Twenty or more years ago I wrote an article for this magazine which sought to explain a major shift in shopping habits. At the time, in Dulwich Village, as elsewhere, the traditional anchor shops such as a butcher’s, fishmongers, baker’s and greengrocer’s had disappeared and their places were being filled with cafes and estate agencies.

The explanation I gave for this was the steady growth of car ownership over the preceding decades coupled with a huge increase in female employment, partly caused by a notional parity in wages with their male counterparts. I suggested that, in Dulwich at least, some of the increase in female employment was as a result of the rapid increase in independent school fees which families were willing to pay because of the, then, almost total absence of satisfactory state secondary schools.

These factors, I suggested, had led to the growth of large supermarkets where car parking was provided and the weekly shop could be done in one visit, a necessity for working families where spare time was short. In the article I also predicted that in time household food and essentials would one day be delivered to customers’ doors from distant warehouses.

That situation has now arrived, home grocery deliveries are becoming the norm, the ‘traditional’ supermarkets are under threat with reduced customer flow and the situation is is leading to a new dynamic. People are preferring specialist local shops where they can augment the basic list of shopping now delivered to their door. At the same time, the rapid growth of internet shopping is changing other markets and putting some bricks and mortar businesses, such as bookshops under threat.

This recent and rapid growth of home deliveries is not without its own problems however. People have to be at home to receive the deliveries. Roads are becoming increasing snarled up with delivery vans of all types. The convenience shop concept being rolled out by supermarkets to augment home deliveries requires delivery lorries for its own stores to be of a huge size to reduce transport costs. Delivery drivers of internet ordered goods are required to make at least 120 separate deliveries per day, on average the number is around 140 drops but on occasions drivers are required to deliver to as many as 170 different addresses in one day. So far drivers’ hours are only loosely regulated as most are subcontractors. It is exhausting work and with such long hours, possibly dangerous.

Shops and shopping habits come and go. And often come around again. While some residents are surprised, even shocked to learn that a Sainsbury’s Local will replace Shepherds, in Dulwich Village, older Dulwich people will recall that a branch of United Dairies once stood nearby. The bicycle shop which formerly traded at West Dulwich and closed through a decline in enthusiasm for cycling would be amazed to find that, twenty years later, the sport has taken off again and no less than four cycle shops have opened locally.

What’s next? Do not be surprised if Dulwich’s local banks are the next businesses to disappear as people are increasingly obliged to use internet banking to manage their affairs. At Herne Hill this has already happened.

Eating out is still a popular social pastime and pubs have been replaced by restaurants and coffee shops where women often feel more comfortable. Dulwich has lost four public houses in recent years, not counting those currently under repair. Those that remain can be more called restaurants than the traditional pub. There must be a saturation point in the number of eateries. Perhaps it has already been reached.

Everyone in Dulwich welcomes the new Charter School East Dulwich which will occupy a large part of the Dulwich Community Hospital site and, when complete, will have 1680 pupils. It is to be a co-educational, non-selective, non-faith, inclusive 11-18 secondary school which will deliver a high quality education for young people in its immediate locality.

The school will share the site with a new health centre. Those residents who have lived in Dulwich for a while will have noted that it has taken the NHS 23 years to reach the stage of actually building something (half the old hospital was demolished in 2006 when the plan was to build a polyclinic - loved by Labour but rejected by the incoming Conservative/Liberal coalition). As yet it is not clear when the new facility will open, it was going to be 2017 but the last Dulwich Community Council it was reported that it would be 2019.

On the positive side the plans for the school are moving forward very quickly and it aims to open for the first pupils in September 2016. Perhaps this will encourage the Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group who is now in charge of medical services in the area to accelerate its own programme. The good news is that the two organisations are meeting regularly and we are told that the master plan is now fully resolved. It also appears that negotiations between the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and Prop Co, the property branch of the NHS, are complete and a recent announcement confirmed that school site has been secured.

Two series of public consultation meetings on the school’s proposals were held during June and October. These confirmed that the school will open in temporary accommodation on the site, subject to funding and planning approval. The aim is to take 120 pupils and house them in a series of temporary buildings on the south east corner of the site near the railway accessed via Jarvis Road off Melbourne Grove. At the same time the school will acquire a section of the site on the south west corner and begin construction of the first permanent facilities with the aim of completing them in 2018. Construction of the rest of the school will await the completion of the health centre, when the CCG will be able decant services from the old buildings. And here lies the problem; any delay on completion of the health facility will impact on the school’s progress.

There has also been much discussion on the school’s catchment area and it has been decided that the distances will be measured from the temporary school gate in Jarvis Road.

The school will be funded by the Government through its current school’s building programme. It has been made very clear that budgets for new schools are now of very different order from the earlier ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme which was largely funded via the previous Labour Government’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Current target costs are in the order of 50% less than previously.

The preliminary layout shows the main access pretty much in the same position as now, off East Dulwich Grove, and the much loved ‘Chateau’ building is currently being kept but only as staff offices, possibly with an assembly hall behind. Unfortunately it seems that the EFA will not provide additional funding to reflect the cost of its refurbishment and this may impact on the quality of the other new buildings.

The main class room buildings will be built at the rear of the site roughly parallel with the railway. Playgrounds and sports pitches will replace the old wards to the left of the gates while the site of the old doctor’s accommodation will be a lecture hall and drama complex which will also be available for community use.

Given that the catchment area is very limited most children should cycle or walk to school and the school seems very keen to set up a positive green travel plan and reduce teacher car travel as much as possible - after all there is a train station not far away. There is also a bus route passing the front door, the oft lamented No 37, but it is clear that additional public transport provision will be needed. The long discussed extension of the No. 42 from red Post hill to East Dulwich Sainsbury’s must move ahead.

Overall this is a success story and the Charter School must be congratulated for putting forward such a positive scheme.

Innumerable visitors to the park this summer have commented on the visual spectacular provided by the wildflower meadow in front of the village copse. Various failed attempts at planting have happened over the years, including seeding and plug planting by Dulwich Park Friends and others, but the stumbling block always proved to be the prolific growth of grass and weeds, even if stripped back initially.

This season the park manager, Paul Highman, decided on a more drastic approach to give any meadow a chance of succeeding, by controlled treatment of the grass with glyphosate, applied in still conditions by specialists. Once the grass had died back, the area was seeded with mix supplied by Pictorial Meadows - seed mixes and plant listings can be found on their website:

Although watering is not usually recommended for wildflowers, a dry spell made this unavoidable if the seeds were to take off. This paid dividends, with the plants springing into life in July and still thriving at the end of October. The constant humming and buzzing from the meadow paid testament to the bio-diversity it encouraged in the park.
Once the plants have gone to seed, they will be cut and shaken to provide a seed bank in the ground to be topped up next season. The approximate cost of creating the meadow, excluding the one-off cost of the wooden knee-rail, was £2,300.

Paul Highman considers a mini meadow feasible in the domestic garden. To suppress grass and weeds he recommends covering the proposed meadow area in a piece of old carpet or other non light-permeable sheeting over the winter and into spring, before sowing seed in accordance with the supplier’s recommendations.

Further landscaped areas created as part of the flood works have already been seeded to bloom with perennials next year - in front of the Francis Peek Centre and alongside the bowling green, so more visual treats are in store.

Whilst mentioning the flood works, to add to earlier awards, Southwark Council and Thames Water Utilities received the British Construction Industry Sustainability Award in October, for the overall Herne Hill scheme. Some fencing will remain around the new meadow sites until established next season, but otherwise the floodworks fencing will be removed by the year end.

Two hundred kilograms of soil from Dulwich Park, along with that from many others, are currently in a triangular box in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, within Abraham Cruzvillegas’ installation Empty Lot. Part of the curiosity surrounding the piece is quite what will grow in each box during its stay until 3rd April 2016.

While on the subject of art, the Friends supplied several of the images of Two Forms (Divided Circle) that appear in the Tate Britain video Animating the Archives: Barbara Hepworth’s Sculpture Records. This film, aimed at a younger audience, can be viewed online at

The civil engineering work on the junction was completed at the end of September but TfL still has some operational inconsistencies to resolve over the current signal phasing. These impact on the foundation school coaches and has led to some of the problems picked up in the recent safety audit - see below.

The installation of the cycle facilities - the ‘gates’ and the low level cycle signals (currently the latter are operating at the same time as the main signals) is delayed pending the completion of a TfL trial in north London. This trial should have been completed in mid-October and, if successful, the go ahead should have followed at the beginning of November. It is unlikely that any installation in Dulwich will be complete much before the end of the year. In addition, a UTC (Urban Traffic Control) IT system needs to be installed and this will be linked to other nearby junctions eg Dulwich Village and Red Post Hill
An interim safety audit was carried out at the end of September - there was some concern amongst residents that it was not truly independent as it was carried out by another section of the firm that designed the junction. The comments include:

  • Left turn traffic into East Dulwich Grove is overrunning and impacting on the cycle lanes.
  • Right turn vehicles are not clearing the junction in time.
  • There are raised manhole and gas covers in the cycle lane which need to be adjusted.
  • The road surface on the raised table needs to be re-laid.
  • There are some road markings and the yellow box layout needs to be amended slightly.
  • There are design queries over the signal phasing - which TfL admit they have yet to deal with.

On the plus side, however, everyone has agreed that, from a pedestrian point of view, the new junction layout is a considerable improvement.

Herne Hill Velodrome
The new pavilion was granted planning consent in June but work appears to be on hold pending the final resolution of the lease extension and funding. The design featured in the architecture section of this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and was illustrated with a collage of small prints showing the history of the Velodrome from the 1890s though to the present day. The architect is the international practice Hopkins Architects (formerly Michael Hopkins and Partners). Established by Michael and Pattie Hopkins in 1976 the practice designed the impressive velodrome for the 2012 London Olympics. The scheme consists of two main sections, the pavilion and the cycle store. The pavilion is slightly smaller than the existing grandstand. It has two floors, with changing rooms, offices and toilets etc at ground level while the club room, a meeting room and a kitchen are on the first. The wall between the club room and the back of the small raked seating area is fully glazed with sliding doors. The building has a brick clad base with timber cladding to the upper level. The roof will be metal and is supported on timber ‘glulam beams’. A nice touch is that the old cast iron columns from the current grand stand will be reused on the front. The adjacent cycle store retains the existing containers but they are laid out in a more formal manner around a central open space which is roofed with a tensile fabric cover supported on steel masts. The new buildings occupy less space than the existing ones, an essential feature for development on Metropolitan Open Land, and have been set out to improve the general appearance of the site. The single access off Burbage Road, between Nos 102 and 104, remains. The current proposal is less an architectural statement than the original larger scheme but, needs must, and the simple plan and section, more economical construction techniques, and the use of timber and brick, mean the current proposal is more affordable. It will be a positive enhancement both to the velodrome and to Dulwich and Herne Hill. Those of us who remember the dark days of the late 1990s and early 2000s when it seems that cycling would no longer carry on should be very happy.

Southwark Local History Library
There is total confusion within the Southwark Council regarding the future of its well-regarded local history and archives centre located at the John Harvard Library in Borough High Street. Although the public’s thirst for studying archive material has never been greater, thanks to programmes such as ‘Who do you think you are?’, much of the research is carried out at home through various websites.
However, Southwark has such a rich and high profile history and a vast body of material for study that it is essential the service is maintained. Part of the problem is as a result of the fire at the Cuming Museum where a good deal of material was stored. There is currently no date when this material will be available again. Historians are therefore frustrated by this impasse. Meanwhile, the staff of the library has been drastically reduced and the Dulwich Society, together with neighbouring societies have protested about the situation. Added to this confusion is the news from the South London Gallery that it is to have a local history section. What is not clear is how large an area it will cover or how comprehensive the collection will be.

St Peter’s Dulwich Common
It has taken around ten years but we are pleased to report that the wall, railings and gateposts of St Peter’s Church, Dulwich Common have been restored to their original 19th century glory. That is two achievements for the Dulwich Society, and in particular its architecture planning group under its chairman, David Roberts. The other success, the restored Concrete House is directly opposite. The next goal will be the restoration of the listed church hall which is in a structurally unsound state and has been barbarously altered in past years. The memorial to The Great War’s, Dulwich Volunteer Battalion has also been restored. Let us hope that the projected redevelopment of the nearby Grove Tavern site will also be ascetically treated.

Sydenham & Dulwich Theatre Club
The club invites new members to join them for visits to West End theatres. Transport is arranged by coach for evening performances, usually leaving Kirkdale at 6.15 and Dulwich Picture Gallery at 6.25. The coach collects members from the theatre after the performance and returns to these locations. The group rate for tickets is well below the standard price but of course the cost of the coach has to be added. A wide variety of shows is offered, usually about 10 per year, ranging from serious drama to musicals. Members chose the ones they wish to see. If you are interested please contact one of the following - Roy Savage 0208 291 0264 or Roger Pawley 0208 693 5660

Dulwich Helpline Re-named
At the October AGM of Dulwich Helpline and Southwark Churches Care the title of the former two separate charities was changed to Link Age Southwark. Founded 20 years ago the charity has over 300 dedicated volunteers serving 500 older members. It receives 41% of its running costs from Southwark Council/NHS Southwark, 33% from grant income and the remainder from donations and community fundraising events. It asks for help from the community in befriending an older person, helping at groups by providing refreshments or running activities, driving, gardening, odd jobs and fundraising. More information at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 020 8299 2623.

Carols for St Christopher’s
A multi-faith Carol Service with readings by celebrity readers, the Dulwich Chamber Choir and the JAGS Madrigal Choir will; take place on 14 December 2015 at 7.00pm at St Barnabas Church.. Wine and mince pies will be served after the service. There will be a Retiring Collection in aid of St Christopher’s Hospice

The Elms Climb
In our last issue we published an account of the Elms Care Home in Barry Road. In September volunteers raised £2500 towards the proposed new Dementia Garden by competing in a sponsored climb of the O2 Arena ( Millennium Dome).

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