CROFTON COLUMN – AUTUMN NEWS UPDATE – blog #65

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SO….It’s been 5 months since I did my last information blog post so I thought it was about time I did another!

On a personal level I’ve had a great time, happily accepting retirement, whilst travelling round the area (and further) on my new electric bike. It has been liberating and Eamon can’t believe I’m saying where are we going on our bikes today? At the beginning of July we stayed 5 nights in Kent, taking the bikes on the train to Margate first and then cycling round the coast each day with our final 3 nights in Folkestone. We were very lucky and had beautiful weather but the surprise for me was how stunning the county of Kent was which is only just over an hour on our doorstep. I will certainly be returning! I’ve also had holiday/breaks in Norfolk/Scotland including the Isle of Islay/the Edinburgh Fringe festival and France.

I love the summer months when can just fling open the back doors, wear sandals and go out without even a cardie! Whilst the weather hasn’t been quite so consistent as last year I still think its been pretty good, not really with wind or rain adversely effecting too many events. Certainly our garden is still very lush which is great to see.

Lots of lovely things have happened over the summer in our wonderful area with May/June/July being our prime festival and events months. The New X & Deptford Free Film festival/Havelock Walk Open Studios/Brockley Max festival/Hillyfields Fayre/Blythe Hill festival being some my personal highlights.  A special mention also for our two street parties in Coulgate St, Brockley with Prince and Madonna themed evenings showing 1st a film followed by dancing in the street until after midnight, hosted by the fab Debs and Hatty from ‘WeDoGoodDisco‘. Nothing quite shows our amazing community as these events where all ages come together to create a very special & unique experience!

I was honoured to be included in the June edition of our fantastic local newspaper ‘The Lewisham Ledger’ in a feature about bloggers in the area! The other 3 people included were more serious and established writers than myself so I felt in very esteemed company! However I’m told that people do read my ramblings and even look forward to them!

So.. enough about myself and lets get onto the information! Anyone new to my blogs I always say that the two areas I concentrate on are Crofton Park (where I live) and Honor Oak which are both the areas that come under this community website. I also include news on Brockley/Ladywell and Catford which are the bordering neighbourhood areas and where I frequent! I try and keep myself up to date with local information but I cannot begin to know everything and so inevitably things/events are missed plus it is my ‘personal’ account of the area and so will therefore reflect my likes and preferences.

There will be 3 main sections to this blog. I will firstly cover the main events/closures and openings that have happened since March, followed by dates of future events and finish with ‘Snippets of News’ The time that I have available to complete and post this blog is more limited than I normally set myself so you never know it may be shorter and even more concise! Here goes…

IMPORTANT PAST EVENTS/CLOSURES/OPENINGS

There have been some major new openings/launches in the area since June, all of which have been very exciting.

Firstly on the 1st June there was the official opening of something very dear to my heart, namely the Crofton Park Community Railway garden. I had been watching the landscape contractors work on this long strip of land by the station platform on Marnock road for over 3 months and could gradually see it was going to be beautiful and we weren’t disappointed with the final result. Over 100 people turned out on what was a very hot day and the garden has been enjoyed by many since, being open to the public 6 days a week. Two big memorial benches were located in key positions within the garden area, one for Chef Rudi at Longhorn’s who sadly died earlier this year & was jointly funded by the community and his family plus another by a local resident. However the only downside, that has been a significant downside is that both these benches, plus a compost bin were all stolen in mid July. Quite understandably the local community were outraged that this had happened but a crowdfunding page was quickly established, many people contributed and enough money, along with help from local estate agent, Peter James has been raised to replace the stolen items. These will appear back in the garden very soon. If you haven’t visited this stunning green space then I would suggest you do and if you want to help volunteer then please get in touch. 

Also at a similar time in Crofton Park there were two more significant happenings that really have put the name of our area on the map. Firstly the legendary local artist, Lionel Stanhope, agreed to paint the name CROFTON PARK on either side of the railway bridge in stunning retro colours and people love having the, often poor relation of SE4 clearly identified. Meanwhile on the 19th June Crofton Park Tavern was opened and has proved very popular since. This was in the former pub/restaurant Jam Circus that closed in January this year. Refurbishment works totally opened up the back area creating a large attractive restaurant space with the bar at the front and a small but lovely raised patio on the pavement. There is an extensive menu, specialising in steaks but offering a good choice. Whilst many feel it is quite pricey it is top quality fresh food and a very welcome addition to the area which really has lacked a decent restaurant outlet.

Meanwhile two stops from Crofton Park station, along the Cinderella line, another BIG opening happened in mid June. The Fellowship and Star is right by Bellingham station, SE6 and is beautiful. This has been the original site of a pub for nearly 100 years and after a generous £4 million lottery Heritage funding major building works have taken place to restore this Grade II listed building to its former glory. The bar area is big & very tastefully decorated/furnished. The food is very reasonable. A cinema is downstairs which can seat up to 84 people and is showing daily blockbuster films at very good prices (£6.50) Exciting events are regularly taking place in their venue space & I am going to my first one tomorrow night with the fab HSDY team. I can’t wait to strut my stuff on the dance floor and this is SO convenient as door to door from my house on the train to the pub is 10 minutes so I expect to be there a lot! A fantastic addition to this part of SE6.

Continuing only one stop along the Cinderella line south from Bellingham is Beckenham Hill station which is just 5 mins walk from Beckenham Place Park and is the venue for my next major mention as an opening/launch in the area. The park has been operating as an 18 hole public golf course since 1906 but it finally closed its doors to golf in at the end of 2016. Lewisham council then secured a £4.9million Heritage lottery money to restore the park. Finally the efforts of much hard work was realised with an official re-launch of the park, opened by Sadiq Khan on Saturday 20th July. The major area that has attracted much attention has been the creation of a wild water swimming lake plus a children’s adventure play area, beautiful gardens and restored stable-yard and buildings.

The park is now permanently busy with families taking a stroll/joggers/dog-walkers/people setting up sports activities on the grass/picnics plus lots more. It is certainly proving very popular and there are many outdoor events that have taken place and planned for the future to bring people into the park. However the lake has proved a victim of its own success with the combination of opening at the start of the summer holidays plus the start of our first heatwave and so EVERYONE wanted to go outdoor swimming which caused some safety issues and sadly after 4 days it was temporarily closed.

A fence has since been erected around the lake to control access/numbers and it finally re-opened last weekend which again coincided with a heatwave and so it has been extremely busy and in great demand.  There is also an area for canoe and paddle board hire which is proving popular. There are 2 hour limited time slots and the queues over the bank holiday were long with many disappointed people that couldn’t get in, I personally think they have done a pretty reasonable job for their first full week and in principle many of the decisions to make the lake safe were the right ones. Issues have arisen which will need to get resolved and I’m sure over the coming weeks when children return to school they can work out better ways of coping with demand, introducing part online payment etc.

This park has been very special to our family over the years with my husband regularly taking our daughter off in the car when she was awake at 6 in the morning at the weekends to give me a lie-in. Their regular destination was Beckenham Park creating many games on the rocks by the garden area. After many years of not going to the park I feel we are going to be spending a lot of time there again, mainly taking early morning or late swims in the lake so all very exciting!

Other Business openings 

Since I last wrote my blog there have been a number of other openings in the area besides the major ones I’ve referred to above.

In Catford The Yoga House opened in February (I missed mentioning it before) in Catford Shopping centre. I haven’t yet visited as I’m not a yoga person but I can see that everyone loves it and it certainly looks a beautiful, calm space. Meanwhile, next door, Benhue opened on the 1st July. Ashanti, the owner, is a very friendly energetic woman with lots of different and exciting ideas so pop down to this central café and grab yourself a coffee and cake or lunch and have a chat with her. The back area is being used as a shared workspace for local freelancers. Finally in SE6 a new café opened up on Doggett Road, just around the corner from the station. The Expresso Cartel first opened its doors to the general public on the 6th July and it is a lovely friendly place to grab your coffee on your way to the train or sit in and relax with a cake or bagel.

In Honor Oak there has been the re-opening of the Small World Café as 195 Café Lounge right on the corner of Stansted road and Brockley Rise, by the traffic lights. From mid June it has been open providing coffee, breakfast and lunches with small tapas in the evenings. I’ve only popped in for a coffee but the woman owner is keen to try and make this work so pop down and show your support.

Meanwhile in SE4 we have had the London Beer Dispensary in Crofton Park reopen last week after a couple of weeks closing to suddenly become the ‘bar with a bar’ after famously being the ‘bar without a bar’ from when it first opened in 2015. I haven’t yet been in to see the new bar counter but it looks very smart from the photos and I’m sure the charm of being served from around a barrel  is more than compensated for the fact that air conditioning has been installed!

A brand new business opening in SE4 was the ‘Rose and River’ in April. This eco-friendly beauty parlour is proving very popular in Midtown Brockley and I’ve got myself booked in for an appointment in the next week for a manicure and pedicure so will let you know how well pampered I feel! Also in SE4 at No. 10 Coulgate Street the ‘Chinese Canteen’ has proved very popular and is extending its stay for another 6 months, until February next year.

Business Closures 

Closures of local independent businesses is something I feel very upset about as I have often got to know the owner and feel a personal engagement. I was therefore very disappointed to see Hannah leave Honeybourne’s in mid May but they were for positive reasons and onto pastures new. When Hannah took over this independent gift shop in the heart of Ladywell village in 2016, buying it from the lovely Jason (Slater & King) she quickly established herself as a person who knew everything that was going on in the area and was a very community minded person, having grown up in SE4/13. So besides popping in for a birthday card you could also have a great chat. Her contribution to village life is greatly missed. However as one door closes another opens and so within a couple of weeks re-decoration to create a fresh new interior was completed and ‘Gentle Home‘ no. 2 opened. This is now the 3rd shop in the area by Helen Sheward the owner who has an eye for beautiful gifts for the home. Pop in and support.

Another very sad closure of a local business was Someth1ng gallery in Honor Oak a few months ago. Having been open for a good few years I always loved walking past and seeing what exciting new art work was hanging in the gallery. Rebecca the owner had a real eye for innovative new artists both locally and on the international scene. If you popped in the shop she would always passionately talk to you for ages about the painters or sculptors, without any pressure whatsoever on wanting you to buy. I will personally miss Rebecca and think it is a great loss for the parade. I’m not yet sure what will be happening with this empty shop unit.

FUTURE EVENTS/HAPPENINGS

CATFORD really is the place to be in September! SO many exciting things happening.

This Sunday (1st September) at Catford Wanderers sports club, behind Homebase on Bromley Road there is a BIG tennis event from 1030 to 430pm. Professional GB Davis cup and Fed Cup GB tennis stars are coming down to the club for the day and running coaching sessions for adults and children. exhibition match There will be a fastest serve competition/exhibition match plus 6 lucky winners will be able to partner the pros. There will be food, face-painting plus the bar will be open all day (VERY reasonable prices) Details of the event are all here but why not pop down to the boroughs only tennis club and take part in this exciting tennis day. 

Also on the same day, Sunday 1st September, there is a great sporting event happening down at Ladywell Arena, Catford. The Ladywell 10,000 is now an annual event and showcases some great athletics on the running track from 1-7pm hosted by Kent Athletic Club who are based here. There is also food and drink on sale. Pop down and support your local club. 

The very successful monthly Catford Food market on the Broadway are continuing on the last Sunday of each month and so the next few dates to get in the diary are Sunday 29th September, Sunday 27th October and Sunday 24th November. From 10-4pm expect ‘Good food, good music and good vibes’ 

Firstly Catford Mews is finally about to open in the next few weeks. Works have been going on over the last months in the heart of the Catford shopping centre behind the shutters of what was previously Poundland shop so all will be unveiled very soon. I have already signed up as a member via the very successful kickstarter campaign run over the summer so I can’t wait to see some films and experience the rest of this community hub!

I should explain what it is first for those who don’t already know. Catford Mews was previously an indoor shopping space with retail space for 30 businesses units leading to a large internal area where there was a café. It closed down in 2011 but is being bought back into use 8 years later. There are 3 cinema screens with 90 seats in one and 60 in the two others. There will be the latest blockbuster movies showing along with indie and specialist films. The cinema prices are all very affordable with discounts for members.

There is a large café as you walk in that will be open from 7am each morning, with 5 different food traders permanently based in the complex. These are all very popular local businesses namely Jerk off BBQ, Fuse, Patty Man UK, Daun’s Deli and Bears Dough. There will also be a bar in the main cinema foyer and live music. Altogether a very exciting development and one which should really transform Catford as a destination and put it firmly on the map as a cultural hub in the area.

This very neatly runs into the next major event happening, namely the Catford Free Film festival running from the 13th to the 22nd September this year. The full programme is here They are showing 15 fantastic films over 10 days in lots of SE6 venues such as the Talent Factory, Bellingham film palace, Catford Mews with 2 outdoor screenings. I’m sadly going to have great difficulty going to lots this year as it is bad timing for me but I highly recommend you check this out as it so brilliantly organised, run by all volunteers, and FREE. However they do have a bucket after each showing so try and give generously as all money raised helps ensure it can continue each year. 

I should also add they start the festival with an exciting 48 hour challenge, open to anyone to create a short film in that timescale featuring a Catford landmark (plus other criteria) The 5 finalists will be screened on the closing night, Sunday 22nd September.

The Wild Cat Wilderness project are running an exciting ‘hot’ event on Saturday 21st September. The chilli festival is happening from 11-4pm and is a fundraising event for this great charity. I volunteer here and for the past 5 months we have been growing many interesting varieties of chillies. The day will include a children’s chilli nature trail, apple pressing, a chilli preserving workshop, vegetarian campfire chilli and much more. There will be live music, face-painting and we will be selling wilderness jams, chutneys and preserves. It certainly promises to be a fab day out for all the family so put the date in the diary. For further details and how to get here press the link

Next up in SE6 is the Catford Arts Trail which is now in its 4th year. This is an event not to be missed and takes place over two weekends, September 28/29th and 5th/6th October. 100 artists/creatives will be showing their work by opening up their houses or be exhibited at other exciting venues. For all the details of the artists involved this year check out the website.

I personally love visiting lots of the venues, chatting directly to the artists/crafters and occasionally buying, often at very reasonable prices. There is always such a lovely atmosphere and you bump into other groups of people on the streets of Catford clutching their brochure/map popping into similar houses. Notes and recommendations are often swapped and it soon becomes a great day out. Put these dates in your diary and check out the enormous creative talent in SE6. 

To finish on the Catford theme I can confirm that the wonderful So Last Century Vintage and Retro Fair will once again be returning to St. Dunstan’s College for 2 days over the weekend of Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th October with over 50 traders on each day. These are such great events and besides really interesting stalls there are food traders/a tearoom usually provided by the fab Truly Splendid caterers and live music. Also if you want your vintage fix before then why not join them down in Croydon at the newly refurbished Fairfields Halls on Saturday 28th and 29th September. This is a new venue for the So Last Century team so they are very excited. Plus I also understand they are coming to an interesting New Cross venue before Xmas so watch this space! 

There is a very innovative festival starting in a fortnight across Lewisham. Age against the Machine is the festival that came out of the Mayor of London’s borough of culture funding when the borough was awarded £216K. The Albany theatre, in Deptford and Entelechy Arts, a Lewisham based participatory arts company are the leading partners helping to deliver the festival. 70 plus events are happening from the 13th September over 3 weeks with the grand finale on Sunday 6th October. Live music, theatre, film to large scale outdoor performances with over 30 events being community commissions. If you check out the website and the various events already listed it all sounds very exciting. Positive Ageing is an area the council excels at and this creative festival will only further highlight this and help open up the subject of ageing in our society. 

The Deptford X Festival normally takes place at the end of September but this year it is running later from 25th October to 3rd November It is London’s longest running contemporary visual arts festival having been first launched in 1998. I always try and go to a few events and explore the artwork being exhibited around SE8 if I can and it is certainly worth checking out the details over the 10 days it is on for. Here is a link to the website

I finish this section with a few mentions regarding Crofton Park, which is an area I am passionate about, having lived here now for 31 years. 

On Sunday 22nd September 11-4pm as part of the Mayor of London’s No Car Day initiative there is a mini festival taking place at the Fourth Reserve. Eddystone Road leading up to the nature reserve in SE4 will be closed to traffic and there will be lots of stalls, music and activities. This promises to be a fun day out for all the family and a great opportunity to go and explore the beautiful nature reserve in Crofton Park-believe me you will be amazed what lies beyond this gate that you may not have even noticed before! Put the date in the diary and I will see you there.

The Brockley Jack Theatre in Crofton Park is one of my favourite local venues and I always say I am so lucky that this excellent fringe theatre is only 5 minutes walk from my house. During September they are hosting the wonderful Arrows and Traps theatre company with their touring modern adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic gothic classic ‘The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde’ It is a gripping political thriller set in halls of American Power and certainly looks to be another great production that is bound to sell out fast. For more details of upcoming shows and a link to booking see here

Another amazing venue in Crofton Park is the beautiful Rivoli Ballroom and once again I can’t believe that this stunning venue is on my doorstep and I feel very privileged that I am able to hire it out in a fortnights time to celebrate my 60th birthday! Movie nights are back on in September and for 3 nights running from the 18th to the 20th they are showing the films Desperately Seeking Susan, Labyrinth, and Purple Rain. I can highly recommend the excellent sound quality/screen and they even serve popcorn, ice-cream and hotdogs to create the whole cinema experience. For details and booking see here

A new event taking place at the Rivoli is 4 Poofs and a Piano with La La Piano Bar on Saturday 12th October and I can personally guarantee this will be a night to remember. It is billed as a music extravaganza and expect fun & frolics plus highly talented singers and performers. The ballroom setting is the perfect place for this evening. I expect it to be a popular night so I would advise you grab your tickets early. See here for details. 

I finish this piece with a plea to shop/eat/drink in CROFTON PARK as our businesses need you! As I’m sure people will have noticed there are major roadworks taking place along the High Street There are traffic lights at either side of the railway bridge and whilst queues aren’t that long at the moment this is only week 3 with light summer holiday traffic. Starting from next week everyone will be back on the roads and the queues will inevitably build up. Businesses are already reporting a drop in numbers visiting and I know that CJ Motors is significantly effected as a lot of its trade is from cars stopping outside for minor repairs and as they can’t park anywhere they are going elsewhere. 

People will gradually avoid the area altogether and this will start to have a dramatic impact on the local businesses and the ‘Improvement Works’ are scheduled to go onto 20th December! The run up to Xmas for many shops, bars and restaurants is crucial for them to make their money in this festive season and so it is vital that everyone makes an extra effort to get out of their cars and walk to Crofton Park and SUPPORT.  The experiences of Ladywell village 6 years ago and Dartmouth Rd in Forest Hill nearly 2 years ago was not good with a number of businesses having to close as it hit them so hard. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen here. 

SNIPPETS OF NEWS

The Chandos is opening up a rooftop patio area very soon!/The Honor Oak pub is putting on lots of events-on a Tuesday night the upstairs area hosts fab comedy nights put on by Laugh Train Home and certainly worth checking out/The Babur Restaurant is celebrating 34 years on the block serving excellent Indian food and is offering a great deal-see here./The Rise café are celebrating one year on the block at the end of September-Nolan, Sarah and the staff are all so friendly & have been a great addition to SE23/DONDE has a new chef over from Valencia that I hear very positive things about so check out their Spanish tapas/Two Spoons on the Honor Oak parade have just launched a live music night on the first Thursday of the month with the first one on the 5th September-pop down and support/The wonderful family run Shannon’s Garden Centre are open 7 days a week-they have lots of houseplants with many popular succulents/cactus/Pizzarte in SE23 specialise in Italian cuisine and they have a great choice of pizzas/Over in Brockley Helen and Tim have just celebrated 3 years with their fantastic bar/shop WaterintoBeer/On the other side of the tracks Salthouse Bottles is also turning 3 on Sunday 9th September and will be toasting it with a few drinks down at the Village Brewery where everyone is welcome/The Orchard have a regular quiz night on a Sunday eve with a cash prize to the winner/The award winning Masala Wala café will be introducing their new September menu next week-always delicious so pop in and support/Parlez have regular live music nights on a Friday so chill out after a hard week and enjoy a glass or two/ TOMORROW (Saturday) Brockley Brewery are having a pop up vintage shop 12-5pm so grab a pint of craft beer and have a vintage shop-perfect!/Grab the last of the summer rays in the beautiful garden at the back of the Gantry/The amazing L’Oculto Cocina on Brockley Rd, held their first wine pairing evening last week and I understand it was a great success-expect more events in the future/The fab Brockley’s Rock has many vegan choices and serves gluten free fish & chips from Sunday to Thursday/Deja Brew café is growing in popularity & everyone reports on the generous portions at very good prices-there is also a back sun-filled patio/Brickfields Bar serves up delicious cocktails-the Passionfruit Chilli Martini is my personal favourite/The Space chase Summer reading challenge has proved very popular this year at Crofton Park library and on Saturday 14th September there will be lots of activities around the space theme to mark the end of the challenge/Whilst you are at the library check out the many 2nd hand & vintage books for sale at very reasonable prices at Crofton Books plus vinyl albums are for sale/Local butchers Proud Sow provide a great variety of BBQ meats for the last of the summer days/Have you tried the delicious cheeses yet at Jones of Brockley?/The very friendly Le Delice café was broken into a few weeks ago but as ever the community rallied round to support/The Larder is back open after a well deserved break-pop by for all your tasty treats, bread, wine and beer/Coopers Bakehouse is recruiting for a part time baker with closing date 3/9- get in touch with them if interested/The fantastic Bottle Bar and Shop in Catford won 2 Great taste awards for their Negroni and Remedy cocktails-pop in if haven’t already as they are very friendly!/The Nineth Life pub in SE6 put on LOTS of events and have joined forces with the WedoGoodDisco team to screen ‘Pointe Break’ the surfing movie outside in the courtyard on Sunday 8th September-check out & BOOK/the Honor Oak WI meeting is next Tuesday 3rd September at the Seniors club and will be a discussion about climate change-new members always welcome/join Lewisham GoodGym on Monday eves for a run and a good deed!-can see from the photos and reports it is a very rewarding evening.

Phew-I’m done! This nearly didn’t happen as 4 hours ago I lost half of the blog-I wanted to cry but luckily Eamon eventually retrieved most of it but I’ve spent the afternoon rewriting quite a chunk. Anyway I hope you feel it has been worth it and as I often say if you have read up to this point you deserve a medal! 

As ever when I write these blogs it reminds me what a wonderful area we live in with SO much going on. September is going to be mad especially as I have many 60th birthday celebrations to also fit in (I am a twin so that accounts for even more events!) 

In these DIRE political times (seems like I’ve been saying that for many years now!!) COMMUNITY is even more important and I can honestly say I live in the BEST area I know and that gives me much comfort when the world seems to be crumbling around us! 

Remember to SHOP/USE/EAT/DRINK LOCAL AND DON’T FORGET CROFTON PARK!! USE THEM OR LOSE THEM

See you soon 

Jane x 

Follow me on twitter JaneCanDoSE4 for up to date information.