The Dulwich Society has played a part in number significant local issues which are explained in detail in other pages of this issue. The first to be highlighted is the concern that the Trees and the Wildlife Committees expressed over what appeared to be the felling of a large number of trees in the course of the re-ordering of Dulwich Park. The Society arranged a Public Meeting when this concern were addressed and a satisfactory course agreed with Land Use Consultants who are handling the project.

The same two sub-committees also registered their concern over the proposed felling of the splendid Zelcova tree at the junction of College Road and Dulwich Common which was thought to be leaning at a precarious angle over the busy road junction. The Dulwich Society's action of engaging their own tree expert contributed to the final outcome of a reprieve for this handsome and historic tree from the expert representing the Deputy Prime Minister's Office to whom the matter had been referred.

The announcement that the connecting ancient pathway from Greendale to Dog Kennel Hill is to be re-opened and re-ordered by Groundwork Southwark is most welcome news, especially to the residents of the Sunray Estate who now have an easy access to Sainsbury's. This newsletter can take a modest credit for highlighting this issue.

Although the Dulwich Society has taken a neutral stance on the proposed redevelopment of the Velodrome (Herne Hill Stadium), it has helped to fund the Burbage Road Residents' Association costs of a traffic survey. The latest news on this project is that the Dulwich Estate has agreed to a three month extension to the original one year extension granted to Southwark Council in order that the trustees of the proposed Velodrome could formulate an acceptable business plan. The proposers of the redevelopment should be aware that other uses for the ground could be found; great interest is being shown in acquiring leases of grounds in Dulwich by football training clubs. Both Dulwich Hamlet FC and Pelo Football are running football training on local sports grounds which are well-run and well-supported. If a conclusion is not reached after this fifteen month lease extension on the Stadium the Estate may be unwilling to extend it further. In the meantime, it is understood, that Southwark Council, which incidentally supports the football initiatives, has pumped a further £100,000 into keeping the original Velodrome proposal alive.

The Public Meeting held by the Dulwich Society on the 14 October and attended by the Friends of Dulwich Park and other interested groups and members of the public were told the detailed plans on the future redevelopment of the park by Land Use Consultants and Southwark Council.

Dulwich Park which opened in 1890 had been an English Heritage Grade II (starred) listed park but because of under-funding by Southwark Council after they acquired it following the demise of the Greater London Council who in turn succeeded the London County Council, the park has lost its starred status although it remains listed.

A £3.9 million grant from the National Lottery has been awarded to Dulwich Park to restore it to its Victorian glory as well as to incorporate ecological features and provide an outdoor classroom for local schools. Land Use Consultants, the company retained to bring the renovation to fruition have wide experience on dealing with park restoration being the involved in the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Southwark Park, the Royal Parks and the re-ordering of Russell Square.

Diverse interests accommodated

The process of applying for the Heritage Lottery Grant began in 1998 and led to the formation of the Friends of Dulwich Park which now has over 200 members. Wide consultation was held with the Friends, with the Dulwich Society Trees and Wildlife Committees and other interested users and groups. Most of the 'want list' of these parties seems to have been satisfactorily accommodated in the final scheme presented at the Public Meeting by the consultants. Dog walkers still have their circuit, there is a jogging route, some of the tennis courts are to be re-sited and transformed into multi-activity areas, the main sports field (named the West Lawn) is to be installed with land drains and the surface re-laid, the first such treatment in over a century of hard usage. The ad-hoc games field (named the East Lawn) which includes the bowling green and playground will be left largely untouched.

Focal Point

The ornamental bridge will be the axis for aesthetic treatment of the overall design. To provide a vista over the lake to the lawns beyond, the tennis courts presently beside it will be re-sited. The lake will continue to form the focal point for the park. It will be dredged of silt and one end planted with reed beds. A wooden board walk will cross the lake to a viewing platform near the reed beds offering opportunities for ecological study and pond dipping. Boating will continue to be enjoyed on the remainder of the lake. Storm water will drain into the lake which will be re-circulated by a pump from the bottom of the cascade. A fine mesh and inconspicuous fence will control the Canada Geese but will have apertures to allow smaller wading birds to enter the water. A Nature

Conservation area with a squirrel enclosure will be sited in the vacant space where the aviary once stood.

Considerable money will be spent on resurfacing the carriage drive and giving a clean edge to the accompanying horse-ride and it is hoped to encourage more equestrians to use to use this rare facility (Dulwich is one of only two parks in London to retain a horse ride). Other roads and paths will also be re-surfaced. The herbaceous borders of the main walk (Snakes Lane) are to be restored and there will be considerable replanting of shrubberies throughout the park, including softening the edges of the West Lawn where they border the carriage drive.

The present cricket pavilion will be transformed into a community space allowing it to be used as a classroom. The present rangers' building will become a sports changing room with improved facilities. A CCTV system will be installed to cover the Pavilion Café and the nearby toilet block which will be re-furbished. The two lakeside shelters will have their roofs restored to their original thatched appearance. The railings and gateposts will be restored and 'period' benches will be installed throughout the park. A new boathouse will be erected.

Trees

Considerable concern had been expressed about the proposed tree-thinning programme, not least by the Dulwich Society. These concerns also appear to have been met and the present tree population of 2145 trees will be supplemented by the planting of 600 whips (small saplings) around the park and especially on the Dulwich Common side. A total of 52 trees will be felled and removed, 9 will be felled and replaced and 77 new trees planted. Old boundaries will be re-established.

Work is expected to start in the spring of 2005 and take ten months to complete. The draining of the lake, removal of accumulated silt and the planting of aquatic plants is expected to take 4-5 months and will be tailored to fit into the bird nesting season.

Park Management Plan

On completion the park will be handed over to Southwark Parks Department who are required by English Heritage to initiate a Management Plan to ensure its proper maintenance. Mr John Sheaf, the Southwark Parks Manager announced that this will include establishing a dedicated team of four Park Wardens within the park, of which two will be on duty at any one time, although it is possible these wardens will also have duties elsewhere in Dulwich, in Belair Park for example. It will be their duty to enforce the byelaws of the Park, summon the police if required, issue fixed penalty notices and if necessary give evidence in Court. The Parks Department will staff Dulwich Park with an Ecology Officer and an Education and Access Officer to encourage greater use by school groups visiting the Dulwich Picture Gallery when it will be anticipated that the morning will be spent at the Gallery and the afternoon in the Park.

Costing of the project - Budget estimates

  • REFRESHMENT HOUSE AREA - £24,800
  • SNAKES LANE - £193,100
  • LAKE AND CASCADE - £531,200
  • RIVULET - £29,600
  • WEST LAWN - £576,800
  • EAST LAWN - £7,500
  • AMERICAN GARDEN - £150,400
  • CARRIAGE DRIVE & PERIMETER ZONE - £602,200
  • ENTRANCES, LODGES AND GATES - £194,300
  • CAR PARK - £179,500
  • GENERAL - £471,800
    • £2,961,200
  • PRELIMINARIES @ 12% - £355,300
    • £3,316,500
  • CONTINGENCIES - £270,100
    • £3,586,600
  • INFLATION @ 10% - £358,700
    • TOTAL ESTIMATED COST - £3,945,300

(source - LAND USE CONSULTANTS)

Caucasian Elm Saved - David Nicholson-Lord reports

The magnificent Caucasian elm tree at the junction of College Road and the South Circular has been saved from the axe. The Dulwich estate wanted to fell it because of worries that it was leaning too far and was a potential danger to traffic. The Trees Committee was opposed to the felling, arguing that the danger was unproven and pointing out that three separate reports on the tree, one commissioned by the Dulwich Society, had found the elm - Zelkova carpinifolia - was in good health.

Southwark Council deserves credit for resisting the proposal to fell the tree, which is covered by a tree preservation order. The council said the tree had an outstanding amenity value. The council's position was backed on appeal by a Government inspector, who said the lean of the tree was irrelevant, since gravity is the weakest of the natural forces trees have to face. He said the elm was in good order and vigorous and there was no reason it should fail even during the severest storms. He is also critical of the three tree surveyors for "[ignoring] their professional appraisal of the current good health of the tree - by, for instance, suggesting removal. The elm had an important rarity value, he added.

The decision is refreshing and, for many people, unexpected. Given potential litigation and compensation claims, too few landowners are these days prepared to risk keeping a tree once doubts have been cast on it, and arboriculturalists called in for advice are loath to "guarantee" its future. In this case, unusually, sanity prevailed.

The Dulwich Estate writes that in their view the tree presented an unacceptable risk to the public, due to the fact that it is leaning across a busy road junction and the only solution to remove the danger was to fell the tree. Although the Secretary of State refused consent both to the felling of the tree and the lifting of Article 5 Certificate some comfort was drawn by the Inspecting Officer's conclusions:

Thus the tree remains as a Dulwich landmark. However the Estate points out that it is in the unenviable position of having responsibility for the tree but cannot undertake any work whatsoever without the prior permission of Southwark Council and the Council has absolved itself of any liability by issuing the Article 5 Certificate.

Does your garden back onto a sports field and do you have a gate?

The various sports grounds within the Dulwich Estate, which form a valuable part of the amenity of the area, are leased to individual sports clubs or to the local councils. As such, these properties are private and freeholders whose boundaries adjoin these grounds have no right of access through their gardens or to use the fields (even if they are members of the club concerned). The Dulwich Estate has been asked by its tenants to bring this to the attention of residents living on the Estate.

Improved pathway in the woods

The path in Dulwich Woods leading from the footbridge downhill to London Road, opposite Horniman's Gardens has been widened and lighted. When the path continues, unfenced, through the lawns of the housing estate, it has been improved by the addition of a short flight of steps to connect with Lapsewood Walk. Other improvements are the new gate at the foot of Cox's Walk, on Dulwich Common and the repairs to the surface of the pathway. More frequent inspection of the upper end of Cox's Walk is however needed. There the lighting is almost non-existent, and where it is installed, it is insufficiently maintained. The surface needs the application of more gravel to replace that washed downhill by heavy rains.

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