CROFTON COLUMN #69

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XMAS IS COMING 2020

This is being posted very much later than my normal Xmas blog but nothing this year is NORMAL! I was waiting to see what Tier we were going into after coming out of Lockdown as this has a huge effect on what events can take place in the next few weeks leading up to the big day plus how our local businesses can operate in the festive season.

I unashamedly have to admit I LOVE Christmas and this is the favourite blog I do during the year. I particularly like the run up to the big day & whilst it all feels very different this year I still am getting a little bit excited.

Amazingly but perhaps not surprisingly there is LOTS happening in our area so a blog is definitely worth doing to pass on relevant information. As ever I will start the blog with brief personal news/views, then list the markets/events I know of, outline the community initiatives I’m aware of, continue with local business news-those that have newly opened or plan to open in the next 3 months/refurbishments & those that have sadly shut. As always at Xmas I do a local shopping guide plus round off with my SNIPPETS of NEWS.

I need to add here that because I find it hard to keep these blogs short I have learnt over the last few years to largely confine the blog to the areas I know really well and use the most. Crofton Park, Honor Oak and Brockley are therefore the main areas but Ladywell and Catford have a special place in my heart and so are also included. Sorry but only brief mentions are made of other postcodes in the borough else this really would be a dissertation which is something I’m very keen to avoid! I apologise in advance for any business or event I have missed out-there is only so much I know/can include.

PERSONAL VIEWS ON THE LOCKDOWN AND MY EXPERIENCE

This is now the 3rd blog I’ve written since the pandemic struck us in March so I won’t repeat what I’ve already written but suffice to say I feel my immediate family has been very lucky/fortunate on how we have experienced the situation as have a nice house and garden/retired with a reasonable pension/our 2 children still have jobs. However I realise this is sadly not the case for many people who are really struggling with money worries/jobs/housing inadequacies/juggling with childcare issues to name but a few issues.

The past 9 months have proved that resilience is certainly one of my main qualities. However November has been a very difficult month for me personally and has tested my positivity! Some of you may or not know that I have a twin sister (non identical). Helen lives in Cambridge and we try and see each other as much as possible. Whilst not ‘twinny, twinny’ she is a lovely kind person that I have much pleasure in calling a great sister/friend and support. However after many tests/results she has been diagnosed with serious breast cancer plus lymph nodes affected. She has a very long journey of treatment ahead of her. It has really shaken our family and been very stressful for everyone. She can finally move forward with her full diagnosis but it makes you realise that anything can just come along and knock you sideways. Good health should never be taken for granted.

Interestingly I recorded a podcast with Muna and Catriona ‘Portrait of a Londoner’ in October, before the news of my sister as it was under a series they have been doing on JOY. They both feel I am a very positive person which I would concur. One of the things I say on the recording is that I feel very lucky as in all my 61 years very few bad or awful things have happened to me! However I now realise it’s how you deal with and process news and after a few wobbly weeks I have now returned to my former self and feel positive on the way ahead for my sister, Helen. Let’s face it as I am getting older there is increasingly going to be health issues/concerns to myself or those around me.

You can listen to the podcast here. I would highly recommend you check out the others made by Portrait of a Londoner as they are really lovely conversations with many interesting local people.

Besides dealing with regular updates on my sister I have used the past lockdown month to get out on my bike and also go for lots of local walks. Being outdoors is great for improving both physical and mental health and I have enjoyed my volunteering again at the Wildcat Wilderness. I haven’t found being in lockdown that hard as at least I know that every night I’m at home & basically JaneCanDo can’t go anywhere or do anything! Besides getting out during the day I’ve done lots of jigsaws which I find very relaxing. We have also been watching some Netflix series like the excellent ‘Queens Gambit’ and just finished the ‘Crown’.

If anyone follows me on twitter or knows my politics I consider this Government intolerable. I find myself screaming daily at the incompetence and massive corruption of how they have dealt with the pandemic and other issues. Whilst it would appear promising that a vaccination looks a way out for us all next year I have zero confidence in this government in how they will handle it. (and that such a vital/important get out of jail card will be dealt with) They literally are playing with our LIVES.

Brexit is also looking to be everything us passionate European remainers had feared and come January I predict absolute chaos (I shall admit here that I have stocked up in my shed a few essential items) Where is that ‘oven ready’ deal we were promised!!

The ONLY positive political event has been the US election where a grown-up has finally been put in charge. Decency & democracy has prevailed at last and I wish Joe Biden and Kamala Harris all the luck in the world on sorting out the mess that the disgraceful Trump & his cronies have left behind.

Anyway enough of my personal thoughts I will now get on with the rest of the blog and begin with the events/markets/happenings that have suddenly been allowed to go ahead.

MARKETS/EVENTS

Very sadly lots of 2020 Christmas markets have been cancelled as they involve considerable planning, months ahead, and no-one could predict in late summer what the current situation would be and if such events would be allowed. I personally will really miss the popular Coulgate Street, Brockley Xmas market as it is one of the highlights of the year and always shows what an amazing community we live in. Hither Green is another big Christmas market and will be greatly missed over in SE13. I also understand Ladywell was going to finally hold a festive market after not having one for the past few years. We will also be missing out this year on a special Xmas Catford Food Market over in SE6. It is such a shame that these events are cancelled but totally understand-next year will be very different I hope and we can all celebrate in true SE London style!

However we are lucky that a few venues are still holding markets as they haven’t needed so much time to organise as the crafters/creatives are certainly there waiting and delighted to be able to sell their wares!

Nineth Life– My blog was posted after the 5th/6th December when a big Craft fair was held over the weekend. I popped down and there was a fabulous atmosphere with lots of lovely stalls. I know that this particular pub in Catford has always been very supportive of local artists/crafters which is great to hear. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they even host another fair before the big day so watch this space!

Catford Mews– the fabulous cinema in the heart of SE6 with bar, café and food outlets is always up for putting on events and has lots planned for the festive season as it finally opened its doors again last Friday. There was a market held here last weekend but also this coming weekend of 12th/13th December there will be another Xmas market between 11 to 6pm with craft stalls and some local charities such as the Refugee café. Festive drinks and treats/goodies will be available plus check out the great range of films on offer for all the family, both with and without a Christmas theme.

The Corbett library Craft fair – Again a craft fair took place last weekend at this beautiful library in Torridon Rd, Catford but they are also hosting another event this Saturday 12th December between 10 am to 4pm with crafts/books/mulled wine/prosecco and hot food stalls.

St Peters Church– this beautiful large church in the heart of Brockley, along Wickham Rd is hosting a Brockley Open Studios Xmas event on Saturday 12th December from 12 to 4pm. Many of our SE4 artists and makers will be selling their work. It will be an outside event this year with entry along Cranfield Rd. Pop along to support.

The Hill Station – over in SE14 there will be an outside Christmas market on Saturday 12th December from 11-4pm. This is an annual event hosted by the fabulous Hill Trader who do a fantastic job in supporting local artists/crafters. There will be stalls with festive food and drink for sale inside the café. I can guarantee there will be a lovely atmosphere so pop along to support.

Beckenham Place park– this stunning park has a few festive events lined up over the next few weeks. On Sunday 13th December the wonderful So Last Century will be holding a Christmas vintage market at the Mansion between 10am and 4pm. Besides 20 plus vintage stalls there will be food traders to fulfil every appetite from coffee/cakes to burritos/Indian food. Also on the same day there will be a mini Christmas market in the Homestead courtyard between 10 am to 2.30pm. It is a community event with local charities involved. I also understand there will be another Christmas market at the mansion on Sunday 20th December in support of local refugee charities-details yet to be announced

I am sure that other Xmas events may literally ‘pop up’ over the next few weeks so keep an eye out on local social media outlets for details.

Rivoli Ballroom – one of the gems of the South East, the Rivoli has really been hit hard by the pandemic. Its regular disco’s and other music/dance nights have just not been able to take place. It luckily was able to successfully host some movie evenings leading up to Halloween, just before we locked down again in November. It has a number of classic Xmas films planned for the weekend of 12/13th December. There are family favourites ranging from The Muppets Christmas Carol to The Santa Clause. As I’m writing this there are still some tickets available but hurry as I’m sure they will get booked up very quickly.

It is so sad that our normal festive theatre shows and pantos will not be happening this year as they are great occasions for all the family to experience live performance together. I personally will really miss not being able to go to the annual Brockley Jack studio Xmas show which is now a regular feature for many local families and a guaranteed sell out-they confirmed it is the first time in 15 years they haven’t had a Christmas production.

However there is good news regarding the theatre for 2021 as they have been working with different companies on development work, and on Arts council applications, to help bring live theatre back. Assuming Govt regulations allow at the time and with social distancing in place small audiences should be treated to performances in February. Also Arrows & Traps will be welcomed back at the end of February with Talking Gods, a theatre season of modern Greek mythology. It all sounds very exciting and I personally can’t wait to get back inside our beautiful local theatre. For more information on what is happening check out their website.

COMMUNITY INITIATIVES

The one thing this year has proved is what an amazing community we live in. I think we already knew it but the past 9 months have shown even MORE that we are very lucky and certainly look out for each other/our neighbours and those more vulnerable in society. There are too many charities/voluntary organisations to mention doing amazing work and my other lockdown blogs have already covered quite a few. However I will refer to a few that I’m aware of specifically helping out during this Xmas period.

The Evelyn Community Store, ably led by the three Lewisham Mayoresses, have been amazing over the past few months. They led the campaign in the borough, under the Marcus Rashford initiative, to provide lunches/food boxes for those in need over the school holiday periods when the Government refused to do so. They are currently doing an advent appeal to raise funds to ensure none of their members or their families go hungry over the festive period. You can donate here.

I have personally got involved in the fab VSL Xmas appeal this year which is based at the Salvation Army building in Lewisham run by the wonderful Rachel and Karl. I am part of the Monday team ‘bubble’ (things are all a bit different this year to be Covid19 compliant). Food boxes are being bought together all with added Xmas goodies and brand new toys/gifts for children are being collected ready for distribution for those families in need in the borough. Monetary/food and toy donations are most welcome and there is a link here to contribute if you are able to support this fantastic cause which is one of the two adopted appeals this Xmas by the Mayor, Damien Egan.

The other appeal to mention is the Feed the Hill appeal. An beautiful online advent calendar has been created each day by supporters of Bold Vision, up in SE14. The talented musicians, creatives in Telegraph Hill have been very inventive and each day you can see a new performance or display if you follow the link. This is all for a great cause to ensure that vital funds are raised to provide regular food boxes directly to those families or would otherwise go without. Your support will help provide this invaluable service into 2021. For more details check out here.

Patchwork, an online Brockley business, have once again stepped up to help the community. Together with other local businesses (Provender, Mont58 coffee, Jumping Bean and Fitness for Mummies) they are organising & funding Xmas hampers for frontline Lewisham Hospital staff to say thank you for all the amazing work they continue to do. If you would like to join in and express your gratitude please contribute to this great initiative here.

Lewisham Local have done a brilliant job during the pandemic in co-ordinating the response from the voluntary and charity sector in the borough. They have just published a list of groups/organisations and businesses who are offering meals and food provision over the Christmas period. For details click here.

Have you seen the great community Xmas trees that appeared around the area? Crofton Park have one again this year by the noticeboard whilst the Honor Oak tree is up towards the train station. We are very lucky to have them donated by Clickmas.

This year the tree in front of the station at Forest Hill has been decorated by local designer Lee Jackson and has received great reviews. I personally haven’t seen it yet irl (in real life) but from the photos it looks brilliant and the three owls at the top are a triumph. Sadly so many of the amazing community events that regularly take place round the trees will not be able to happen this year-the one held at Honor Oak was particularly notable with a huge turn out, carol singers and donations of mulled wine/pizza/coffees/mince pies by local businesses.

I want to mention here our stunning Crofton Park Community Railway Garden which as most people know has a very special place in my heart as I pass it virtually every day as I go up to the High Street. We are very grateful to Terry’s All Locks who have opened and closed the garden each day over these difficult months and this has allowed lots of people/families to enjoy the great outdoors and meet up in a socially distanced way and connect with nature and each other. We should remember that so many do not have their own garden or outside space so this a great safe community area. If you would like to donate money towards providing more planting or other projected projects or alternatively get more involved and help volunteer check out the website.

Another fantastic community initiative has been the explosion in streets in the borough decorating their houses and gardens. I think everyone has realised that as it has been such a terrible time, particularly for children, they wanted to cheer people up and certainly the windows and decorations I’ve seen around the area have made me very happy! Our family have got involved and Eamon & Joe have been very busy last weekend creating a beautiful ‘Crofton Park’ winter scene with the iconic buildings of St. Hilda’s, the Rivoli ballroom, the community library and Jay’s Budgen’s featuring. I have included one of these scenes as part of the image for this blog.

Other roads have done it on an advent calendar basis so that each day in December a new window appears with different decorations. Streets involved in these amazing initiatives include Malyons/Manwood/Kitto/Salehurst/Underhill/Embleton/Algernon/Winterbourne/Montane/Glenfarg/Crofton Park & Blythe Hill Lane. I’m learning about new ones all the time so keep a look out in your area.

LOCAL BUSINESS INFORMATION

There is quite a bit of business news and once again some new businesses have opened since I wrote my last blog which is great to see.

However the hospitality industry is facing some tough months ahead. Having just come out of lockdown again London has gone into Tier 2 for the foreseeable future. This means that pubs and bars can only open and sell alcohol if they also serve a ‘substantial meal’. This is causing a few problems for many of our local businesses as some, like the Blythe Hill Tavern for instance, would be classed as wet-lead pubs with food not being the prominent feature. They are adapting and this weekend opened with the fabulous Van Dough providing pizzas on the side forecourt.

The rules state that everyone going into a pub/bar should be eating but I’m hoping there will be flexibility on how this guidance is interpreted! One such casualty of the new rules in Brockley is Joyce Bar which has decided not to open for December. We hope the rules may change so that this popular drinking establishment can re-open very soon. Other pubs or bars in the area are shortening or adapting their hours of opening during the week so check them out before setting out, as they may well be closed.

Cafes and restaurants are not so affected by the rules as they are by their very nature already providing food. However indoor dining can only be within your household so this unfortunately limits the trade that such establishments would ordinarily be having at this time of the year.

Friends and large gatherings are not permitted and only a maximum of six people are allowed to meet in an outdoor space. Certainly many of our local businesses have been busy putting up marquees and creating coverings to outside areas to maximise capacity. Certainly this year a good hat/scarf/gloves and warm coat are essential items! In light of the restrictions it is vital that we go out and SUPPORT our cafes/bars and restaurants if you able to. I should add here that one thing that has changed in the rules that is a positive for hospitality is that the 10pm curfew has now been extended by an hour with last orders at ten but you then have an hour to drink up and leave the premises.

NEW BUSINESSES

The major new business that has opened in the last few months is Nonna Maria, an Italian restaurant opened at the end of October and literally had a few days of being able to serve customers indoors before Lockdown and so was only able to do take-aways during November. Despite the rather bad timing this family run biz has been getting lots of accolades on social media with everyone loving their pizzas and other Italian delights. Ester, David and Emilio have already won the hearts & stomachs of SE23 and as they are now open for diners pop in and SUPPORT. They also sell a few Italian goodies like olive oil and panettone. The 2 parades at the south end of Brockley Rise are now really looking up!

The other business that just opened, in fact only last Friday is George’s café. This is in a very prominent position on the corner of Harefield Road and the main Brockley road, in SE4. This shop unit was previously an off-licence/grocers and had been shut for nearly 2 years. I briefly popped in on Saturday & had a quick chat with the Italian family. Local owner Alex seemed very friendly and welcoming and they are opening 7 days a week selling coffees/cakes/breakfast and lunches. All the food is home-made. I wish them lots of luck-pop and say hello.

I discovered another new business to the area only last weekend. Cigarette Records has temporarily popped up in the back space at Catford Mews. It has relocated from the Mansion House of Beckenham Place Park. Owen Jones the owner is delighted to be selling his records again, covering all genres. They hope to be there until at least the end of January.  

Krazy Crab is next to Masala Wala café in Brockley Cross. I met Graham the owner a good few weeks ago on my travels and he said he was planning to open the restaurant around mid December and was hoping to get his lobster tank installed anytime soon! He already owns a seafood restaurant in Surrey but has his roots in Deptford so keen to open up in the area. It certainly sounds a different and exciting addition to SE4. Watch this space.

House of Catford-a pop up shop is opening in Catford for the 2 main weekends leading up to Christmas. On the 12th/13th and the 19th/20th December ‘all things’ SE6 will be sold between 10 am to 4pm at 23/24 Winslade Way, Catford shopping centre. Clothing/mugs/tote bags/candles plus much more will be available to buy. Also the ‘Catford Cook book’ will be on sale. I ordered a copy a couple of months ago and can HIGHLY recommend it either for yourself or as a great pressy idea. There are lots of lovely recipes from local chefs or traders, with really interesting information on Catford shops and it is all beautifully illustrated by local artist Nancy Ellis who runs her online business ‘Heavens to Betsy’ on etsy.

A VERY exciting new business (only 5 mins walk from my house) that is due to open early in 2021 is a Lebanese restaurant in Crofton Park! I bumped into Alex, the owner, last week as he was entering the building, in the shop that was previously Venus Nails, 2 doors along from Crofton Park Tavern. They have knocked through the back internal wall of the unit so making it much larger and there is an outside area at the back which is to be a shisha garden. All sounds great so can’t wait for the end of January/early February next year when he anticipates it will open.

BUSINESS REFURBISHMENTS

There have been a number of local businesses that have had refurbishments over the last few months.

Le Delice was shut down for nearly a month and re-opened in mid November with quite major changes, all great. The long counter has been totally moved along the back wall that seems to have created a much more spacious seating area. Beautiful new floor tiles have been added and elegant tiling behind the counter. Walls are a mixture of exposed brickwork or painted teal which I certainly approve of (my favourite colour). New outside tables and seating have been provided with a darker external paintwork. Altogether a lovely transformation to this very popular Ladywell café.

The Crofton Park Community library has sadly been shut now for many months but it has been undergoing a major face-lift so that when it finally re-opens in the new year we will experience a much brighter & better space. The walls and windows have been re-painted with new carpet throughout. Can’t wait to see it.

The Gantry – we have all missed this popular SE4 café/bar/restaurant as it has not opened since lockdown began at the end of the of March. Sadly the words intimate and cosy have not been ideal words you want to hear during a pandemic with social distancing a key feature! I have been in regular communication with the lovely owners and after much deliberation they have decided to reconfigure the space to re-focus on take-aways and selling some deli items. I think they will also be allowing some seating for food and drink with the patio area at the front extended. They hope to be opening again early in 2021. It will be great to see them back.

BUSINESSES THAT HAVE SHUT

Sadly there have been a number of businesses that have not survived the pandemic. Amazingly only 3 that I know of in the immediate area of Brockley and Crofton Park with one of those certainly hoping to relocate to other premises very soon. I’m sure that this will not be the last of closures, particularly if the virus continues with more lockdowns imposed.

The Brockley Deli on the corner of Brockley Cross was the first business to reinvigorate that part of SE4 when it opened in June 2014 and really was an instant hit bringing a great café vibe to the area when few would of considered it possible on such a busy stretch of road-surprisingly many loved sitting out on the pavement. There was a good indoor seating area plus lots of deli items for sale. I hold this café/deli dear to my heart and have had lots of lovely lunches there and some intimate magical music evenings. They always embraced Brockley Max and put on lots of great events. Since we first locked down it has never re-opened and I have now seen it is up for sale so I think we can safely say the Brockley Deli is no more. Very sad.

Villa Toscana on the main Brockley Road, opposite the Brockley Barge, looks like it is not re-opening. It has had a very chequered history over the years with different guises and I thought from reports I had seen locally that it looked to be finally successful with new owners taking over nearly a year ago. Sadly it doesn’t seem to be the case-unsure what is taking its place and if being kept as a restaurant.

The very popular Crofton Books that has been operating by Jason Shelley, resident poet & writer, has been based in the community library for over 4 years but with the refurbishment of the library they have had to move out and sadly won’t be returning. Jason is currently still selling online but he hopes to establish the second hand/new & vintage bookshop in the SE4 area if he can with a physical shop. He is in negotiations with a few possible units so we wish him lots of luck as it would be such a shame if we were to lose a high street presence. You can buy from here and Jason offers free local home delivery.

SHOPPING GUIDE

I have been doing this shopping guide for a number of years now in my Christmas blog and have got to admit I slightly cheat and copy/paste from my previous blogs with obviously some adjustments for additional shops/updating/things that have changed/shops that included but since shut down etc. Most of the places detailed below are classed as non-essential shops and so have only just re-opened after a month being shut under the second lockdown. Whilst many operated a click and collect service it did not begin to cover anything like the trade it would normally do in November. It is therefore even more important that we try and SHOP LOCAL at our independent businesses rather than multi nationals, chain stores or the big online retailers. If we want them to survive after this pandemic it is vital that we use them.

Gifts/clothes/books

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 and every year it is even bigger and better. There has also been another Gentle Home open on Harefield Rd. (mentioned in more detail later) and then next door My Eco Brockley opened in mid August. Whilst it mainly sells package free food and refillables it also has some jewellery, candles, toiletries and beauty items so worth popping in to check out for pressy ideas.

Crofton Park has 2 lovely clothes shops, one very established and one relatively recent. Paraphernalia celebrated 23 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 over the years. Meanwhile Lucy and Donna have been nearly 6 years on the corner of Ewhurst road at The Workshop and are very welcoming. Sadly Lucy has moved out of London over the summer so it is just Donna there now. 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 will be offering one to one sewing lessons in 2021 so why not buy some vouchers and give someone a nice alternative pressy/treat. Every year Donna makes a certain range of items to sell and this season it is beautiful lightweight cotton dressing gowns/housecoats. They are stunning-I also understand there will also be some scarves for sale.  

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 an additional Gentle Home in Ladywell plus one in Harefield Road,Brockley making 3 in total.

A relative new kid on the block, celebrating their 3rd Christmas is 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 of the southside parade which is a very popular shop that opens 7 days a week with hours convenient to commuters (not many of those now!). The back room has children’s gifts whilst the main shop is packed with lots of lovely gifts/some clothes and homeware and underwent a major refurbishment during the summer so looks even more bright and beautiful.

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 to her studio on Sunday 13th December 11 to 5pm. If it is anything like her last open day it was very busy with everyone wanting to buy her unique collection ranging from fabrics to jumpers/hoodies plus quirky Xmas decorations! Half price bargains to be had so check it 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 open studios/events I’m aware of that will be selling art. Obviously this year there are far fewer events with the fantastic Havelock Walk and Lee Open Studios plus others not happening but many have gone online so check them out and click through the links provided here.

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 7th Xmas and they are already continually bringing in extra delicious supplies for the festive season. Just over 5 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 the Xmas season! This shop has experienced a bit of a revival under lockdown and I can see that there is a return to the festive goodies I initially referred to. Lastly but my not 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 fab 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.

However since my last Xmas blog there have been 3 new additions of deli’s/grocers to Honor Oak, SE23 to buy festive treats and goodies. Firstly Sans Stores at the furthest south end of Brockley Rise by the south circular opened in August and has been a great success for owners Max and Chloe. It sells lots of interesting vegetarian/vegan foodstuffs and in November received their alcohol licence so now have a good selection of fine wines and craft beers. Pop in and say hello-open 7 days a week.

Back towards SE4 the Brockley Rise parade with Chandos at the end has had 3 new shops open over the last year, all of which should feature highly in your festive shopping experience over the next few weeks.

The Brazilian grocers/butchers/café opened in September and has lots of different foods/goodies for you to buy. New stock has been coming in all the time so if not been already check it out-you could be very pleasantly surprised. Next door is Le Querce restaurant which since the beginning of lockdown has opened up a deli within the space called Le Querce Daily. If you would like any fish as an alternative over Xmas this is your place as get fresh stocks in every Thursday. They also have lots of Italian cheeses/meats/wines/beers plus some gorgeous olives oils which make great pressy ideas.

To finish our great new business additions in 2020 along the parade the greengrocers, Marvellous Beans and Greens opened in April, 2 doors down. The Marvellous boys will be very busy over the next few weeks getting stock together for the Xmas rush and they are offering a pre-selected Deluxe Christmas box of fruit & veg or you can customise your own. They will be doing delivery or collection ready for the big day. I need to find time over the next few days to organise myself and put in my order so as not be disappointed. Support this fantastic new business which has shown how you can thrive under lockdown-quality products and excellent customer service being essential ingredients.

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. They have also opened a second shop in Sydenham which I can see has been a very popular addition to SE26.

Another business to add is the fabulous Loculto Cocina Brockley Road. This restaurant is run by the lovely Ana and Teresa who own the company ‘Flavours of Spain’ Beside serving amazing food and tapas during the week they sell their natural & biodynamic wines and sherries plus lots more. 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. I wrote about her in detail in my May blog as she has certainly had to change with the times this year and adapt her business to differing covid19 situations. However whether under lockdown or in tiers she has been busy throughout and is able to open her house again to her Christmas tasting menu this month. They were all sold out within hours and she is also doing 2 more pop ups in collaboration with Jerome’s wine bar-the one on the 16th I am lucky enough to get in my booking quick enough. Her and daughter Shannon are selling some festive goodies and you can order/check them out here.

Most of our restaurants/cafe/bars will be offering special Christmas menus, often at a set price and are usually great value so go along and treat yourself.

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, Matt 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 which I am this year. 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 9 years ago and is very successful over in SE23.

Beer

I added this category 4 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, The Larder, Good Food, Sans Stores, Le Querce Daily and the Bottle bar in Catford also sell a good selection of craft beers plus also wine/cocktails/spirits. Jerome’s Wine Bar whilst it doesn’t sell much beer they do have an excellent selection of quality wines, sparkling wines and champagne plus interesting selection of spirits. Pop in and say hello

Christmas Trees

I will mention below the 2 main outlets I know in the area locally that are selling real Xmas trees.This year with the pandemic trees seem to be even more popular than normal with many people buying them earlier and getting them up. I think everyone is just keen to do anything that is positive and makes life a bit better!

The nearest largest supplier is outside the Crofton Park library. John and Louise ( Clickmas trees) have set up again this and are always a popular choice. There are 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. I should also add here that this year they gifted the lovely Crofton Park and Honor Oak community trees so massive thanks for doing that-much appreciated.

The wonderful locally family run business Shannon’s Garden Centre in SE23 have LOTS of Christmas trees and I understand they are flying out the door! Free local delivery is available. 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. Support our only independent run garden centre in the immediate area.

Christmas trees will also be sold outside Brockley Station this year which have come from Hole Park gardens who normally sell their very popular, quality trees at Brockley Market but due to the pandemic have not been able to so pop along to Coulgate Street and check them out. Also  many of our local shops will have a selection of real trees such as Budgen’s, Ladywell DIY plus of course the local florists.

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 over 500 local businesses in the area who then offer discounts or special deals. I have one for my work with a few different charities. 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. They have however recently introduced the card to non volunteers and so for £20 you can now purchase a Lewisham Local card and it then entitles you to the same offers/discounts. I would highly recommend you buy it as honestly you will soon recoup your investment. Here is the link for further details.

I would like to round off this shopping section with links to two brilliant shopping guides produced by two community minded residents. Having written these blogs over the last 7/8 years I know how much work goes into collating information and pulling it together so hats off to Nicola and Rosanna for creating these phenomenal guides.

SE23 Rocks is a directory of all the businesses & makers in Forest Hill and Honor Oak. It can be used as a general guide or a great Xmas shopping resource for the next few weeks in the run up to the big day. Meanwhile the ‘South East London Christmas 2020 has been produced by local blogger, Roseanna and covers a wider area. Both guides have included physical shops but what is also fantastic there is extensive coverage of our local fabulous online businesses whether from ‘Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet’ to Me on the Map. It has been so much harder this year for those businesses who don’t have a physical presence and so get on the internet and check them out! There really is no excuse to not SHOP LOCAL this year and help SUPPORT our fantastic businesses so that they are able to survive this pandemic and continue trading in 2021 and beyond.

SNIPPETS OF NEWS

The wonderful local print paper Lewisham Ledger is now out & available to pick up in lots of businesses-always a great read/Mulled wine or indeed any other tipple to add to your coffee can be found at Rise café/Did you know Jay’s Budgen’s is open every single day over the festive season for all your last minute purchases or if run out of essentials-slightly reduced hours operate on some of the days/Starting at Jerome’s wine bar on the 10th December, Pinsa will be on the menu as part of a ‘substantial meal’-an ancient Italian dough with different toppings-sounds delicious/Café society is alive and kicking down in Coulgate St, SE4- Browns of Brockley, the Broca and Parlez have lots of outside seating for meeting up with friends-just remember to wrap up warm!/Sadly the Fellowship Inn in Bellingham is not opening in December with the new tier 2 regulations-hope to see them again in 2021/The Beer Dispensary are doing a daily £6 food special & have an outside heated & sheltered beer garden/Chill out at the wonderful outdoor space by the Fourth Reserve at Eddystone Rd-benches, planting & street art make this a fab local destination/Little Nest Bakery are proving a very popular local online business-check them out here/Brickfields Bar are open Thursday to Saturday 5-119pm with Mexican food available from Taca Tacos/Two Spoons in SE23 are doing 2 for £12 cocktail promotion plus some great festive additions to the menu/Outdoor Swimming in the lake at Beckenham Place park is continuing throughout the holidays with booked out sessions on Xmas day & New Year’s day/Vaidas Bicycles have had a great year with the popularity of bikes-check them out if need a service/Hattush Restaurant do dine-in, click & collect or delivery with their popular Mediterranean cuisine/Crofton Park Tavern are offering drinkers a vegan chilli for £2 as a substantive meal-ingenious if you ask me/Glass Mill leisure centre is now open under new partners GLL with Forest Hill Pools and Wavelengths planned to open in early January/The hoardings along the new housing development in Marnock Rd. are currently being painted by Artmonger’s-having talked to Patricio they have exciting plans-watch this space/There are lots of things happening at our very own award winning Babur Restaurant for the festive season with the marquee being decorated-did you know they are open again on Christmas day-check out & book if want a different meal on the big day/Brockley’s Rock continues to provide us with excellent fish and chips plus lots more-will be open for most of the festive season/Masala Wala is back open to inside diners plus take-aways-check out their warming December menu/Santa is visiting the Brockley Jack pub on the weekend of the 12/13th December-pop in for details/New owners have taken over the Perry Hill pub and plan on opening early in 2021-lots of outside space so that sounds exciting!/Deptford Does Art in SE8 is showcasing 40 illustrators and printmakers from the 10th to the 19th December-pop in and support/The Bottle Bar in Catford is selling their handcrafted bottled cocktails-they make great presents-why not create a unique hamper/Have you eaten at Deja Brew café yet in SE4-great food with great service & great value guaranteed/Popular café Sundae have just celebrated one year on the block-okay it’s a bit cold for ice-cream but Bekir also serves lots of hot drinks, snacks and cakes-support during his quieter winter months/The Christmas House at 115 Grierson Rd is up and running again this year and is as magical as ever-the kids will love it if not been to see the lights yet.

Okay I think that is it – I have ran out of steam and need to get this posted!

Certainly there are not as many live events happening this year for understandable reasons but you can see that our COMMUNITY is still as active and amazing as always. A tour of all the streets at night with their lights and artwork will just prove how lucky we are to live in this area. There really has been a big joint effort to make this festive season as positive as possible for everyone, especially the children.

I cannot stress enough that if you are able to please get out and visit our fantastic businesses and SUPPORT them. Many have had a terrible year compared with normal and so for their survival they need us to SHOP/USE/EAT/DRINK LOCAL so that they are able to see through this pandemic and hopefully come out the other side in 2021. My motto frequently is USE them or LOSE them and this has never been more important during these unprecedented times. Popping in to a Local business for just a coffee/just a card/just a cake/just a can of beer/just a glass of wine/just a book can seriously make all the difference to their very existence. It is that easy.

I will leave you now with my best wishes for the festive season-hope that your Xmas is everything you want it to be even though there are having to be some tough decisions made as to who and where you celebrate this year-remember you hopefully will be able to have one big party at Xmas next year! We are having a quiet one with our daughter coming over for a few days which will be just lovely.

See you in 2021-lets hope it is better than the last one!

Bye for now

Jane x

For local updates and information follow @JaneCanDoSE4 on twitter.