The good news for many residents is that the Dulwich Village Conservation Area is to be extended. The bad news is that a whole area of North Dulwich is not included in the scheme and there are no definite plans to create one. The area is the North Dulwich Triangle, a neighbourhood of attractive Edwardian houses, built by the trustees of the Lett Estate to high specifications. This area, together with the adjoining Casino estate, a 'Garden Suburb' development by Camberwell Council after World War 1 and designated as an 'Area of Special Character' in 1982 has as its hub attractive Sunray Gardens, the remnant of Repton's garden design for Casino House, and the area also includes St Faith's church. The exclusion from protection of this part of Dulwich is particularly unfortunate in view of the Mayor of London's plans to extend the designated urban boundary.
Southwark Council is fighting the proposal from the Mayor of London to designate parts of Herne Hill, north and east Dulwich urban rather than suburban land in the Unitary Development Plan. Ken Livingstone is understood to have requested that London's urban area be extended as far south as Half Moon Lane. At present the southerly extent of urban land ends at the railway line at Denmark Hill. Such an extension would permit a much greater density of housing to be built. Interestingly, in mid- Victorian times, the railway, which is the present boundary, was also accepted as the extent of London's sprawl and nearby De Crespigny Park was expected to act as a bulwark against further encroachment. It was soon out-flanked by creeping development and property prices fell substantially in consequence. Without the safeguards that being within a Conservation Area brings, it may lead to history repeating itself.
The AGM of the Dulwich Society produced some interesting discussion on how members see the future of the area in which they live. Not all aspirations expressed are likely to be met and some may need to be scaled down to accommodate those with less firm views on matters like traffic and the environment. However it is clear that the Society does have considerable influence in decision making which affects all those who live in Dulwich. It is therefore essential that the views of what might rightly be termed 'the silent majority' are heard before decisions are made. As much information as possible (bearing in mind the time of going to press) is given in this Newsletter. The correct action for members, or indeed other residents, is to convey their views to the sub-committee chairmen.
It was also apparent at the meeting that some of those present were not familiar with the powers and constitution of the Dulwich Estate. Accordingly, we asked the Estate to provide us with this information and this is printed on page 31.
The vexed question of telephone masts has raised its (70 feet high) ugly head once again. The difference this time is that application has been made with the approval of the Dulwich Estate. The Estate indicated some months ago it was to take a pro-active stance over sites in Dulwich for telephone masts after fears that telephone companies would gain sites in public roads which would be of greater inconvenience to residents than those it might be able to offer sites for itself.
However, the first site the Dulwich Estate has proposed is in the playing fields in Gallery Road. Not only does the site lie within the existing Dulwich Village Conservation Area but the proposal is for two masts, some 40 metres apart. The masts, although disguised as fir trees, will impair the rural view from the Picture Gallery garden and surrounding fields.
Nevertheless there remains a problem if planning permission for the masts is refused. The telephone signal required for the new generation of mobile phones is not sufficiently strong in the Dulwich area and apparently fades altogether when used on Eurostar and Victoria line trains. This, for fellow passengers might be considered a benefit.
There seems to be a general objection to this site, and yet another petition has been delivered to the Estate's Office. The problem is where to place the masts. If any reader can offer an acceptable alternative site it will certainly be printed. As the Editor is one of the few people in Dulwich without a mobile phone he has already considered the more obvious solution!
Theorem of Discontent
Few visitors to Dulwich Park can have failed to have noticed the obtrusive outline of new housing looming over the tranquil rivulet near the College Road entrance (see picture below). We are assured, no less than by our own Planning Committee that the new building sits squarely on the foundations of its more modest predecessor and that its height is no loftier than what stood before. It seems as if these constraints were also sufficient to persuade the Dulwich Estate, the Dulwich Society and Southwark Council to approve the application. However to the man on the Dulwich Village omnibus such interpretation makes little sense. To him (or her) the roof across the hypotenuse is greater than the space on the previous two sides.
CPZ or no CPZ - That is the question!
When the idea of introducing a CPZ (Controlled Parking Zone) in Dulwich was first mooted in the Herne Hill area several years ago in an attempt to alleviate parking in streets in proximity to Herne Hill Station by commuters, many people, understandably, turned a deaf ear to the implications. The effect of the CPZ at Herne Hill has been to displace the commuters' parking to vacant parking places beyond the boundaries of the Zone. This in turn has frustrated residents in neighbouring streets to such an extent that they too wish to consider applying for a CPZ.
The latest news is that a CPZ may be introduced around North Dulwich Station, thus affecting the whole of the North Dulwich Triangle. Watch this space (or park in it!).
The planning brief for the new Dulwich Community Hospital has been approved by Southwark Council. It outlines the parameters for any potential future use in the development of the site. The Dulwich Society's Local History Group has called for the listing of the central 'chateau' block as representing a significant example of Poor Law architecture and application for such listing has been formally made by the Dulwich Society to English Heritage.
The Village Post Office - John Ward reports
Mr Patel of the Post Office mentioned to one of the Society's committee members some months ago that the Estates Trustees were asking him for an increased rent, which was more than double the amount he had been paying previously. He felt he would not be able to afford to pay this and would have to close the Post Office. At one of their regular meetings with the Estate Trustees, the Society's representative raised the matter and stressed that the Post Office provided an essential service for all members of the community, including the shops and other businesses. Concern was raised that this should be taken into account when setting the rent which, it was felt, should be based on an ability to pay rather than the Trustees seeking the maximum commercial rent that might be obtained for the property.
A local paper, The Southwark News, heard of the situation and published an article. They then telephoned Adrian Hill, Chairman of the Dulwich Society, to say that they wished to follow this up with a photograph to be taken outside the Post Office, with some residents demonstrating their support for its continued existence. One of the Society's committee members was asked to get a group together for a photograph with the result that at 10am one Tuesday morning in March more than a hundred local people demonstrated their support for the continuance of the Post Office. At the same time a Petition was started and ultimately handed in to the Estates Trustees when over a 1000 signatures had been obtained.
The Society has been instrumental in persuading Mr Patel to be professionally represented in his discussions with the Estates Trustees. As the Newsletter goes to press at the beginning of May these negotiations are continuing with both parties saying that there is a good chance that post office services will continue to be provided within the Village. We very much hope that this will be the case.
Statement issued by the Dulwich Estate
The Dulwich Estate took the unusual step of issuing a Statement in March in response to concerns over the future of the Post Office in the Village. It explained that the lease on 84 Dulwich Village expired in March and the Estate was in negotiation with Mr Patel. ' To allow additional time for these negotiations to be concluded it is proposed a short extension of two months.
On the expiry of the lease the Estate's professional advisors have been seeking to agree with the tenant's solicitors the current market value for the premises and it has indicated that it would be willing to continue to grant a concession against this for the operation of a post office. The Dulwich Estate has not asked the tenant to pay an increase of £13,000 p.a. but the rent initially offered by the tenant for the renewal of the lease is unacceptable since this would further increase the percentage discount against the market rent of the premises.
The Dulwich Estate as a charity, whose principal beneficiaries are schools in Dulwich, has a duty which prevents it from heavily subsidising the activities of its tenants.
The Estate does wish to see post office services continue in Dulwich Village. It will fully consider any proposals to combine additional commercial activity with the limited post office services on offer at 84 Dulwich Village (or an extension of the hours of operation) in order to ensure the financial viability of the business. It is hoped that the local community would then demonstrate its full support by patronising such a business.'
The Estate added to this Statement with a further comment at the end of April. 'For the avoidance of doubt (and to put the record straight) Mr Patel does not currently pay £10,000 p.a. in rent and the Estate is not seeking him to pay double his current rent.
Herne Hill Velodrome
The Dulwich Estate confirmed at the end of April that it was close to signing an agreement with a new tenant and that it hoped to complete within a matter of weeks and that it understood that it is the intention of the new tenant to grant a license to the London Velodrome Trust so that the cycle track may then be re-opened in the interim.
Towards the end of April, two parties of Patrons of the Edward Alleyn Statue Appeal visited the foundry of AB Fine Art at Limehouse to see the life-size statue, scaled up in clay from the maquette. As can be seen from the photographs, there is a great deal more detail on the clothes worn by the young Alleyn, and the faces of the Founder and the poor boy are finely detailed, features which could not be adequately expressed on the maquette. Louise Simson, the artist explained that she referred to the Alleyn portrait for the personal likeness, and in deference to expressing him as a younger man, omitted his beard.
The life-size clay model is now being cut up into sections, from which moulds will be made and then each will be individually cast in bronze, and the whole reassembled and welded together.
It was right that the ring worn by the figure of Edward Alleyn should be as accurate as possible and to achieve this, the Master of Dulwich College, Graham Able who is custodian of Alleyn's signet ring (and wears it to Chapel Services), went to the foundry to press the ring into the clay. The breeches depicted on the figure were given added texture by a class of James Allen's Girls' School pupils pressing their fingers into clay! It was therefore appropriate that the remaining Dulwich Foundation School - Alleyn's should also have a role in the making of the statue and this was filled by Alleyn's School's Chairman of Governors, Raymond Cousins who made a close inspection of the work in progress (see photograph) as well as assessing the foundations required for the statue and plinth in his professional capacity as a structural engineer.
In the Spring Term, pupils from year 6 of Alleyn's Junior School gave an entertaining and accurate performance of the life of Edward Alleyn, from a script written by a parent, with each pupil getting the chance to play Alleyn! Further interest in Edward Alleyn among children was aroused by a clever game devised by Janet Whittaker as part of the Dulwich Festival which covered 400 years of Dulwich history from the time of his purchase of the Manor of Dulwich.
The Edward Alleyn Statue will be unveiled by Tessa Jowell on Saturday 8 October. There will be a tribute paid to Alleyn and his legacy by the National Theatre actor Julian Glover who is a former pupil of Alleyn's School. Full details of this event will appear in the autumn issue of the Newsletter.
Planning permission was tardily but finally granted by Southwark Council at the close of 2004. As soon as 2005 began I was installed at the foundry, under the experienced wing of Jerry Hughes, its general manager. We started with great urgency as AB Fine Art's chief 'scaler-upper', Mark Jones was due to leave for another commission in Ibiza in mid-January.
Before Mark could begin it was crucial to ensure that the pose I had given Alleyn was physically possible. Roger Woodward, another craftsman at the foundry, who is nearly as tall as Alleyn is believed to have been, assumed the position - pretty difficult, as I wanted a pose as close as possible to the maquette; a pose that assumes movement. By photographing Roger aka Alleyn in the pose I could feel confident that the scaling up had the best chance of being completely plausible. With the maquette of Alleyn, and all the small waxes I have made, such initial accuracy is not so important because the internal wire structures are completely soft and pliable. Such is not the case where steel bars are cut, bent and welded to allow no movement and more importantly, no collapse under the considerable weight of the ensuing heavy wet clay.
With the steel skeleton rigidly in place, Mark then laid chicken wire around the body and partially around the limbs. Chicken wire provides sound purchase for the clay which is at the next stage pressed deeply through the mesh. The use of the mesh also reduces the weight, and therefore the strain on the skeleton. With clay crushed through the mesh, more and more clay was added, cut from its bag in thick slabs, which Mark expertly slapped onto the emerging Edward Alleyn.
With Mark now departed for the Ibiza commission I was free to work on the basic human form that he had left me. During this first foray into life-size sculpture it became abundantly clear that some form of internal road map was hard wired in me. The road map was the maquette, the greatly increased size far less of an issue than I had imagined. I was able to work through and beyond what Mark had left me with and begin to intensify his somewhat soft angles and to recreate the feeling of the maquette.
When it came to working on the boy, I found the chicken wire far to unyielding and after a couple of weeks tussling with it, which included a double amputation and the welding on of new and longer legs, it became necessary to abandon Boy One and start with another skeleton. Boy Two was built with virtually no chicken wire and has been far easier to work with.
Once the two figures had assumed approximations of their final appearance I began to 'dress' them. I hired a fine pair of breaches from Angell's, the theatrical costumier in Shaftesbury Avenue. Quite by chance they had Gwynneth Paltrow's gorgeous boy's costume from Shakespeare in Love on display. Even though I had a video of the film it is quite another matter seeing the rich textures of the materials used in real life. The contrast of textures and the bold juxtaposition of different materials is very much a feature of the period I had chosen for this sculpture - when Alleyn was still at the height of his acting career. I have dated his costume to circa 1597. In hiring the costume I was able to examine the construction of the trunk hose and apply this to the sculpture. The obliging Roger was once more co-opted to pose, this time in the trunk hose, so I could see how they worked in situ. I set out to achieve an equivalent strength of contrast in clay as is clear in the real padded breeches, (literally padded with bombast) and the vertical panes that lie over them.
I arrived quite by accident with the textured breeches, and soon after with the idea that the children from my daughter's school, coming to the foundry adding to this design with their own finger prints, prints that they may now enjoy finding for years to come in the finished bronze.
Quick on the heels of the children's imprints came the idea for Edward Alleyn's actual ring to seal the sculpted ring on Alleyn's hand. I mentioned the idea to Jan Piggott, Dulwich College's archivist, and he was immediately enthusiastic. He suggested that Graham Able, Master of the College might like to do this. With equal enthusiasm, despite jet lag from a trip to China, Graham Able came to the foundry and has now placed a fine impression of the ring in the wet clay which had been covered in oil so it would act as sealing wax. As an insurance policy we also took an impression of the ring in some very fine silicone.
The final touch has been the re-working of the cornflower design on Alleyn's collar. While I will be on hand for the coming months it is now the time for AB Fine Art to take the reins. I will now be watching the dismemberment of the two clay figures into as many as twenty six pieces and their reconstitution into a 600kg. life-size figure.
The Society is sometimes perceived as being less concerned over the planning problems of our members who live in the boroughs of Lambeth or indeed Lewisham rather then Southwark. This is not the case of course, but the area of the Estate actually in each of these two boroughs is relatively small and this is reflected in the number of planning applications that we see.
The most recent major application on the Lambeth part of the Estate was the extension to Oakfield School to which we objected because of the size of the building relative to neighbouring houses. We have also requested the Estate to monitor the condition of the service road behind the new Tesco shop in Croxted Road, (Tesco itself did not need planning consent as there was already a food shop there previously) and we are expecting the Estate to make a planning application for the redevelopment of the former United Dairies site in Croxted Road later this year.
In the mean time there is a current application in Bullfinch Court, the area of garages behind the council flats on Croxted Road, just north of the West Dulwich shopping centre. The site backs on to the Carson Road Conservation Area and the southern boundary of Lings Coppice.
The proposal is for 17 social housing units of various sizes, planned around a central parking court, with each house having its own private garden.
The Society does not object to some development in the area, as the garages are clearly largely redundant, but considers that the scheme is too dense. The number of units means that several of them are located on the boundary with the Carson Road gardens and will seriously compromise their amenity. The design is contemporary and, while flat roofs (like Lings Coppice) are not unknown in the area, the proposal to build in white brick is out of keeping. There are also concerns over access for refuse vehicles - the access road is very narrow. We have asked Lambeth to turn the application down pending discussions on a more acceptable scheme.
Dulwich Village Conservation Area
The long awaited extension to the Dulwich Village Conservation Area was finally approved at the Southwark Council's Planning Committee Meeting on 15thMarch. Some of our more cynical members may note that it was approved at the end of the agenda where the Council granted outline planning consent for the proposed Velodrome development (before it was designated into the new conservation area). Taking a more positive view, however, the extension is clearly very welcome. The Committee, at the suggestion of Cllr. David Bradbury, also strengthened a clause regarding infilling and the planning guidance for Dulwich Conservation Area now reads "There will be a presumption against permitting any infill schemes which detract from this open character"
The boundary has been extended from the draft proposal taking on board many of the Society's comments. The line now runs up Court Lane (including Court Lane Gardens) to Lordship Lane. It then follows north along Lordship Lane to the Library where it turns in slightly to run along the backs of the gardens in Beauval Road down to Townley Road. It includes the original main school building of Alleyn's, the 1960s Great Spilmans development, and JAGS. The boundary then follows the North Dulwich railway line south west till it meets the West Dulwich -Victoria line where it turns south to Alleyn Park and Huntslip Road.
As far as residents are concerned, there should be little change over the current situation regarding the Dulwich Estate. They will still have to apply to them for any external alterations to houses and gardens but, if the proposal is of such a size that planning consent is needed from Southwark, they will also need conservation area consent. Buildings cannot be demolished in conservation areas without the Council's approval and the criteria for assessing the design of developments are stricter - any building or extension has to positively enhance the setting of the conservation area. This should mean that mobile telephone masts will be easier to object to on the basis that their appearance does not enhance the conservation area.
Mobile Telephone Mast
The proposed mobile phone mast on the Pelo sports ground is covered elsewhere in the magazine. We are still awaiting the results of the application opposite the Park entrance on the South Circular and the Society knows of at lease three other potential applications in the pipeline. The Society's current policy is to object to all applications within the conservation area and particularly anywhere near the schools.
9 Dulwich Village
The applicant for the additional house in the rear garden of this property has gone to appeal over Southwark's rejection of the original application - it was overruled by councillors against officer recommendation.
Land on the South Circular opposite West Dulwich Station
The applicant here has also gone to appeal over the rejection of his application to make this site a commuter car park.
Paxton's Palace Corner
With the granting of planning permission for one year the scheme of the Crystal Palace Foundation to raise a replica corner of Paxton's great structure comes to fruition in June. Columns for the 'corner' will be brought down the Grand Union Canal by barge to London thus following the mode of transport used in 1852. They will then be transported from their original site in Hyde Park to Sydenham.
The 'corner' will then be assembled at the site near the museum as an educational exhibit.
Dulwich Village Preservation Society
It has been announced that the Dulwich Village Preservation Society is to be wound up. Founded over fifteen years ago in response to plans to develop the extensive garden behind the Crown & Greyhound into a car park, the Society in time extended its function to other aspects of preservation around the centre of the Village. To its credit it was responsible for the installation of additional stretches of lawns and chain-links outside the Crown & Greyhound and Barclays Bank. As the Dulwich Society rediscovered its active role in conserving the area following a somewhat fallow period, the membership of the Dulwich Village Preservation Society's declined. Somewhat ambiguously it was still represented by two places on the Advisory Committee of the Scheme of Management of the Dulwich Estate on which the Dulwich Society also sits and has three members. The DVPS representation has been reduced to one member until its closure is finalised and Michael Johnson of the Whytefield Residents Association (Pymers Mead, Walkerscroft Mead) has been invited to take up thd of vacated place on the Advisory Committee.
During World War ll, Tappen House on Dulwich Common (formerly Glenlea) was leased by its owner to the Dutch Government. It was used as a base for the Dutch Secret Service for agents who were trained as radio operators before being parachuted into German-occupied Holland to work with the Resistance. Many of these young patriots were captured and executed by the Nazis and the full story is described in the Dulwich Society's World War ll history - Dulwich- the Home Front 1939-1945 (published in 1995 and reprinted in 1998) . A new book by Henri van der Zee which highlights the life of Dutch exiles in Britain during the war was published in Amsterdam in April. Mr Van der Zee recently returned to Dulwich together with a representative from the official Dutch Archives with a view to compiling a book of sites such as the one in Dulwich, aimed at Dutch visitors to Britain on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.
Glenlea was given the code name Huize Anna (House of Anna), by the Dutch when they took possession in January/February 1943. The first agent was dropped into Holland in March 1943, the last in the spring of 1945. Of these young men, two were killed when their plane was shot down on the way to their mission; 14 died in action - either resisting arrest or in subsequent concentration camps; 6 were arrested while in action but survived the concentration camps; 5 completed their mission and returned to allied territory; 8 completed their mission but remained in Holland until the liberation.
In 1985 the Dulwich Society invited one of the survivors, Mr Bram Grisnight, to speak to members on his experiences both at Glenlea and in Occupied Holland. The Society, at the end of the evening presented Bram with a watercolour of Glenlea commissioned from local artist Audrey MacLeod. The Society continues to keep in touch with him and his wife Ann. Ann met Bram (then aged 20) when he was at in training at Glenlea and she was a sixteen year old JAGS schoolgirl. They married in 1945 after his release from Auschwitz.
The Edward Alleyn Club
The Club, which before the school became co-educational, was called the Alleyn Old Boys Club, has announced that the management of its ground and clubhouse in Burbage Road is to be taken over by Alleyn's School. Since its formation the Club's ground has been run by a committee and volunteers. This move will tie the school and its old pupils' club closer. It follows moves by Dulwich College and DCPS to acquire vacant sports grounds on Dulwich Common and Gallery Road. All Dulwich schools have increased their rolls and one suspects that extra sports facilities were becoming necessary. This move, which will give opportunity for daytime use of the former Alleyn Old Boys' ground during the week, appears to follow this trend.
Palm Sunday Procession
The group of churches that make up Churches Together in Dulwich combined to stage a dramatic depiction of Christ's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. With a company of his Apostles in traditional costume, the person of Jesus, played by Martin Gwilliams, walked through the Village from Christ's Chapel to St Barnabas. With participation by the large crowd drawn from local churches the dramatisation started and finished with an act of worship. The event was directed by Tricia Thorns, who was also responsible for Passion Play 2000.
The following month, another Faith March took place in Lordship Lane. This was the first inter-faith march Dulwich has experienced. It started at The Deeper Life Bible Church at St Peter's, Dulwich Common which has an has an Afro-Caribbean congregation, and then proceeded along Lordship Lane to Christ Church, Barry Road, the Sikh temple in Shawbury Road and the East Dulwich Mosque in North Cross Road where at each place of worship it was joined by more marchers of each faith. The march ended at St John's, Goose Green where Dulwich's M.P., Tessa Jowell joined the marchers.
The Royal Ballet in Dulwich - Robert Harrold writes
If anyone was in the vicinity of Dulwich College during the week after Easter, they may have heard the sounds of ballet music issuing forth - a sound not usually associated with the College. Andrew Ward, a Dulwich resident and an ex Royal Ballet dancer had organised an Easter Dance School for dancers aged 12-18 years. For dancers in serious training, long vacations without classes can be a problem, Andrew knows only too well, so he had the idea of holding a 5 day residential course. The first of its kind to be held in the lovely surroundings of the College, the Edward Alleyn Theatre Studio proved to be an excellent venue.
There were 50 dancers altogether, which included 11 boys, so according to ability they were divided into groups of 25 dancers - an ideal number in a class. They were lucky to be taught by Jonathan Cope, principal of the Royal Ballet; Agnes Oaks, ballerina with the English National Ballet and her husband Thomas Edur, an English National Ballet principal. Ex Royal Ballet dancers Vanessa Donkin and Anthony Dowson, together with Wayne Sleep, all added their own expertise and personality. In the evenings there was a lecture on "A Career in Dance" with Agnes Oaks, Thomas Edur and Wayne Sleep. On another evening dancers from The Royal Ballet gave a performance, and on the final day, a special performance was presented for parents giving an overview of some of the work they had been studying.
Thursday 9th 10am Dulwich Picture Gallery Tour - Genesis to the Gospels: Biblical images in the Gallery. Free with entry ticket.
8pm Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society lecture William de Morgan and the Arts and Crafts Movement Diana Lloyd. James Allen's Girls' School Lecture Hall. Admission charge.
Wednesday 15th Dulwich Picture Gallery - Graham Sutherland Exhibition opens
Thursday 16th 1.30pm Dulwich Picture Gallery Thursday Lunchtime Lectures - Graham Sutherland by Ian Dejardin. Linbury Room. Collection.
Saturday 18th 2 - 3pm Horniman Museum. Lecture for Architecture Week - The Arts & Crafts Architecture of the Horniman Free but booking essential.
8pm. South London Chorus Concert Messe Solennelle de Sainte Cecile ( St. Cecilia's Mass) by Charles Gounod. Conductor Susan Farrow Topolovac. St. Barnabas Church, Calton Avenue. Tickets from The Art Stationers and The Dulwich Music Shop or on the door.
Wednesday 22nd 7.30pm Dulwich Picture Gallery Concert Malcolm Martineau and Friends. Robert Murray, tenor, singing Die Schone Mullerin The first of four song recitals with Malcolm Martineau the distinguished accompanist.. Tickets £18 (incl glass of wine)
Thursday 23rd 10am Dulwich Picture Gallery Tour - The Reign in Spain: patronage and painters. Free with entry ticket.
Thursday 30th 1.30pm Dulwich Picture Gallery Thursday Lunchtime Lectures - London through the Artist's Eyes Jef Page. Linbury Room. Collection.
Thursday 7th 1.30pm Dulwich Picture Gallery Thursday Lunchtime Lectures - The Tulip and Ceramic Design. Anne Howarth. Linbury Room. Collection.
Sunday 10th 10.30am Dulwich Society Wildlife Committee presents A Butterfly Walk through Dulwich Led by Malcolm Bridge, Surrey recorder for the Butterfly Conservation Trust. Meet in the car park of Dulwich Park. Sensible shoes advisable! The walk will include woods and allotments edge and some rough grassland, weather permitting.
Tuesday 12th Dulwich Society Garden Group visit to Sissinghurst and Great Dixter. Price £24 ( Reservations required - telephone Ina Pulleine 8670 5477 after 11 am)
Thursday 14th Dulwich Decorative & Fine Arts Society lecture German Expressionism an introduction to the bright worlds of Kircher, Schmidt-Rotluff and Macke, by Barry Herbert. James Allen's Girls' School Lecture Theatre, 8pm. Admission charge
Sunday 17th 2.30pm Dulwich Society Local History Group present a Guided Tour of Nunhead Cemetery. Led by Ron Woollacott. Meet at the main gate, Linden Grove. Collection.
Thursday 21st 1.30pm Dulwich Picture Gallery Thursday Lunchtime Lectures - Nelson, his Life and Loves. Celebrating the Bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar James Taylor. Linbury Room. Collection.
Friday 22nd 7.30pm Dulwich Picture Gallery Concert Kopelman Quartet. Music by Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Tickets £18 (incl glass of wine).
Pedestrians along Gallery Road will have experienced difficulty in negotiating a safe passage along the pavement on either side of this pleasant road. Not only does the path slope away to the road where there is no kerb, although this is one of the attractions of the route, but the footway is extremely narrow. As an added hazard for the unwary, the occasional branch may also strike the face. The cause of this discomfort is the spread of undergrowth away from the fence to a distance of some three metres in places (see photograph). The undergrowth includes brambles, ivy and a large number of elm shoots, the legacy of the disease which struck the country over thirty years ago.
The elm saplings die after a few years and there are a large number of dead trees among this undergrowth. On the plus side Gallery Road does offer the aspect of a country lane and in places wildflowers are to be found among the tangled mass. Both daffodils and lesser periwinkles flowered this spring, and by the time this issue of the Newsletter is delivered other species such as hedge bedstraw, hedge parsley be showing.
What is required to make the footway safe for the pedestrian and the aspect secured for the naturalist is for the elms to be removed and the undergrowth cleared back to the fence line and a proper hedgerow to be planted. This need not be for the full length of Gallery Road, indeed, the stretch beside Belair is better as it is. This is of course the responsibility of Southwark Council and perhaps they should be encouraged to consider such action.
Elsewhere in Dulwich hedges are being planted or are already established. GroundWork Southwark, a Council initiative, has already planted parts of Greendale with hawthorn and berberis. Full marks also to them for erecting a much needed vandal-proof fence alongside the disused sports field between Dulwich Hamlet F.C. stadium and Greendale.
A fine hedgerow exists between the Toll Gate and Eller Bank and a very ancient one is to be found on the south side of Grange Lane. Here, sufficient species of hedgerow trees or shrubs exist within a 40 metre stretch which allows us to estimate that the hedge dates back to the 12th century!
Along the north side of Grange Lane as it climbs towards the Golf Club, and in some of the adjoining playing fields which in earlier times were farm fields are still traces of hedges planted with hawthorn. Known by farmers as quickset from the rapid way it establishes itself, hawthorn displays the white blossom seen in hedgerows in spring as well as growing dense thorny branches after flowering. It is the accepted anchor to which a hedge naturally establishes itself.
There are many areas in Dulwich that would benefit from the replanting of hedges. One does not want to impair the vistas which grace much of the area and not every railing or fence should be so treated but sites do exist and the ecology of the area could be further improved.
When Dulwich gets a mention in the wider world, it's often referred to as "leafy". Look at the Society's web site and most of its opening page is about open space, greenery and trees. The reality is starting to look somewhat different.
To merit the label "leafy", you need trees, hedges and bushes - the latter known to ecologists as "understorey". On all three counts Dulwich has been doing badly of late. Take trees, first. Up to nine trees have recently been felled along the South Circular Road at Belair Park. Seven trees came down in the early spring in Alleyn's School playing fields. A line of trees has been lost alongside College Road opposite Dulwich College. Five trees were felled in Court Lane Gardens early this year by the Dulwich Estate. More trees have disappeared around Great Brownings. And that's without counting the tree losses in Dulwich Park as a result of the Heritage Lottery Scheme - or the trees that are chopped down in private gardens in ignorance or carelessness of Estate regulations.
As the Newsletter Editor, Brian Green, points out, Dulwich has an awful lot of bleak and boring unhedged railings. It's also losing bushes and undergrowth. Dulwich Park has seen much of its understorey ripped out in recent months, notably on the perimeter bordering Court Lane. One particular sufferer has been the fenced-off ecology area in the middle of the park, where leaf litter has been mercilessly hovered up and where, in April, burgeoning cow parsley and nettles were strimmed back to ground level - in complete contradiction of the purpose of an ecology area.
One resident wrote in after an article in the last Newsletter to express her amazement at the behaviour of some (neighbouring) tree-fellers in a particularly "leafy" part of Dulwich. Why, she asked, do people "who seem to a have a virulent dislike of trees chose to buy a home next to a wood?" One could also ask why people move to "leafy " Dulwich, and then set about paving over the front garden or ripping out greenery and replacing it with gravel, decking or faux-Zen statuary. And does it matter?
To the first question there are a number of answers - lack of environmental awareness, the ubiquity of garden-makeover TV, the boom in designer gardening. There's the tidiness aesthetic, which inspires much of the management by the park and the Dulwich Estate, and there's also the risk-avoidance and litigation culture - the nettles in Dulwich, believe it or not, were considered a risk on health and safety grounds.
The Dulwich Society has tried to prevent, mitigate or repair some of the damage. It persuaded Southwark Council not to fell the old willow by the bridge near the Japanese Garden in the park. It has met with Alleyn's School, which has agreed to leave a two-metre unmown perimeter strip around part of its playing fields - the School, it was good to note, is happy to replant with native species and is already using wildflower seed mix on some perimeter banks. And the Society has sought to persuade the Dulwich Estate to adopt a more ecological approach to its management - so far without success. It's also good news that Southwark Council has appointed an ecology officer, Jon Best, who is currently preparing a bio-diversity action plan for the borough.
On the second question - does it matter - opinions may vary. What's not in doubt is that, as recent analysis of Dulwich Society Wildlife Committee minutes going back to the late 1960's confirmed, species loss locally from glow worms to hedgehogs and badgers has been extensive. In the park there have been fewer blackbirds, wrens and robins of late. The British Trust for Ornithology research nationally has also confirmed the lack of understorey - hedges, bushes and shrubberies - directly correlates with the absence of these and other species, not least the house sparrow. If you want to find house sparrows on Burbage Road for example, head for the bushes by the surgery. The humble bramble, it is said, provides home and food to over 320 species, bugs included.
Without leaf litter, hedges, bushes and of course trees, you don't get beetles, bugs and birds and mammals - they have nowhere to hide and move and nothing to eat. This is a statement of the blindingly obvious but it's one many people seem to forget. What we do get are "pictorial" landscapes devoid of life. If you think all living things bar humans should be banished from cities, this won't worry you much. Nevertheless the creeping demise of leafy Dulwich will come at a price. For all the worries about subsidence, the proximity of trees, according to the American Forestry Association research, add up to 18 per cent of the value of the property. And there are many other studies that point the same way. Leafiness, whichever way you look at it, makes a certain sense.
David Nicholson-Lord is a member of the Trees and Wildlife committees, an environmental writer and author of Green Cities - And Why We Need Them (New Economics Foundation, 2003)
This time last year I reported the unusual appearance of a Grey Partridge in Half Moon Lane and backed it up with an account of Game Birds in Dulwich. Rather facetiously I suggested that the Dulwich Pheasants were on their way to retailers. However, not so this magnificent bird that turned up on the lawn of Olive Flay in Frank Dixon Way where she reported it to be quite at home. It did not stay too long and probably found foraging around the woods or allotments nearby. I would be interested to hear if others saw it.
The wildlife photographers in Dulwich have prospered this winter, and clearly demonstrated the value of having a garden pond, even in quite small gardens. The Hall family in Burbage Road were privileged to have this beautiful Kingfisher, which had been seen both in gardens and the Dulwich Park lake. They also were visited by the ever present Herons which provided further photo opportunities.
The slaughter of a pigeon by a female Sparrow Hawk in our editor's garden of which I wrote in the last issue, together with Brian's dramatic photo, has reminded Rosemary Toler of a similar experience in Alleyn Park when she heard a huge thump of a bird crashing into her window and found that it was a female Sparrow Hawk that had taken a pigeon and was proceeding to devour it upon her patio. She must have been glad to have double glazing. Female Sparrow Hawks are much bigger than their males and clearly can take much bigger prey, leaving the Blue Tits and Blackbirds to their male partners. Interestingly the researchers at the British Trust for Ornithology report that House Sparrows seem to need bushes to survive and this would fit with the Burbage Road colony referred to in David's article. The Sparrow Hawk regularly hunts in Burbage Road and this habitat may be their survival cover.
No two winters are the same these days, this one being mild until mid-February. We have not seen many of our habitual winter visitors and the most striking feature noticed by many of you who have reported has been the large number of Goldfinches. It appears to be a national trend that Goldfinches are moving into towns during winter and often joining the Greenfinches at bird feeders. The mild weather brought early signs of spring and frogspawn first appeared in my pond on St. Valentine's Day, courtesy of appropriately romantic frogs. However the spawn then froze for the next fortnight but duly hatched when the cold weather ceased, as of course do human frozen embryos in somewhat different circumstances).
At the time of writing spring migrants are already arriving and both Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps are singing and taking up territories. We can look forward to the arrivals of House Martins and Swifts at the end of April and hopefully some surprise visitors.
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