As we are all aware, the third quarter of this year has been extremely dry, fine and at times excessively hot and this, of course, has been reflected in our wildlife records. During this time most of our birds moult and they are silent, often invisible and this is more so during daytime heat, except the ubiquitous Woodpigeons and Carrion Crows. It has also meant that our summer migrants pass unhindered by weather and as a result there were fewer sightings of birds of passage. The Swifts departed in mid-August and the House Martins at the end of September.
However, in late autumn our resident birds start to move around and passing overhead were occasional Meadow Pipits, Pied and Grey Wagtails with a total of 25 Pied Wagtails feeding in the Herne Hill Stadium in the first two weeks of October. As I write this report the first Fieldfares and Redwings of the winter have started to come over from their Scandinavian breeding grounds.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of the autumn was a sighting of a Kingfisher by Sian Evans in Dulwich Park on September 30th. I have looked through Don Freshwater's records and it is the first definite Dulwich record of this, the most spectacularly coloured of our British birds. It is, perhaps, too much to hope that a Kingfisher would take up residence as we probably have too little water and this record may well represent the autumn dispersal of young birds that need to search for new feeding territories apart from their parents. I would, however, be very interested to hear of any others who have seen this bird.
Birds that have been increasingly spotted in Dulwich have been Ring Necked Parakeets, long tailed green parrots that screech loudly. These are in fact natives of India that have naturalised in Britain from escapes and have become steadily more numerous around London. They favour parkland and so will have been seen most often by residents who live in proximity to Dulwich Park. While being superficially quite an attractive addition to our ornithology they are not entirely welcome as being hole nesters that tend to oust our native Starlings and possibly Woodpeckers from their sites and Starling numbers, not just for this reason are beginning to decline.
The other bird that has been reported by people who have noticed it for the first time has been the humble Dunnock. This has always been present but is more noticeable now so many of our House Sparrows have disappeared. This is the ultimate ornithological L.B.J. (little brown job) but amazingly they have sex lives that would make a tabloid editor's hair stand on end !
The summer produced a good crop of butterflies. The Painted Ladies I reported in the last issue had, as predicted, good hatch in August and were seen in many of of gardens as were numerous Red Admirals. Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Speckled Woods were much in evidence in the Herne Hill Stadium as they flourish and breed in uncut grass. There was a late summer hatch of Common Blues in the stadium's rough ground which was encouraging as I had thought that this small colony had died out. Holly Blues were , of course, more numerous and these are the blue butterflies that we see in our gardens. I would welcome any reports of other butterflies or unusual insects that people are seeing.
I have had no reports of Bats. Daubenton's Bat, Noctules and Pipistrelles are said to occur in and around London so reports of these would be welcome. I note that the London Wildlife Trust has put up bat boxes in the woods but I have no knowledge as to whether these have been occupied.
By the time this report comes out, winter will be with us and I would encourage people to put up squirrel resistant bird feeders which will guarantee good winter watching.
Wildlife Recorder (020 7274 4567)
Both of Dulwich's amateur dramatic societies put on excellent productions in the autumn. The Burbage Players who recruit their members from those with a connection with Alleyn's put on a hilarious performance of the cricketing comedy Outside Edge at the School. Soon after, the Dulwich Players staged Shakers - re-stirred by John Godber and Jane Thornton, at the Edward Alleyn Theatre, a funny and at times touching play on the lives of four waitresses who work at a provincial cocktail bar. Part of the appeal of the play is that the four actresses also perform the roles of the patrons of the bar, of both sexes. With it's, at times, gritty humour it is perhaps surprising that Shakers re-stirred is now on some GCSE syllabuses.
In December, the Dulwich Players perform Return to the Forbidden Planet (see What's on in Dulwich), a revival of the 1960's Sci-fi musical - a tongue in cheek adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest. . It will make an excellent pre-Christmas entertainment for the whole family
Productions scheduled for 2004 by this 100 strong amateur dramatic society include Amadeus by Peter Schaffer, The Man Who Came to Dinner and Toad of Toad Hall by Alan Bennett, based on the book by Kenneth Grahame.
There are few places in or around London, as good as Dulwich, for a pleasant, almost rural walk. Try one of these strolls over Dulwich's southern hills, to clear the head and exercise the limbs after too much indulgence over Christmas or New Year.
Starting in Dulwich Village, follow College Road past Christ's Chapel and the Old College.
The Chapel was built between 1613-16 on the site of the village green. The College of God's Gift was founded by the Elizabethan actor Edward Alleyn three years later.
The adjacentt building is the Dulwich Picture Gallery, opened in 1814 and containing a world-famous collection of picture; and the mausoleum of the three original benefactors
Keeping to the gravel path on the left, pass two mid-Georgian houses, and weather-boarded Bell Cottage and impressive Bell House. Continue across Dulwich Common, passing the Millpond to Pond Cottages, a delightful row of weather-boarded Georgian cottages.
Pond Cottages were originally occupied by workers at the tile kiln that stood on the site of the College's P.E. Centre from the 16th century. When the kiln closed (it later manufactured bricks) in the late 18th century the cottages were largely occupied by farm workers from local farms. However around the beginning of the nineteenth century, the artist David Cox resided with his wife and family in one of the cottages. He painted a number of pictures of local scenes including the cottages, the pond and the windmill. Some of these are in the Tate Britain Collection
Opposite Pond Cottages is Dulwich College, built by Charles Barry Jnr in Northern Italian Gothic style and opened in 1870.
Continue up College Road to the Toll Gate, notice the tariff board displayed beside the old Toll House. Retrace a few steps and turn up Grange Lane. This pretty country lane ascends gradually to reach the entrance to the Dulwich and Sydenham Golf Club on the left, and on the right, Dulwich Woods. Enter the woods through the metal swing gate and continue ahead, uphill for a couple of hundred yards to a clearing with a seat, turn left and follow this path, ignoring all side paths. The path gradually bears left around pond and the golf course comes into sight on the left. The path now bears right uphill to reach the bridge of the old High Level railway line to the Crystal Palace. Exit through a metal swing gate next to the bridge. For the shorter walk keep ahead, downhill on a made-up wide path. For the longer walk cross the bridge to a metal gate on the left.
Dulwich Woods are a remaining but extensive fragment of the Great North Wood, an ancient forest that stretched from the Croydon Hills as far as New Cross. They are predominantly Oak with some Hornbeams. During Tudor times, timber from the Great North Wood was used to built warships and other vessels at the Royal Dockyards at Deptford.
At the foot of this metalled path (Cox's Walk), turn left along Dulwich Common, passing The Harvester opposite to enter Dulwich Park and retrace your steps to the Village.
The Harvester (formerly The Grove) stands on the site of The Green Man Inn, itself the site of Dulwich Wells. An early,18th century owner, John Cox cut the avenue down which you have just walked.
Dulwich Park covers the lands that once belonged to Dulwich Court Farm and other fields and was opened in 1890.
Go through the gate on the left over the old railway bridge, and continue down a narrow path enclosed by a wire fence. When this path ends, continue down a grassy slope to a metalled path between houses (Lapsewood Walk). On reaching Lordship Lane (London Road), cross into Horniman Gardens and follow the path uphill, past the ornamental garden to the exit in Horniman Drive.
Horniman Gardens and Museum were the gift to the public of the Victorian tea magnate, Frederick J. Horniman. Horniman was an ardent collector and the eclectic collection is the fruits of this passion. Originally, Horniman displayed his collection in his house which once stood on the site of the gardens but when this was twice outgrown by the enlargement of the collection he built the museum in 1898.
Continue along Horniman Drive (notice some interesting architecture, especially the Art Deco house on the corner of Ringmore Rise). When the road forks, bear right downhill into Honor Oak Road. Turn left and continue to the junction of Honor Oak Park, turn right past the Convent and in a few yards, enter a wooded path on the left with steps running steeply uphill. Continue along the level open clearing at the summit, along the metalled path with splendid views on the left over London and on the right towards Kent.
Honor Oak or One Tree Hill marks the boundary between the old parishes of Camberwell and Lewisham. The hill is the site of several historic events. Queen Elizabeth is reputed to have rested under the shade of an oak tree when on a visit to Sir Richard Buckley of Lewisham. In commemoration of this visit the tree was called the Oak of Honor and a later replacement tree on the spot is now railed off.
The Beacon on the left was erected to commemorate the Coronation of the present Queen but is a reminder of the beacon that was once placed here to give warning of invasion by the Spanish and later the French.
The Hill was also the site of Watson's General Telegraph, a relay system established in 1841 linking London with shipping in the English Channel
Follow the path down steps on the left; through trees, to a road. Turn left in this road (Brenchley Gardens) and continue to reach Forest Hill Road. Cross this road and walking downhill, turn left along Wood Vale beside Camberwell Old Cemetery. Follow Wood Vale, with its interesting and varied architecture to Lordship Lane. Here, turn right, downhill to reach the Harvester. Now follow the instructions as for the shorter walk
Approximate timings. Shorter walk stroll - One hour to One hour fifteen minutes. Longer walk Two hours. Power walkers and joggers deduct 30 minutes!
Integrating transport in West Dulwich: Could Belair car park be available after dark for train and bus users?
By Alastair Hanton and Isaac Marks
Have you ever wanted to use the train or bus from West Dulwich but been deterred by the return journey home from the station or bus stop at night? This problem could be reduced if local residents could use nearby Belair car park after dark.
The Dulwich Society Transport Committee has discussed with the authorities the idea of controlled access to the car park after dark via a barrier in Gallery Road and a pedestrian gate opposite West Dulwich Station. This could be achieved by access via a card (like a credit card) issued to local residents for a fee.
Your comments will help the Transport Committee decide whether and how to take the matter forward. Please fill in the form below and return it to Alastair Hanton, 8 Gilkes Crescent, SE21 7BS
-Please tick your answers to each question below--
1. Is it a good idea to have controlled card access to Belair car park after dark?
Yes ..... No .....
2. If you already use the train or bus from West Dulwich after dark, would it help you to have card access to the car park?
Yes ..... No .....
3. If you don't already use the train or bus from West Dulwich after dark, would you do so if you had card access to the car park after dark?
Yes ..... No .....
4. How many in your household might use the car park after dark?
1 ..... 2 ..... 3 ..... 4 ..... more .....
5. How often might your household use the car park after dark?
Daily ..... weekly ..... monthly ..... less often ..... ?
6. Would you pay the equivalent of, say, £2 per day of car use? (it would open both the barrier in Gallery Road and the pedestrian gate opposite the station)
Yes ..... No .....
7. Would personal security issues stop you using the car park after dark?
Yes ..... No .....
8. Any other comments?
Please feel free to phone Alastair Hanton at 020 8693 6611 if you wish to discuss the issue.
Several years ago, Dulwich Society member Jeremy Gilliard wrote in the Newsletter of the apparent increase in aircraft over flying Dulwich in the early morning. Since then, this disturbance to the residents has got steadily worse.
Patricia Hole of Rouse Gardens, Alleyn Park discovered this for herself during the summer. She writes:
At the end of July our son returned from Malawi and arrived at Heathrow on a flight which was due in at 6.25am. Leaving home at 5.00 to meet him, I was astonished to see how frequently the planes came in over our house from the direction of Crystal Palace. They seemed to come one after another just as they do in daytime. I had been aware of aircraft noise during the early mornings, often hearing them from 5.00 including weekends. However, the frequency astonished me.
At Heathrow, that morning, we had a long wait and eventually met our son who told us that the airplane had waited for 40 minutes on the tarmac before moving to an empty bay for unloading, on account of the number of flights arriving at that early hour.
It is revealing to look at Ceefax, as it shows how many flights are due and at what time they are expected to arrive. I kept a record from Monday 22nd September to Tuesday 30th September and noted early morning flights into Terminals 1, 3, and 4. Terminal 4 has five flights due in between 05.05 and 05.21, of which some were expected as early as 04.41. These would, of course, be flying over Dulwich even earlier.
I do not remember so much aircraft movement at such an early hour in years gone by.
David Franklin of Denmark Hill has also written in a similar vein and points out that that there is also overflying of Dulwich from flights to both London City Airport and Gatwick and although the airplanes are at different heights, their flightpaths criss-cross our area.
It may get worse. A Government White Paper announcing its plans for aviation for the next thirty years is due to be published at about the same time as this issue of the Newsletter appears.