Whether, by the time this magazine reaches you, the corona virus lockdown is either relaxed or not, is at the time of writing, unclear. Despite the traumatic side of the pandemic, the period of enforced closure and leisure has had its compensations.
The first, and possibly the most important factor was that the weather was benign, certainly for the first month or so. This, after a dreadful beginning of the year with constant rains and floods came as a blessing, not only to gardeners but to all required to stay at home and advised to take an exercise walk or cycle ride daily. In so doing, people began to take notice of Dulwich’s attractive parks, woods, roads and byways with a fresh and unhurried eye. Fathers spent more time with their children, previously nervous cyclists discovered their confidence on the roads, a weekly jog became a daily jog, a turn round the park, usually reserved for a Saturday or Sunday became a regular outing.
Access to sports fields was in many cases generous; Alleyn’s School’s Townley field, the Edward Alleyn’s club in Burbage Road and some of Dulwich College’s ground were open to the public and the Dulwich Estate traded the closure of the gardens and quadrangle at the Old College to protect its almshouse residents, by opening the Village Orchard for the benefit of all.
The blossom trees were beautiful everywhere and walkers on exercise were able to digest the new historical information boards set up last year to mark the 400th anniversary of the Alleyn Foundation. Equally novel and interesting to a new breed of flaneurs, were the historical panels placed at key locations by the Dulwich Society.
The more adventurous found new routes around the locality and runners and fast walkers covered an even wider area than usual in their recommended time. Cyclists of all ages enjoyed virtually empty roads for the first few weeks and once the situation returns to its former normality many people will no doubt view Dulwich’s usual density of traffic in a more critical light.
The tremendous value of local shops selling foodstuffs was a dominant feature of the lockdown and residents were well served by them and those other shops which, although closed still offered a delivery service, some even by bicycle.
What will become of our local cafes, restaurants and pubs only time will tell, but if the experience of WW2 is anything to go by, they will quickly bounce back. Less certain are the vacant sites around Dulwich that were expecting the new occupants. What is clear is the Dulwich Estate will take a massive hit in lost and reduced rents, vacant premises and falling investment income.