However, as the gardeners will have noticed there have been a huge number of aphids this year which has been a bonanza for the Swifts and the "screaming parties" of Swifts exercising their young round our house prior to their departure in August has been a welcome spin-off. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs have clearly done well and have been singing in our gardens right up to July, the population undoubtedly having overflowed from Dulwich Woods. Most welcome, has been the appearance of a Whitethroat as a breeding bird in the Herne Hill velodrome site with the successful fledging of young, from a nest in a patch of brambles. Our one red-listed endangered bird, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, has also been seen in North Dulwich so hopefully it has bred somewhere locally.
People may have noticed House Sparrows in their gardens, the first for a long time. These birds tend to cluster in limited areas during the winter but distribute a little more widely in the summer when they will take caterpillars. I note they are particularly fond of a wild rose bush in the velodrome site. The Dulwich population is hopefully stabilizing.
In Dulwich we clearly have a great need to maintain areas of rough ground with native plants and some dense cover. This may even mean the encouragement of a few weeds. The Hedge Mustard, otherwise known as Jack by the Hedge, is the main food plant of the Orange Tip butterfly which is such a colourful visitor to our spring gardens. Indeed, the wildlife of our gardens depends largely upon our weeds with couch grass and stinging nettles being the food plants of many of our butterflies. But also the Blackbirds and Thrushes that are so welcome in our gardens may well have bred successfully in protected rough areas rather than our more exposed gardens where they are predated by cats and Magpies. A particularly bad sight I have had was of a fox, precariously balanced on a trellis, helping itself to a nestful of young of young Blackbirds.
A wet year is a bonus for Frogs, Toads and Newts and fine for Ducks. Anyone walking beside the newly restored waterway in Belair Park will have seen the hosts of young Mallard families which have reaped the benefit.
As the autumn migration approaches there will surely be more wildlife to record, so do keep the information rolling. I am particularly keen to hear if Bullfinches, Spotted Flycatchers or Willow Warblers have been seen as these have been in diminishing numbers.
Peter Roseveare, Wildlife Recorder
tel: 020 7274 4567
There prevails an entirely worthy campaign to increase the presence of greenery as a habitat for wildlife and it may be near-heresy to suggest that it can be pushed too far. A natural look in public parks is now rightly preferred to municipal over-regimentation, either in planting out display flowerbeds or in unnecessary restriction on access to neatly manicured grass. However, a policy of reverting to nature should not be used as cover or excuse for years of under-funding maintenance which has led to the need to eliminate the cumulative shabbiness and restore its basic amenities.
Parks are a Social Need
The reasons why parks in urban areas are an important social need as well as a public pleasure have not changed from the Victorian period despite what ecologists might wish us to believe. The great Victorian movement to provide more open spaces for the general public was pioneered by familiar visionaries like Joseph Paxton. Dulwich Park was a gift to the public in this tradition from the Dulwich Estate.
A major Victorian park deserves to be kept that way. The Victorians were considerably better at supplying a number of public amenities than we are, especially when it comes to providing running water, public lavatories, sewage and land drainage. The Heritage Lottery Fund has correctly recognised that the restoration of the decaying basic infrastructure in Dulwich Park is a priority, and that expensive but often cosmetically less obvious projects should be undertaken first with capital funds available. Otherwise these and lack of adequate maintenance may soon produce more bio-diversity than we would wish to know about. Nature, left to itself, is pretty indiscriminating and has an undeveloped aesthetic instinct. If Dulwich Park lake reverts to a primeval swamp and rats abound or ragwort grows on the horse-rides, nature would be entirely satisfied. Most people might conclude that bio-diversity taken this far is largely for the birds.
The British have been particularly talented in the creation of gardens. As in architecture, fashions have succeeded each other and often recur. Rival schools of taste have hurled epithets at each other, often wrapped in "ism" which opponents have sometimes cheerfully adopted for themselves in the best traditions of yah-booh politics. Local authorities have often followed suit in adopting politically correct language in which to couch their policies. Behind this lies the practical skills and application needed to actually carry out and maintain public works. The Victorians had a bad press throughout much of the twentieth century, but some of this derogatory language now begins to look rather dated in turn. Perhaps the excessive use of terms 'natural' and 'ecological' will soon follow that of 'ornamental', 'decorative', and 'pastiche' as words of disdainful dismissal.
The Realities of park management
The realities of park management in Dulwich have not always been quite as the language has depicted them. The excuse has been used too often that the council cannot afford to employ the thirty staff which the Victorians specified as a necessary compliment. But the Horniman Gardens, which are about one- quarter of its size, have twelve full-time staff including gardeners dedicated only to that park and are kept to a much higher standard. Rosie Thornton has been trying to manage Dulwich Park for most of this year with a staff of just two! The Rangers, who usually seemed to be ranging elsewhere, have been disbanded. There may, by the end of the summer, appear a galaxy of community wardens, outreach officers and ecology officers but no actual gardeners. There will be one general-purpose maintenance contractor to mow open spaces throughout the entire borough of Southwark. Rosie will have no line management responsibilities. We must wait to see the realities behind the currently favoured language of park administration.
Dulwich Chamber Music Festival - Gaudier Ensemble
The first Music Festival in Dulwich to be performed by the Gaudier Ensemble opens at St.Barnabas Church on Wednesday 29 September with a programme of quintets and an octet by Mozart, Francaix and Schubert. On the following evening will be works by Nielsen, Dvorak and Mozart. On the afternoon of Saturday 2 October the Festival will include A Children's Concert featuring a performance of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf with narration. In the evening, the closing concert will feature music from Strauss, Mozart and Schubert.
The Gaudier Ensemble is made up of eleven performers, all soloists or principals of major orchestras, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Philharmonia. They have a wide repertoire baroque to the present day. A number of the Ensemble live in Dulwich. The full programme of the Festival will be found in 'What's On' on page X.
Tickets - Evening Concerts £13 (incl a glass of wine with the performers after the concerts) Festival Pass £30 for all three evening concerts. Children's Concert £5
Tickets are available from the Box Office: 1 Court Lane Gardens, SE 21 7DZ (tel. 020 8693 3973) and also from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village
South London Gallery - Steve McQueen
Once upon a time 17 September - 7 November
Photographs intended to show aliens what life on Earth is like, and sent into space by NASA in the 1970's, are the inspiration for Once Upon a Time, a work by Turner Prize Winner Steve McQueen.
McQueen's installation at the South London Gallery involves the projection of 116 images, replicating those still travelling through space at a speed of 150 million miles per year on the Voyager space probes that began their exploratory journey across the universe in 1977. In the exhibition the artist explores the construction and representation of knowledge. The images chosen by Nasa, including a newborn baby, state of the art skyscrapers and fresh supermarket produce, portray a rose- tinted version of life on Earth where poverty, war, religous conflict and disease are notable by their absence.
Steve McQueen is a leading international contemporary video and film-maker. He won the Turner Prize in 1999 and was awarded an OBE in 2002. He has been commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to make a work in response to the current conflict in Iraq.
Free admission Tuesday- Sunday 12 - 6pm. Thursdays until 8.30pm. Closed Mondays
Success for Dulwich Quilters
The Dulwich Quilters' Group Quilt, titled - 'Only God is Perfect' was chosen as one of the 425 juried exhibits at the American Quilting Society's 2004 show in Paducah, Kentucky in April. It was one of only three exhibits selected from the UK.
It is an original design by Group member, Ann Rutherford, using patterns and motifs from Middle Eastern rugs and kelims. The colour scheme is also taken from these traditional carpets. The proportions of the horizontal strips are based on the Fibonnaci series of numbers to ensure a balanced design. The appliqué is deliberately rough to reflect the haphazard quality of the kelims. Altogether, sixteen members of the Dulwich Group were involved in embroidering the quilt which took six months to complete.
The Dulwich Quilters are holding their 2004 Exhibition at the Old Library, Dulwich College on 6/7 November (see 'What's On in Dulwich')
The Dulwich Players present - The Man who came to Dinner
First produced on Broadway in the Thirties and later made into a film, The Man who came to Dinner is a hilarious comedy about a respectable family from a small town in Ohio who are plunged into chaos and disruption by the visit of a famous American journalist and broadcaster Sheridan Whiteside who accidentally slips on their doorstep and breaks his hip. His enforced visit totally upsets the family's routine and his complete disregard for their feelings causes mayhem.
With arrival of eccentric guests - a glamorous film-star and a Hollywood comedian, and gifts of cockroaches and penguins filling the house, the Stanley family are cast into despair. Will life ever be the same again? Will Sheridan Whiteside ever leave them?
This comedy by George S. Kauffman and Moss Hart will be performed at the Edward Alleyn Theatre, Dulwich College on Thursday, Friday and Saturday 21-23 October at 8pm.
Tickets £6 from The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village or the Box Office 020 8693 5327
Dulwich Picture Gallery - Quentin Blake at Christmas
Illustrator, Quentin Blake is a national institution and he was appointed the first Children's Laureate in 1999. The exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery looks at several aspects of his work. Welcome to Birdland surveys his longstanding enthusiasm for birds as a subject and his book illustrations range from Aristophanes' The Birds to John Yeoman's Up with the Birds! Added to this is his new collection of drawings, The Life of Birds. A Christmas Garland is a celebration of Quentin Blake's many encounters with the festive season including his illustrations for Dickens' A Christmas Carol and John Julius Norwich's The Illustrated Christmas Cracker. His latest picturebook, Angel Pavement has been described as 'a paean to the magic of drawing'.
Quentin Blake at Christmas 27 October - 16 January
Meet the Authors - new series of Gallery talks
In association with The Bookshop, Dulwich Village, the Friends of the Dulwich Picture Gallery are presenting a series of evenings when well-known authors will talk about their latest book and also meet the audience beforehand over a glass of wine. To launch the series in November is former resident and royal biographer Robert Lacey who chronicles key moments in Britain's history, from Chaucer to the Glorious Revolution in Great Tales from English History. Following later in the month is Roy Hattersley, whose major new appraisal of Edwardian Britain is his finest book to date. In The Edwardians he traces the history of the era from of the debauchery of the new king to the appearance of Lloyd George and Churchill on the political scene, from advances in science and technology to the rise of literacy. Hattersley depicts a changing Britain.
Four children's authors will talk about their new books at a 'Children's Book Festival' in September. Authors include Sally Gardner, Zizou Corder, Jeremy Strong and Caroline Lawrence
Full details of both these series can be found in 'What's On in Dulwich'