the Sydenham Society, Kilmorie and Horniman Schools, the Library gardens, planters at Kirkdale, in and around Forest Hill station and nearby street corners, around the trees in London Road opposite the Horniman Museum, as well as to some neighbourhood guerrilla gardeners.

Other hopefuls for Spring viewing will be a white climbing rose newly planted to overhang the underpass, and a new clematis to cover the blank wall on platform 1 at Forest Hill station, replacing those plants cut down when tarmacking of the area took place last year. Wildflower seeds have also been scattered on the waste patch behind the nearby passenger waiting room in the hope of attracting more bees and other insect life to that area.

2022 will see the Forest Hill Society’s Clean Air group pressing forward with acquiring important air pollution data and progressing the plans to limit car parking in Forest Hill station forecourt in order to provide safe pedestrian access and to green up the area. Talks have been held, measurements taken, and things are moving in the right direction − at last.




25 March 2022

Climate Action Lewisham

By Zaria Greenhill, chair of Climate Action Lewisham

As you may know, Lewisham council declared a climate emergency in 2020 with the stated aim of reaching Net Zero Carbon by 2030. This is an ambitious aim, with good reason, and it asks a lot of the council’s operations, the elected representatives and the communities of Lewisham to work together to achieve that aim. It sounds daunting and demanding, but it’s a great chance for us to work together, to deepen our creativity, our humanity, appreciate our nature, make our streets and public spaces better; healthy, green, clean, pleasant and convivial.

Climate Action Lewisham supported the declaration of Climate Emergency back in 2019 and now support and challenge the council to go further and do better. And we offer events and ideas and projects to the community to help us all learn and adapt. We have Lewisham Family Cycling Library, which has regular public events in local parks where families can try out an e-cargo trike and some children’s bike trailers, and then hire them if they find they like them.

We also organise local litter picks alongside community groups. We have monthly meetings, mostly online, with speakers and themes, and we also do advocacy and lobbying to Lewisham council.

We believe that our resilience, our courage, our creativity and our connectedness will help us play our part in mitigating the Climate Crisis and also to weather its effects.

If you’d like to ride an e-trike, have a clean-up, learn more about sustainability or learn how to speak to your council or MP, you’re welcome to join our mailing list on our website: www.climateactionlewisham.org
Twitter: @actionlewisham

Sadiq Khan comes to Forest Hill to launch proposal for London-wide Ultra Low Emissions Zone

In March 2022, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan came to Forest Hill to visit Forest Hill Secondary School and announced his proposal to extend the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) from the south and north circular roads to include all of Greater London.

Back in 2018, when the mayor was consulting about the ULEZ that came into effect in October 2021, at that time the Forest Hill Society responded to the consultation with one clear message: “Recognising the need for action to combat poor air quality, the Society would support a larger ULEZ, extending even to the full extent of Greater London.”

This proposal is particularly good news for South London and for Forest Hill. The south circular is much closer to the centre of London than the north circular. While the boundary in North London is a large duel-carriageway, the south circular is a more modest road that goes right through the heart of communities − as Forest Hill residents know only too well.

By extending the ULEZ to the whole of Greater London, there will be less pollution for miles beyond the South circular and this will hopefully have a positive impact on the health of local residents.

The proposed timescale is ‘end of 2023’, after which time drivers with more polluting vehicles will be charged £12.50 to drive anywhere in Great London – the same charge already applies to vehicles within the current ULEZ.

The Forest Hill Society welcomes this initiative and is delighted that the mayor chose Forest Hill as the place to launch this proposal.

16 March 2022

Forest Hill Society Response to Airspace Consultation

In December 2021 London City Airport presented to their Consultative Committee a set of completely new route options for their arrivals and departures over London. They shared detailed mapping of five potential alternatives for arrivals and departures but made it very clear that these were outline only. Before taking these to the next stage of the regulated process they asked Committee attendees to comment on these initial ideas.

In early March the airport gave us an early indication of the major points they are taking from the "27 Committee" and stakeholder responses received. They said that stakeholders favoured:-
-    The sharing of routes to provide respite
-    Planes to be kept higher for longer
-    A reduction in fuel and climate emissions
-    A separation of routes so that, wherever possible, the same area was not overflown by planes from different airports
-    Collaboration with other airports.

It will remain to be seen how the airport takes this feedback and translates it into new concentrated flight paths that will give us fair distribution of paths and associated noise from London City and Heathrow, two airports only 22 miles apart with runways pointing directly towards each other. We are particularly concerned that London City is proceeding to plan its own routes with no reference to Heathrow, when it seems obvious that they must develop plans together from the earliest stages.

The interlinking of Heathrow and London City low altitude routes over us is shown in the map below:-

Heathrow westerly arrivals cross the London City concentrated flight path at multiple points over SE London, from Dulwich/Brixton in the west and at least as far as Eltham in the east. Source flightradar24


We have published our full response to the airport here in the interests of sharing locally and in full the general concerns that we have. We have shared this with Environmental Health management at Lewisham and with MPs Ellie Reeves and Janet Daby. To summarise, we covered the following:-

1.    We welcomed that the airport seems to making some effort to understand the issues mentioned above. We expressed a major concern though, that designs seem to be being drafted independently of Heathrow, in the process compressing London City paths into a vertical and geographical space that reduces options for London City departure and arrivals routes and also climbing and descent angles. We believe that a publicly transparent dialogue at an early stage with Heathrow on the joint problems to be solved will enhance public confidence in the processes.

2.    We expressed a concern that  the new concentrated paths from City and Heathrow will end up crossing each other, with
-    some communities being under both a London City takeoff and arrivals flightpath
-    some communities being under two different London City flight paths in different wind conditions,
-    the same communities being under one or more  London City and Heathrow arrivals paths.

3.    We asked that the unpopular single concentrated arrivals route low over SE London introduced in 2016 be addressed, potentially introducing alternative or ‘respite’ routes. Over Lewisham, a respite route might look like that shown below, to spread or alternate the arriving air traffic.


Possible easterly arrivals routes over SE London. Source LCACC meeting Dec 2021.


4.     4.    We pushed hard for a steeper approach route over SE London using a Continuous Descent Approach (CDA). Currently arrivals are in almost level low altitude flight from Dartford and then west across SE London. Air Navigation Guidance says CDA is best practice for all airports, yet London City does not practice it.
5.    Air Navigation Guidance also requires that the height of hills is taken into account. With our highest point near Horniman Gardens at 345 ft, City planes are sometimes only 1255 ft above residents in the Tewkesbury Estate. London City does not yet seem to be taking our hilly terrain into account in their route planning.
6.    Finally, both Heathrow and London City have adopted similar route design principles, after consulting with overflown resident groups from across the city.

Heathrow: - ‘avoid overflying the same communities with multiple routes including those to/from other airports’ (draft Nov 2021)

London City: - ‘avoid overflying communities with multiple routes, including from other airports.’ (approved Design Principle)

We asked for early and public evidence that the two Airports are collaborating with each other on three-dimensional airspace design over London, and that they begin with a shared understanding of the impact not only of their individual but also their combined operations in different wind directions.

Finally, we said that only a complex overlay and creation of a very clear explanation of the joint noise and environmental impact on the ground of proposed plans will enable meaningful respite route planning and enable those on the ground - Local Authorities and public - to respond to flight path consultations in an informed way.

It looks as though public consultations will begin in 2023. But meanwhile we continue to try and influence the two airports and encourage them to be transparent in public engagement and consultation while they make plans and submit them to the Civil Aviation Authority.

14 March 2022

Events for Your Diary

Subway Cleaning
Saturday 2nd April, 10am-11am.
This may not sound glamorous, and it isn’t, but you’ll be amazed how clean the white panel can become after 30 minutes cleaning by a small team of volunteers. What we can offer is a real sense of satisfaction on a Saturday morning!

The panels were last cleaned a week before lockdown in 2020, so these panels are in need of a good scrubbing.

Bring some gloves, any household cleaner, and an old sponge or squeegee. We really appreciate volunteers for this as it is very fast when there is a team.

subway cleaning

Tree Walk
Saturday 14th May, 2pm
Starting from the café in the Horniman Triangle.

Join Stuart Checkley from Street Trees for Living on a tour of 41 new trees planted this winter on the Horniman Triangle. These trees will protect the children's playground from traffic pollution and will restore a part of what was once The Great North Wood. Some of these trees should outlive us and benefit future  generations.

The view from the top of the Horniman Triangle past the new trees and towards the massive mature trees in Horniman Gardens is inspiring.

Havelock Walk Open Studios

14th-15th, 21st-22nd May

River Pool Summer Walk
Saturday 18th June, 2pm
Join the Forest Hill Society for a guided walk along the Pool and Ravensbourne Rivers.

Meet at Southend Lane entrance to the Pool River Linear Park (close to the petrol station and car wash).

The route is accessible and suitable for all.


river walk

06 February 2022

Planning Application: Taymount Rise

The Forest Hill Society has objected to the proposal for 20 flats to be built on the site of Green Bank Cottage and Taymount Lodge at the top of Taymount Rise.

Details of the application can be found on the Lewisham planning website (reference DC/21/124859).

Our main concerns for this development are:

  1. Proximity and overlooking of existing properties
  2. Loss of daylight from existing properties
  3. Lack of social housing
  4. Parking issues
  5. Encouraging Walking / Cycling


The full text of the objection can be read here.

02 February 2022

Creative Happening in Forest HIll

This February Teatro Vivo present some exciting FREE events supported by Lewisham’s Creative Enterprise Zone and SHAPESLewisham.

There is something for everyone. Finnish singing, Ethiopian tunes, Writing workshops, Shakespeare, Poetry, Blues and a kids workshop.

Some things need you to book tickets - others are there for you to pop along to.
And best of all - they are all FREE!

Full details and timings are here:  https://www.teatrovivo.co.uk/Event/creative-happenings-in-forest-hill

  • Wednesday 9th Feb - 19:30 - Writing Workshop with Bernadette Russell (BOOKING NECESSARY)
  • Thursday 10th Feb - 19:30 - Kerttu - music at Canvas and Cream
  • Saturday 19th Feb - 11:00 - Drama wokrshop for families (BOOKING NECESSARY)
  • Saturdy 19th Feb - 19:30 - Tadlo Boled - music at The All Inn One
  • Wednesday 23rd Feb - 19:30 - Carmina Masoliver - Poetry Performance at Canvas and Cream
  • Thursday 24th Feb - 19:45 - Acting Shakespeare workshop with Debbie Korley (BOOKING NECESSARY)
  • Saturday 26th Feb - 14:00 - Hugh Barnett - music outside Forest Hill Station

07 January 2022

Tickets on sale now for The Maze


The Maze

Forest Hill based Teatro Vivo have a new theatre show happening this month.

Punk band 'The Maze' are reclaiming buildings in Forest Hill, and you're invited to a party to start the New Year in style.
It’s a brand new immersive show, loosely based on Dangerous Liaisons, and the initial pilot performances will be taking place in a secret venue in Forest Hill. There are only two special fundraiser performances on 21st and 22nd January and therefore tickets are extremely limited. They can be booked here (https://www.teatrovivo.co.uk/Event/the-maze-fh).
With current uncertainty around COVID regulations in the next few weeks, should dates need to change all tickets will be transferable or refundable.
Supported by Lewisham’s Creative Enterprise Zone and SHAPESLewisham