Thursday, 30 August 2012

Brockley: A view from Sydney

I was asked to write an article for the excellent Brockley Central website reflecting on what has changed in the three and a half years that I've been away. Below are my thoughts (along with an intro from Nick).... 

Marge: We have those in America. They're called bull frogs. 
Australian: That's weird! I'd have called them chuzzwazzers!
- The Simpsons, Bart vs Australia 

We met Richard at the first full-scale BC Drinks, back in the days when Jam Circus was practically the only show in town, we knew most of our regular readers by name and people would see fit to moan about a pint costing a whopping £3.20 (the price points change, but the gripes stay the same). So his departure shortly afterwards felt like a bitter betrayal - we take it personally when any of you leave. Happily, four years later, he's back. Since he was around when Brockley was invented in 2007 we asked him to reflect on how the place had changed in his absence. Here's what he says:

When I left for Australia Brockley felt like an area with potential, a burst of exciting developments tantalisingly on the horizon. Returning to Brockley it feels like an area that has started to deliver on its potential. Excitingly a momentum has developed that will hopefully mean we don't have to wait so long for more improvements to come!

The first thing I noticed on my return was Brockley Common, the area outside the station looks fantastic. The removal of barriers on Brockley Road and the remodelling of the pavements around Brockley Cross to get rid of all the double parked vans has really improved the area around the station.

The second thing I noticed was how Brockley's shops and restaurants have improved. Old favourites (e.g. Meze Mangal, Barbur, Broca, Jam Circus) have been retained. While places that I remember have disappeared - Toads Mouth Too, Dandelion Blue, Moonbow Jakes - happily their sites have all be taken over by new ventures which appear to be drawing in the crowds. Finally are new businesses that have opened up which I'm keen to check out, including El's Kitchen, Brockley's Rock and Coopers Bakehouse. 

I've been to the fantastic Brockley Market twice. Sydney has some amazing farmers markets and I'm pleased that I have somewhere similar to shop from in SE4.

Our areas green spaces have also been improved while I've been away. Perhaps I didn't notice before, but we seem to have a lot of them too! The Green Chain and Waterlink Way join up some great parks that have had their facilities improved. I'm sure we didn't have as many children's playgrounds, sporting facilities and picnic benches when I left. It really isn't very hard to escape from the traffic and enjoy some time, or in my case a run, through a long chain of parks.

Has the demographic in Brockley subtly shifted? It feels like there are more young professionals and new families in the area. Over dinner in the Orchard, observing the patrons at Browns of Brockley and seeing shops like Gently Elephant makes me think the area is becoming younger and more affluent?

Finally our neighbours seem to be changing too. Development from Greenwich has extended along the High Road and connects almost seamlessly with Deptford which is undergoing an enormous transformation. New Cross seems to be moving up too, I've been particularly enjoying the London Particular café.

I'm very pleased to be back in Brockley. Living closer to Lewisham Way than Brockley station I'm hoping some of the regeneration will rub off on us too. One day the shipping container will go. One day!

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