A Sylvan Jubilee

This year is the 25th Anniversary of the London Wildlife Trust at Sydenham Hill Wood and as such the Trust will be holding a celebratory "Sylvan Jubilee" Festival from Friday the 24th August to Sunday 2nd September.

The event will be launched with the "Upstaging Nature" art exhibition to be held over the August bank holiday weekend. Following on from art exhibitions at Sydenham Hill Wood in 2005 (the Art of Permanence and Change) and 2006 (Eco Vandalism) this years theme considers the consequences of placing art work in an environment which has a tendency to dominate everything around it.

Artists of various disciplines from sculpture to dance will be exhibiting/ performing throughout the weekend.

Other events planned for the Sylvan Jubilee include talks on the history and management of Sydenham Hill Wood at the Horniman Museum, guided walks including bat and moth evenings and a concert at the Dulwich Wood House Pub on Crescent Wood Road. It is hoped that the culmination of the festival will be a 2 day Woodland Fair along Cox's Walk with stalls, entertainment and educational activities for all.

Further sponsorship for this festival is still needed and any offers or ideas will be gratefully received. Please contact Ed Dean on 020 7803 4273 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For further details of Sylvan Jubilee events please visit www.wildlondon.org.uk 

Woodland Bat Roost Project

London Wildlife Trust has launched its Woodland Bat Roost Project at Sydenham Hill Wood Local Nature Reserve. The three year £60,000 project which is funded by the SITA Trust through the landfill communities fund with 10% match funding from the Dulwich Community Council and support from Lewisham Council is designed to meet UK, London and Southwark biodiversity action plan targets.

The key elements to the project are to train local volunteers in bat ecology and survey techniques, assess the local habitat for potential bat roosts and activity, record and monitor bat activity, and enhance the local habitat by increasing roost opportunities.

Work to date has included the running of a bat ecology workshop at the Horniman Museum, and tree surveys where those trees that best meet bat roosting criteria are tagged and mapped for further investigation. The criteria include rot or woodpecker holes, splits, loose bark and ivy cover. Throughout the summer months night time surveys will take place in a bid to identify bat species and locate active roosts. In September new bat roost boxes will be installed in especially identified areas within the reserve and within the disused high level railway tunnel between the Wood and Vigilant Close in the Hill Crest Estate. The tunnel will be the centre piece of the project as enhancements to the grilles and the construction of hanging walls within the tunnel are planned to create micro climates favourable to bat hibernation.

Bats are very susceptible to disturbance and the destruction of roost sites in buildings is thought to be a key reason for their decline. By providing secure hibernation sites it is hoped that the decline in urban bat populations can be steadied or reversed. Records for the Dulwich area to date have found several species including, common and soprano pipistrelle, daubenton, noctule and brown long eared bats (first Southwark record in Sydenham Hill Wood, Oct 2005).

For further information on this project please call the London Wildlife Trust on 020 8699 5698.

Hearts of Oak

Oak is the key to the new visitor and education centre now nearing completion in Dulwich Upper Wood Local Nature Reserve, Farquhar Road, West Dulwich. "This five-acre site is mainly oak woodland, a fragment of what was the Great North Wood," says Trust for Urban Ecology warden Jim Murphy, who manages the reserve and its teams of conservation volunteers.

He gestures around the nature trail, its pathways spiralling ever-skywards in a series of terraces. Crystal Palace's mast can be glimpsed, framed within a small blue hole in the dense green canopy. "We have Sessile and English oaks, a few Turkey oaks, some hybrids. It seemed fitting, when we decided to replace our volunteers' portable cabin with something more suitable for visits from schools and ecology and conservation students, that we should have a building that was mostly oak, too."

Indeed, the walls of this latter-day cabin in the woods are of oak throughout. So is its flooring - reclaimed ships' decking, relaid reverse-side-up to present an unridged surface more suitable for its new land-locked lifestyle. When the centre opens to the public later this year, its furniture will include a set of fine, solid, stackable wooden chairs (in oak, naturally), handmade by a local craftsman and donated, free, by the Horniman Museum. The doors are made of a foreign hardwood, "But it comes from an ecologically-sustainable source", adds Jim. "We are trying to do the work in as 'green' a way as possible".

There isn't a green living roof, like the one at the Horniman. Instead there is a more traditional pitched, clay-tiled one. "We didn't put grass there because it wouldn't have survived in that position. We needed something strong, too, because of the odd branch dropping and the weight of so many leaves falling down". However, atop the roof is a turret with overlapping wooden-boarded sides which, it is hoped, will be used as a bat roost. Dulwich Upper Wood is used by two kinds of Pipistrelle bats, and the occasional Daubenton's, en route to local park lakes - "because we are so high up, many things land here and rest." Other ecological point-scorers are sheeps' wool insulation, reclaimed cast iron guttering, and the huge plastic former chemical-storage tanks which will harvest rainwater from the roof, for the three outside compost toilets (although the resultant compost will have to be used off-site since the woods are sufficiently nutrient-rich already). Visitors will be able to use loos of the more run-of-the-mill variety, including one for wheelchair users, inside the building.

The Bridge House Trust, a City-based charity, paid for the erection of the 12 metre by 6 metre building and its roof. The reserve also received some grants, including one from the lottery-linked Awards for All scheme. But almost all the hard manual work on site, including digging out the metre-deep foundations, has been done by volunteers, both the reserve's regulars and outside teams from the corporate sector. None, says Jim, had any pre-existing building skills before they started. "I've learned a lot," says Jim, whose previous professional training, pre-conservation days, was in public administration and politics. "Especially when it comes to bricks, floors and joists".

"Some people might question why we are putting a building in the middle of a relict ancient woodland," says Jim. "But we haven't really had to change much - we lost one sycamore and two false acacias - and we've raised the ground level around an existing yew, to build the new visitor path and wheelchair access. In fact, this place has been built on before - just once, in its history. There was a line of Victorian villas with big basements here, in the 1870s. They had the woods as their gardens. Some were bombed during the last war. The last one, close to where we are standing now, went in 1960".

When the centre opens, visitors will be able to see some of the Victorian "treasures" recovered during construction work.

Angela Wilkes, Dulwich Society wildlife committee chair 

More Green Successes

An alliance of ecology bodies has campaigned for many years to promote an integrated approach to wildlife in the local landscape; amongst them, the Friends of Belair Park down in the Dulwich Basin and the Ridge Wildlife Group on the Crystal Palace Park hill top. The RWG lobbied throughout a decade-long scrum as groups vied. Some became stalking horses for large developments to replace the multiplex, which failed as the financial climate changed. However, survey after survey showed that the overwhelming majority of people backed the RWG's green vision. Tilman Latz and Partners (for the LDA) have now put forward a scheme for the hill top, whereby the footprint of Joseph Paxton's historic 1854 Crystal Palace would be marked out by tree planting, retaining existing trees and undergrowth (though LDA plans for housing in the Park face mounting opposition).

The Friends of Belair Park are an independent stakeholder group for West Dulwich public open space, representing the Belair Wildlife Group, Dulwich Society, Friends of the Earth, and local residents. They have worked with ecology experts since the late 1980's to create wildlife areas along the lake, combining lake-margin, ditch and hedgerow habitats. On March 28th, 2007, the Committee met with Southwark officers and McMorran-Gatehouse Architects to discuss construction of new changing rooms and the fate of the "paddock field," presently closed to the public.

The Friends welcome the architects' enthusiasm for a benchmark innovative multi-use 'green' building, and ecological/public use for the paddock field. Southwark aims to involve the public at every stage, in a model of genuine consultation. With a documentary maker, we are investigating possible production of a DVD for planners, highlighting the area between Belair and Crystal Palace to illustrate retention and enhancement of urban wildlife corridors.

Martin Heath 

Green Failures - Bumblebee Decline

Spare a thought, as you garden this summer, for the humble bumblebee. It may surprise you to know that there are some 25 species in the UK, although local gardens are likely to attract a mere half-dozen varieties, including ones that nest in bird-boxes and under garden sheds.

So familiar is their drowsy buzz, that we take it for granted as background to a sunny afternoon spent in the garden. But bumblebees are in trouble. Several species have already gone extinct nationally in recent decades, and others are rapidly heading that way. Intensive farming methods, use of pesticides, habitat losses are all thought to be to blame. One new theory suggests that interference from mobile phone masts could be disorientating bees and preventing them navigating back to their hives or nest holes when they become cold, or tired.

The recently-launched Bumblebee Conservation Trust has put together a life-saver list of plants that could make all the difference. Bumblebees and their young only eat nectar and pollen and they're totally dependent upon finding the right plants flowering at the right times, when they are active between March and August. Many modern flowers, alas, look dramatic and colourful - and that includes most bedding plants - but they are of no use to bees because they don't provide enough nectar for them to eat.

Other flower varieties, such as those with double petals, have also opted for style over content and they can be impenetrable to a variety of insects. Traditional cottage garden favourites, like lavender, sage, aquilegia and lupins are, in contrast, life-savers. Native bluebells, foxgloves, comfrey, teasel, viper's bugloss, sainfoin, tufted vetch, knapweed and bird's foot trefoil, are also good for bumblebees. Many UK wildflowers totally depend on these bees to pollinate them, so if the bees disappear from our landscape, so will many plants. A more complete list can be had from the charity's website.

The Trust is working with the British Trust for Ornithology, through its Garden BirdWatch (sic), to record bumblebees and they are currently recruiting recorders who can log sightings from their gardens. Unlike wasps, bumble bees are not aggressive (and only the females can sting) - they will not hurt unless they feel threatened, or get trodden on! A colour chart to help you identify different species is available with the free information pack, via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


THE DULWICH SOCIETY INVITES YOU TO

a summer evening walk through

DULWICH'S ANCIENT FIELDS AND HISTORIC WOODS

On Wednesday 27 June at 7pm.

Meet outside Dulwich college p.e. centre, pond cottages

The walk will be led by Brian Green assisted by members of the

Wildlife & Trees committees who will advise on Bird and Bat life and tree identification.

(Access to private sports fields, by kind permission of the Master of Dulwich College, and the Headmaster of Dulwich College Preparatory School.)

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