CROFTON COLUMN #71

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SUMMER TIME 

Okay blog time again – most years I write a Summer blog in May detailing everything that’s happening over the next few months highlighting events/festivals/markets/fayres in the area.

I also give an update on business news-what has opened since I last wrote with any closures or expansions plus businesses that I’m aware of planning to open/happen in the coming months. 

I’ve also added in a Community news section and I end the blog with my ‘Snippets of News’ and a short conclusion.

I’m very pleased to report that under all of these headings there is surprisingly much to write about as many things are going ahead this summer, albeit in a different format or slightly smaller but there really is still a LOT happening!

I also open with my personal thoughts and reflections since last writing and so this is what I will now proceed to do. Anyone who is not familiar with my blogs need to know that they are often long and rambling and written in a very informal style. As ever I will try and be more concise but I can’t promise! 

The past 3 months have been very difficult for all of us as we have been locked down over the winter period when it has been cold, wet and windy with short days & early dark nights and mornings. Ordinarily people find this time of the year hard never mind being in the depths of a pandemic with numbers of Covid19 cases and deaths at a record high. 

However I didn’t personally find it as bad as I thought I would and kept myself busy with jigsaws in the mornings, listening to the radio and would try and get out for either a walk or cycle ride in the afternoons, sometimes meeting friends or with Eamon. We ate well and would treat ourselves to at least a couple of take-aways a week from local businesses, as financially we have been very fortunate. Like many people I also indulged in watching TV/Netflix with the highlights being ‘It’s a Sin’ and ‘Small Axe’. 

I was very lucky at the end of February to get my first vaccination injection and also received my second and final Pfizer jab at the end of April so now feel quite protected. As most of you will know my views on this Government are not complimentary but the programme of rolling out vaccinations has been impressive. However it is the NHS staff and volunteers that have been phenomenal and at the point of posting this blog we are now just about to jab under 40 year olds & of the adult population 68% has had at least one dose which is having an amazing effect on case numbers/hospitalisations and deaths. I recently became a volunteer at the Jenner Health centre with the delivery of the vaccinations and can see first hand the incredible organisation in practice. 

Over the last few months there has been lots happen in my personal life which has generally all been VERY positive. Firstly our son Joe finally moved out to share a house with local friends in Sydenham. We have loved having him live with us over the past year whilst he was working from home but it has been an intense 13 months and not great fun for a 24 year old to be locked down with his 61 year old parents! He is already enjoying his new found freedom & we are loving seeing him regularly as is only just down the road. 

Our 30 year old daughter Alex lives in South Norwood with her boyfriend Priyesh and we have been seeing them as much as lockdown has allowed with cycling over there for walks or meeting halfway, often in Crystal Palace park. On Mother’s day she passed on some wonderful news that she was pregnant and so all being well we are going to be very proud grandparents in October. All VERY exciting! 

If people have been reading the last few blogs I wrote that my twin sister Helen, who lives in Cambridge, had received awful news in November. After many tests she was diagnosed with serious breast cancer. However I can report she has finished 7 gruelling rounds of chemo and had a very positive MRI scan that shows the tumours aren’t now visible. She still has to undergo a mastectomy operation in the next fortnight and then further treatment but everything so far has gone really well. 

To keep herself positive and have something to look forward to my sister has bought a static mobile home in North Norfolk, only 15 mins drive from our mother and has already spent some quality time there, having a well deserved welcome break with her partner Helen. We are going to be the lucky recipients of being able to use the caravan and planning to go up in June which will be a lovely holiday and a chance to see my mum again after last visiting her in August.

I can report both my father in Scotland and mother have received both their vaccinations and have successfully survived the latest lockdown both mentally and physically with my mum learning online bridge which has kept her occupied daily and my dad watching every cricket game on TV around the world.

Whilst I have certainly survived the harsh winter months I have got to admit I’ve loved seeing lockdown gradually easing since the beginning of April with firstly being able to play tennis again and meeting up to 6 friends/family outside for walks and then in our own garden. Sitting outside cafes/restaurants and pubs again has been fantastic and I have happily joined in often shivering having a glass of wine with my mates in a social setting! I feel very confident on being outside in a group. 

I have also enjoyed volunteering and meeting up again with others back at Wildcat Wilderness and the community railway garden. Eamon has continued with helping deliver hot meals to the elderly on his bike for the Catford Irish centre which has been going for over a year now. I however have stepped back from this as I’ve got more involved with vaccination volunteering. 

As I go to press it appears that all businesses, under the roadmap, are able to open up internally from Monday 17th May and that is such welcome news for the many in the hospitality industry who have either not been able to open up at all for months or who have opened on a very limited basis if lucky to have a decent outside area which has made it financially viable. Finally there is a chance to get back to some kind of normality. 

Other venues like cinema’s and theatres are now able to open with social distancing in place and I will detail in the business section all those venues locally I know of and what their plans are regarding timescales etc.

It is at this point that I should say my blogs only cover the areas I am very familiar with and over the years I’ve narrowed this down to Crofton Park, where I live, plus Honor Oak/Brockley/Ladywell and Catford which are the other immediate areas I spend most time in. Other postcodes in Lewisham may be included briefly. I also apologise if I miss any event/festival or business out but there is only so much knowledge I have and time to complete it! So often as I think I’m ready to post my blog I discover more information that should be included but there is a point I have to say enough is enough.

Okay here goes… 

EVENTS AND HAPPENINGS IN THE AREA (in date order)

Crofton Park Railway Community Garden Market-Saturday 15th May 11-3pm

This Saturday in the beautiful railway garden the 3rd market will be taking place. We held two very successful markets in August & September last year when Covid19 restrictions were lifted and we wanted to do them ideally on a monthly basis. However numbers of cases rose and then we have been in lockdown over the winter so this is our first market of 2021. 

Eight stalls are attending with half being food related and the other four craft stalls. Delicious food is being provided by the popular Malaysian Deli with Little Nest Bakery making their debut with breads & pastries that they have been delivering locally to customers ordering online. Brockley Bees are selling their local honey and finally Rindwash are providing interesting cheeses and cured meats.

Mark from Me on the Map is selling his popular typographic maps of south London whilst Kath Dare is showcasing her handmade silver & gold jewellery. Local interior stylist Sodia is displaying her Moroccan Homeware, Beldi Maison and Ufundi Artisan objects complete the line up. There will also be some plants for sale with all of the money going to the garden funds. I’m personally very excited about the market returning and look forward to seeing lots of you there, helping support our local traders. 

Green Rooms Market at Beckenham Place Mansion-Saturday & Sunday 22/23rd May 10-5pm

This is a new event to Beckenham but over the above May weekend there will be lots of botanical and community traders selling plants, pots and everything in between. I know that I will be there on the Saturday as I’m helping out on the Wild Cat Wilderness stall so pop down and say hello. There will also be food and drink traders outside so it will be guaranteed a good day out and if you haven’t already explored this stunning park check it out. 

Ninth LifeNHD Arts & Crafts fair – Sunday 23rd May 12-5pm

The very popular craft markets are back! First one at Ninth Life is in just over a weeks time but I’m sure there will be many more over the year, Covid19 permitting. Kate Emblen, Emily Brand & Shellyanne Creates organise these markets with local makers showcasing their work-expect paintings/jewellery/baubles/cards/notebooks/hot sauces and jams plus lots more. Pop along & show your love for our local creatives and whilst you are there have a drink at the pub and even some food!

Brockley Max Festival-Friday 28th May to Saturday 5th June

I am delighted to say that this year the amazing community arts festival of Brockley Max is happening over 9 days and it is a BIG one as it’s celebrating being in existence for 20 YEARS! Yes back in 2001 Moira Tait started the festival with just two venues, Toads Mouth Too and Moonbow Jakes, both businesses which sadly don’t now exist. 

I love this festival and have been actively involved in helping organise it over the last 5 years but have stepped back this time. However I will be very much around during the week and be attending/supporting as many events as possible. 

The programme is downloadable here and amazingly there are over 60 events happening, some online but many actually in real life! Highlights include the opening night which is being streamed live on the night from various studios around Brockley. Music/Poetry/Comedy/Theatre/Art plus more is happening at many interesting outdoor spaces. Brockleywood Nights is taking place inside the gorgeous St. Peter’s church which is also hosting the Craft Market outside on Saturday 5th June.

I’m getting very excited just writing about it! To conclude volunteers are always welcome, plus people are still needed to sign up for having a Bryan & Keegan board outside their house/flat for a few weeks helping support the festival. Also there is an online shop where you can buy raffle tickets and other merchandise. See link here

So Last Century-Beckenham Place Mansion-Sunday 13th June 10-5pm

This popular vintage market returns to the mansion at Beckenham park in mid June. Over the last few months it has already held a couple of successful live markets at this stunning venue and will be back again with over 30 stalls. There is always great street food out at the front of the mansion. Guaranteed a good atmosphere with some great buys to be found-I’m writing this blog whilst wearing a vintage necklace that I bought at So Last Century in December, just before we locked down-everyone comments on it!

Catford Food Market-Catford Broadway-Sunday 27th June 10-4pm

After well over a year absent the very popular food market is returning to the heart of SE6 on the last Sunday of June and monthly from then on. It has certainly been missed and was hoping to return last summer but understandably considered it was too risky to do so. 

Regular food traders such as Raastawala & Pat & Pinky will be there plus lots of other favourites with also some new faces. 

One of those new faces will be Liquorsmiths that only launched last month.It is a new liquor business run by two locals and is selling craft spirits with unusual flavour profiles using gin, vodka and rum. A liquor cookbook is also being released in July-all very exciting-see here for more details.

The market is generally not confined just to food stalls so expect other exciting traders together with live music & children’s activities. There will of course be House of Catford and Lewisham branded items for sale with their popular range of goodies including the brilliant cookbooks with recipes from local people & shops, beautifully illustrated by Nancy Ellis ‘Heavens to Betsy’. Pop down and SUPPORT.

Brockley Open Studios-Saturday 3rd July & Sunday 4th July 1-6pm

Last year this annual event went online but I’m pleased to confirm that the first weekend in July 

2021 this will be back but in outside gardens and spaces. This is a great opportunity to check out local artists/creatives in SE4 and whilst having a nose around their garden even consider supporting/buying their work, often at very affordable prices. The map outlining the artists and venues involved hasn’t yet been released but keep an eye out over the next month for details online and pop along. 

Hillyfields Fayre-Saturday 17th July 

This is another event in the local summer calendar that I’m delighted to say is BACK! Okay it’s slightly later than normal to allow for Covid restrictions to hopefully be minimised but it promises to be one fantastic day when the whole of SE London can come out to celebrate things beginning to get back to normal. It is a very special fayre organised by the Brockley Society set in the beautiful Hilly Fields with a mixture of Bric a Brac stalls from local people clearing out their stuff to craft stalls to food/drink traders to the very popular tea & cake marquee. 

There is always lots to occupy the little ones with a funfair/bouncy castle and the magical train plus animals from Surrey Quays farm. In the middle of the field there is the entertainment space with lots of shows/demonstrations and the ever popular dog show. I’m not sure yet if all of this detailed above will take place this year but I don’t see why not as it is all outside. Let’s make this a day to remember-see you there.

We Do Good Disco-Coulgate Street-Saturday 31st July & Saturday 4th September

The fun loving duo of Hatty and Debs are hosting a couple of their fab film and disco nights on the now closed street of Coulgate Street in Brockley. This is all outdoors and so weather permitting the original ‘Hairspray’ film (1988) will be shown in July with just over a month later the Prince concert film ‘Sign o the Times’ After the films there will be dancing on the street with 70/80’s & other popular tunes. If you haven’t already been to one of these events you are in for a treat believe me! They have showcased what an amazing community we live in with a free film/boogie for anyone who fancies it. See you there.

Nunhead Cemetery Open Day-Saturday 4th September 11-5pm

This family fun event is normally held on the 3rd Saturday in May but as we know nothing is ‘normal’ any more and so understandably it has been pushed back 4 months and is going ahead the first weekend in September. This day is one of my favourite events of the year as besides being set inside the beautiful Gothic cemetery there are lots of fab stalls/children’s activities/tours of the cemetery with visits to the chapel and crypt which are not normally open/food & drink plus lots more. It is always a great community day for all the family and I think will be even more special this year after everything we have been through. 

Blythe Hill Festival-Sunday 5th September 

I understand that the very popular festival in SE23 is returning this year, albeit a couple of months later than normal. Publicity has just come out confirming the date and arrangements.It appears the usual offerings with the main stage providing performances & musical entertainment at the top of the hill with straw bales as seating is happening. 

There will be lots of community and craft stalls with delicious food and drink provided. Children’s activities and entertainment will take place around the park including the popular woodland stage, with a funfair/bouncy castle in the far corner. Obviously we don’t know what the pandemic situation will be in September but I’m fairly confident it will still be low numbers over the summer and so being outside I’m hopeful the Blythe Hill festival will be as big and popular as ever-supposedly it attracts approx. 4,000 people! 

Volunteers are desperately needed to help run this event-open this link for details on stalls & how you can help out. I certainly plan to be there as it literally is at the bottom of my road.

School Summer Fayres 

I normally end this section of ‘What’s Happening’ with dates on a list of all the school summer fairs in the area. These are always popular community events and are big fundraising occasions for the PTA and the school. My general impression on asking around is that most sadly are not taking place this year due to the pandemic and restrictions that would have to be put in place.

I’m sure there might be a few schools that do decide to put on something in July so check out locally at the time. 

BUSINESS NEWS

This is now my fourth blog I’ve written over the past year since we went into lockdown and I’ve already written & been amazed at how resilient our amazing local businesses have been throughout this pandemic and generally survived! 

As most are now operating in some form or other and next week the hospitality sector is being allowed to open & serve inside, the next 6 months will be crucial to their long term survival as the business rates holiday and furlough will stop and for some they will have to start paying back loans. 

Most businesses have said to me that they have got through the past year with the fantastic support from the community. Indeed for some shops that have been allowed to be open throughout they have done even better than pre-Covid levels as have attracted new customers, with many residents suddenly having to work at home and so shopping & exploring their local area. 

Cafes and restaurants have been incredibly adaptable and created imaginative take-away options and for many of us who have been lucky enough financially to not be impacted by the pandemic we have saved money and so been prepared to treat ourselves with more take-aways/deliveries. 

I firmly believe there is a huge pent up demand to spend and so am quietly hopeful that most of our local businesses will see big numbers return. Indeed it has happened over the last month since hospitality opened up outside. I personally have been prepared to sit in beer gardens/outside areas shivering in my coat/hat/scarf and gloves just for the pleasure of drinking/eating and socialising with my mates again whilst also knowing I’m helping support local businesses.

Bookings have been good for most of the local pubs I’m aware of and some have even ran out of beer! They have also been ingenious in creating attractive outside areas and trying to provide overhead cover in case of rain-there has never been such a demand for canopies/large parasols and plastic roofing!

As the weather only hopefully improves over the next few months I’m really expecting there to be a big surge in demand for our cafes/bars and restaurants. I’m not naive enough to think however good business is this summer it will compensate for the months when they were closed or at massively reduced capacity but I really hope it will allow most of them to survive and move forward with relative confidence. Obviously if we have to shut down again in the autumn/winter this will create huge difficulties and uncertainties for businesses but we have to cross everything and hope that there will be no further lockdowns. 

NEW BUSINESSES 

Once again there have been a surprising number of new businesses that have opened in the area since I last posted a blog at the end of January. All appear to be doing well and already attracting support. There are also businesses that I’m aware of that are in the pipeline and due to open in the next few months and others who are expanding plus empty units that I understand are still unoccupied without confirmed tenants. I will detail all of the above categories and begin with the new businesses that have opened, in date order. 

Good as Gold This has to be one of the most exciting new businesses that has opened in the area for a few years. Tom and Anthony, the co-owners, were already experienced in the hospitality sector with a popular cafe uptown in the Fitzrovia area that overnight as lockdown happened lost most of their customers. Luckily for them (and us) their lease was up for renewal in the summer of 2020 so they decided to look locally for a suitable venue as they both lived in South East London. 

They spent the depths of the winter getting the old William Hill bookies, next to WaterintoBeer, on the west side of the tracks in Brockley, ready for opening up as a cafe. They finally opened their doors to the public with a soft launch in Mid March but word soon got round and queues quickly formed for their excellent take-away coffee and exciting sandwiches/cakes. 

The cafe is large and spacious with an open plan counter and kitchen area-the feel of the place is distressed/industrial with as much of the walls kept as original & unpainted and also the old floor tiles retained..Much of the pipework and electrics area also exposed. Sadly for them they did have to replaster the ceiling

I’m a huge fan as all the staff are incredibly friendly and quality food is being served. There is now a brunch menu at the weekends and outside seating over the last few weeks and they can’t wait for people to be able to eat inside next week. They plan to do small plates once they have their alcohol licence, possibly just on a Thursday or Friday evening to begin with. 

This is a fantastic addition to the part of Brockley that has in the past proved difficult for a cafe/restaurant to be successful. Tom and Anthony with Good as Gold are already, within a couple of months, showing that with the right attitude/excellent customer service and quality food you can be a success on this side of the tracks. 

BRINCE Restaurant was another new business that opened in SE4 in March this year, however nearer to me in Crofton Park. Venus nails used to occupy this shop behind the bus stop but after relocating to above Kar Klinik it became empty and extensive renovations took place to convert it to the now Lebanese restaurant owned by Alex. It has had to operate as a take-away only to begin with but they are looking forward to welcoming people inside to their top area next week. It seats approx 22 people. They were originally planning to use the back area as an additional outside space but unfortunately this is not now possible.

We have had food from here a number of times over the last few months and been very happy with everything we’ve had. I can certainly recommend the mixed shawarma wrap. Alex say’s that the lentil, Brince special soup is a very popular choice. Pop down and try out this great addition to the area.

Pat and Robs Emporium This is another business that opened towards the end of March but in Honor Oak. It isn’t strictly a new business as one half was DONDE but Jason decided to reduce the seating area of his long established tapas restaurant and create a general store/ emporium which will always be able to stay open, even if by any bad luck we go into lockdown again. There have been many reconfigurations and name changes over the years but Jason assures me this is his last and I personally feel confident he has found a winning formula with this new shop.

It sells lots of different things from bread and pastries to Hackney Gelato to fruit and vegetables to alcohol. It has just opened up the refillables area so you can now buy as much or as little of pasta/rice/couscous/pulses as you require with lots of other interesting items. There is also another refillables area for detergents/hand wash/shampoo etc where you can bring your own container or buy one there-to hopefully re-use! 

Meanwhile some of the popular tapas & ingredients used in the restaurant next door are for sale in their chilled aisles to one side of the shop, along with ready made sandwiches that can also be toasted. 

You can also get hot drinks and once the next door seating is opened next week you can go through the connecting arch and eat/drink inside again along with the tapas later in the day/evening. As I have already indicated I’m a big fan of this change of use and wish Jason lots of luck in the coming months. Pop in and check it out-I’m sure you will find something to please you-I can highly recommend the fresh padron peppers.   

April 12th was the BIG date in the area for local businesses as this was when Non essential shops/hairdressers/beauty parlours etc could now open up fully plus the hospitality industry serve people OUTSIDE so many of our cafes & restaurants moved from take-away only to also providing food and drink to customers sitting at tables. This also meant lots of our bars and pubs could finally re-open, assuming they have enough outside areas to make it financially viable. 

The above ruling saw a flurry of new businesses open in the area that had been waiting for this April date to welcome customers into their venue and I detail the ones I know below. 

Crofton Books This very popular local bookshop moved out of the Crofton Park community library towards the end of last year and finally found itself an excellent location in Midtown Brockley during January to establish itself as a High Street shop. 

Jason Shelley, the owner/poet/author, spent the next three months getting the shop ready for opening with sorting out all the books into the space/sourcing bookcases etc. He has luckily been able to use friends/volunteers over this time to help him.with this mammoth task. 

The shop is quite big as it also has a large basement that houses most of the children’s books plus rare books,a small  witchcraft section and other amazing finds. 

Having now been open nearly 5 weeks it is proving to be a favourite destination in the area as besides receiving a friendly welcome when you enter you could spend hours browsing the many bookshelves for fiction and non-fiction second hand books on a whole range of subjects from travel to cookery to French history. 

They also hold a number of key popular new titles but you can go in and order any book you want and they can order it & within 48 hours it will arrive at the shop. Jason also told me that book groups could use this service and he will give a discount depending on number etc. 

In his future plans he wants the bookshop to be used for literary events, with poetry and book readings plus launches etc. Certainly very exciting for the area and a great addition to the SE4 High Street.

 I should add here that he still hasn’t found a suitable name for the shop as he wants to change it from Crofton Books as that does not now reflect its current location-watch this space!

Perry Hill Pub This big stand alone pub at 78-80 Perry Hill in SE6 has been empty for a good few years but last autumn we heard the exciting news that Phil & Oonagh, experienced in the hospitality trade, had taken over ownership and during the last lockdown began the mammoth task of completely refurbishing the inside plus clearing, levelling and then boarding out the huge outside garden area. The exterior space really is the jewel in the crown and allowed them to open on Monday 12th April.

In total 250 people can be accommodated outside with 100 of those being under cover. It has to be one of the largest beer gardens in SE London and will hopefully see many people use & enjoy it over the summer months ahead. To one side of the large decking area Lionel Stanhope has painted a very attractive bright coloured mural with the name of the pub as the centerpiece. I believe other interesting touches in the garden area will gradually evolve over the next few months. 

Meanwhile another notable feature of this new business is the food which is being overseen by Jamie Younger (of Franklins and Begging Bowl fame) with head chef Eric Grapt. There is an on-site smokehouse which provides the basis of much of their classic food offerings. Sunday roasts are being served from this weekend. With an ever changing menu expect some delicious dishes. I have eaten there a couple of times and been very impressed.

From Monday 17th May they are taking bookings for the inside area and so locals will get to finally view the 1920/30’s building with lots of the original features, including the attractive wood panelling. 

It certainly is a great addition to this area on the SE23/SE26 and SE6 borders where there really is little choice nearby as many pubs have closed over the years. On a sunny day, if not already, pop down and check it out. For details on booking see their website. I believe they are now taking bookings for up to 30 people for the outside area-woohoo a party! Shows how times are changing! 

Art Dog Gallery This was the other main business in the area that could finally open it’s doors to the public in April and was much anticipated by many in SE23 and beyond. 

Suddenly the south end of Brockley Rise in the last parade before the South Circular has come alive over the last few years with different shops opening when there really was a time when lots of empty units were the norm. 

Pippa Graber founded Art Dog London 20 years ago and represents a select & diverse range of artists from London, the UK and globally and the gallery at 23 Brockley Rise will showcase some of these contemporary artists/photographers/sculptors and other creatives.

It is open to the public from Wednesday to Sundays and also provides an in-house professional framing service. Art classes are also being offered for beginners at the gallery by experienced Artist and teacher, Gill Day, starting in June. For details of all of the above see here

I think having this art gallery open in the area is a really exciting new business addition and having known Pippa personally over the years it is great to see her back in SE23. She would love to see you so pop in and say hello-it may be a small space and possibly feel intimidating to go inside but I can guarantee you will receive a warm welcome. 

The other businesses that I’m aware of that have opened in the area since April are two great additions to the Perry Vale area with Alkemi store, a small lifestyle shop focussed on simple & functional Japanese & Korean items, at 2a Westbourne Drive and Pantry at 14 Perry Vale. This elegant teal painted shop on the corner sells veg & fruit, cheese and charcuteries, coffee and pastries plus more. 

Two new barbers have set up in Ladywell and Brockley. 

Donnelly’s opened in April in the heart of Ladywell village in what was previously the hairdressers Xpressions with a major new makeover. 

Chris, the owner, is experienced in the industry having worked for the past six years in popular local barbers ‘Chaplins of London’ more recently in the Crofton Park branch. He is hoping that finally going it alone and owning his own business will pay off and I certainly wish him well in SE13. 

Meanwhile over in Midtown Brockley Stay Gold at 254 Brockley Road, kept us all guessing what would finally be unveiled as a business, behind the covered up windows. There certainly are already a number of barbers nearby but the owners are hoping there is still a gap in the market for a friendly & quality male hair cutting and grooming service in SE4. It has a cool industrial look inside and I wish them lots of luck. 

Another great new business addition to the area is a family owned cafe van up at the south end of Blythe Hill fields, by the children’s playground. Peggy, a 1972 Commer Highwayman, is offering coffee, sarnies, juices and sweet treats from Wednesday to Sunday. I really hope there is enough trade to sustain this great initiative. I know that I for one would of loved to have had something like this when my children were little whilst I was sitting around in the cold as they were running round the play area. If up in Blythe Hill please check it out and support.

NEW BUSINESSES DUE TO OPEN IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS

I’m aware of quite a few local businesses that are hoping to open their doors in the next few weeks/months and as always under this heading I’m sure there will be other businesses that I don’t yet know about but happen without much warning which is often a very pleasant surprise. 

The first one opening in just over a fortnight is a large plant shop in SE23. This is a case in point as until 10 days ago I had no idea what was going to occupy 19/21 Brockley Rise which is a large empty unit, previously a bookies. Over the last few weeks there has been much activity with decorating, getting shelving and stock in with an anticipated opening on Saturday 29th May. There are lots of very large houseplants that can be seen in the shop already but I’m sure they will be selling all sizes down to the very popular succulents and cactus. I also understand they will be serving coffee with a couple of tables to sit down plus everything related to plants-pots  etc. The name of the shop is going to be Mmea (plant in Swahili) 

This certainly looks a very exciting addition to the area, being next door to the new art gallery, Art Dog and only a few doors up from the popular new business, Sans Stores that opened last year. As mentioned above that small parade to the furthest south end of Brockley Rise has become a destination within less than a year and just proves that a few new businesses can turn an area around to the benefit of everyone. 

The Croft is again another surprise business addition to SE4 which I was unaware of until the end of March when Oli from the Proud Sow let me know that they had taken over the empty unit at No.10 Ewhurst Road which had previously operated as Catfood Cakes. It hasn’t yet opened as they are waiting for the delayed bespoke shop front to arrive but once it is installed the shop should be up and operating within a week to 10 days. 

Basically it is going to be a working kitchen which Kristy, one of the sisters from the award winning Indonesian street food Kaki Lima, will be heading up and creating exciting food to sell in the shop. There will be an emphasis on pies with the ever favourite sausage roll I’m sure being a best seller. Soups and bone broths plus other interesting meals will be created plus there will be a coffee machine providing take-away coffee using local Mont58 beans. 

All of this will be served from two windows at the front so it will not be a walk in shop. I for one can’t wait for this to open as the Ewhurst parade of shops is literally one minute from my house and all of the above sounds very appetising. I should add here that the shutters of the shop have been recently brightened up with a lovely light turquoise background & cream and orange lettering the Croft by local street artist Lionel Stanhope.

Obviously being owned by Proud Sow the items will also be sold in the butcher’s as well. Watch this space for the opening date but Oli really hopes that we won’t have to wait for too long now but sadly it is out of his control until the shop front arrives.

Over in Brockley there are a couple of businesses that I am hoping will be opening within the next few months. Firstly there is Krazy Crab that is next to Masala Wala Cafe in Brockley Cross. I had a long conversation with the owner of this Seafood Restaurant in November last year and he was hoping to open it in December with his lobster tank arriving the next week. However I assume he thought better of that decision as it never opened it’s doors before Xmas and then we have been under lockdown ever since. 

On asking around I understand people have been seen coming in and out so there is a hope that it could finally open as early as next week but if not I hope very soon. It certainly is an interesting addition to that part of SE4 and I hope it will do well.

Meanwhile one business that I do know more about is everyone’s favourite The Gantry. After shutting in March 2020 as we went into the first lockdown this bar/restaurant has sadly not re-opened. It has been beset with problems over the last 14 months with lots of intentions to open again at various times but I can finally say it should be opening as soon as they get certain go aheads from the council but are certainly hoping that it will happen sometime in June. 

I think we will see quite a lot of changes as I understand there is a door from the front bar area directly into their beautiful back garden rather than going downstairs and through the rooms. 

They have invested in a rotisserie and the plan is that people can eat their rotisserie boxes either in the garden, conservatory or front patio area or take them away to eat at home/the park or the office. There will also be a small pantry for take-away goodies. 

I’m sure when they finally open Brockley will give them a huge welcome back as this popular friendly French business has been sadly missed by many. 

The final business I want to mention in this section is Le Delice. This very popular French cafe in Ladywell has been fantastic throughout the whole pandemic in providing us all with take-away coffees, delicious cakes and lunches. However I’m very pleased to announce that it is expanding and setting up another cafe in Hither Green so the local residents of SE13 are in for a treat. 

Many of you may know the new location on Hither Green Lane as it was the very busy Kid’s Corner twenty plus years ago and I, along with my mum friends, spent many hours having our toddlers entertained in this large soft play area. More recently it was Carpet Corner but has been empty now for a while with the whole building being newly refurbished. 

They are taking over the whole of the ground floor space for Le Delice, No. 2 with posters on the windows saying boulangerie & patisserie coming soon. It certainly is a very large area that they are currently working on to create the necessary storage/kitchen/toilets and then the cafe area. 

Sadly there can be no outside seating but it will feel very spacious inside with seating for up to 60 people once social distancing is allowed to be removed. 

Nabil and Karine are very excited with the new addition and are hoping that the cafe will open at the beginning of June but want to stress that they will not be abandoning their customers back in SE13! I really wish them lots of luck with their new venture as they certainly deserve it. 

EMPTY UNITS 

I want to finish this section on Business news by mentioning a couple of significant empty units that I’m aware of in the area I cover which I’m not sure what is happening with them.

Coral’s over last summer moved out of 2 large units which have since laid empty and are up for sale. The one in Ladywell, next to the Larder, is quite large and I know many in the local area would love that someone came in and opened it as a restaurant in the evenings and helped create a better night time economy in the village. However I understand a few people are interested in the business but it would need a change of use to facilitate this and I’m not sure if this will get approved. Watch this space.

Meanwhile over in Midtown Brockley the large unit on the corner of Adelaide Ave and the main road is also available and whilst I don’t think there is quite the demand for a restaurant here as there are much better choices of eating places along that parade it will be very interesting to see what business finally ends up here. 

There is also the empty unit on the corner of Brockley Cross in what was the Brockley Deli.The shutters have been seen up recently with quite a lot of activity so perhaps new tenants are looking to move in here which would be great for that part of SE4.

Finally the old Barclay’s Bank in Crofton Park is still empty and up for sale after nearly 3 years since the bank shut to the public in 2018. I’m not sure why it is taking so long to get new tenants in there but I understand they are asking a high price plus the whole building is up for sale so one small independent business is unlikely to be able to afford it. 

I don’t know about you but quite a few of us would love a Mexican restaurant to open in the area as this is a cuisine that is very popular and sadly lacking. Also I think a charity shop would do very well in SE4 as there really isn’t any at the moment when many people moan that their High Streets consist of bookies, chicken shops and charity shops! 

I would just like to add a final note here about Catford. There is a stretch of empty shops together on the main road that is looking very sad and neglected. Before the pandemic it housed an Argos, then Boots and finally Peacocks, all popular high street brands. These are now large empty units and I really hope that the Council comes up with an attractive proposition to businesses to get them occupied again and so improve that part of SE6.

However talking of Catford and empty units there is a large shop by the station on the ground floor of the flat development, near the Sainsbury’s Local, that has been waiting to be occupied for a long time now. On asking around it appears it is going to be a cafe with also a launderette. I’m hoping it will be an independent as I feel we have enough Costa’s in SE6. There is also a large paved area in front that I’m assuming/hoping will be for outside eating/drinking. This could be an exciting new business-let’s wait and see. 

LOCAL BUSINESS VENUES

I will finish the important business section of the blog with 3 of our amazing local businesses that are more than just a shop/pub or cafe-they really are important local destinations! I’m always delighted to say that two of these very special places are just 5 minutes walk from my house in Crofton Park, namely the Brockley Jack Theatre and the Rivoli Ballroom whilst the other venue I’m mentioning is more recently opened down in SE6, namely the Catford Mews

Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

The lights went out in this popular local theatre in March last year and sadly have not been able to be open again since. However I can bring good news as the first production is happening from the 15th June with Stewart Pringle’s award winning play TRESTLE  and running for 2 weeks. It’s a bittersweet comic drama about later life, love and the community-and bananas! This first show will operate with social distancing in place for people to get used to being back in the theatre-it will only have 20 seats so booking is essential to not miss out. See here for details.

Kate and Karl have undertaken lots of measures at the theatre to keep people safe and reassure them, all in line with the Government guidelines. In addition they will have hand sanitisers, a screen at the box office area, ventilation in the theatre and all seats are sprayed between performances using a fogger. Audiences will need to wear a mask. 

The Jack team are hoping that the two shows they are planning in July and two shorter runs in August will operate with a fuller capacity whilst still having most of the safety measures in place, referred to above. 

They are also running workshops in June with some online but some in person. For details and booking check the website. 

Finally Kate & Karl would like to thank everyone for their incredible support during this very difficult time for the theatre industry. The encouragement and support from their audience and our community has made a huge difference to their survival and safe return and for that they will be eternally grateful. I for one can’t wait to get back inside this lovely local theatre. 

The Rivoli Ballroom

This stunning venue has a very special place in my heart and I can’t believe how lucky I was to hold my 60th birthday party there only 7 months before the pandemic struck. 

The ballroom has been largely closed over the past year but they were able to get in a few successful film screenings last summer and autumn, when Govt guidelines allowed. 

They have also been able to offer the venue as a film and TV location so have had some income coming in from that over the past 15 months.

However they are able to operate from next week as a cinema again and from late June their very popular 70s/80s disco nights are also returning. 

The first 3 discos in June and July are already sold out but check out September, October and December if you want to get back boogieing as tickets are already going fast. 

The first film showing is on Thursday 20th May with ‘The Breakfast Club’ and seven different screenings of other classic films over the following 4 days. More summer cinema nights in June and July are being shown with popular titles like ‘The Lost Boys’ and ‘Thelma & Louise. 

For details of all of the above and bookings see here.

I really hope that the Rivoli is able to continue with all their plans over the summer and that they are successful on their return-if you haven’t been to a film night here I can highly recommend as besides sitting in sumptuous surroundings the sound and vision quality is excellent. It is such a large room that you can also certainly feel safe being sufficiently distanced from others watching in the audience. 

Catford Mews 

Brilliant news for SE6 is that from next Monday the Catford Mews are back open. The food vendors Fuse, Two Dogs Down and Twerk n Jerk are returning to serve us delicious food which can be eaten inside the venue, along with resident cafe, Compound coffee

From Friday 21st May the cinema screens will be re-opening with lots of film choices to hopefully please all the family from the oscar winning film ‘Nomadland’ to the popular children’s film ‘Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway’ 

They are re-opening with a welcome back offer over the first weekend-cinema ticket and a small popcorn for £7.50-what a bargain! For details of all screenings see here.

If you have followed my blogs over the past year you will know that I’m a big fan of Catford Mews and love the cool industrial interior with bar and food outlets. The cinema seats are also really comfy and offer great titles at very affordable prices. Surprisingly many people in the area still don’t seem to know about it but I hope that it will have a very successful return over the summer and audiences build up over the year. See you there. 

COMMUNITY NEWS

I will firstly outline community news in Crofton Park and then briefly outline other important initiatives in the area I’m aware of.

Crofton Park Community Library 

The library has been really missed by many in this part of SE4 as it has become an important community hub over the last few years. 

However they have not been idle over lockdown with extensive refurbishments and changes to the building making it brighter with a full repaint job, new carpet and works to improve the windows and roof plus other essential but less glamorous jobs. 

I got a sneak preview a couple of weeks ago by Silvana and was very impressed as many of the original features were suddenly highlighted like the beautiful windows and the small panes in the lightwell over the right side of the space. It certainly seemed much bigger. 

Significant changes have taken place within the space as with Crofton Books having vacated the building this area has now become the children’s library and the front room that did house the kids books is now Make Mee Studio who are providing sewing classes and projects for both adults and children-a very exciting collaboration! Also this space can be used for community groups/events etc.

At the moment the library is not open to the public as they are waiting for the volunteers to return. On Thursday afternoons however they are offering a click and collect service plus providing lucky dip bundles to pick up that are proving popular. 

They can’t wait to expand their service and get everyone back into the library to browse but this may take a while so please be patient. 

Crofton Park Community Railway Garden

I can’t express enough my deep love for this beautiful space in the heart of Crofton Park, running along the northbound platform at the station. I must pass it nearly every day as I walk up Marnock Road to the High Street and I just always peer in and often see so many people enjoying the garden. 

It has been a vital resource I believe for many under lockdown as it has provided a sanctuary for families without an outside area at home and allowed the kids to run around and let off steam in this safe space. 

Also friends have been meeting there, often with a takeaway coffee or lunch and the two chairs to the back area are perfectly positioned to provide socially distanced conversations/meetings! I call them the Happy seats. 

As mentioned right at the beginning of the blog there is a market being held at the garden from 11-3pm this Saturday (15th May) with 8 great local stalls so even if the weather isn’t great please pop down and SUPPORT. It is hoped these will start up again on a regular basis and the next one is provisionally set for Saturday 26th June.

When the garden was first created 2 years ago it was always envisaged it would be available to be used by the community for many different events. Obviously a pandemic has put this on hold but I can happily report our first event beside the markets will be on Tuesday 1st June 7-9pm as part of the Brockley Max festival. Jason Shelley from Crofton Books will be hosting a poetry evening in the garden space with other local authors/poets. Everyone is welcome so pop down. We sincerely hope this will be the first of many music/theatre/creative events staged in this space. 

We are always happy for people to get more involved with the garden and volunteer days are held every fortnight on Sundays. For details and how to get in touch check out the website

I will finish with saying that we have some exciting plans to improve and add to the garden, particularly in relation to children so watch this space. Money is of course a limiting factor in curtailing our ideas and we are always delighted for any donations towards this. It may be that we set up a specific fundraising appeal in the future but see here for how you can contribute for the time being. 

Fourth Reserve-Buckthorne Cutting Nature Reserve 

We are very lucky in Crofton Park to have 2 beautiful community spaces, only 5 minutes walking distance from each other. 

The Fourth Reserve is at the end of Buckthorne Road, by the pedestrian railway bridge and this is another area that the local community has embraced as the road has been closed to cars and planters/benches/tables have been established in the space so many local residents sit and chat in this attractive safe area with only bikes disrupting the peace and quiet. Two nature art murals & a small pocket park add to the sense of ambience. 

Meanwhile inside the nature reserve itself there has been so much activity by Anna-Maria, Nick, Paul and Julia plus many other volunteers over the last year, under lockdown, to expand and continually improve this beautiful community space. 

There was an open day in April and so we had an opportunity to witness all the hard work that has been undertaken and were not disappointed. The bothy hut by the entrance is beautiful and will provide much needed shelter from the weather whilst also showcasing lots of useful information about the reserve. 

The signalman’s garden project has developed over the winter with funding from the Stanley Smith Horticulture Trust. A wonderful pond & wildflower glade has been created where the signalman’s garden would once have been. 

Hopefully there will be another open day over the summer for visitors and I can highly recommend you grab the chance to see this nature reserve for yourself-you will honestly be both surprised and amazed!

Great North Wood-Scout Hut Appeal

The people behind the Fourth Reserve are also campaigning to save the Dandy Fifth Park, also known as the old Scout Hut which is at the end of Courtrai road in SE23. The ancient woodland was used by local scouts for 90 years until they were evicted by developers in 2004. Ever since the area has been sadly neglected with frequent fly tipping. Next year will be 100 years since the opening of the original park and it would be fantastic to get this area restored as an outdoor education resource. To do this community and financial support is needed. See here for how you can get involved and donate. 

Wildcat Wilderness  

During lockdown much work was undertaken at this beautiful outdoor community green space, the main one constructing an outdoor classroom and when I first saw it I was amazed-it is huge!

Each end of the classroom has a very large wall that is looking very blank and sad. However there are big plans over the summer to create a fantastic ‘wild wonder wall’ but they need your help! 

Everyone is invited, no matter what your age, to draw a picture of something natural you might find outdoors, living or growing in the Catford area (no jungle animals) You have until the closing date of 27th June to submit your drawing and all those chosen will then be invited in August to help decorate the wall with your own contribution. This sounds a brilliant art project to get involved with so check out the details here.

Over the next few months visitors and families are being welcomed back to the wildcat-for dates and events happening over the summer keep checking the website. 

The Refugee Cafe-crowdfunding campaign

The refugee cafe launched in 2019 with a mission to provide employment opportunities for local refugees as well as celebrate the culinary cultures of South East London. Over the past year they have worked with a team of refugee chefs to create products in their founder’s kitchen which are sold online and at markets.

Recently they decided to go one step further and provide a physical, refugee led cafe in Lewisham providing employment training and jobs to out of work refugees whilst also serving delicious food to the community. To do this they need our SUPPORT and so have set up a crowdfunding page which in just over a fortnight has raised over £26,000. Check out their story and donate if you can to this brilliant project and make the refugee cafe a reality. 

Lewisham Foodbank-fundraising 

The Lewisham Foodbank have a partnership with fab local Biz Marvellous Greens & Beans to source fresh fruit and vegetables for them. Their foodbank clients would love more fresh & culturally appropriate food. Consider donating towards the cost of these so that their clients can cook with fresh ingredients. Check out the justgiving page where your donation, however big or small, can help transform lives and stop people going hungry. 

Finally in this community section I have listed below a couple of petitions that are live at the moment and important to our local area.

Save Blythe Hill’s Architectural Heritage

A petition has been created to help save the William Hill’s building on Stanstead RD, next to Moon Lane bookshop from becoming flats and to call for investment in the local parade. A viable and widely supported plan to create a community-minded cafe/restaurant run by some local enterprises stands ready to take on these premises and create a welcoming hub for the area. To get involved and sign the petition click here.

Deptford’s Wavelengths Leisure Pool is under threat

It would appear that there are no plans by the council to re-open this popular leisure pool in Deptford which was first built in 1992. 

I have been going to this brilliant fun pool with my children from when it first opened and both Alex and Joe learnt to swim at Wavelengths and so it is very special to me and my family. 

It is in need of a big refurbishment and the council are saying they cannot afford the estimated £700,000 but the campaigners believe the resources can and must be found. 

It is a vital resource in the most ethnically diverse area of the borough and swimming and exercise is even more important for their wellbeing as children recover from the impact of Covid.

This campaign certainly has my full backing. Sign the petition here and show your SUPPORT. 

SNIPPETS OF NEWS

Grounds and Grapes are finally opening again next week on Tuesday 18th May-the Honor Oak parade have certainly missed them/The Italian deli Le Querce daily celebrated one year on the Rise last month-many don’t realise they sell fresh fish/Deja Brew can’t wait to open inside and show off their new revamp-they will also return to Sunday opening/Did you know Two Spoons have a lovely quiet back courtyard which should be covered by a very large parasol very soon/The Workshop are back open and doing one to one sewing lessons plus now expanding into soft furnishings-pop in and say hello to Donna/The Chandos can’t wait to welcome everyone back inside-those football Euro nights will be very popular!/Did you know everyone’s favourite fish n chippy Brockley’s Rock is celebrating 10 years! Wow a whole decade-congratulations Kyri and all the staff/Jone’s of Brockley is now fully open 7 days a week/Model Market is back open down in Lewisham on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays-tables can be reserved/The Cinderella Line have just issued an update on our trains-see details here/The Air Thrill soft play area is re-opening again in Catford on Friday 21st May/Very exciting news-Meat Liquor is taking over the Dartmouth Arms in Forest Hill-opening 1st July/Parlez is looking forward to opening up inside & hoping live music can resume soon on Friday eves/Lots of herbs, indoor & outdoor plants at local family run garden centre Shannon’s/The fab local newspaper Lewisham Ledger is out in mid June with their summer issue & has available one more page of adverts-email lewishamledger@gmail.com if interested/Local resident Jitna Bhagani runs social enterprise biz Shaktiism-see here for details/Jerome’s wine bar are looking forward to welcoming people inside again-the popular Pinsa nights will be on Fridays & Saturday-can highly recommend/Delicious summer cocktails await your return inside Bottle Bar & shop-bookings now being taken/Have you been to the Blythe Hill Tavern yet? Large area of the garden now covered/Sonia & Shannon are welcoming people back into the Blue Room next week-sadly lunches will stop but Jerk Sunday lunch still available plus orders for celebration cakes taken/Magi Gifts over in Brockley have lots of new stock-increasing the homeware with attractive lampshades arriving! Lots of men’s items-fathers day next month/Spanish restaurant Loculto Cocina has space out at the front and a covered courtyard at the back for diners but Ana & Teresa are delighted to also be back serving inside next week/Jerk Off BBQ back down in Deptford Creekside on Thursday,Fridays and Saturdays/Hattush, the Mediterranean restaurant & bar is celebrating 5 years on the Honor Oak parade/Did you know Brickfields Bar has a secret back yard? With a pavement licence allowing tables outside Sids there is now a good amount of outside seating plus Raastawala is continuing to provide delicious food/The Orchard is cooking up some lovely new dishes & also hoping to bring back the popular Sunday quiz soon/Gentle Home in Crofton Park is going to the place to find women’s adult sandals-Saltwater & Birkenstock/Have you tried the sushi yet at Jay’s Budgens-proving to be a popular addition/Marvellous Greens and Beans celebrated one year in Brockley Rise last month-what a fantastic addition to SE23-check out their fruit & veg boxes/The Rise can’t wait to see people back inside the cafe & will be providing burgers in the evenings-Wednesday to Saturday plus of course take-away/There is a lovely back garden area to dine in at Italian restaurant Nonna Maria-check it out/Bekir at Sundae’s is ready to serve lots of delicious  ice-cream & sorbets this summer/Have you had a dip or swim yet at the beautiful Beckenham Lake? Can’t wait to be back when the weather/water warms up in June/The Fox & Firkin garden is HUGE with lots of covered areas.

Okay I really need to stop now! Having just checked my word count this blog is nearly 11,000 words long!! That really is a dissertation PLUS and has to hold the record for the longest one yet.

I apologise and as always I say at this point if you have honestly read it all you deserve a medal. I certainly need a lie down (and drink) 

I cannot emphasise enough how we need to get out and SUPPORT OUR AMAZING LOCAL BIZ. After all they have been through these past 14 months many are relying on business being good over the summer. If this does not happen I fear some will not survive. As the saying goes USE or LOSE.

I hope to see some of you in the next few months at local events. Remember we are very lucky to all live in one of the BEST COMMUNITIES-South East London Rocks! 

Hope everyone stays safe and well and that 2021 is the year that we beat the pandemic (everything crossed) 

Love Jane x 

Follow me on twitter @JaneCanDoSE4 for local updates and information