All change at the top – park manager Paul Highman leaves after thirty-four years’ service to Southwark Council. Paul Highman is well known to many of you. His connection with Southwark parks has endured for thirty-four years – and, with our park, for almost ten years as manager.
We must also mention the annual Dulwich Park Fair, which simply would not have happened without Paul’s energy and commitment. We are making him an honorary life member of the Friends. He promises to return from time to time to help with ‘Dig the Park’ and generally support our efforts. We all wish him happiness and fulfilment in the next phase of his life.
Will Walpole, who also has responsibility for Peckham Rye Park, succeeds Paul as manager.Will is well acquainted with members of the Friends’ committee (he used to work in Dulwich Park) and we have already begun developing what we are confident will be a fruitful relationship.
At the last Dig the Park, and over the following week we planted 16,000 native bluebell bulbs in the American Garden, amongst the rhododendrons. You may have noticed the considerable amount of clearance that has taken place in this area, the result of a series of team efforts over the last year or two (including corporate community support, jobseekers and the Friends). Bluebells should provide a stunning addition to this space, before the rhododendrons themselves come in to bloom. Some members may be aware of concerns that natives are under threat from foreign migrants - nothing to do with a particular perspective on Brexit, but English Heritage is highlighting cross-pollination of native bluebells with hybrids from abroad, especially Spain. That is why our Head Gardener, Gerry Kelsey, has chosen Hyacinthoides non-scripta (typically found in woodlands) as the native species we planted. This is exactly what English Heritage is encouraging people to do, countrywide. If you’d like to read more about cross-pollination, and find out how ‘on trend’ we are at the Friends, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37674872
The Community Payback team have begun work on a bounded perimeter path (see pic), which is being filled with woodchip. This is expected to make a significant impact on the usability of the path, especially in wetter weather. A corporate team, expected to be from Apple, will continue some of that work on their day in the park in mid-April.
Meanwhile, you may have noticed the dramatic impact made by Jobseeker volunteers in The American Garden. Not only have they brought the rampant brambles and ferns under control, they have also cut back considerable quantities of dead plants and branches. Some appropriate replanting is planned in due course, possibly with some spring bulbs to provide some early ground cover.
More people have expressed thanks to the park manager, Paul Highman for the creation of the new flower meadow than anything he can ever recall - over two hundred positive messages, either by email or verbally. This is not surprising, as the meadow- in front of the village copse- is stunning (see pics).
The meadow is not appealing only to the human senses: thousands of insects, from bees through to butterflies, are attracted to feed off the plants, increasing biodiversity. Importantly, this is not a one hit wonder. Although the plants are annuals, they will self-seed, if left long enough to do so, after dying later in the year. In that way a seedbank will be created in the soil, from which new plants will grow next year.
Watch out for further meadow plantings next year on some of the landscaped areas created as part of the flood works, including outside the bowling green.
Many members of the Friends' committee attended the Dulwich Community Council meeting on 28th January and Trevor Moore spoke on their behalf. After some debate about the cycling strategy, the chair of the meeting, Councillor Simmons, confirmed that Dulwich Park would not be part of the possible cycle spine, and that park opening hours would not be extended into the hours of darkness. He announced this as being with the authority of the relevant cabinet members.
There was also discussion about the consultation process for the cycle spine, which was felt by many to have been inadequate. The Friends, for example, were not notified early about the project, and there was particular concern for people with no internet connection.
The Friends’ Committee would like to draw to your attention a current consultation by Southwark in relation to a proposed cycling corridor which would, if approved, run in part through Dulwich Park.
At a high level, no doubt most people welcome the idea of encouraging cycling – indeed, several of the Friends’ Committee are active cyclists. However, attention needs to be paid to the detailed practical considerations and possible impact of the route, in each specific location.
The Friends propose to make a submission as a group. If you have views you would like us to bear in mind, please do email back. Obviously everyone can also make their own individual responses to the survey (see links below).
There is currently no information we have seen that tells specifically what the ‘corridor’ would mean for the park in physical/practical terms, but we are trying to find out more.
Considerations that the Friends have so far identified are (relevance depends on what is proposed):
- Is it appropriate to use a park as a commuters’ cycle corridor – effectively a cycling public highway - and risk changing the character and feel of the park, which many see as a carefree oasis? It is not the only possible route.
- At any time when the gates are open to cyclists, they are of course open to the many other free-roaming park users.Is it appropriate effectively to give cyclists priority and increase certain risks?
- The 5MPH speed limit in the park applies to cyclists just as much as those vehicles allowed in to the park (a typical cycling speed is 13MPH). At present, that speed limit is often not observed.Increased usage would heighten the need for observance.
- The park closes at night, at varying times during the year. If consideration is given to extending those hours, certain practical issues arise:
- would it be sensible to encourage children – or anyone - to cycle or walk through an unlit park in the winter months? Or would lighting be proposed (see below)?
- leaving the park open outside its current hours could attract socially undesirable behaviour elsewhere in the park (and create an increased safety risk for cyclists);
- security concerns for adjoining residential owners;
- the park is part of a ‘dark corridor’ that is ideal night-time terrain for wildlife, especially bats. Any lighting would prove detrimental to this protected species. Wider park use after dark by others (e.g. dog walkers) would disrupt other wildlife that has an overnight haven.
The link to the consultation is here: http://www.southwark.gov.uk/
You might want to take a read of the Executive Summary, and then take a look at the interactive map, here: http://www.sdgdigital.co.uk/
Please let us have your thoughts.
We have received this recent update of the flood alleviation works from the contractors MGJV.
'Whilst we are committed to meeting our deadlines on work yet to be completed we are at the mercy of the weather. In the event of prolonged wet weather conditions, dates may be subject to change. We hope that this will not need to be the case.
We are extremely pleased that the flood alleviation work in this important area of the park has been completed. Installation of new play equipment will continue throughout November and December. Reseeding the designated grass area will begin on 14th November undertaken by Southwark Council’s contractor, Landmark.
To allow the grass seed to become fully established over the winter months, fencing will remain around this area to ensure it is protected.
Installation of new play equipment for the playground will continue until December.
Thames Water has set up a website giving details of the flood alleviation works, which are due to start shortly. This includes a timeline for the works and they promise that it will be updated regularly. The link is below.
There will be noticeboards in the Park highlighting the affected areas.
Planning permission for the flood alleviation project in Dulwich Park, Belair Park and the Dulwich Sports Ground was granted at Southwark's planning committee meeting which ended after midnight on the 25th March. The work will start very soon.
Some members of the committee of the Park Friends attended the meeting as well as two local residents, one representing the Dulwich Society. Representations were made to try to ensure that the plans would take into account the residual concerns of the Park Friends' Committee. These included adequate drainage being installed and maintained adjacent to the bunds, and establishing a baseline level of water in the lake at the current level, below which the water will not be lowered.
The planners have always emphasized that construction will be organised to minimize disruption. The construction phase is expected to last approximately six months. Access to the site will be via Queen Mary's Gate with the construction compound located along the access road. Pedestrian access through Queen Mary's Gate will be maintained. Dedicated footpaths will be installed on a temporary basis to maintain access within the Park when works are affecting the footpaths.
We advise everyone using the Park to be vigilant, as inevitably there will be increased traffic on the perimeter road. The playground will be shut for several weeks during construction of the adjacent bund.
A Tribute to Stella Benwell, 1921 - 2014
Stella was on the Dulwich Park Friends’ Committee for over 15 years and even after she retired (aged 90 of course!) we would still seek her advice. She had a lifelong interest in wildlife initially encouraged by her parents who were keen birders.
One of Stella’s great achievements was the copse planted in 2007 after a donation from the Dulwich Village Preservation Society – in less than 7 years we have a shady native woodland at the edge of the park instead of the ‘green desert’.