Monday, 26 March 2007

The greatest wasted (retail) opportunity in Forest Hill?

This place ought to be a coffee shop, or gallery, or restaurant, or ... something. But it isn't.

To the best of my knowledge it has been empty for years, and just sits there, unused.

According to "BrianK" on;

"The space opposite Tilt used to be a Midland Bank and was reputed to have been bought by a local as an art gallery for his wife. I watched through open doors as a stunning transformation was made on the interior and then...nothing happened. "

I have seen numerous posts on that site about how much a certain local entrepreneur would like to take over that site, but always to no avail. It has been mooted as any of the above, but I think that a decent coffee shop, possibly including the art gallery element, would be a great idea. It has some outdoor space as well as frontage on Dartmouth Road, and it has "presence" - not another anonymous converted shopfront.

I have only been here two years, but I cannot believe that if someone owned it they would not prefer to lease it out to ANY business rather than see it lie empty, even if they planned on selling it on with the East London Line premium in the near future.

This is truly a wasted opportunity to provide a useful, central business for Forest Hill residents, and to improve the profile of the road. The only businesses I can recall opening on that road in the last few years are more friend chicken shops, a tattoo parlour (formerly a condom shop) and (the only useful one) a party shop.

Surely we can do better?

And now, what about the lots that Aceri, formerly Latitude, and McDonalds used to occupy?

Friday, 23 March 2007

some top recommendations for Forest Hill, SE23

Having already spent about one third of the year doing nothing but giving lists of routes, the time has come to take a little stock and maybe focus on a different kind of list.

Here are a few "top" recommendations for the area that come immediately to mind, lists that will definitely change and evolve as I continue my walks.

Top 5+ places to eat and drink:
1. The Dartmouth Arms (most consistently good)
2. Barcelona Tapas (just over the border, but honorary SE23 establishment)
3. The Honor Oak (new entry)
4. Babur Brasserie (only been once so must reserve praise)
5. Yune
6=. Kafe La / Tapastry (need to try both of them again)
[edit 26/03/2007 :: forgot to include Yune that offers great value, so added them]

Top 5 views:
1. View from the top of Canonbie Road
2. View from Brockley View & Blythe Hill Fields
3. Views (in all directions) from Horniman Gardens (top level)
4. View from the stairwell of building on Derby Hill Crescent (I imagine - it was misty the day I was there so I need to go back)
5. View from buildings on Eliot Bank (allegedly - not got in there yet myself)

Top 5 things I must get access to:
1. The Folly at the top of Horniman Drive
2. The Reservoir on Honor Oak Road
3. The Devonshire Road Nature Reserve
4. Brockley Hill Park (secret garden)
5. Christ Church (flats)

I will think of a few more. Any suggestions for entries or categories?

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Feed the Reader

In case you happen to know about these things (I didn't until recently), I have added an RSS feed link to this blog should you wish to subscribe to this blog in your reader.

For all those for whom that meant absolutely nothing, please read on.

If you regularly read blogs, there are tools to help keep you up to date with which ones have new content. My own suggestion is Google's Reader. Simple and effective.

Once you have set yourself up on this, you can "subscribe" to blogs and when they are updated, receive a preview of that content so you can decide to read more or not. There are several ways to achieve this, but one of the most popular is RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

I have used a site called feedburner that delivers my content subscribers - all you need to do is click on the orange ("Subscribe to my feed") link on the right.

Any questions, let me know, but their sites are pretty helpful too.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Stanstead Road Walk

It is taking me too much time to write these walks up, so even if I'm only going on short walks (which I am not) they are accumulating faster than they are getting published. Thankfully I am taking pictures as my memory would have failed me ages ago.

On March 7th I had another doctor's appointment, so it was off down to Woolstone Road again with me. This time I thought I would get some more fresh air - it is what my lungs lack after all.

So, I decided to follow Stanstead Road to the border with Catford, then cut back to Woolstone Road. Most major roads in London are main thoroughfares not through design but accident, which means that they have probably been routes for centuries. Stanstead Road and the South Circular are no exception as I believe they follow the path of whatever routes existed through Forest Hill several hundred years ago.

The first part is well documented, although I did get an interesting photo of the Balm of Gilead Church (which I think was a Baptist Church in a former life). There are also some interesting little backstreet workshops and stores opposite the Fire Station. The builders next door have been here since my house was built, so the company must have done OK. The Fire Station itself is a paragon of modern minimalism, stripping itself of any architectural merit for the sake of practicality. It is a shame when you compare it to the old fire station on Perry Vale that something more interesting could not have been done with this.

Even before we pass Brockley Rise there are several interesting features. Victorian front porches, unusual characters above doorways on otherwise unremarkable houses, and, to top it all, London's second highest grossing traffic camera. This little 8%$£&^% has cost me money in the past, but it carefully monitors traffic on the bus lane here, so watch out!

When you finally make it across the junction, there are still some interesting private buildings, including the "Center for Photographic Conservation". Most of the road is as expected, but as you get near the final border of SE23 I noticed that some old style advertising had survived, right under the modern billboard. I wonder which was more effective? Shame more details have not survived.

The side road to the surgery (Carholme Road) is attractive, but unremarkable, as are most of the side roads around this part of Forest Hill. These are nice, but high density, terraced and semi-detached houses built by the developers in the late Victorian period. Not much to take a picture of.

On my return I thought I would take a little detour across Stanstead Road, checking out the construction on Hurstbourne Road on the way, to the middle of St. German's Road. If you come up Park Rise Rd you find a building called Embassy Court. I had noticed this before but have wondered for some time why "Embassy"? Any thoughts?

I headed back down the road, then across Stanstead again, up Colfe Road and Vestris Road to the new developments on Normanton St. I had mainly wanted to see what this part of the world was like (nice, well built houses as far as I can see), but the photogenic part was the new Methodist Church building. It has only recently been completed (3 or so years behind schedule I believe), but it is open now. It is a modern building, but it seems reasonably in keeping with the area as it has nice clean lines, and some weathered materials like rusted steel and wood. I am not a church-goer, but it would be interesting to see inside here at some stage.

The final leg was past Christ Church (watching men hang off the roof installing some roof windows), past Tudor Hall, down to Westbourne Drive and along to the shops. This takes you past the stunningly hideous BT Exchange Building on Waldram Park Road, and to the parade of shops on Perry Vale. These include a "gentlemen's hairdresser" that has been going continuously for almost 100 years. Not bad, and they're pretty good at cutting your hair too.

Enough for one more walk. Time to get shorn of the golden locks ("number 3 all over, please") and consider a nice lunch next door in the Westbourne Cafe (highly recommended).

Sunday, 18 March 2007

A chilling newsletter

Well, I suppose I should have known better, but the sun was shining through the window and it looked so nice.

I volunteered to help with the delivery of the latest Forest Hill Society Newsletter (well, they did publish an article about this blog, so it was the least I could do). I got my pack the other day and although the addresses weren't all that near me, they seemed close to each other.


I went out to deliver the miserly 22 newsletters on my round. Almost 2 hours later I arrived home tired, frozen and in desperate need of a convenience break!

<< How's that for a shadow? I reckon its about 7 metres tall - almost life size! >>

Having said that, I used this as an opportunity to explore some more streets I had not been on and to take some photos, so it was time reasonably well spent. However, seeing as I am still recovering from this chest infection I think I ought to have dressed a little warmer.

I'll talk about the walk itself in due course (I am still playing catch up), but it was a good afternoon out and some good exercise all told.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Fame at last!?

I managed to get a short article published in the Forest Hill Society quarterly newsletter recently. I have just seen that it has also been uploaded to their blog.

You can read it here:

Any takers for a shared walk in the near future? I'm looking to investigate the area between Perry Rise and Perry Hill.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Some Forest Hill back streets

Having already walked quite a few of the main roads around here on big circular routes, the job from here onwards becomes a little more tricky.

To walk every road in Forest Hill will mean going over several of the main roads a few times to go up and down the smaller offshoots, often parallel roads, but even on these you sometimes come across unusual sights.

This walk, on the evening of February 26th was just gorgeous. It was dusk as I set off so the light was possibly a little too dark already for some of these shots, but hopefully you'll get some of the effect.

The first new road I hit was Ewart Road coming off Beadnell Road, then right onto Bovill Road. Many of these are quiet side roads and nice residential streets. There is a certain "rat run" through here (if you know the route) that avoids the corner of the South Circular and Brockley Rise, but most of the day this is not a problem.

As you get to the bottom of this road and follow it around, you discover one of those "hidden sites/sights". In this case, the General Napier pub. I have only been in there once, but it is a genuine, local, neighbourhood pub (nothing gastro about it). Pint and a packet of peanuts sort of thing. It is nice to see it has survived, though who the General was I don't know.

From here I turned down Herschell Road. There are some slightly different terraced houses along here, all well maintained. At the end of the road, back at the junction of Brockley Rise, is another of Forest Hill's many churches. St. Saviour's. Not been in, but it looks pretty substantial. Funny to think that in 1850 or so, there were basically no churches here at all, and now there seems to be one every few steps - and that's after many have been taken down. I should count them one day.

So, to the main target of the walk, Lowther Hill. This road, and Duncombe Hill running parallel, are either side of a "private park" that has recently been generating some interest.

Lowther Hill is nice in itself, rising up to Brockley View, with nice houses on either side. However, it is what you cannot see behind them that is most attractive to me. The enclosed space is shared amongst all the bordering properties and is called Brockley Hill Park.

Being a large green space, it is probably already under scrutiny by a developer. I am all for developing sites with affordable housing, but that sort of in-fill development would not be right. In addition, it seems that Forest Hill is one of the few remaining habitats for certain Stag Beetles and they happen to like this park.

The sting in the tail is that all of this "green space" is not actually there for all to share, only residents, and that this "environment" is actually an accident of a most selfish development in the first place.

The whole land was apparently bought by a local Conservative Land Association for the simple reason that it could then sell the freehold plots to those who voted with them. Only freehold property owners had the vote, of course. A clear case of gerrymandering (Dame Shirley Porter would be proud - allegedly!). They had intended to build a church in the middle (what else?) but didn't get round to it I guess (why spend the extra money?).

However, that enclosure has resulted in something that today helps to make urban life just that little bit more bearable, so I guess that we can forgive them.

By the way, this information is courtesy of ... Steve Grindlay of course (original thread here on

No chance of getting in there for me, although I hold out hope that there is some tour at some point, so I was off to the top of the road - Brockley View! Here I got a few more lovely shots of the setting sun, and headed down the hill and out of se23 (with one final shot of Canary WHarf from Brockley).

Here is a selection of the photos (links below):

1. Canary Wharf from Brockley, 2. Canary Wharf from Brockley View, 3. Sunset over One Tree Hill, 4. Lowther Hill, 5. Lowther Hill, 6. London Skies, 7. St Saviour's, Herschell Road, 8. Lowther Hill and Brockley Rise, 9. Lowther Hill rising, 10. Electrifying Skies, 11. The General Napier, 12. Bovill Street

This was a one way walk (picking the car up the other end) so that's all folks!

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

The Riviera Updated - Taymount Grange

In the spirit of trying to answer more of the questions raised about some local landmarks, I would like to re-post a very interesting bit of history of Taymount Grange. This is courtesy of Steve Grindlay (who else?) and was written on the excellent discussion forum. If you live in the area, or want to know about it, I highly recommend reading this site.

"Taymount Rise was called Queens Road until the late 1930s when the name was changed to avoid confusion with the many other Queens Roads in London. Taymount, after which the road was named, was a large Victorian house on the site of Taymount Grange. It was demolished in the early 1930s.

Taymount Grange was built in 1935 to the designs of George Bertram Carter. Many of the flats had two apartments, a large one one for the occupants, a smaller one for the servant. In fact, the flats were advertised with the tag "The servant problem solved". When built, apart from the flats, there was also a restaurant, lounge and "guest rooms". Outside there were seven tennis courts, a swimming pool and a putting green. This link shows a fascinating photograph of the flats during building

Forest Croft was built in 1936 to designs of Arnold Andre Higuer, on a site previously occupied by The Mount. You can see The Mount in the photograph."

Full discussion thread here

The back bit of "To Brockley View and Back"

At this point, my own walk took me out of SE23, but I shall mention one or two things I saw "across the border".

Just at the junction of Brockley Rise and Stondon Park Road is a church I now call "God's bunker". It has always struck me as a rather sombre, solid and defensive kind of building, nothing like the elegant spires of Christ Church or others. I wonder what inspired the builders?

Passing "The Brockley Jack" pub (another one for a future visit, although the wine list looks dire), I must admit I paused for a little lunch. This was a lunch hour walk after all. I will make a little gentle plug for a great wine bar and wine shop called Mr Lawrence in Crofton Park. I stopped in for a soup and a glass of wine from their selection of dozens available by the glass. The look is a little old-fashioned, but the owners are extremely friendly and the food and wine they offer are very good. Check them out!

To head back, I crossed the railway at the footbridge at Eddystone Road as I have often wondered where this led. You come out just at the far corner of the Honor Oak Sports Ground and New Camberwell Cemetery. The Crematorium and its peaceful garden are in this corner.

There is a fenced path that leads you between the garden and the cemetery to the central chapel (this path, by the way, is back into SE23 territory). It is an interesting walk, particularly if, like me, you are not used to visiting graveyards. We have several very large graveyards in the vicinity and they do offer a glimpse of our history, and seeing so many of them is quite ... humbling.

Following the path around the sports ground brings you to the play park for kids and then past the allotments on One Tree Hill, finally back to Honor Oak Park road. I found an amusing sign at this point, but maybe it is also a message?

From here, a quick walk directly back towards home across the railway, back along Grierson and Garthorne Road, then Beadnell Road. These are now pretty suburban streets with one or two oddities (like the palm trees outside this house), saved from the traffic elsewhere by having been mainly closed off as a through route. Lucky them!

Another strange site along Stanstead Road (the quiet bit) is this garage obviously built for either horses or even carriages. There are one or two surviving doors like this around here.

Lastly, past the Forest Hill Hotel. Apparently this might have been a brewery too at some point, but now is a nice quiet pub, one of the unreconstructed type, run by two musicians and therefore a good place for gigs. Might be worth checking out at some stage. I know my brother-in-law from Canada sought this place out when he visited looking for the "authentic" English pub experience.

This was a long walk, but worth it. And in case you are wondering about the lack of "step counts", that'll be my bad memory. I keep forgetting my little step gizmo at home. Doh!

Monday, 5 March 2007

To Brockley View (& Back?)

February 2nd 2002

This one was one of the most interesting walks yet - partly because the views were great, but more importantly it brought me to an area I had never been before. That was the whole point of the challenge.

It all started as usual, this time walking past the excellent The Honor Oak to Brockley Park Road. Another hill, but what do you expect around Forest Hill? Half way up the hill I am greeted by a strange pre-fab construction.


It turns out that there are quite a few pre-fab buildings in this general area and I must find out why and how. I suspect it is a tie-up between Lewisham council and some sustainable building charity (too "way out" for the council alone, and on too small a scale for a commercial development). It is fun to see, although particularly incongruous with the Victorian villas, Edwardian terraces and 90's commercial developments around us.

Beyond the crest of the hill, with great views back towards Sydenham and Crystal Palace, there are more substantial "eco-friendly" looking developments. I only say that because of the wood cladding and small, well glazed windows, but these seem like another interesting experiment rather than a major development. More to research.

At this point I was in new territory as I had not ventured here before. As you head down the hill and around the corner, you are faced with another steep climb up Brockley View. They did not include "View" in the name for nothing.

Canary Wharf from Brockley View

Once again there are lots of impressive houses, many built in the late Victorian period. One particular one stands separate from the others, in a different style and quite impressive, although not necessarily with the best views. I suspect this belonged to someone involved with selling the land or organising the construction (picking the best for themselves), however, I cannot prove that. In fact, on closer inspection it appears to always have been built as a semi-detached so this may be totally wrong.

As you follow Brockley View you come to the edge of Blythe Hill fields. I must admit I have not yet set foot in them, but I have it on good authority that the view gets even better from there. Unfortunately my path leads me onwards, so I can only admire the view of One Tree Hill, Canary Wharf, and quite a lot of London spread before me.

At the bottom of the road I turned left on to Codrington Hill heading back towards Brockley Rise. At this stage the main road changes name to "Stondon Park Road" (as a driver I hadn't realised this) just where the Babur Brasserie, Chandos pub and odd roundabout system are. I quickly turned left again onto the continuation of Brockley Rise itself which leads to a more residential street.

Here I found the highly rated Stillness Infant School (one I need to look at more closely) and further along the road another surprise - Guys Hospital Athletic Ground.

Never having been an "athlete" myself, these places always seem strange, but I then discovered it already showed up on my map of the area from the 1890's, so it has been in use for over 100 years. Apparently there is a useful connection as their rugby teams have been known to encourage others to use the services of the main employer!

The way back was another journey in itself, so I will write that up separately anon, but this route certainly made me think differently about Forest Hill.