Notable Trees In Dulwich - Elms
By Jill Manuel
The photo shows the Wych Elm at the edge of the lake in Dulwich Park. Very small flowers appear first in March or April. They are light lime green 'samaras' with a seed attached, on a globe shaped disc. These are held in bunches along the twigs, and then turn brown before being shed. When flowering the effect is splendid.
So familiar in many old paintings of rural England, elms used to be one of the commonest features of the landscape. Most have succumbed to the Dutch elm beetle - not in fact from Holland but because it was first identified there. Recently we lost a superb specimen of Ulmus Sapporo Autumn Gold, although not from disease There are many variants of elm and this one was about 80ft tall with a dark straight deeply ridged bark, standing in front of Dulwich Hamlet School.
In just one day it was gone. It proved to have wrapped its roots round and through the six foot diameter of the brick built main sewage channel to the School and was causing great problems. Sewage lorries had to keep coming to pump out the system. Several answers to the dreadful problem were sought, including the necessity of large road works across the Village. Felling was in the end the only option. It is good to know that there is another specimen which can be found in the grounds of Christ’s Chapel, although it lacks the great trunk.
There was also a great elm next to the Old Grammar school which had to be felled some time ago. The woodman was persuaded to cut a very large 'slice' from near the base of the bole by the Dulwich Society, and with the help of staff and boys from Alleyn's School the surface was prepared and the rings which indicate the age of the tree were counted. The late Arthur Chandler suggested dates with local connections that occurred in its lifetime and these were engraved on medallions on the slice. This remarkable display can still be seen on the wall inside St. Barnabas Parish Hall.