Dulwich Society Reports for Annual General Meeting - 27 April 2020
(Delayed Due to Covid-19)

Executive Committee Reports for the Year 2019

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT:
Executive Committee: The Executive Committee met 6 times a year at the St Barnabas Library. The Executive awards funds to suitable local projects in line with the Society’s remit and objectives. In 2019 grants were made to:
- Dulwich Wood Primary for books
- London Wildlife Trust for Sydenham Woods
- Defibrillator for Bell House
- Burbage Road Information Sign for the Richard Burbage mural
- Green Screen for Dulwich Village Infants School
- Plants outside the new GP Surgery in Croxted Road
- Dulwich Park lake and rivulet investigation
- Active Travel conference at City Hall
In addition. the Society pledged funds for the project to repair the front entrance area of the St Barnabas Parish Hall on Dulwich Village, and some further work in Dulwich Park to preserve three historic oak trees which will take place in 2020. If members have any ideas for projects that are in line with the Society’s objectives, please contact the Society Chairman to discuss your idea.

Communication with members: Circulating information to members, stakeholders and the wider community is vital; there is a constant need to cascade information rapidly across the area. The Society noticeboard by the Crown and Greyhound displays information about the Society and forthcoming events. Apart from the popular monthly e-newsletter and quarterly Journal, the Society
publishes news and updates on the Society web site www.dulwichsociety.com. The Society’s Journal, edited by Brian Green, continues to be regarded as one of the major benefits of Society membership and around 80% of the copies are still distributed by hand - many thanks to the zone coordinators and the many volunteer members who put the Journal through your letter boxes.
 
We publish stop press news on our Twitter feed @dulwichsociety which has 1800 followers, so please follow us if you want to keep up to date with news. Over the year, our Twitter feed has covered many Dulwich and Society events, the Dulwich Our Healthy Streets consultation exercise, planning consultations, transport & air pollution initiatives, new shops, street murals, walks and talks, and announcements from Southwark Council and the Dulwich Estate. The Garden and Local History groups also have active and popular Twitter feeds.
 
Our Instagram feed #dulwichsociety has 900 followers and we have posted a range of Dulwich archive maps, information about our local businesses and typical Dulwich scenes.
 
We distribute email notices of key events or consultations to Dulwich residents’ associations so if your RA is not on our list, please contact the Chairman This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Increasingly by tapping into the RA co-ordinators messages are rapidly distributed via road WhatsApp groups.

Dulwich Estate Residents’ Advisory Group: The Society Chairman and the Chair of the Planning and Architecture Group, together with representatives from Dulwich residents’ associations drawn from across the Dulwich Estate, sit on the Estate Scheme of Management (SOM) Advisory Group which meets three times a year to discuss matters relating to the SOM. The Society collates a list of concerns and issues ahead of the meetings for discussion with the Estate that arise from our members’ and residents’ concerns, and issues that the Society has identified across the Estate. In addition, the Chairman and Secretary meet the Estate CEO and Director of Property on a regular basis to discuss members’ concerns on matters outside the SOM. If you have a matter you would like the Society to raise with the Estate, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Shops: ‘Simply Fresh’ opened in the Village towards the end of the year and has been a success. The four new units in the Croxted Road/Park Hall Road Shopping Centre are all let and there is also now a new restaurant there, the ‘Dulwich Bazaar’, as well as Mem’s Barbers. Roger Pope has relocated there temporarily while it’s unit in the Village is refurbished. There are also plans for another new restaurant in West Dulwich and also in the former S G Smith showroom in the Village.

Council CGS funding: The Society has been successful in submitting project ideas for using Southwark Cleaner, Safer, Greener funds to enhance the Dulwich environment and improve local safety. The Society secured funding for an air pollution monitor at the Village junction, repairs to finger post signs and additional trees. A project from last year, the bench on the corner of Burbage Road and Dulwich Village, was installed in October.

Posts and chains: The Society has paid for and carried out an upgrade to the posts and chains along the northern sections of Dulwich Village and College Road. The chains are all steel rather than plastic.

North Dulwich Bench: The Society installed a new bench on the green area opposite North Dulwich station near the bus stop. The memorial plaque to the Marchioness tragedy is now fixed to it.

Crime: Local levels of crime remain a concern with overall levels of burglaries, muggings and motor vehicle theft still at a higher level than we would like. The schools officer appointed in 2018 have been retained and this has impacted on youth-on-youth crime. Our local Safer Neighbourhood Teams do their best but there is no doubt that police resources have been cut. The Society hosted a combined meeting between all the local ward Safer Neighbourhood Panels in the Autumn to share experiences and knowledge.

New Almshouses: The Estate has not yet managed to find an alternative local site for the new building.
Ian McInnes, Chairman

HON. SECRETARY’S REPORT:
Society Governance: Our last annual report and accounts can be seen on the Charity Commission pages at Charity Commission Dulwich Society Home Page as well as our own web site. We monitor our governance continually and all governance updates are posted to the Society web site once approved by the Executive Committee. We also now publish Society minutes on the Society web site.

Public engagement and consultations: The Society has continued to be very active in the promotion of public engagement and 2019 was a busy year for traffic and transport consultations, notably the “Our Healthy Streets” scheme which aimed to create a low traffic neighbourhood in Dulwich between Dulwich Village and Lordship Lane. The Society was represented on the “Our Healthy Streets” Working Group which helped to ensure residents’ voices were reflected in the discussions. At the end of 2019, Southwark Council was about to embark on Phase 3 of Our Healthy Streets and several public consultation meetings were to be scheduled in Q1 2020.

The wildlife, trees and licensing teams have continued to be involved in proposals by Lambeth and Southwark to hold outdoor events in parks in 2019 especially Peckham Rye, Dulwich and Brockwell Parks. Southwark Council has reviewed their outdoor event consultation strategy and the likelihood at the end of 2019 was that during 2020 one weekend event was to be held on Peckham Rye, two in Brockwell Park including the Country Show and two in Dulwich Park including the Festival Fair, all subject to event and premises licensing.

Working with community groups: The Society continues to work closely with a wide range of stakeholders across Dulwich including residents’ associations, the Dulwich Estate, Dulwich Picture Gallery, amenity societies such as the Herne Hill Society, sporting venues, local councillors, MP and council officers and the police (Safer Neighbourhood Panels). We are also represented on the Safe Routes to School which is an effective local lobby group to improve our children’s safety and promote active travel. The Society is also represented on the residents’ liaison group liaising with McCulloch Homes who are developing the former S G Smith site in Dulwich Village. Sadly, this latter project continued to be delayed in 2019 and there is no news on when it might start in earnest.

Requests for Information: The steady flow of family history and heritage enquiries to the Society continues as well as requests from people wanting information about specific houses and buildings in Dulwich. The WWII bomb plaques continue to generate interest. The answers to many Dulwich questions can be found by searching the Society web site www.dulwichsociety.com. Increasingly people write to us having read an article to supply new information. We are grateful to all those who supply photographs and interesting tales of Dulwich life.

Rosebery Lodge: The Dulwich Society returned Rosebery Lodge to Southwark Council on 1st June 2019 and it is now used by the Dulwich and District University of the Third Age (U3A). The Victorian post cart remains at the Lodge while the Society finds an alternative home for it.
Sue Badman, Hon Secretary



MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY’S REPORT:
Membership at the end of 2019 was 1165 households. Our membership for Dulwich represents approximately 20% of all households. We gained 49 new members and lost 44 during the year.

Most members renew by standing order but over 100 still pay by cheque or cash. Despite reminders in the December journal that subscriptions are due many of those who pay by cheque/cash require reminders to be sent to them which is a cost to the society in postage and stationery. In February 2020 reminders were sent to over 100 members, the majority of these [over 70] had paid by cheque/cash in 2019. We continue to encourage members to change to automatic standing order payments.

For the financial year 2018-2019 we claimed £2392.06 from HMRC for gift aid.

Approximately 20% of our journals are delivered by post because either members live a considerable distance from Dulwich or we are unable to get local volunteers to deliver by hand. We still need volunteers, particularly in the East Dulwich area, who would be willing to help, on a quarterly basis, to deliver a small number of journals.

The eNewsletter is now sent to over 800 of our members who have given us their email addresses. It is sent out on a monthly basis and provides a useful mechanism to keep members up to date on important issues affecting Dulwich (such as planning or transport proposals from Southwark) but also lets people know about events and activities in the area which cannot be included in the quarterly journal. Members can request to be added to the circulation by e mailing me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Diana McInnes, Membership Secretary

REPORT FROM THE PLANNING & ARCHITECTURE GROUP:
Dulwich Estate Licence Applications: The number of applications has continued to decrease year on year being 212 in 2017, 199 in 2018, 189 in 2018 and 162 in 2019.

Between three and five members of the Planning and Architecture attend a monthly meeting to comment on all licence applications for domestic properties under the Scheme of Management. This now takes place in the Dulwich Estate main building. Members comprise both those with a professional background in Architecture and/or Planning and those with local knowledge, and some across all.

Comments on individual aspects of an application are either noted as ‘No objection’ or ‘Objection’, in which case a reason is given. These comments are advisory to the Scheme of Management. Objections made by the Planning and Architecture Group are referred to the DE’s Consultant Architect, Madeleine Adams. Where possible issues are resolved in discussions with the applicant and others.

In the event of a failure to reach an agreed solution the matter is referred to the SOM Management Committee, generally comprising DE trustees, the Chief Executive, Simone Crofton, the Director of Property, Adrian Brace, the Estate’s Consultant architect, Scheme of Management staff and other DE employees for a decision.

The Scheme of Management ‘Guidelines for Residents’ was published in June 2018. The illustrated content states that ‘Applications will be determined in the light of the guidance given here’. The guidelines cover a wide range of external changes to enfranchised properties within the Dulwich Estate area. The introduction describes which external changes require consent, how to make an application, how to apply for a building works license and license fee guidance.

The design guidelines are under the following headings Boundary changes, Conservatories, Hard standing in front gardens, Extensions, Loft conversions, External repairs, Replacement doors and windows, Satellite dish aerials, Change of use, Swimming pools and hot tubs, Shop fronts, Garden structures, Solar energy panels and solar thermal collectors.

A New Section on New Build Properties has been added this year setting out General Requirements and Specific guidelines. For example, ‘New developments should not cause a loss of amenity to neighbouring residents.’

There continues to be substantial disruption to Frank Dixon Way residents due to the number of new builds and loss of day-to-day amenity.

Amenity: It would be beneficial to residents if there was an agreed definition of amenity between the Dulwich Society on behalf of residents and the Dulwich Estate.

Developments:
Former SG Smith Workshop Site/Gilkes Crescent: Further investigation works have continued sporadically during the year with excavations and piles of soil but no sign of concerted construction works. The site has been enclosed with hoardings. A new planning application to ‘value engineer’ the original planning permission has been granted.

Grove Tavern on the corner of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane: This is the sixth year that the fly posted boarded up building sits at the gateway to Dulwich Common. There is no indication as yet of viable development plans being put forward to replace this derelict building.

Southwark Sports Club, Dulwich Common: The planning application for floodlighting of the football pitch has been granted, subject to conditions include measures to mitigate the effects of the floodlighting on bats foraging and flight paths.

No 1 Fountain Drive: Construction work of the six new terrace houses has been completed.

No 11 Fountain Drive: The original planning application for nine 2 bed flats for rent has been amended but continues to be objected to strongly by local residents due to its height and bulk on a small site, as well as a loss of amenity to the residents of Hyacinth House about and behind on Sydenham Hill.

Hillside, 9 Fountain Drive: A planning application for six four-bedroom flats was granted by Southwark Council however, the Dulwich Estate has required the height to be reduced by one level, and its status on the Dulwich Estate’s website is described as ‘in consultation’.

Land at the rear of Lyndenhurst: This backland development for two detached two houses has received conditioned planning permission despite a substantial number of objections. However, there is no provision other than the narrow gate in the listed boundary wall for direct access to the site for construction works - so it remains unclear how the house can actually be constructed.

Alleyn’s Junior School Extension: The Society, long with a large number of local residents, has objected to the application on the basis that it will generate a substantial amount of additional school traffic in an area which is part of the Council’s Healthy Streets Initiative to reduce pollution from motor vehicles.

Land adjacent to 80 Half Moon Lane for five two-bedroom terrace houses: Planning permission was granted in September 2018 and construction is in progress.

96 Alleyn Road: The planning application for the replacement of the present house with a new one was validated in November 2019. The case officer’s report recommends approval

57 Alleyn Road (19/AP/0576): The application validated on 25/02/19. There were numerous written objections to the planned replacement of the existing house with two new dwellings. Despite this, planning consent was given early in 2020.

29 Eastlands Crescent (19/AP/0946): The application was validated 29 March and again there is no officer’s report as yet on this application to replace a single detached house with two new ones.

83 Alleyn Park: a development of nine flats comprising three three-bed, five two-bed and one one-bed flats - validated in October 2019 with a determination deadline of 13 December 2019. Revised plans were submitted early in 2020.

40 Court Lane - development of two pairs of semi-detached houses: validated in June 2019 with a determination date of 21 August 2019. While the proposal has raised strong objections from neighbours, its Southwark Planning status is described as under consideration/assessment. There is no case officer’s report as yet.
David Lloyd Roberts, Chair

REPORT FROM THE TRAVEL AND ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE:
Change of name of the Traffic & Transport Committee: It has been agreed that the name of the Committee is to be changed to the Travel & Environment Committee, in order to better reflect its function. It has the following remit:
To foster safe and healthy streets in Dulwich by -
(1) Advocating clean air
(2) Supporting improvements in public transport
(3) Considering the requirements of vulnerable road users (children, the elderly and the disabled)
(4) Developing safe active travel networks and reducing vehicle traffic
(5) Promoting low traffic neighbourhoods

Foundation school coaches: Work was necessary in 2019 on the South Circular before the new route for coaches could be used. This was completed during the summer and autumn and the new routes are now in use.

Parking control measures in local parks: The Council now charges £2 an hour in all local parks, except in Belair Park, which is on a 200-year lease from the Dulwich Estate. One of the provisions of the lease is that the land should remain free to the public at all times. We are aware that parking charges in Dulwich Park will impact on parking in nearby streets, and once this is known recommendations will be made to the Council.

Dulwich Healthy Streets: The Committee has been closely involved with the Council and the Safe Routes to Schools Group in responding to the views expressed by local residents on matters of concern including air quality, safe walking and cycling and traffic management.
The Council has now produced a list of key proposals, and are to hold meetings with local people to discuss these matters further.

Air quality: A bid has been made jointly by this Committee and the Safe Routes to School Group for funds for a large display monitor which will show real time air quality at the junction of Dulwich Village and Calton Avenue.

Stations and rail passenger benefit fund: We have submitted proposals for North Dulwich, East Dulwich, West Dulwich and Herne Hill. After the results have been made public contact will be made with the railway authorities to endeavor to secure further improvements to our local stations. Each station has been awarded £30,000 from the Passenger Benefit Fund.

Aircraft noise: Information regarding the proposed extended flights over this area is available on the Dulwich Society website. Various groups in Camberwell, Herne Hill and Forest Hill are also concerned with the increase in aircraft noise and also the ramifications of proposals to increase the number of flights from both Heathrow and London City Airports.

Electric vehicle charging points: Charging points have now been installed in Elmwood Road, Townley Road, Woodward Road, Aysgarth Road and Stradella Road. Some are stand alone units and some are installed on lamp posts. The units on lamp posts provide a lower level of charge. The Council, TfL and the Department for Transport are working on plans to install more charging points.

We are always keen to welcome new members to the Committee, especially those from local families. You would be welcome to come to a meeting on a ‘trial basis’, to see us at work, and decide whether to join us. Please contact Alastair Hanton, 020 8693 2618, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 8 Gilkes Crescent , SE21 7BS to chat about this.

The sub-committee: The Sub-committee meets approximately quarterly, with considerable activity between meetings.
Alastair Hanton, Chair

REPORT FROM THE LICENSING GROUP:
1. New Applications since last meeting:
(i) Chandra Raja:
The Committee agreed we should oppose the extension of closing times. Police and Environmental Health also objected; mediation was not successful; Licensing Committee hearing has been postponed until March 21.

(ii) Luna Children’s Cinema: Dulwich Park - May 25th - 2nd June 2 2019:
Objection made to Southwark Events holding this event over a 9-day period immediately following Dulwich Park Fair (27 screening were proposed, meaning local residents could suffer noise nuisance almost continuously for 8 hours each day). We proposed that the event be limited to 5 days, with a maximum of 2 showings per day, and preferably that the event be rescheduled so as not to coincide with the GALA event in Peckham Rye Park. To date no response from Southwark Events.

(iii) Dulwich Picture Gallery:
The view of the Committee was to oppose DPG’s application for a new premises licence, which would enable DPG to sell alcohol and promote licensable events (music , films dance etc) throughout the year (not just during the period the temporary Pavilion was in place) indoors and outdoors; Previously DPG had applied for a TENS ( Temporary Events Licence for each separate event. A copy of the Society’s representation is attached. Deadline for representations was February 28th; 27 representations against and 5 in favour had been received by Licensing. Representations are not published on the web until 5 days before the hearing date before the Licensing Sub-Committee - which I assume will be in sometime in March/early April.

(iv) GALA - Peckham Rye Park - May 26th 2019:
Following the decision as the last Executive Committee Meeting, no representation was made to the licensing application; licensing hearing has not yet taken place. Peckham Society have recently announced that they would be monitoring events in the Park and are attending an open meeting with the organisers on March 13th.

(v) Mighty Hoopla and Cross the Tracks - Brockwell Park: June 7-8th 2019:
It appears deadline for representations has passed (the application and supporting papers no longer on Lambeth’s website0 but licence may not yet have been granted. Dulwich Society did not make a representation. My enquiries have failed to reveal whether local groups, eg, Brockwell Tranquility or Herne Hill Society, objected. This is a 2 day event (3 day last year) ; footprint of event approx. half the size of last year’s event and number of attendees reduced - in the case of Mighty Hoopla a LGBTQ event to 20,000 (37,000 last year ) and Cross the Tracks - soul, Motown, funk and R&B to 15,000. Entertainment finish time is 22.30 (Saturday) and 22.00 (Sunday) with bars closing at least ½ hour before music finishes. Sue attended a drop-in session attended by Lambeth and festival organisers on Feb 27

2. Southwark Consultations:    
(i) Review of Outdoor Events: Southwark are currently reviewing their outdoor events policy and are (as of 21 Feb) were about to conduct consultation regarding what events and activities are appropriate to take place in public spaces/parks. The Society (and Dulwich Park) will be consulted. Any new policy is not expected to be implemented before late summer 2019.

(ii) Consultation on Late Night Levy on licensed premises: The consultation on whether to raise a levy on licensed premises in Southwark open between midnight and 06.00 opened on 25 February and closes on May 19th. Several councils (including Camden, Islington and Hackney) have introduced the levy to assist in policing the night time economy. Generally, local residents are in favour, licensed premises are against! The levy is based on the rateable value of the premises (typically between £5.75 -£ 8.85 per week). The object is to apply the funds (Southwark anticipate it will yield £280,000 a year) towards eg. costs of policing, night time patrols, extra street cleaning etc). Local press in Hackney (where scheme was introduced in late 2017) says that very little of money raised has gone towards stated objects, but rather has been swallowed up on the cost of administering the scheme. Southwark have arranged a meeting at Tooley Street offices between 18.00 - 20.00 hours on March 19th which I will try to attend.

3. Application by Southwark of income generated by events in Dulwich Park
I have now done some research into history of Dulwich Park and am reasonably satisfied that it is held on statutory trust under the Open Spaces Act 1906; the effect of this is that Southwark must apply income derived from events in the park only towards the maintenance and improvement of the park and for no other purpose - in other words, not use it to subsidise ‘free’ events elsewhere in Southwark - something to be borne in mind in Souhwark’s forthcoming consultation on outdoor events.
Patsy Bramble, chair

REPORT FROM THE LOCAL HISTORY GROUP:
The local history Twitter account (@DulwichHistory) began in March 2019 to bring Dulwich’s rich local history to a wider audience. It now has 929 followers and receives up to 100,000 ‘impressions’ per month. We tweet once daily and also retweet items of interest, e.g. other South London history accounts. The account regularly links to articles on the Society’s website. We often tweet images such as ‘then and now’ photos and ‘on this day’ tweets are also very popular, particularly relating to WW2 and the Society’s bomb plaques. Most followers simply read our tweets but some engage more closely: asking questions, adding further information or images, starting online discussions. People often share personal reminiscences, and some send private messages asking if we can help with particular queries. Our Space, a shared workspace company in Lordship Lane and Parkhall Business Centre in Martell Road both asked if we could help with images to decorate their offices. Sainsbury’s Archive forwarded an enquiry about the Griffin sports ground. In all cases we have been able to provide the information required.

The Society’s journal continued to publish a number of items on local history. In particular, the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Ruskin was celebrated with articles on his influence and house on Denmark Hill. Collaboration with Bell House included arranging a talk on Ruskin and an exhibition there to coincide with the display of Pissarro’s painting of Dulwich College at the Picture Gallery. Other talks were organised on the North Dulwich Triangle and the public houses of East Dulwich and walks included one around Burbage Road.
Bernard Nurse, Chair

REPORT FROM THE GARDEN GROUP:
In March we produced our annual brochure “Dulwich Gardens open for charity”, compiled by Ann Rutherford, with copies going to all members of the Society and an additional 4,000+ copies to relevant local outlets. The brochure gives details of some 40 local garden that open to the public and that raise considerable sums for the National Gardens Scheme, St Christopher’s Hospice, Link Age Southwark and other charities. Dulwich punches above its weight in London for the number of gardens that open for charity, a tribute to the generosity of all those involved.

In March we enjoyed a talk by Helen Yemm on “The modern cottage garden”, attended by some 100 people. In June we arranged a coach visit to West Dean and Woolbeding gardens in West Sussex for some 50 members of the Society. In July we organised visits to see the restored front gardens and new plantings at Dulwich College with the designer Rachel Reynolds, and to see London Wildlife Trust’s Centre for Wildlife Gardening which were shown to us by the senior site officer, Sylvia Myers. Our events, which are publicised in the Journal and eNewsletter, are open to all members of the Dulwich Society.

In addition to these activities, we try to encourage gardening in the area. For example, the Society made a grant to support the volunteers establishing gardens at the new Old Dairy Health Centre in West Dulwich.
Jeremy Prescott, Chair

REPORT FROM THE TREES SUB-COMMITTEE:
The Tree Committee continues to promote the planting, maintenance and enjoyment of trees in Dulwich. An article on a tree-related topic was published in each issue of the Society’s Journal, and that is set to continue in 2020.

Rachel Dowse, then a member of the Committee and London Wildlife Trust’s manager at Sydenham Hill, led a tree walk in Belair Park on 8 June. Rachel left the Trust at the end of 2019 to become Volunteer Officer with The Royal Parks. Her predecessor Daniel Greenwood, now working for South Downs National Park, led a tree walk in Dulwich Park on 10 August, and has offered to lead another tree walk in summer 2020.

Southwark Council’s “Cleaner Greener Safer” (CGS) funding for 2019-20 supported the planting of several new trees in the Dulwich Library garden in April 2019.

The Committee advised on the choice of trees for a community orchard in Long Meadow (south of the Paxton Green roundabout) for which CGS funding had been awarded.
The foxglove tree (Paulownia tomentosa) in the centre of Dulwich Village, above the bench commemorating Mark Evison, was removed by Southwark Council - having apparently been seriously affected by winter salt - and, following representations by the Committee, replaced by another Paulownia.

The Committee welcomed the initiative of the Dulwich Estate in creating a community orchard next to the Old Grammar School. The orchard incorporates a plaque under the tree planted by the Dulwich Society to commemorate Rosa Warburton Davis. The inscription, proposed by the Committee, is as follows: “In memory of Rosa Davis, 1911-2009: A passionate and active supporter of Dulwich trees and wildlife”.

The Committee followed with interest the campaign to save two oak trees near the Cox’s Walk footbridge (from which Camille Pissarro painted his well-known view of the former Lordship Lane railway station), threatened with removal because of concerns about the safety of the footbridge. At the end of the year further investigation of alternatives was under way prior to a final decision by Southwark Council.

We continue to be available to advise residents on their tree problems via the email helpline This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
David Beamish, chair

REPORT FROM THE WILDLIFE SUB COMMITTEE:
In bygone eras, people puzzling where all the swifts and swallows went when summer had gone, concluded that they were all hibernating in mud at the bottom of ponds. Nowadays we know, thanks to radio tracking, that these birds wing it hundreds of miles south for the rest of the year. But mystery still surrounds the reasons why they’re not coming back in summer, to nest in and on our houses, any more. The skies above the top of my road are no longer filled with aerial acrobatics of birds scything through the air, their chorus of piercing screes deadening even the sounds of traffic and angle-grinders.

So why have our numbers of returning local swifts and House Martins dropped? Suggested possible causes have included: increased home improvement and decorating work destroying existing and potential nesting sites, lack of sufficient food for the birds to hunt in order to successfully produce eggs and rear young, insufficient colony calls on site to attract new arrivals, fatally hazardous geographical and weather conditions and human destruction of migrating birds, and toxic polluted air quality impacting upon their food source. The answers may well lie in a combination of all of the above. As is so often the case in conservation matters, the devil lies in the detail - the decline in those miniscule, overlooked insect species whose health, variety and abundance affect our whole biosphere, including humankind, the tiny flying insects that swifts, swallows and House Martins must fill their gaping beaks with by the hundreds if they are to survive.

Conservation, improvement and ecological enhancement have been at the forefront of the Wildlife Group’s work over the past year. We have put our heads together with bigger organisations like the London Wildlife Trust, through their Sydenham Hill Woods and Great North Wood Projects, and worked alongside other local groups of like-minded, passionate and well-informed volunteers such as Dulwich Park Friends, plus official land managers such as the Dulwich Estate and Southwark Council, to work to give all our local wildlife, flora and fauna, its best chance.

Throughout society as a whole, there is a greater awareness now of the need to protect and enhance green spaces. We are very fortunate, here in this pleasant corner of south-east London, to have so many green spaces - from sports fields to parks, private gardens and allotments, woods, even areas of rough pastureland such as the remnants of Greendale Fields, within short walking distance. All these areas have rich populations of life within them and a stout-hearted army of people willing and able to look after them.

In Dulwich Park, for example, the Friends, helped by volunteers and a dedicated park manager and his staff, have not only been keeping the park well maintained, but they have created new wildlife oases. The perimeter walks, at one time regularly stripped of all long grass, dead wood and fallen leaf litter, is now a welcoming rewilded haven for birds, insects and small mammals. And for humans who want to enjoy a quiet, mentally restorative walk in all the greenery. The Dulwich Society and DPF have jointly funded a report to tackle poor water quality in the lake and rivulet. Other park initiatives include the major enhancement of dead wood habitats. These act as refuges for amphibians and breeding areas for Stag Beetles - ours is a hot-spot for this conservation red-listed species.
 
Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Woods are the envy of many Londoners, giving visitors a feel of the countryside in the midst of a busy urban environment. The woods are used by schools for education projects, and by bird watchers and recorders. There are bat walks and family fun days out in nature, too. The Dulwich Society continues to be very supportive of London Wildlife Trust and has helped them to access funding for major projects. The Trust meticulously records several species within the woods - from bumble bees and butterflies to hedgehogs and beetles - and supplies records from their inspected transepts on the GIGL (Greenspace Information for Greater London) database. The Trust, helped by volunteers, will be managing the new Community Orchard, created by the Dulwich Estate in the middle of the Village by the Old Grammar School, a future nectar source for butterflies and bees.

The Dulwich Society Wildlife Group, working with all our linked-in friends, hopes to give nature a safety net against climate change and habitat loss.
Angela Wilkes, Chair.

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