It was clear from the general atmosphere and large attendance at its fiftieth anniversary party that the Dulwich Society is in good heart. It is equally clear that its original object – to foster and safeguard the amenities of Dulwich – is as important now as ever it was, as it proceeds towards its next fifty years.
What are the pressing local issues of today which require there to be a Dulwich Society?
A recent survey by the Safe Routes to Schools initiative found that while there are approximately 10,000 pupils attending schools in the Dulwich and Herne Hill areas alone, 71% of parents are too frightened to let their children cycle to school, although 80% would switch to cycling if routes were safer. It is obvious that more needs to be done to provide segregated cycleways and open up shared pavements to cyclists.
It remains the case that the disabled cannot board trains at Sydenham Hill, North Dulwich and West Dulwich Stations, which is disgraceful.
The popularity of living in Dulwich continues to grow. House prices are reaching such heights that owners are keen to remain where they are but extend their living space. There is nothing wrong with this providing it is kept within reasonable bounds. The tendency to extend to the very extremities of boundaries and to excavate deep basements has an impact on both the visual aspect of roads and a neighbour’s amenities.
Dulwich has a long and rich heritage which people are interested in. Information about its history, either by online posts, printed publications or by the installation of explanatory markers at significant sites would be welcomed.
Dulwich is famous for its trees and woods. Both have to be defended against destruction. Street trees need to continue to be carefully selected and their sites planned. Gardens need to have trees which will enhance but not threaten the fabric of houses.
Its public parks should continue to be cherished and never again allowed to fall into such poor shape as they were in the 1970’s and 80’s. As pressure builds for increased housing provision there will likely be attempts to nibble away at existing open space. Its open spaces must be vigorously defended against any changes of use and ways found to make them viable. Dulwich’s open spaces have long provided opportunities for recreation, for not only residents but also for those living far outside its boundaries and we have a duty to continue to make it available for such use.
Our wildlife continues to need our help as urban areas increasingly provide a home or a staging post for creatures whose earlier habitats are depleted by intensive farming. Funds will still be needed for further bird and bat boxes, hedge regeneration and publicity to maintain urban green corridors. Support should be given to the London Wildlife Trust and the Trust for Urban Ecology, which maintain Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Upper Wood in Farquhar Road.
Yes, there remains a potent need for amenity societies such as the Dulwich Society. Threats to Dulwich’s future will inevitably occur in the coming years and a body to combat these threats will continue to be needed.