High tea for Hilly Fields [updated]

The prospect of a café in Hilly Fields is getting closer.

Lewisham Council is keen to replicate the success of Hither Green’s Manor House Gardens, which features a busy café that encourages greater use of the park and creates a focus for young families in the area. We understand that they have been investigating how the formula could be applied to other parks in the borough, including Hilly Fields.

The idea makes perfect sense. We've argued before that the miserable, neglected toilet block could be replaced by a cafe, with a duty to provide public toilets (and perhaps a drinking fountain). As the early success the Brockley Mess has had in attracting young families suggests, there is plenty of demand for a facility like this, so a cafe could be self-sustaining and offer parents of young children a place to take the kids where they can play relatively freely, nearby the newly-refurbished playground.

The site of the toilet block has been targeted for redevelopment and exploratory discussions have taken place. While the Council would fund the cafe's construction, a private operator would run the cafe itself.

"The provision of a cafe on Hilly Fields is currently under consideration. Should the Council eventually be in a position to obtain funding for the cafe it will discuss the options with the Friends of Hilly Fields to see how it can be taken forward."

We spoke to one person with experience of operating a similar cafe, who said:

"Brockley would be great. The demographics are perfect and Hilly Fields is right in the middle of a large residential area with lots of young families."

If the Council finds the money for the up-front investment it could deliver long-term benefits for the community and a new revenue stream in perpetuity, while lowering maintenance costs for the public toilets. We await the results of their investigations with interest.

84 comments:

barryls said...

Please please please.

mintness said...

Excellent.

Anonymous said...

What a great Idea,But the building would have to be like Fort Knox to stop break Ins at night.

High Trees for Hilly Fields said...

What about some more trees and different grasses and shrubs as well? This park is so barren, it is such a waste!

Brockley Nick said...

I believe they're working on increasing the biodiversity of the park, by growing different types of grasses and wild flowers.

High Trees for Hilly Fields said...

Ooh, that's great news, thanks Nick!

Anonymous said...

That sounds a fine project.

It would take some of the pressure off the other cafes in the area.

I wonder if they will take some advice about how it should be designed.

Community notice board

A buggy park.

Sound proof play area for under fives.

Man creche in a seperate room full of newspapers, wifi and power for laptops.

The Cat Man said...

*sigh*, not more facilities for pushchair pushing mothers with henriettas, make it child free pls!

Bring back a sense of quality in our daily lives!

Troll Police said...

stop trolling cat flap

Headhunter said...

I really don't think a child free cafe in a park would be economically viable! Parents with kids would make up the core of the clientele when they take their kids out for a walk and play in the park. Any cafe on Hilly Fields would most likely rely even more heavily on parents than somewhere like Brockley Mess.

Anonymous said...

OMG! what a brilliant idea. any idea when it might happen -- next year??

Anonymous said...

I can remember when that was a cafe,When the park also had full time park keepers,Cricket matches at the bottom of the hill,and a puuting green opposite the cafe,oh happy days,do you mean weeds Nick,because there's never anybody up there to look after It.

Anonymous said...

it's a public park, the cafe will use public money. Families and parks go together like cheese and pickle. How exactly do you propose to limit children you joyless burke.

Matt-Z said...

A great idea! One note of caution though - the cafe in Battersea Park charges extortionate prices for tiny portions. Any concession should be granted with the proviso that it remains affordable and competitive.

Lou Baker said...

Cafes in parks are great - and when they're done well they're extremely popular.

But why does the council need to fund it? Let a private company redevelop it - there's plenty of money to be made and it could easily survive commercially if its good.

Lets leave the bureaucrats to their paper shuffling because things always go wrong when 'officials' are involved.

Or perhaps we're going to get the menu imposed on us too:

Lewisham Lasagne
Brockley Baps
Catford Crepes
Hilly Hamburgers

I mean that's what we'd end up with. Is that what you want???

Tressilliana said...

It beats me how you can describe Hilly Fields as barren. It's a public park created from what were fields, so it's predominantly grass, but it has lots of mature trees. The meadow area has been established now for about ten years and is wonderful in high summer. Anon has clearly known the park a lot longer than I have (I've known it for 24 years now) but I don't think it was ever the kind of park that had lots of rose gardens, ornamental flower beds etc. Someone I know used to refer to it as the common and I thought was about right.

Pete said...

I'd be first in line for a Hilly Hamburger so fine by me.

I hope they go for a really good design - I went on a bike ride out to somewhere called Cooling and we stopped off at a small country park on the way back which had a very innovative design for it's cafe (all wood cladding and glass), unfortunately I can't remember the name of the park so can't post any pictures but it was really popular.

Pete said...

Spoke too soon, some googling has delivered me to Shorne Woods Country Park.

Something significantly smaller than this place but designed in an equally innovative way would (in my opinion) be nice:

http://www.kent.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/029BB88E-D152-4926-A669-76D8AF0FA76D/0/shorne.pdf

Sue said...

Hilly Fields does have a full time park keeper, who is regularly seen out and about picking up litter etc.

Anonymous said...

lou, chill out dude. . . The comment was more to do with the idea me a cafe in a park discouraging families. Is that what you want?

quick brown fox said...

I don't think Hilly Fields is barren, I think it's beautiful.

A cafe would be nice, but I worry that if it's council-led we'll end up with the same sort of experience as at Brockley station. They really would need to consult with the community, and then actually deliver what was agreed. In principle, a great idea though, and the more child-friendly the better, to take pressure off the Brockley Creche...sorry, Mess.

I said...

Meanwhile, there's still Mr Lawrence for a quiet, child-free place to hang out of an afternoon. Doubt they have wi-fi though. Doubt they even know what it is too, bless'em.

Anonymous said...

Wait till the Brockley Mungs get a say on the choice of food...

Headhunter said...

Just as long as it doesn't get turned into some kind of fried chicken outlet, it's all good.

Anonymous said...

The Council are talking as If this is a new thing,when the cafe used to be there It just kept getting vandalised so they gave up and boarded It up,The trouble Is Its so out the way up on the hill,and being pitch black with no lighting Ideal for vandals and the like

Brockley Nick said...

"if at first you don't succeed, give up."

Clearly security would be a challenge, but by no means an insurmountable one.

The cafe in Hither Green would be easy enough to break in to if you were so minded - a hop over a little fence wouldn't deter any serious vandal or burglar.

I don't know the one that was there before that a few people have mentioned, but I'd wager it was crap and fell in to neglect, after which point it became vandalised and eventually closed down. So what? Do this one properly and I don't see why it wouldn't be viable. Some security lighting, an alarm and proper shutters (not grey metal roller blinds!) - problem solved.

Alternative Dogging Experiences Dot Com said...

Vandalism? You just need a few Rottweilers on some longish chains, bolted to each corner of the cafe.

The kids will soon loose interest in trying to tag the walls.

Brockley Jon said...

One way to deter against break ins and vandalism (to some degree) would be to open it in the evenings. If it was a nice enough place, and served decent nosh, there's no reason it couldn't be a destination for an evening meal or drinks.

Anonymous said...

Your right Nick not only was It always vandalised,Nobody used It because the stock was nicked.

Brockley Nick said...

By the way, I should make clear that the Council wouldn't operate the cafe, they would simply build it and be the landlords, letting a private company run the service. Ideal model, IMO.

I will update the article.

Anonymous said...

something similar happened in kennington park where they turned an empty old building into a nice cafe, bring it on!!!

Anonymous said...

something similar happened in kennington park where they turned an empty old building into a nice cafe, bring it on!!!

High Trees for Hilly Fields said...

Tresilliana, sorry I didn't make myself clear. I did not mean we should be planting rose gardens and flower beds! Just that it'd be nice if there was more diversity, and more hedges and scruffy bits where animals and birds can lurk. More like probably how it was as a common. Not so mowed. The grassland areas of Hampstead Heath also used to be a common - some of it was even a golf course early last century - and the diversity in those areas now is a joy. Chock-full of life. I reckon Hilly Fields does seem depressingly barren at the moment - and such a shame not to make it a nicer habitat for other creatures, now that area is losing more and more front gardens to driveways...

Springwatch has turned me crusader...

Anonymous said...

There's a tiny wood on Hilly Fields, full of scruffy bits and the like. Its surprising that so many people don't know about it.

graeme said...

Ooh that reminds me. The fabled psilocybin 'shrooms should be ripe about now in the scruffy meadow bit down by Adelaide.

*grabs coat and rushes out of door*

drakefell debaser said...

Yes, there is and I saw the sign for it whilst panting around Hilly Fields for the fun run earlier in the year. It is behind the Stone Circle if I remember correctly.

I had planned to go back and explore but forgot all about it until today.

Anonymous said...

I know were that wood Is,Its behind were the putting green was I can remember when I was a kid there was the remains of prefabs on the flat piece down the bottom,Used to play amongst It,oh health and safety,dont know how much asbestos was there,but we never knew anyway.

That's my story for the day.

graeme said...

"It is behind the Stone Circle if I remember correctly."

Brockley DogSoc HQ?

Anonymous said...

The woods on Hilly Fields are where many teenagers first learn about cigarettes alcohol and sex.

drakefell debaser said...

No the wood, but it could double up as both for all I know.

Now, these organic locally sourced magic mushrooms you were on about, any good?

M said...

The meadow's been mown Graeme. They obviously knew you were coming! Love the plan for a cafe in HF.

Anonymous said...

Anon 16.42

I know, thats were I did anyway,many moons ago though.

Anonymous said...

After much campaigning a cafe was introduced at Mountsfield Park , which serves breakfast.

At Ladywell Fields the cafe has sun loungers and seems to stay open till the sun sets.

Anonymous said...

The re-vamped kiosk at Ladywell Station is the way forward?

Brockley dogging society (hilly fields chapter) said...

Brockley DogSoc will be meeting tonight at the stone circle, so come on down and sit on a rock.

The Cat Man said...

you know sparks fly when cat meets dog... !

DogSoc said...

Indeed. Have you ever had a bull mastiff?

The Cat Man said...

Frequently

o said...

More cafe's for Brockley. This is like a two fingers up to those that suggest that we must undergo a new age of austerity.

Anonymous said...

Austerity in Brockley means getting your organic ciabatta without olives

o said...

For some, you must remember that there is vast differences in the social fabric or economic inequality in this area.

Brockley Nick said...

@o - who is possibly going to be disadvantaged or offended by a cafe in a park? And people offended on behalf of the hypothetical poor don't count - I mean real people, personally offended.

Every time anyone proposes anything new and vaguely aspirational in the area, someone pipes up to say that this will somehow upset someone else (never them personally of course, but they imagine themselves defending the disenfranchised).

Even if you buy the "new age of austerity" narrative, a cafe is perfectly compatible with it. Perhaps people choose to go away on holiday less often and appreciate what they have on their own doorstep more often.

Tamsin said...

Meadows need to be mowed or the second year you just get thistles - and the smell of hay as I walked past on my way from work took me right back to my childhood.

A cafe open late is a great idea if anyone has the courage to do it.

Tressilliana said...

Tamsin, assuming Glendale or whoever the contractor is now, is still working with the Hilly Fields User Group, this mowing business has been a regular feature for many, many years. Some volunteers planted wild flowers there when the meadow area was first established.

Anonymous said...

It Is Glendale,but I dont think Lewisham Council has any permanent staff like they used to,many moons ago mind you

Anonymous said...

I would say that a cafe in Hilly Fields is an essential next step. I realise the differences - but there is a cafe in the middle of Brockwell park and it is a hub for the whole park, in fact the whole area.

Anonymous said...

How about a retro cafe with a spoon chained to the wall, sandwiches made the night before displayed in plastic containers where they have been cooked under the sun.

That only serves tea with those Lyons chocolate covered marshmellow biscuits and dried up Jaffa cakes.

The tables are covered with plastic chequered sheets which have brown burn marks on them.

Yum,Yum.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you went to the cafe the last time It was opened

Anonymous said...

How about a compromise - squeezy tomato-shaped tomato sauce bottled with "ORGANIC" stamped on the side of them?

Brockley Dogging Society (Hilly Fields Chapter) said...

Thanks to all who came along to the Dogging society on Hilly Fields last night - we had a great time on the swings!

Anonymous said...

Who takes on the cafe should employ someone who's prepared to stand behind the counter moaning.

For the true authentic feel of Lewisham the staf should have a fag permanently in their mouth and a stained tea cloth over the shoulder.

Matt-Z said...

Anon @ 9:53...

Brockwell Park is fab, but it boasts the Lido, which is a people magent and great facility. What chance we can dig up a bit of Hilly Fields (or another park for that matter) for a Brockley Lido?

Matt-Z said...

^^^ I mean magnet, obviously.

Headhunter said...

Also the cafe in Brockwell Park is housed in a pretty period building. Not that a cafe in a concrete bunker of a building won't work in Brockley!

Mung Bean said...

this sounds like a great venture for Heather Mccartney, newly opened a place in Hove
VBites
a weird hybrid of sophisticated decor and wholesome food in a beach hut beside a concrete playground..check out the swings and slides in the background
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_sszkSd85DwA/SpAfeDyKVhI/AAAAAAAAAwU/hWTnhOI2dpc/s1600-h/v_bites.JPG

o said...

@Nick, I don't know why you felt the need to be so heavy handed in your remarks.

I am interested in politics, society and the economy and I happen to live in Brockley. Clearly there is no place for my approach here, thanks for making that clear.

Brockley Nick said...

I happen to strongly disagree with you and I felt that your remarks were unnecessarily hostile ("two fingers" etc), given the benign subject matter.

Doesn't mean you're not entitled to your opinion, but you must surely expect your remarks to be robustly addressed.

o said...

I think you'd have been better actually considering who the "hostility" was directed at, before you launched in.

Brockley Nick said...

Doesn't matter. Wasn't called for. People put a lot of hard work in to these projects voluntarily and we should all respect that. But please do explain what point you were trying to make.

o said...

Nick there wasn't any hostility the was your interpretation. So your approach wasn't called for.

I don't I will bother explain any further you already have your set of prejudices prepped.

End of discussion from me.

O- ver and O- ut.

Danja said...

I think 'o's first comment was two fingers to negativity, rather than positivity.

Anonymous said...

I read that in the History of O

Anonymous said...

O DEAR

Andrew Graham said...

Does anyone know a rough timeframe for the council considering such plans? Although this article is encouraging, it sounds like it's still a bit of a pipe dream.

The cafe on Peckham Rye is fantastic and Hilly Fields (and Brockley) would get a real boost from a similar, decent cafe. If that's too ambitious, even granting a licence to a mobile van selling decent teas and coffees would be great.

I've lived all over London and moved from Camden to Brockley a year ago. I love living in Brockley but do feel it lacks some basics that come as standard in other boroughs. I half considered investigating how I could gain a licence myself, to sell refreshments from a van!

I'd like to become more active, to help push improvements like a cafe up the council's agenda, so please keep the articles coming, in particular ideas on how people can become actively involved in making a difference. Thanks!

Gary said...

I don't think Hilly Fields is barren at all! There are the woods, the meadow section, the shrub area near the bowling green, along with plenty of trees and some really beautiful vistas. Why complicate it? Let's face it there are enough foxes (cra*ping everywhere and annihilating any hedgehogs that might lose their way) in Brockley already. And we have plenty of birds around here (from sparrows to birds of prey). I actually can't believe someone called the park barren!

Anonymous said...

Although If the cafe Is at the top of the hill,Its a bit Isolated,and would need security during the day as well as at night, believe me

Chin up said...

I think that's a bit paranoid. There are always plenty of people around in Hilly Fields during the day and I can't imagine a small cafe is that much of a target anyway.
BTW, I've noticed your posts are always rather negative and pessimistic (asking whether people will use the refurbished bars and pubs after Xmas and complaining about the cost of the new playground if I recall correctly).
Perhaps consider looking on the bright side occasionally?
Just a thought.

Kate said...

my neighbour and I would happily set up a cafe in the park with homemade cakes etc. It jsut needs the will of the council and help with funding... if there is a genuine feeling people would use it to make it economically viable then we would be up for the challenge!

Now Then said...

Go for it Kate. 'Build it and They Will Come'

The Oracle said...

I heard a couple of days ago that this project WILL be going ahead.

As far as the concerns about security go though it may help matters to include living accommodation above - or even a local police shop. But the latter would have to be monitored to make sure they didn't do the grafitti or breaking in.

Anonymous said...

I am looking for somewhere to open up a little deli, which is child friendly. I specialize in wholesome, organic foods, home baked bread, desserts and cakes, vegetarian dishes, (although i do meat dishes too), herbal teas etc. The park cafe sounds ideal, especially when i spend so much time there with my own children. Does anyone know who to contact at the council regarding this?

Geoff said...

Forget it... this has already been sown up for Pistachios in the park. (Read postings for this and The View.)
You might try the landlord of what was the former estate agents, and is now a dreadful junks shop, at the corner of Canfield Road and Brockley Road. It would be an excellent location for what you propose, highly visible, with lots of pedestrian traffic.
Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Wholesome, organic, vegetarian deli for kids?

You've come to the right place. Headhunter or Brockley Nick should be very interested!

BreakspearsEagle said...

What about the empty unit next to the Orchard on Harefield Road

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