CROFTON COLUMN #66

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ALL THINGS CHRISTMAS……………2019

This is perhaps my favourite blog post I write during the year and I’m certainly never short of things to say! I also declare my unashamed LOVE for Christmas and particularly the 6 plus week run up to the big day. From mid November we start seeing Winter fayres/markets/special event/decorations etc. There is always SO much going on and I personally find it very exciting with the opportunity to get together with friends and family and just have lots of wonderful celebrations!

However this year is going to be VERY different with a General Election happening only a fortnight before! It ‘could’ deliver the most AMAZING Xmas present EVER or it ‘could’ be a disaster and give us the most depressing/awful news with Boris Johnson back in power determined to deliver a hard Brexit or worse still, no deal, plus 5 more years of Tories and their savage cuts. I am erring on the side of cautious optimism at the beginning of the campaign and will do everything within my power to help defeat the Tories and hopefully stay in Europe. I will meanwhile continue to enjoy all the festivities listed below- we need to remember whatever happens on the 12th December we are very lucky to live in the most AMAZING DIVERSE COMMUNITY!

For anyone new to my blogs a word of caution they are long and rambling! Some things never change and I’m not now at the ripe old age of 60 going to suddenly become a concise writer. I do however give out a lot of local information which I think/hope is useful so why not make a cup of tea/coffee, grab your diary and read on! I begin with listing all the events/fairs/happenings in the area plus an Xmas entertainment guide. I then do a shopping guide to our FANTASTIC LOCAL shops. I will also include my round up of business news-openings/closures in the area and finish with ‘Snippets of News’ I also want readers to know that I principally cover the areas of Crofton Park/Honor Oak/Brockley/Ladywell and Catford. These are the main postcodes I live in and use. I love Forest Hill/Sydenham, Hither Green plus Deptford and then going west Nunhead/Peckham but if I began to include them in any depth this really would go on forever!! I will also apologise now for things I forget or omit-I can’t begin to be aware of everything and to be honest it is also my ‘personal’ take of things I know and enjoy.

SO here goes…………… (in date order)

CHRISTMAS FAIRS/MARKETS

The first big fair I am aware of in the area is the annual Blackheath Christmas Fair and this really kick starts the festive season off. This year it is on Sunday 17th November 10.30 to 4.45pm and is being held again in the beautiful Blackheath Halls. It’s a big event with nearly 40 stalls selling gorgeous gifts and food items. There is a small entry charge (£2.50) and all proceeds go to the local charity Age Exchange. Why not go along, support and get ahead of the game with early pressies! I certainly know that amazing local cake makers Brett & Bailey will be there taking orders for their delicious Xmas cakes and puddings.

The weekend of the 16th/17th November is also the Lee Green Open Studios which is their final weekend having also taken place the weekend previously. This year there are 36 artists across 17 venues opening their houses/studios to the general public. They are celebrating 20 years and so over the two weekends there are many guest artists putting on drop in workshops and fringe events. It all sounds great -See website for details.

Finally that weekend the fabulous ‘So Last Century’ are popping up in New Cross. This vintage and retro fair is happening on Sunday 17th November at Goldsmiths University from 11-4pm. This is a new venue for them but I think/hope it is going to be a good one. With 30 of the best traders around this is a great opportunity to check out unusual and interesting presents or treats to get yourself ahead of the mad rush.

To mention here the wonderful Good Food grocers/deli/café in Sandhurst road, Catford. They are having their Xmas shindig open evening on Thursday 21st November from 6-9pm where there will be lots of treats/discounts/glass of mulled wine and homemade mince pies. Pop along and say hello and begin buying your Xmas goodies ready for the big day.

The next weekend there are only a couple of things I’m aware of in the area. The Brockley Open Studios are having their 4th festive fair on Saturday 23rd November 12-4pm at St. Peters Church on Wickham road. There will be 23 artists/creatives exhibiting so pop along and get some early artistic treats!

On the Sunday (24th) 10-4pm, Catford food market will be holding it’s last main market of the year and it will be a very special Xmas one! Besides the regular stallholders (plus extra stalls for this festive occasion) there will be live music, activities for the little ones and to finish there will be carol singing and the big switch on of the Christmas lights at 430pm on the Broadway.

The next weekend of 30th November/1st December sees LOTS of things happening in the area!

On Saturday 30th there is the annual Winter fair at the wonderful Chelwood Nursery school from 12-3pm. This is always a good one with lots of fun things for the kids along with food/stalls/music and a great raffle.

Also on Saturday 30th the Telegraph Hill traders group will be holding their annual Christmas market early evening from 6-9pm at the fabulous Hill Station. There will be at least 20 traders taking part and mulled wine/mince pies will be served-sounds a fab event to check out before perhaps going out later that evening.

On both days No. 10 Walters Way will be holding an artist festive open house from 11-6pm. If people aren’t aware of this area Walters Way are the Segal self build houses off One Tree Hill, SE23. There will be unique arts and crafts by local artists for sale, along with mulled wine and refreshments. An art workshop for ages 5 plus will take place between 1-4pm. Believe me these are really interesting houses so why not be nosey, pop along and check it out!

Talking of art and open studios the legendary Havelock Walk Winter weekend is also taking place on the 30th November and Sunday 1st December from 12-6pm. It is only about a 15 minute brisk walk from One tree Hill to Forest Hill so you could certainly combine both art events in one day. This beautiful cobbled street in the heart of SE23 will have their artist studio doors thrown open to welcome you. It’s an exceptionally friendly, creative environment with highly talented artists/printers/photographers and sculptors. There will also be stalls & food/drink plus music provided by local bands-line up yet to be finalised. This is one of my favourite local events and the lure of those fairy lights draw me back every year-put it in your diary!

This first weekend of December also sees lots happening in SE6. Firstly there is the return of the Catford Christmas store to 69 Muirkirk road where three local creatives will be showcasing their wares for sale that make gorgeous gifts and presents from 10-6pm on both the Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday 1st December sees two of our BIG new venues in Catford hosting Xmas markets. Firstly Catford Mews is having their inaugural Xmas market from 10am with lots of others things planned from that date to cover the festive season, titled ‘Enchanted Mews’. More details to follow and I will be covering Catford Mews in much more detail below under ‘New Businesses’. However a little teaser ahead- I feel Catford Mews is a ‘game changer’ for the area!!

Also Nineth Life is celebrating the first Xmas on the block and I’m sure will have many festive events lined up but on Sunday 1st DecemberNunhead Arts and Crafts’ representing local artists and makers, are holding their Christmas market at the pub from 12-6pm. It is a really good venue for a fair so why not grab yourself a drink, a bite to eat and check out the Xmas market.

A good mile further south Beckenham Place Park are holding a ‘Festival of Lights’ event on Sunday 1st December from 1-5pm where there will be arts and crafts workshops/music/food/entertainment and fun! At 5pm there will be a lightshow and the switching on of the festive lights at the mansion house. If you haven’t yet been to this gorgeous building in this beautiful park now is your opportunity.

During the week the Honor Oak Pub in SE23 are holding an Artisan Christmas Market on Thursday 5th December from 5-10pm. There will be locally made Christmas gifts by local artists together with live music, mulled wine and kids meals available. This promises to be a nice local event so pop in and treat yourself.

Saturday 7th December is when the two biggest Christmas markets in the area are holding their fairs. Brockley Xmas Market, less than a miles stroll from my house is one of my favourite events of the year. Coulgate Street, outside Brockley station is closed to traffic and the road is taken over with a music stage at  one end and 70 quality stalls are placed on either side of the road leading to a food trader area with street food. Mulled wine is sold at a couple of strategic locations with mince pies. It starts at 12pm and continues for 6 hours. There is always an amazing atmosphere and I often find myself there all day, perhaps popping into Parlez for a coffee/something stronger to warm myself up! I think Brockley Xmas market epitomises our community and everything it stands for.

Meanwhile over in Hither Green on Saturday 7th December the annual FUSS Xmas fair is happening with Staplehurst road closed to the public and stalls/performers entertaining the crowds from 12-5pm. Whenever I have visited this market I have felt there is a similar vibe to Brockley with such a positive community buzz. Why not try and visit both on the same day?

Also on Saturday 7th December the new kid on the block Benhue, Catford, are holding a Xmas craft fair in the café between 11-4pm. Pop along, meet the makers and enjoy a cup of coffee or treat yourself to a cake or lunch.

The now annual ‘Catford comic and Zine Fair will take place on Sunday 8th December from 12-5pm at the wonderful Blythe Hill Tavern on the SE23/SE6 borders. This appears to be a very popular niche event so why not pop over and check it out- guaranteed you will be given a warm welcome by Terry and his staff. Food is often provided on the day.

The list above is slightly shorter than normal- a couple of key markets/events like CROFTMAS and Ladywell are  unfortunately not happening this year plus I know the Ackroyd Centre in SE23 is also not having their annual fair. It is worth noting here that putting on an event is a HUGE amount of work and effort for the organisers and if you haven’t been involved yourself you may not appreciate the time/stress that is placed on the volunteers. To turn this into a POSITIVE let’s give a BIG shout out to all those venues and people who are helping out to ensure the events listed above happen for us to enjoy! As I said before I can’t begin to list all of the festive fairs/markets in the area and there will be many smaller ones attached to churches/community centres etc that take place – keep a look out for posters/social media posts.

SCHOOL CHRISTMAS FAIRS

School fairs are often great family events and provide entertainment and shopping opportunities for everyone whilst providing much needed funds for the school PTA’s. Support is always appreciated from everyone – you certainly don’t need to be associated with the school!

St. William of York Catholic primary school- this school puts on 2 festive events. The first is on Thursday 14th November and is a shopping & pamper evening from 7pm and then the traditional Christmas fair is on Sunday 8th December from 1230-230pm.

Dalmain primary schoolFriday 29th November – from 430pm

Chelwood Nursery school – Winter celebration is on Saturday 30th November from 12-3pm.

Prendergast Ladywell primary schoolFriday 6th December 315-530pm

Stillness School FairFriday 6th December 4-630pm

Fairlawn Primary school – Winter Fair – Saturday 7th December

Gordonbrock Primary school – Xmas fair –Friday 13th December 330-530pm

ENTERTAINMENT

Theatre/Panto

This year’s panto in Telegraph Hill is Rapunzel. It is celebrating 10 years of providing a community show for all the family and this year looks set to be another sell-out. There is lots of talent on the hill and this is always well worth the money with tickets starting at £5. Dates are Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd December so a really late one this year so you should all be well into the Xmas spirit. Tickets can be purchased here.

I always know Xmas is coming when the Brockley Jack Theatre festive show is announced and this year looks to be another excellent choice with the Invisible Man by HG Wells, adapted by Derek Webb. Guaranteed to be a fun filled and fast paced production for all the family. It starts on Wednesday 11th December and continues for over 3 weeks until Saturday 4th January. Be warned shows get sold out very quickly so you need to book your tickets asap to avoid disappointment. For further details and link to book click here.

The wonderful Albany Theatre in Deptford always puts on a lovely family Xmas show aimed at the younger audience (from 3 years plus) and this year is no exception with the uplifting tale of friendship and belonging ‘Humbug! The Hedgehog Who couldn’t sleep‘ It runs from Sunday 1st December and continues up until Sunday 29th December. If interested I would book asap as many of the earlier shows get booked by school parties. Check this out for a family treat. Ticket link here.

Down in Catford, following on from the success of last year’s panto, after a few years absence, SE6 has proved they have an appetite for this classic family entertainment. The beautiful Catford Broadway theatre are hosting the popular show ‘Beauty and the Beast‘ starring the legendary soul singer Mica Paris. It is only playing for a very short run so I would certainly advise booking early as tickets will fly out the door! It runs from Friday 20th December to Sunday 29th December and prices start from £15. Tickets here.

The panto over at Greenwich theatre is always extremely popular and this year it is showing the classic fairy tale ‘Sleeping Beauty’ It always has a long run and is starting on Friday 22nd November for 7 weeks until 12 January. I would certainly recommend you book early to avoid disappointment. See here for details.

A new addition to shows in the area is a VERY local one. The Crofton Park Baptist church on Brockley Grove, SE4 is hosting the Spring Dance company who are performing ‘Journey of the Magi’ It is happening on Saturday 7th December from 4-6pm and expect dance, theatre, song and poetry. It sounds great family entertainment at very reasonable prices (£6 adults/£3 children) Check out and book here.

Film

The Rivoli ballroom are doing a Christmas pop up cinema again over 3 nights on the 11th, 12th and 13th December. They are showing 6 films ranging from ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ to ‘Elf’ and ‘Love Actually’ Some are suitable for children with early evening times, some just for adults. If you haven’t seen a film at this venue I can highly recommend it-the setting is obviously beautiful but the screen is large and the sound good with all the usual cinema fayre at reasonable prices-popcorn/hotdogs/other treats plus you can get a drink at the bar-what not to like! Check out details here.

The next mention is NOT a Xmas film but the WeDoGoodDisco team are putting on Blade Runner the Final Cut at Fox and Firkin on Sunday 17th November at 7pm and it is going to be brilliant as this cult sci-fi film was released in 1982 but set in LA in November 2019 and so very appropriately it’s being shown in the year and month in downtown Ladywell. There will also be a quiz/music and cocktails.

Obviously both of our new local cinemas Catford Mews and Bellingham Film palace will be showing lots of festive films I’m sure in the run up to the big day. For details and timings check with the venues themselves.

Disco

Following on very neatly from above though in a different category the fabulous WeDoGoodDisco team of Hatty and Deborah are having a busy few months but this time hosting a BIG Xmas party on Saturday 14th December 7-2am at the Fox and Firkin. Expect film/games/disco and LOTS of fun.

Back in SE3 the fantastic Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet (HSDY) team are holding their big Christmas ball at the beautiful Blackheath Halls on Saturday 7th December from 730am. Guaranteed a fun night of 70s and 80s soul/funk and disco. Tickets always fly out the door. Buy either online or paper tickets at Ottie and the Bea or the fab You Don’t Bring me flowers.

Our very own beautiful Rivoli ballroom is holding their Christmas 70s/80s disco and funk night on Saturday 14th December. I believe tickets are already sold out-you have to be quick with this annual event! Over 20 of us from the Catford Wanderers tennis club are having our Xmas social night there again so I’m very excited (it is only 4 minutes walk from my house!)

SHOPPING

Gifts/clothes/books

We have lots of gift and clothes shops in our wonderful area that are already getting ready for the festive season with new stock coming in daily. However two of my favourites, Honeybourne’s in Ladywell and Zenubian in SE13 have sadly closed down since last Xmas. Over in Hither Green pop down to the 2 wonderful shops in Staplehurst Road, You Don’t Bring me Flowers and Crimson and Clover which are opposite each other and both stock lovely gifts. (whilst also being able to buy flowers and a cup of tea/cake at YDBMF)

In Brockley we have Gently Elephant selling fantastic children’s toys/clothes/shoes whilst a few shop units down the main high street Magi Gifts is always packed with beautiful gift items for all price ranges from pocket money to more luxury goods. The men’s section is very impressive! Plus they stock a big range of gorgeous Xmas decorations which I can’t resist every year and it is even bigger and better this year!

Crofton Park has 2 lovely clothes shops, one very established and one relatively recent. Paraphernalia celebrated 22 years on the block in September and Mandi sells new, newly new, vintage & designer clothes and accessories. Pop in if haven’t already been as you never know what you might find. I’ve bought many gorgeous dresses from there.  Meanwhile Lucy and Donna have been nearly 5 years on the corner of Ewhurst road at The Workshop and are very welcoming. Their strapline is ‘Make Clothes Last Longer‘ which is a very laudable motto in this current climate crisis. Besides creating patterns, designing clothes and doing alterations they run sewing lessons on Thursdays from 7-9pm to encourage people to sew and make their own clothes/alterations in a supportive/learning environment.

There is also in Crofton Park a fantastic gift shop. Gentle Home opened at the beginning of July 2017 and has been a great addition to the High Street. It is the adult version from the same people who own Gently Elephant and is open 7 days a week selling beautiful gifts/books/cards and homeware. Pop in and support them in the run up to Christmas. They have also opened up an additional Gentle Home in Ladywell, after the closure of Honeybourne’s.

We shouldn’t forget our local bookshop ‘Crofton Books‘ based in Crofton Park library, run & managed by Jason Shelley. It has massively expanded over the last few years with an incredible amount and range of books/films from adult fiction & non-fiction to children’s books/comics but also a large collection of vintage books that are often snapped up so you need to get in there quick! It is open 7 days a week so pop in and grab a bargain!

Talking of books there is the relative new kid on the block, celebrating their 2nd Christmas. The beautiful Moon Lane Ink Bookshop opened on the South Circular on the borders of SE23 and SE6 in April 2018. It specialises in children’s books but is expanding all the time and now includes an adult section and gifts/games/cards so is certainly one to check out for festive ideas.

In Honor Oak there is the wonderful Jumping Bean on the corner which is a very popular shop that opens 7 days a week with hours convenient to commuters. The back room has children’s gifts whilst the main shop is packed with lots of lovely gifts/some clothes and homeware. Finally I cannot leave this shopping section without mentioning the Lovely Lady Zoe who owns Muck n Brass, now with her main workshop and showroom on Codrington Hill SE23. Zoe is an inspirational designer and her bespoke upcycled pieces of furniture are delightful. She is constantly evolving (and becoming a TV star!) and if you want something different certainly pop in and see what she has to offer or see how she could transform/rejuvenate an old piece of furniture. I have now had 2 beautiful chest of drawers and am delighted with them. Her studio is open Monday to Friday 10-6pm so pop in and  check out her product ranges of paints/cushions/lampshades/fabrics and furniture plus quirky Xmas decorations!

Don’t forget Catford Cornucopia which is a brilliant local store which pops up at the monthly Catford Food market and now every weekend inside Catford Mews. It sells wonderful clothing merchandise with the branding Catford across it for both adults, children and babies. My family all wear our hoodies with pride! Lewisham and now Brockley branding has now been added I believe- very exciting. There are lots of other goodies sold from some of the finest producers and artists in the area, now including beautiful prints and cards from local illustrator Nancy Ellis (Heavens to Betsy) Pop down and check it all out!

ART

A piece of art/crafts/ceramics makes a great, unique Xmas gift, or for me it’s a good excuse to treat yourself to that little (or big) something. We are so lucky in this area as have a wealth of creative talent locally and I have listed above the main open studios/events I’m aware of. Namely Lee Green Open Studios/Brockley Open Studios/Walters Way/Havelock Walk. Of course all of the wonderful Xmas markets and other events also have craft/maker/designer stalls selling their work.

FOOD

Delicatessens

We are very lucky to have some excellent deli’s in our immediate local area. I personally think food and drink make great luxury/treat pressies particularly for that person who has everything. I think all of the shops detailed below offer hampers where you can also create your own bespoke hamper of goodies.

The Larder in Ladywell has become a firm local favourite. This is their 6th Xmas and they are already continually bringing in extra delicious supplies for the festive season. Over in Brockley Cross Zoltan and Martin at the Brockley Deli are a very popular addition to the area and sell lots of interesting goodies. Just over 4 years ago the Honor Oak Provender opened it’s doors and in the first 2 years had an amazing selection of luxury chocolates, panettone plus other goodies for Xmas. However there has been a worrying lack of stock, together with erratic opening hours at the deli since the beginning of 2017 so it will be interesting to see if there is a commitment to the business over this festive season! Lastly but my no means least is our very own local Jones of Brockley in Crofton Park. Whilst Michael would not describe it as a deli (more grocer) it sells excellent quality food and drink items that make great presents. He has a great alcohol collection, with lots of specialist gins, whiskeys etc. I personally think the highlight of the shop is their cheese selection-varied and all delicious so you can certainly create a wonderful festive cheeseboard.

I would also like to mention Good Food over in Catford. Sadly it is a little too far away for me to visit regularly but when I do go I love this local grocery store/fine food deli and it is a great addition to the area and anyone over in SE6 should certainly check it out for festive goodies and alcohol. As mentioned earlier in the blog their shopping evening is on Thursday 21st November 6-9pm.

Another business to add is the fabulous L’Oculto on Loampit Vale and now Loculto Cocina Brockley Road. These are run by the lovely Ana and Teresa who own the company ‘Flavours of Spain’ Beside serving amazing tapas during the week they sell their natural & biodynamic wines and sherries in both restaurants. Pop in to pick up a hamper of Spanish goodies or create your own-I’m sure they will have some interesting buys for the festive season.

Other Xmas Food News

The Blue Room, a restaurant dining experience at home, over in Manwood road, Crofton Park is run by the delightful Sonia. It is a truly unique night out and she is offering a 6 course Christmas tasting menu in December, back by popular demand. You need to book to avoid disappointment as places fill up fast.

Most of our restaurants/cafe/bars offer special Christmas menus, often at a set price and are usually great value. Local stalwarts The Orchard, The Gantry, The Talbot, the Brockley Jack pub, Babur, Le Querce, DONDE all have festive menus whilst many of the ‘relative’ new kids on the block such as Hattush, Parlez, 2 Spoons, Honor Oak pub, Ladywell Tavern, Catford Bridge Tavern, Crofton Park Tavern and Nineth Life are all taking Xmas party bookings with exciting special menus.

Butchers

I am very lucky to have Proud Sow as my local butcher (it is only 2min walk at the bottom of my road) and I love popping in/engaging in friendly banter with Oli, Josh ,George and Herbie. Obviously Christmas is a butcher’s busiest time of the year and they rely on orders for turkeys and other cuts of meat for the festive period. I can certainly recommend Proud Sow-the quality of their meat is all excellent and I always order my bird from them if I’m in town for the big day. I should also add that they sell lots of extras besides meat so you can also grab a bottle of wine, craft beer, olive oil or a luxury marinade! Also not to forget the daily delivery of delicious fresh bread from local bakers Coopersbake.

Whilst I may be biased in my choice of butchers we also have some fantastic other meat suppliers in the area. The new butcher in Ladywell is proving popular with the locals whilst The Butchery in Forest Hill, owned by Nathen and Ruth, opened 8 years ago and is very successful over in SE23.

Beer

I added this category 3 years ago as we now are very lucky to have some wonderful local businesses selling quality beer in the area. Craft beer is continuing in popularity and sales will only increase as the festive period approaches, both for personal consumption, taking round to friends/family or as presents.

Waterintobeer opened in August 2016 in Mantle Road on the west side of the tracks at Brockley whilst on the east side a month later Salthouse Bottles opened up. Both are great additions to SE4. If you haven’t yet been to either pop in and pay them a visit. Their knowledge and enthusiasm for beer (plus cider and other alcohol choices) is infectious.

Meanwhile I musn’t forget the very established, highly popular Brockley Brewery in Harcourt Road,SE4 who sell lots of gift ideas with their brilliant branding on T shirts, tea towels, beer gift sets etc. I should also add here that Jones of Brockley plus the Brockley Deli, The Larder, Good Food and the Bottle bar in Catford also sell a good selection of craft beers.

Christmas Trees

I will mention below the 2 main outlets I know in the area locally that will be selling real Xmas trees.

The nearest largest supplier is outside the Crofton Park library. John and Louise ( Clickmas trees) are setting up again this year at the end of November and are always a popular choice. There will be lots of trees of all sizes and prices right up until the last weekend before the big day and I understand they deliver locally for free.

The wonderful locally family run business Shannon’s Garden Centre in SE23 have informed me that the pot grown Christmas trees start arriving next week whilst the cut ones should arrive from the week commencing 18th November. They will have a huge selection (over 600 trees!) and offer free delivery. They also have lots of other festive decorations and a large selection of LED lights for indoor & outdoor use. I also think plants/ornamental trees/gardening tools/pots etc make great presents so pop along and check out their extensive range. Every Sunday in December they will be serving mulled wine and mince pies to help make the shopping experience a better one plus treats for the kids! They have also told me that as they are celebrating 30 years in business every Saturday in December the first 30 families buying a tree the child will get a free decoration-marvellous! Support our only independent run garden centre in the immediate area.

Christmas trees will also be sold at Brockley Market again this year whilst many local shops will have a selection of real trees such as Budgen’s, Ladywell DIY plus of course the local florists.

South London Card

I will finish the shopping section with highlighting the wonderful ‘South London Card’ that I have just renewed again. It is a discount card that entitles you to reductions/offers in the area at lots of our local shops/cafes/bars/restaurant/businesses. It is a great scheme to promote LOCAL shopping and the team have expanded its area of operation to include Lambeth, Greenwich, Merton, Southwark, Wandsworth pus of course Lewisham, the original borough. Over 850 businesses are now included in the scheme. You do have to buy the card-1 for £15, 2 for £20 or for £38. I have saved an incredible amount of money and easily covered the price of the card. I have just bought 4 again, one for me and my husband plus the other two for friends-indeed it is a lovely gift to give to some-one and would make a very useful/different Xmas present.

Lewisham Local Card

If anyone helps out with a charity or volunteers in the Lewisham borough they are entitled to a Lewisham Local Card. This then can be used in lots of local businesses in the area who then offer discounts or special deals. I have one for my work with the Brockley Max festival plus volunteering with Wild Cat wilderness. I love it and many of the shops/cafes I frequent take the card-nothing pleases me more than a reduction on even a coffee! This is a win win for both the businesses that show they recognise the work people do in the community plus a small payback for people who give up their time to help out.

American Express Small Business Initiative Shop Small

Anyone who has an American express card should know that from the 7th December to 22nd December you only need to spend a minimum of £10 in participating small independent businesses and you get back £5 credited to your statement. I visited over 10 of our local biz using my card last year and so gained £50 back! This is a win win situation and I can see that Babur, The Chandos, Pizzarte, Mama Dough’s, Le Delice and Good Food are all participating this year plus many more. There is a list of the shops/bars/restaurants by area that are involved in the scheme so check out the website.

OTHER NEWS-not necessarily Xmas related

Have you been into Bottle Bar yet in Catford? In December they will have been 2 years on the block, located at the beginning of the Broadway and they are just SO friendly and such a flexible, exciting business. Xhulio & Natalie’s  USP are the bottled cocktails that Xhulio personally creates/mixes/infuses. You can drink them at the bar, take them away to sample at home or buy them for others as they make great presents. They also have a fantastic selection of wines, craft beers and bubbly. There is also an amazing line-up of regular events that take place at the bar and currently Heavens to Betsy’s stunning artwork is being exhibited plus Alex Birtwhistle has her bottled terraniums dotted around the venue-believe me they are beautiful! Alex is running workshops over the next few weeks to create your own and I have booked myself and daughter onto one of them. For details of all the events happening in the run up to Christmas see here.

Half a mile from Catford town centre is the beautiful tranquil Wild Cat Wilderness project. I volunteer here every Thursday from 12-3pm and have done so now for over 2 years. This outdoor space has been transformed in the short time I’ve been involved with the addition of a large vegetable and herb garden, polytunnel for growing plants that need more protection and then a very large amazing outdoor kitchen area with a soon to be orchard behind. Lots of family events take place here. A couple of months ago the inaugural ‘Chilli festival’ was a fantastic success with lots of people coming along and enjoying the many activities and workshops. There are many events planned leading up to Christmas so why not check them out/sign up and come on down and be wowed by this magical space in SE6! See the website for details. Also why not join us volunteering on a Thursday or Friday – we are a VERY friendly bunch and the wonderful Maria provides a delicious lunch on a Thursday!

The next addition is a plea for the wonderful Brockley Max festival. As most of you will be aware this 9 day local arts and music festival has been happening annually for the last 18 years and is hugely popular in the local area. However the funds for the 2020 festival have been seriously reduced with drastic cuts in Lewisham council funding by 90% leaving a potential £6,500 shortfall. The committee have decided to try and put on a few events over the next 6 months to try and minimise this shortfall and the first fundraising event took place last week and the scary tales/ghost stories on Halloween at the Honor Oak Pub was a great success. A fundraising page has been established in the last few days and will be ongoing so if anyone would like to SUPPORT Brockley Max and donate please do so here. More exciting events will be happening in the coming months so watch this space! Also hot off the press Max Media Arts with Moira Tait as the director, which runs Brockley Max,  has been nominated for a Mayor’s Award for their voluntary contribution-great news and very well deserved.

The Crofton Park Community Library is now buzzing whenever I go into it which is so good to see. The bookshop Crofton Books certainly adds to the atmosphere along with the regular family events that happen there. Silvana, the lovely manager, has LOTS of exciting events pencilled in to take place there during December. Dates and times have yet to be finalised but I understand ‘plastic-free Christmas’ is a one of the themes with various decoration workshops planned. It all sounds great and the library is once again the hub in the heart of the Crofton Park community that it should rightly be.

Anyone living, working or travelling through Crofton Park can’t have failed to notice the so called ‘Improvement Works‘ along the main Brockley Road. This week they will be going into their 4th month having started on the 12th August (believe me I’m counting the weeks!) There has been traffic chaos with tailbacks going back in either direction. Pavements have been considerably widened as the barriers have gradually revealed and they are certainly in the last few weeks of this phase of the works. There is no question that the immediate area around the station will look prettier with hopefully the addition of at least 6 trees (2 from the original scheme are being debated!) and the ugly railings removed. I personally have been upset with the damage caused to the CROFTON PARK mural and have met the manager on site to discuss this and other issues. However it is coming to lots of peoples attention that the resulting new road area is VERY narrow and 2 buses or a bus plus large van/lorry are going to have great difficulty in passing. This could cause tremendous problems with traffic backing up along the main road, with angry/frustrated motorists but more importantly idling and consequently damaging toxic fumes to pedestrians and cyclists. The whole purpose of the scheme I understand was to slow down traffic and I think it will certainly achieve this but at a BIG detrimental environmental cost! Also cyclists have NOT been accommodated in the scheme at all making it a very dangerous stretch of road. I may be being unduly pessimistic but we wait to see!! To finish off this item I would plead that everyone pop in and SUPPORT our local businesses in the area that have been so badly affected by the roadworks, both from the noise/disruption and consequent lower footfall into the area as many people will understandably have avoided this stretch of High Street. Let’s make December a great month for them when I believe the works will have finally finished (for the time being!)

The one haven from the noise and pollution of  the High Street in Crofton Park is the beautiful Railway Community Garden along Marnock Road. Since it officially opened on the 1st June it has been enjoyed by so many people and is open to the general public 6 days a week. I can happily report that the stolen benches have been replaced and more benches are also being ordered. We are only now waiting for builders to give us a date when they can come along and bolt them into the ground to hopefully prevent future thefts. Over the last few weekends 100’s of bulbs have been planted ready for next Spring but there are more waiting to be planted so watch this space for volunteer days to get involved. They are lots of VERY exciting plans for the garden and events to take place there next year but as ever we need further funds to realise our dreams so if you want to donate please do so here plus check out more details of the garden on the website. I want to mention here Kay Pallaris as without her determination and vision this amazing community garden would never have happened.

The other beautiful outdoor space in Crofton Park is the Fourth Reserve at the end of Eddystone Road, by the railway footbridge. Such incredible work has taken place here over the last few years by volunteers led by Nick and Anna-Maria. As the very successful open day in September showed a very magical nature area has been created. There is however lots more work to be done/areas to be opened up so the next year should be very exciting for the project and us, the local residents to explore further. Anna Maria wanted to express a massive thank you to the local Co-op and customers who have supported the Reserve as their local cause over the past year. Approx £9000 has been raised which is unusually high and one of the largest payouts nationally! Again our wonderful community has come good-this money will be used to transform the lower section of the reserve to make it more family focussed.

NEW BUSINESSES 

I will list here all the NEW openings I’m aware of since I wrote my last blog which was at the end of August.

Firstly I want to mention Catford Mews which finally opened its doors to the general public at the beginning of September. I had NO idea what really to expect except we kept hearing there will be 3 new cinemas in the heart of the Catford town centre with a café and bar. However the first time I entered the building on the launch night I was immediately wowed by the transformation of this space. It gave me a real buzz and every time I have visited since I feel an instant warmth. The interior is large and has an industrial feel with the concrete walls/pillars and floor and pipework showing. I personally love this look (adore the vast Jubilee line stations) The three screens seat 90 people and 2 X 60 persons-perfect intimate sizes with VERY comfortable chairs. I have seen 5 films here so far and our lazy Monday afternoons are typically becoming ‘Movie Mondays’ . As retired members we only pay £4.99 for off peak hours – what a bargain! The programming of films is excellent, with mainstream/family and indie, and there is always something I’m interested in seeing every week. The café Compound Coffee is at the front of the building and provides good coffee/cakes and delicious toasted sandwiches! The other food outlets offer a great selection of tasty snacks/meals before or after a movie. The large relaxed bar area is very reasonably priced and live music/events take place at the weekends. Altogether I cannot recommend this place highly enough and if you haven’t yet been I really hope on reading this you pop down and check it all out! Catford Mews for me is a game changer in SE6 and honestly has the WOW factor and is an amazing COMMUNITY venue. Thank you so much Really Local Group for investing and believing in Catford! Hopefully we won’t let you down. Lots of exciting events are being planned for the future but for them to be viable they need our SUPPORT.

Another new BIZ opening that has made a BIG impact on me is Jerome’s Wine Bar. It only opened a fortnight ago but I’m so delighted that another wine bar has re-opened in Crofton Park. After Mr Lawrence’s shut in May last year many of us were devastated. This had become a quiet haven for years to meet friends locally for a good glass of wine and put the world to rights!! When Graham Lawrence told me back in September that he had finally passed the keys onto a local man who would look after us I couldn’t have been happier. In only 6 weeks Jerome and his family (Maria and 2 gorgeous daughters) with the help of a few builders turned the place around. The main bar area has been made lighter and there has been a bench seat created on one side of the main doorway. The other side of the door has floor to ceiling shelving where excellent quality wines are displayed for sale. Jerome is very knowledgeable and you will often be able to sample before you buy. Another big difference to Mr L’s is the addition of food. At the moment it is mainly cold meat and cheese platters but this is an area that will evolve gradually though sadly they are very limited by a tiny kitchen area. In conclusion Jerome has already created a great new wine bar with a really friendly atmosphere and community feel. This is such good news for Crofton Park and gives us more choices back to where we can drink and socialise!

TR Spice is also a new BIZ in Crofton Park and opened less than a fortnight ago. It is in the same location that was Longhorn’s until the very sad death of Chef Rudi earlier this year. There is a seating area for eating in but they do  take away with collection or Deliveroo. It is mainly Caribbean food, with a large and varied menu and I can see already that the chicken wings and mac n cheese have been highly recommended. I personally haven’t tried it yet but certainly will do and it looks a great addition to the area.

Another new BIZ in Crofton Park is the café on Ewhurst Road. Hungry Horace closed down this year and it is under new management. I popped in yesterday and Josh the owner was very friendly and intends to change the name very soon to Crofton’s Kitchen’. It is open 6 days a week from 8-3pm and provides the usual breakfast and lunch fayre. I’ve been reliably informed that it is good honest food at good prices and large portions! Sounds great to me so will pop down very soon and report back.

The above businesses are the main ones I’m aware of that have opened in the last couple of months in the immediate area. However they are a couple of really interesting ones that are due to open in the next month. Sundae along the main road in Midtown Brockley is hoping to finally open in the next few weeks-date yet to be decided but check out my earlier blog post #63 in May for details of what we can expect – all very exciting! Meanwhile, virtually opposite, on the corner of the main Brockley Road and Braxfield road. ‘Joyce will be a new neighbourhood bar serving independently produced beer, wine, cider and spirits’ as quoted by Richard Salthouse, one of the co-owners along with Ross Brown. These are two of the most highly respected business owners in the local area so expect this to be good! Hopefully it will be opening at the beginning of December and will be a great addition to the area of ‘Midtown Brockley’ and will definitely add to the night time economy in that part of SE4.

Other business news to mention are a couple of expansions from two very established local businesses. Firstly Brockley Brewery has outgrown it’s premises in Harcourt Rd, SE4 and so is moving a lot of the main brewery production to larger premises over in Hither Green. This is exciting news for both Brockley, which now has an enlarged taproom and has been putting on lots of interesting events but also SE13 which has the addition of this great brewery to their area. Open days are planned on the 16th and 30th November to welcome everyone to the new location with a taproom/tours/tastings and pop up food provided by the fab Masala Wala café. 

Also Jones of Brockley have obtained new premises over in East Dulwich. Michael has been on the look out a suitable place to expand his business for a while and is very happy with this new location which is right by the station so they will be serving take away coffee beside the usual quality food and beverages that they provide over in Crofton Park. It should be opening early in the New Year so I wish them lots of luck with their new venture.

SNIPPETS OF NEWS

Ignition Brewery, based in Sydenham, is popping up for the next 6 weeks in Catford! Every Friday/Saturday 6-10pm in the vaults of the Broadway theatre/The Irish Centre in Catford is starting a community breakfast every Wednesday from 930am, beginning 13th November/The Chandos are holding another dog show on Sunday 8th December 12pm-‘Chandogs in Santa Paws‘ pop into the pub for details-sounds fun/Check out the new Ladywell mural under the railway bridge by Artmongers celebrating Lewisham’s suffragettes/There is hope that Oscars in Ladywell may extend it’s opening hours to 10pm and become that much needed wine bar in the evenings-permission being sought!/So Last Century are popping up at Beckenham Place Park on December 8th 10-4pm for a festive vintage fair/The Station Hotel over in Hither Green re-opened last week with a big refurbishment-check out/Subplot 57, a basement bar below Leaf and Groove, Forest Hill is doing £5 G&T’s for the whole of November/Ben and others from Proud Sow are featured in the Visa UK TV advert #WhereYouShopMatters-catch it on the tele/Two Spoons in Honor Oak are doing an interesting cocktail evening on Thursday 21st November ‘The Old Fashioned:Making the Classics See here for details/Jerome’s Wine bar are holding their first wine tasting eve on Wednesday 20th November-pop in to book/Street Trees for Living in Lewisham have a great new accessible website-check out/Our very own local newspaper The Lewisham Ledger is out towards the end of November with a special feature on Ladywell/The Crofton Park Tavern have a Xmas day menu-pop in and check the details to save on cooking on the big day/Great reviews are coming in for Deja Brew-have you tried it yet?/Renaissance Yoga are opening on 23rd November in what was the old Noak/Norbet space-all classes that weekend only £2/The Gantry are taking bookings for the festive season-pop in and book/Friday nights are music nights at Parlez/The Blythe Hill Tavern are hosting a poetry/open mic and spoken night event on Wednesday 13th November 730pm/Brickfields Bar is back open on Sundays 4-10pm/Did you know there are 2 Tuesday eve quiz nights in Crofton Park? The Beer Dispensary and Crofton Park Tavern-check out and support/There are Awards galore for lots of our fab LOCAL BIZ-Brockley’s Rock has been given a Good Food 2020 Award-The Babur Restaurant has been named one of the top ten Indian restaurants in the country in the Michelin Guide and Masala Wala café has been named in Time Out as one of the Best Indian restaurants in the capital-congratulations to all of you-so well deserved-we are so lucky to have such excellent restaurants in our area/The Rushey Green Time Bank are doing a Bring and Fix session Saturday 16th November 2-5pm-all welcome/The Hill Station are holding a ‘conversation with John SessionsSunday 24th November 6-830pm-all proceeds to the centre/Benhue in Catford are holding LOTS of events/workshops/meetings/drop in sessions-check out/Tuesday eves are comedy night at the Honor Oak pub with Laugh Train Home and run until 10th December.

Okay I’m done as I’m sure you are too! I always say if you have honestly got to this point and really have read it all you deserve a medal! It is over 8,000 words long so nearly a dissertation. As ever with this particular blog I constantly see new things to add but there is a point I have to draw a line. I hope it has given you lots of information and dates for the diary. As ever there is SO much happening and just proves what a brilliant community we live in.

As I said at the beginning I can but dream that we wake up on the 13th December to the most amazing Xmas present EVER and that Boris Johnson is NOT running our country and so there is still hope that we REMAIN in Europe. Beside that I hope you have LOTS of FUN over the XMAS period and you enjoy/appreciate time spent with family and friends.

IT IS TOUGH OUT THERE FOR OUR INDEPENDENT BIZ SO REMEMBER TO SHOP/USE/EAT/DRINK LOCAL-YOU COULD HELP MAKE THEIR XMAS!! 

See you in 2020

Bye for now

Jane x