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Horniman gardens revamp?

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Joined 12-10-2006
Posted on Thursday, 21 December, 2006 - 10:21 am:   

QS Week has the following story (20/12/06):

"The Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, south east London, has issued an OJEU notice concerning its much loved gardens.

Although the museum – which is crammed full of stuffed animals and curios – is visited by 500,000 people a year, its 100-year old 16.5 acres gardens are in need of a spruce-up “to make them suitable for the 21st century".

The museum’s patrons, the Horniman Public Museum and Public Park Trust, are seeking a landscape designer to steer the 10-year programme and the winning designer has been briefed to "appoint a quantity surveyor to develop a cost plan for the project."

An OJEU notice is an official "advert" for a project, basically inviting interested parties to submit quotations.

I think the gardens are great as they are but look forward to them becoming even more fabulous!
Joined 28-03-2005
Posted on Friday, 22 December, 2006 - 06:52 pm:   

Great if it means improvement but not so great if the latest modish ideas are shoehorned in for the sake of modernisation. It is very rare these days to see gardens of the quality of those surrounding the Horniman. I am not convinced yet by the construction of the African Garden let alone the continuing closure of the terraces by the Sunken Garden. Still, must be positive.
Joined 08-05-2005
Posted on Sunday, 07 January, 2007 - 10:50 pm:   

This is clearly another major project. Before they advertised for a landscape designer to steer their 10-year programme of changes, the museum’s patrons will have developed outline ideas and identified sources of funding to achieve their 21st century vision for 16.5 acres of our town. Will they now share their plans with us please?
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Monday, 07 May, 2007 - 08:20 pm:   

There are signs up on the noticeboards at the entrances to the gardens asking for our opinions on how we think they should be developed over the next few years.

You can also read the message at:

Hope they won't mind that I've taken the liberty of copying and pasting it below...

================================================== =============


For over 100 years our much-loved Gardens have provided the public with an opportunity to enjoy ' the open air and the sunlight' that Frederick Horniman felt was so important to peoples' well being. The Gardens now need a significant investment to ensure that we can maintain high standards and provide for our visitors needs now and into the future.

As well as consulting with many groups in the area, we would be interested to hear from you if you have any ideas about how you would like to see the Gardens develop in the future.

The areas we are considering so far are:

* Improvements to paths, fencing, toilets, and services like drainage, electricity and water. We would like to build in more sustainable usage of water and heating where possible

* Improvements to the buildings in the Gardens - the Bandstand, the Dutch Barn and our Greenhouses.

* Improvements to the animal enclosure

* New horticultural facilities with more opportunities for volunteering, training and public educational events

* Improved provision for events and education and better interpretation about the history of the Gardens and the trees and plants they contain

* Re-landscaping some areas to provide quiet areas, activity areas and better picnic spaces

In order to proceed with this project, the Museum will have to raise the majority of the funds required. Work is not therefore expected to commence until 2009, once the funds are in place.

If you would like to share your thoughts with us please email or post them to Marketing, Horniman Museum, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ

I would be delighted to hear from you.

Janet Vitmayer
Chief Executive
Horniman Museum and Gardens.

================================================== =

Well my vote would go on creating some sort of viewing platform or platforms, so we can better appreciate the potentially magnificent views.
Joined 26-04-2006
Posted on Monday, 07 May, 2007 - 08:49 pm:   

And a team from the Horniman will be at the Forest Hill Society's General Meeting on Thursday, 7.30 (Christian Fellowship Centre) to talk about this project and gather people's views. So if you have ideas you'd like to pass on, do come along to the meeting. The Guest Speaker is Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham.
You don't have to be a Society member to attend although, obviously, we'd love you to join on the door!
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Tuesday, 08 May, 2007 - 05:31 am:   

Change is inevitable but I am wary of tinkering ( from a physical development point of view) with something that is working just fine and I am not a fan of what has been done to the the new building as I think the facade is really out of character. As mentioned before, I did an art class there in the new building which did not seem to have any heating so they had to use oil fired radiators which are expensive to run and also are a trip hazard. From a sustainability point of view this was a little odd.
I have however always thought it would be good to improve the viewing opportunities of the animal enclosure though and that they could exploit the horticultural facilities aspect. As a regular there for over 20 years I suppose my views are a little parochial and possessive, ie I like it the way it is- unspoiled. Hopefully any changes will be made sensitively, for a good reason and not for change's sake, ie not as part of a year on year improvements plan.
Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Tuesday, 08 May, 2007 - 09:10 am:   

I won't be able to express my personal views on Thursday (as I shall be chairing the discussion), but I can express them here.
Four things I would do if I could do anything:

1. Add some form of water feature (there used to be small pools but these went when the museum was extended). In my opinion all the best parks have a pond and Horniman should not be different.

2. Have a viewing platform at roughly the same height as the top of the bandstand, so that you get the panoramic view without trees getting in the way.

3. Build a wind turbine to power Horniman museum and as a beacon across all of London. Possibly with a viewing platform halfway up. This would make Horniman a landmark for all of London and building on the environmental issues demonstrated in the museum.

4. Finally, and least likely, Horniman Gardens should be linked to the triangle by tunnelling under London Road for the South Circular and extending the park across the road. I know this will never happen, but at least it makes my other ideas seem more realistic!
Joined 29-09-2006
Posted on Tuesday, 08 May, 2007 - 09:30 am:   

The tunneling idea sounds great, but where would it be placed on the eastern side of Forest Hill?

Also the wind turbine, perhaps we could get Gormley to design it?
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Wednesday, 09 May, 2007 - 08:57 pm:   

I don't think a turbine would produce much juice up there. There's hardly any wind most of the time. I'm sure the local residents would object too as it'd probably lower property prices.

Not sure about a tunnel either. I live nearby and I wouldn't really want a tramp hotel there. Besides, I can't see what it would add. It's not that hard crossing the road, is it? Perhaps there could be an entrance by the crossing though.

A pond would be nice, but I don't think it would bring in the punters like a viewing platform.

Speaking of which, wouldn't it be good to have one of those "Alight here for the Horniman Museum" signs on the platform at the station. Surely a bit of extra pedestrian traffic along the high street would be just what we need to get some new businesses to open in the boarded up premises.
Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Wednesday, 09 May, 2007 - 10:48 pm:   

Okay, you don't like any of my ideas :-( but there is a sign on platform one of the station close to WHSmith (or at least there used to be). It might be more use on platform 2.
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Wednesday, 09 May, 2007 - 11:30 pm:   

He he. I do like the water feature idea (as long as it's not another Princess Di slimy stream).

By the way, I'm intrigued by the Horniman's idea for "more sustainable usage of water and heating where possible". What does that mean? A solar powered hot water fountain?
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Thursday, 10 May, 2007 - 06:00 am:   

Not a fan of more physical man made structures in such an already beautiful and unspoiled environment, so would strongly object to viewing platforms at that height. Theres so much to look at in the Gardens, why turn your backs on that to look north to central London. Sorry, but I like my panoramic views with trees included! For me, its actually the bandstand that gets in the way of the views! Perhaps that should be shifted left a bit. I think we should be asking about the general purpose of these changes, as sometimes its best to leave things alone.
Joined 29-09-2006
Posted on Thursday, 10 May, 2007 - 09:45 am:   

Micheal I think you're suggestion are excellent. Some maybe a little 'pie in the sky', but the viewing platform would be great. An alternative way to increase numbers up at the Horimans. We already have those who enjoy the gardens, those for the museum and we'd be attracting those who'd like to enjoy the views. The views should be there for all, not just those who can afford to live at such altitudes. Perhaps have a coffee bar up there too. Nimbyism is soo 90's, for the greater good i think it's something that should be considered. I would back a man made structure on the hill to put FH on the map. It did the area no harm in the 1850's with the arrival of the Crystal Palace.

If I can add...we are regular users, but the only thing that lets the place down is the choice/quality of food on offer. I must say, the staff in the cafe are superb and very accommodating. Could they establish a partnership with one of the eateries in the area? Grow their own organic veg in the gardens? Use for cooking or sale locally? Some how develop the business as we are all aware that there is a lack of this kind of place in FH.
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Thursday, 10 May, 2007 - 11:06 am:   

Bear in mind though that if you put up yet another permanent structure at high level it can also impede views for others sitting/standing elsewhere in the park. This would also need a lift/stairlift to be DDA compliant (which it will have to be by law) so we would be talking about something very substantial.
Some questions-
Should the Horniman in fact be trying to become a ' beacon' or a landmark seen from everywhere else?
Is this going to be good for the Gardens/museum's future/local area or contrary to its sustainability aims?
Is 'sprucing up the gardens' to make them 'suitable for the 21st century' ( whatever that means in practice) in fact a good thing?
Joined 26-02-2006
Posted on Thursday, 10 May, 2007 - 11:44 am:   

Quite like the idea of a viewing platform at the level of the bandstand. Not convinced about creating a landmark for people to see from all over London on the skyline...

I'd like to see a little more promotion of what is there. The sundials were a great idea but I only found them after stumbling across one of them.

If this is a 'wish' thread, then I'd love to have a Horniman Lido along the lines of the one at Brockley.

I must confess to being pretty content with the gardens as they are - although add me to those who do think the African and sunken gardens could do with a refresh. I've spent many a sunny afternoon sitting enjoying the sunshine, the trees and the company in the Horniman. I don't want to have designated picnic areas with chunky tables/chairs breaking up the landscape... just places to roll out the picnic rug and chill will be fine.
Joined 04-02-2007
Posted on Thursday, 10 May, 2007 - 12:19 pm:   

These ideas sound great and it is nice to see investment in what is already a nice space. I think one thing that would be valuable is a dog free zone - granted people love walking dogs there and having our four legged freinds around is fun but it is not so appealing for folk who have picnics in the summer or who want to sunbathe, alot of the time you have to hunt around to find a clean area to roll out rugs. I agree with Apple Spider that having tables and chairs is not needed but a nice clean area for picnicing would be great! It would also be safer for children and for babies to crawl around etc.
Joined 09-02-2007
Posted on Thursday, 10 May, 2007 - 02:27 pm:   

I think a viewing platform is a fantastic idea. We have some great views in Forest Hill but none of them actually encourage you to sit and 'take them in'. Canonbie road doesn't even have a bench to sit on to contemplate the view, and the Blythe Hill Fields benches are in such a bad state of repair that you can't really sit on them for any length of time. A viewing platform where you can stand/sit and actually be *encouraged* to linger would be wonderful (maybe with a coffee? :). Haylands, I love your idea of establishing greater links between the eatery at the museum and local produce. I also think that anything that brings people into the area is good: more footfall = more people buying things, and this will encourage other business to locate in the area, thereby hopefully reducing the ever-increasing number of empty shops down the hill.
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Thursday, 10 May, 2007 - 11:09 pm:   

A dogpoo free zone is a brilliant idea. Yes, yes, yes!
Joined 09-04-2005
Posted on Friday, 11 May, 2007 - 12:04 am:   

It will put the flagger out of work....
Joined 14-03-2007
Posted on Friday, 11 May, 2007 - 09:42 am:   

I'm broadly happy with how it is now really. I would echo Hayland's suggestion that the catering be improved - it could be so much better, and be a real money-spinner. But I also agree with Nevermodern's suggestion that the other places in the area that also offer great views over London could be improved - I'm still fairly new to the area but was rather let down when I visited One Tree Hill and Blythe Hills for the first time recently. I think spending even modest amounts of money on both would greatly improve visitors experiences. The views over London from Forest Hill and environs are a real plus point for the area and we should be making more of them.
Joined 09-02-2007
Posted on Friday, 11 May, 2007 - 04:56 pm:   

Totally. Time Out did a recent issue on London views, and Forest Hill didn't feature at all. Madness :)
Joined 08-10-2006
Posted on Friday, 11 May, 2007 - 06:42 pm:   

Thomas, could you be a bit more specific about why you were 'let down' by One Tree Hill and Blythe Hill?
Joined 28-01-2004
Posted on Friday, 11 May, 2007 - 07:25 pm:   

Here's a happy coincidence. The Olympic Delivery Authority is insisting that its contractors have a plan for the re-use of the temporary bridges planned for the Olympic park - all part of its sustainability plan. The bridges are temporary but a decent spec to suite the venue.

Obviously, the contractors are all a bit non-plussed by this - never normally part of their business. How about SE23 approaches one of the leading contractors to relocate one of the bridges to link the Man-O-Horn to the Triangle-O-Disrepair accross the A205, for the benefit of all?

What a great thing to have in Forest Hill in the future - a bridge from the Tony Blair Memorial Olympics. It could act as a wonderful gateway to FH and also provide a barrier against the less savoury types that inhabit East Dulwich. I think it would be great.

Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Saturday, 12 May, 2007 - 10:22 am:   

Well this part of London's not getting anything useful from the Olympics despite us all having to pay gazillions for it, so we might as well get an ill-fitting second hand bridge designed to last six weeks...hmm.

Or how about just creating an normal entrance to the Triangle opposite the main entrance to the Horniman Gardens. The fence at that point has already been squashed down by teenagers anyway. Why not just put in a proper entrance with one of those convoluted barriers to stop kids running straight out onto the road (though I can't remember ever wanting to do that when I was a kid)?

While we're on the topic of the Triangle, does anyone know if any attempts have ever been made to improve it? One of the redundant buildings - the one right by the kids' rides - is now a pidgeon toilet and so probably a health hazard. At least it could be boarded up if not demolished or turned into something useful. Some of the rides could use a lick of paint. And would there be anything that could be done about the drainage problem that turns the grass around the playground area into a bog for most of the year? Or would there be any way to get budget for more ambitious ideas?

The councillors of Southwark's College Ward (the one that borders onto Lewisham at the Horniman Triangle) have just announced (without consulting those who live on the route, I might add) that Southwark is joining the South London Green Chain Walk, and this will include Sydenham Hill Nature Reserve and the Horniman Gardens. So would Lewisham be able to get any cash from that project to improve the Triangle, for instance?

I agree with Thomas about One Tree Hill. Great to have it there but it could be so much nicer with just a little investment by the Council. Again there could be an amazing view from the top, but it's wasted due to the lack of a high enough point to see over the trees. For instance putting up maps at entrances/exits and at the top, plus maybe some signs telling you about the plants and animals, and a little pruning work to cut paths through the undergrowth and make a few more walking/jogging trails would be some fairly simple improvements.
Joined 14-03-2007
Posted on Saturday, 12 May, 2007 - 11:01 am:   

In response to Sandy's request to be a bit more specific, Ooperlooper's points above are ones that I share fully, and Blythe Hill needed some more TLC, and in particular better signage and some nic new benches.
Joined 09-02-2007
Posted on Saturday, 12 May, 2007 - 11:06 pm:   

Yes, the benches facing canary wharf are rubbish at Blythe Hill Fields - one is waterlogged, and the other at such a reclne that you expect to be launched :)
Joined 09-02-2007
Posted on Saturday, 12 May, 2007 - 11:07 pm:   

I never got to see the view from One Tree Hill on account of semi-rabid dogs running amok.. :) I'm sure it's lovely.
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Thursday, 17 May, 2007 - 11:51 pm:   

There are a number of small sculptures appearing in the Gardens this week. Unfortunately none high enough to stand on and get a view.
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Saturday, 19 May, 2007 - 08:46 am:   

How about one of those giant chess boards that they have in some parks? Mazes are always a crowdpleaser too, though perhaps not quite highbrow enough to fit the Horniman brand. There is some discussion of this on: ,13795
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Saturday, 19 May, 2007 - 10:50 am:   

A chess board would be interesting, also supersized draughts. Crazy golf, anyone? I thought the slides in the Tate Modern were an excellent idea and attracted people to the gallery, many of whom would never otherwise have ventured inside. Perhaps something along these lines also- it would mean that you would get a quick look at the views before you go down the chute....
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Saturday, 16 June, 2007 - 07:58 pm:   

There is a pond, albeit a small one (and according to the notice on the board in the Gardens it has apparently been recently re-lined with a new plastic sheet, so that probably explains there not seeming to be much life in it).

It's at the end of the almost secret nature trail (open 9-4pm daily):,-0.059845&spn= 0.008091,0.020041&t=h&z=16&om=1&msid=104166394421861225266.00000113360e9ed828ca4
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Saturday, 16 June, 2007 - 08:20 pm: you go:,-0.061326&spn=0.008091,0.020041&t=h& z=16&om=1&msid=114214471568699027701.00000113362c2971d8d7e
Joined 13-12-2006
Posted on Monday, 09 July, 2007 - 06:45 pm:   

Someone earlier in the thread mentioned how the bandstand obscures the view. I'm sure I read somewhere that the bandstand originally had glass panels at the back for this very reason. If that's true, I'm sure we can all guess what happened to those glass panels...

But true or not, it does suggest one possibility. How about retractable panels at the back of the bandstand, so that, when the bandstand's being used it works acoustically, but at other times the views are gloriously unimpeded?

And while the Gardens are fantastic as is, I'm sure some sensitive work on the existing hard landscaping would make it even more sensational. And I'd vote for a water feature - something linear using the natural dynamics of the hill - perhaps an ultra-shallow (=safe) rill - it'd be the ultimate Crest Run for pooh-sticks and paper boats! Could it be sun-powered - that'd make it work refreshingly on hot days and dry up on frosty days, when any splashing might be a slip hazard? Perhaps Londoners have seen the last of frosty days (sob!)
Joined 19-05-2004
Posted on Monday, 09 July, 2007 - 11:25 pm:   

Retractable panels? What about a retractable roof, seeing as you can see the Wembley arch.

Oh, and as for gravity we skid down the hill on fertiliser sacks back in winter 90/91 when it was cold and snowy enough to do this.

(Not like it is now, kids)

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