The Future of Hilly Fields

Anyone with an opinion worth listening to counts Hilly Fields as one of the best things about living in Brockley. The stunning slopes play a central role in local life, from the Summer Fayre and the Max, to the farmers market and the inaugural fun run.

And yet the park itself is relatively little discussed on this site. We've been aware of the Hilly Fields Users Group for a while, but not sure who to talk to about their work. Fortunately, Sue Luxton sent us a copy of their minutes and gave us the contact details for them. Having just interviewed Rachel, from the Users Group, we're glad to hear that 'better communication' is a high priority for them, going forward. We're also pleased to hear that a cafe, while still a distant prospect, is something they support.

Here's what she told us about the group's work and Hilly Fields' future:

What does the group do?

I've been involved for about five or six years, but the group's been going a lot longer.

In the early days, our remit was just to scrutinise Glendale, the park management contractors. It was a very limited and not especially rewarding role! These days, we are more proactive and have developed a long-term plan for the park, which has the support of the Council.

It's been difficult to raise money for improvements. We work well with Martin Hyde, from Lewisham Council's "Green Scene" department, but they have relatively little money to fund what we need. However, the Council is considering trying to achieve "Green Flag" status [the national standard of excellence] and to do that, they'd need to put some money in to it.

So what has the group been working on?

Well, most of what we do is not especially radical. We have been working to improve the biodiversity of the park and make small improvements to its physical appearance and facilities.

Specific projects we've been involved with include:

  • Planting the meadow to increase the number and range of flowers
  • Creating a new gate on the east side, to improve access and reduce flytipping, which had been a problem
  • A 'bird champion' project to encourage more birds to use the park
  • We're currently petitioning the deputy mayor to secure funding for the paths. At the moment, there are some people who simply can't get up the hill because of the poor surface. You can sign it at the Sunflower Centre.
Wherever possible, we've tried to work with local schools. For example, we worked with Prendegast to design the new gate and we worked with Gordonbrock to plant primroses, which are now beginning to flower.

We recently got some funding from the Ladywell localities fund for an outdoor table tennis table, which is now on order and will go up by the tennis courts. [Brockley Central loves this idea but is slightly concerned that a game so susceptible to wind should be positioned in such an exposed spot...]

Longer term, what are your plans?

We want to improve the playground. It doesn't compare well with many other parks, such as Telegraph Hill, and it's too exposed to the elements. We'd invest in brand new equipment and relocate sections of it so that the park steps down the hill more. That's a big undertaking though and could cost up to £200,000. But if the Council is serious about Green Flag status, then that's the kind of thing they need to do.

Relocating parts of the playground would also be in keeping with our vision, which is to minimise clutter at the top, so that people can enjoy the stunning views properly.

We're hoping to become a pilot project for Natural England, which has money available for projects which enhance biodiversity in city sites. This would involve making some big improvements to the meadow area.

The toilets are in poor condition and our ambition is to create a cafe in the park, which everyone tells us would be the best change we could make to Hilly Fields. Obviously, the park's accessibility is a big challenge in terms of how we would protect a cafe from burglary and vandalism. Ladywell Fields built something similar and, despite it being completely emptied every night, it was still broken into. We'd still like to make it happen, even if we have to start with a temporary solution to test the market, but honestly, there is no plan to make it happen at the moment. It's the kind of thing we need more help with.

What do you think the group needs to do better?

Most importantly, we need more people. The people who are involved are committed, but we are a small group and we lack some of the skills we need. We really could benefit from the involvement of people who understand how to fund raise effectively.

We only meet a few times a year and people can get as involved as they like - if you just want to help with some planting once or twice, that's fine. If you want to help with fundraising or publicity, but you can't make regular meetings, that's fine too.

Part of our responsibility in this regard is to communicate more effectively with the outside world. To that effect, we are developing a website, but we also need to work more closely with a lot of the other groups in the area, such as the Brockley Society and the Brockley Cross Action Group. A lot goes on in the park that we don't have any involvement with and which the park doesn't benefit from. Not long ago, there was a small fun fair set up in the park without our knowledge and the no money was contributed towards the park by the people who ran it. That seems like a missed opportunity.

What ongoing gripes do you have?

Well, one of the biggest problems is dogmuck. It's sad that it should occupy so much of our time, but it spoils everyone's enjoyment and the problem seems to have got worse recently. We know that there are a small number of dog-walkers who are the problem, but there is no co-ordinated way of penalising them. If you walk your dogs in Hilly Fields, please clean up after them!

How can people who want to help get involved?

Please email me at hillyfields4@googlemail.com and I can add you to the mailing list or let you know about upcoming meetings.

47 comments:

Monkeyboy said...

Hilly Fields - great place and I should think it's the one thing about Brockley that everyone agrees is an asset?

I go running there even in the depths of winter, I'm a big (well small) bloke so don't feel especially vulnerable but would lady runners (and big wusses) prefer some better lighting in the winter?

And what's with the big pile of horse poo there at the moment? At least I hope it's horse, hate to see the dog who dropped that one. I'm all for creating a rural idyl but if I wanted to smell it I'd move to Surrey.

(only kidding, it's a great place)

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for the summer, it's gonna be great sitting on there and we can all pretend we live in Clapham :)

No complaints at all from me around hilly fields, perfect site and I don't mind the swings either!

brockley mutha said...

hilly fields is lovely - the location, the view, the plants, the playground - absolutely adore it. But agree it could do with a few additions - the playground is not great for disabled children - neither the location, nor the equipment. And a cafe would be superb.

Anonymous said...

I'm buying a few flats there as a parting shot before decamping to west London.

Monkeyboy said...

Anon.... or should I say Hugh? was dumping the 6 tons of horse manure a cynical attempt to lower prices before buying up half the properties?

Anonymous said...

Could they please replace the seat at the top which overlooks Crystal Palace? Both Felix (School of Rock) and myself named it as our favourite spot, when interviewed for the SE4U mag.
Moira

Kate said...

I totally *heart* Hilly Fields. I too run there, several times a week (well that's the aim, anyway). Re-surfacing the paths would be the most practical improvement I can think of, I can imagine it causes accessibility issues and it would improve the underfoot experience for the park's runners too.
Monkeyboy is right about lighting, I am fine running in the dark (after work usually) in the western part, which has enough lighting to not feel too intimidating, but the eastern side (between the meadow and the tennis courts, via the steps down to Ladywell) always worries me. I'm sure it's not really a threatening place to be, but it does impede my winter running schedule a bit.

On a positive note, I like the idea of moving things off the crest of the hill to improve the views, that sounds like a good way of maximising the park's 'wow' factor - which it already has in spades, I should add!

Anonymous said...

I love Hilly Fields - it could do with a cafe but other than that it's great. I do prefer the T. Hill play area though (for the kids - not me) but Hilly Fields on a sunny day is a great place to be.

On another more serious point - sorry to sound like a boring wuss - but I would advise anyone who runs on Hilly Fields (particularly the women) to not mention their running times or regular routes online, especially if they are running in the dark on Hilly Fields.

Anonymous said...

Can I be the first to suggest a name for the ice-cream shop:

"Lolly Fields"







No? :)

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

We should a cat walking path to complement the dog walkers and runners.

My cat doesnt make big poos so it aint mine :o)

Anonymous said...

Hilly fields is lovely, but it is not so nice when it gets dark.

Kids hang about sniffing glue or solvents. They mutter threats to passersby, especially women.

The loos are vandalised regularly and a cafe would be an obvious target.

I am not sure what the solution is to this. It must be a problem that affects all London parks.

Anonymous said...

I agree, some resurfacing of the path, especially on the eastern side past the dog poo bin down to Ladywell, would be very very welcome.

I found myself half way down a gap in the tarmac the other day - yes I might have small feet but if it opens up any more, it'll become more of a trip hazard! I for one quite like my ankles un-broken. Yes I was watching where I was going...

Brockley Nick said...

If anyone reading this blog has been thinking of volunteering some of their time to help with a local group, I'd urge you to consider this one. Not only is Hilly Fields such an important part of our lives, but it's also a group where there is a lot of scope to lend a hand and make a real difference. It was clear during the interview that the current team is overstretched and could do with some help to take their vision forward.

Anonymous said...

Hilly Fields Group should consider applying for a 'Community Spaces' grant. The info is here: http://www.community-spaces.org.uk/

£50million of Lottery money to go to community groups seeking to improve green spaces. Open for applications as of last week; you'd have the best shot at a grant for up to £50K. I would offer to help, but it would present a (disqualifying) conflict of interest.

Jason Dittle said...

hey! here is the site i was talking about where i made the extra $800 last month, checkit out... the site is here

Anonymous said...

Looks like the spam boys have found brockley central.

tressillian james said...

lets not have a cafe at hilly fields......it really doesn't need to be turned into a commercial venture...if anyone has been to Oxley Woods in Shooter's Hill, the worst thing abolut it is the cafe. If you want a coffee, grab a flask and have a picnic.

Brockley Nick said...

Agreed about the Oxleas Wood cafe, but Dulwich and Hither Green have both shown how it can be done well. And wouldn't it be nice to have somewhere that could be used to stage things like parents and children classes during the week, in the middle of the park? Incorporate the toilets in to the new cafe and suddenly they become somebody's responsibility (currently, there is no money even for lightbulbs in the Hilly Fields loo) and you have a properly maintained facility for general use.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't telegraph hill also have a cafe? I wonder if they have any security issues. Manor house gardens is lovely. Greenwich park has a fantastic tea room. I would rather fancy scones (clotted cream a necessity) and tea in hilly fields park. This is really good news. I am all for helping out.

Anonymous said...

sorry, I didn't mean to get carried away with the scones and the whole idea.

Ralph said...

Manor House Gardens has Green Flag Status, and a thriving cafe. There is no doubt that success breeds success ... the more that young families turn up, the safer they feel. Hilly Fields can do the same. In case you wondered why a Lee interloper feels it necessary to comment ... my (yet to be) wife lived in Wickham Road and I remember the Wickham Arms with great affection. I also did locums in Stromley's Pharmacy (as was named) oppposite the War memorial so I have never relly left and regret not buying a Victorian pile for 3shillings/6pence in the 1970s.

Amanda said...

I am not overly keen for a cafe on Hilly Fields. The area is well used and loved without such facilities.
But it could be alright if senstively run.

Dog muck is an issue, you have be very alert to avoid it, but it's not unbearable, thus far. Though its not fun encountering it by the outside gym. It puts you right off!

I agree about resurfacing on the side were the Farmer's market is. It is hazardous.

But overrall Hilly Fields is complete delight.

Anonymous said...

There is a precedent. Hilly Fields used to have a tea rooms. It is clearly visible in old photos.

hilly said...

Lighting does get discussed from time to time at user group meetings. Some people preferred the days when there was no lighting in the park. Generally, it is felt that lighting the main paths is a sufficient compromise and that if you don't want to be in the dark or are worried about safety, there are lots of well lit footpaths around the edge of the park. Lighting some of the peripheral paths would cause deeper shadows off the footpath, so you can see the pot holes but not the bushes.

hilly said...

If you want a bit of exercise, there's a 'jumpers for goal posts' kick about most Sunday mornings around 11am on the football field at Hilly Fields. Mainly over 40s but don't let that put you off... keen to have a few more players...

Kate said...

I know the one you mean, I usually jog past you at around that time of day ... Maybe I'll pop over and join you sometime!

Anonymous said...

Sounds good - is it just a question of turning up and asking for a game?

hilly said...

Yes, it (the football) is very informal, just turn up. They have a ball and jumpers!

William Canynge said...

"We want to improve the playground. It doesn't compare well with many other parks, such as Telegraph Hill, and it's too exposed to the elements."

But with Telegraph Hill and Ladywell so close and having had such significant investment in them, why can't HF focus more on the nature resevey-type bits?

As for being too exposed to the elements - great! It's our bit of the country in London. It feels like London has crept around rather than over a hill, so let's try as hard as possible to leave it that way.

Anonymous said...

I suppose partly because walking down to Ladywell Fields with a two year old is an expedition in itself, and I don't think getting to Telegraph Hill is an option on foot for a toddler.

I for one would like a slide I don't have to field both ends at once.

hilly said...

We don't have plans to solely replicate the off the peg type of playgrounds in local parks. We are very keen to have more natural and creative play. We are hoping to be able to make the sloping part of the play area much greener and more in keeping with the natural character of park. So a bit of the green can creep back into the playground.

Pete said...

How do the tennis courts "work"? Do you just turn up and play? What is a reasonable amount of time to use a court?

Anonymous said...

As far as I know, you just turn up and play. Not sure what the etiquette is if someone is waiting. A friend plays regularly and has only had a bit of trouble trying to get on once.

hilly said...

Severe weather conditions caused cancellation of last week's game, but jumpers for goal post crew are planning on playing this Sunday morning around 11am...anyone welcome to turn up and join in.

Richard said...

Hillyfields football - I'd like to come down tomorrow with a chef from the Old Bank, can anybody confirm jumpers for goalposts is on? Where on the field should we head?

Anonymous said...

Re getting over to Telegraph Hill with a toddler - couldn't be easier, get the 484 bus, it stops right outside the park.

Interesting to hear that there is talk of re-locating the park. My husband went to the very first Hilly Fields User Group meeting, about eight years ago maybe, and that was a topic which came up. Since the man from Glendale/Lewisham had a budget of tuppence to buy a few bulbs, no chance of it going any further though...

hilly said...

Yes, jumpers for goal posts are on for this Sunday morning (20th April), around 11am. Head for flat area towards the "being prepared" cricket wicket. By Hilly Fields Crescent. Simon, Phil, Robin will certainly be there and looking forward to extra players.

Anonymous said...

I may come for footy too then. Is it trainers or boots? Are boots allowed or is that a bit too keen?

Richard said...

Anon, I don't know the house rules but I'll be bringing my boots - they were brand new and the love of my life this time this year and have been worn twice since!

Anonymous said...

And of course when I said re-locating the park, I meant playground. Dear me.

Richard said...

Football last Sunday was a great bit of exercise - I'm ashamed to say I ached until Wednesday, that'll teach me for shunning exercise for a year!

I won't be able to make it for a couple of weeks but I'll definitely be down in the future - other BC readers should join in and I'll try to bring some friends/customers.

Anonymous said...

Is the football still happening this week? - (what with the the fun run taking place)

hilly said...

Sorry, a football query didn't get answered last week, yes there was football post fun run. More importantly, there is football this week, Sunday 4th May at around 11am.

Again in answer to a query a few weeks back. Yes, they have stretched to football boots with studs.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply, will be there.
D

hilly said...

rumour has it "jumpers for goal posts" have new goal posts....

Anonymous said...

Excellent.

Justin said...

Anyone know whether Jumpers for Goalposts is still running on Sunday mornings?

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