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.