Daniel Greenwood writes
Autumn has been a busy season for London Wildlife Trust, with lots of work being undertaken in the Dulwich woods as part of the Heritage Lottery funded Great North Wood project. A significant chunk of match funding has been provided by the Dulwich Society and Dulwich Estate, to install wooden conservation fencing in areas where soil erosion is severely impacting on the health of the woodland habitats. In October six workdays took place and volunteers worked really hard to get the fences in and well put together. The fencing is sourced from a company in Sussex which specialise in sweet chestnut coppice materials.
We appreciate that this work may not be what all visitors to Dulwich Wood are expecting, but we have so far received positive feedback. It has been a pleasure to talk to the hundreds of people who have passed us whilst the work was ongoing, to help increase understanding of what a woodland needs to be healthy. The Dulwich and Sydenham Hill woods have seen a big increase in visitor numbers since 2010 meaning that more investment is required to protect the woodland from the increased footfall. It is not anyone’s fault that this work needs to be done, on the contrary it is wonderful that woods are becoming part of people’s lives again. Recent research has come to show how important it is for people to have access to local woodlands for their mental and physical health. What is also important is the health of the woodland, and that means healthy, airy soil full of all the organisms that give it life. It also means a layer of young trees to replace those in the canopy layer. Hornbeam, hazel, holly and oak saplings have been transplanted to aid the process of regeneration.
In Low Cross Wood, London Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers have been clearing invasive cherry laurel from this ancient woodland, allowing light back in and space for broadleaved trees such as oak, hazel, holly, ash, elm and rowan to seed in their place. The next step in Dulwich Wood (no pun intended) is to begin rebuilding pathways next to fenced areas before the mud makes some of them too difficult to use. So if you see a mini-digger in Dulwich Wood, don’t worry, no one is building a mansion as they did in the 1860s, it is the Trust preparing paths for resurfacing. Our materials will be natural and in the form of Coxwell gravel and limestone for the hardcore of the path structure.
Looking to the changing seasons, autumn has so far been dry and mild, making the installation of fenceposts much harder. In August mushrooms boomed in the woods, a real summer surprise, due to the level of rainfall and temperatures similar to those of autumn. A mushroom walk on Sunday 22nd October was a case of hard graft in finding a few larger parasol and funnel mushrooms, but even the deadwood-dwelling species were tricky to pick out. It is always a readily available excuse to point out that the majority of fungal species will remain hidden to our eyes anyway.