The Village Ward Beat of the Metropolitan Police has been considerably strengthened. In addition to PC Shaun Mulcathy and PC Alistair Gellatly who have become familiar figures on Dulwich streets in the past three years, they have been joined by PCSO Sheri Robey and PCSO Darren Weeks and the new team is headed by PS Stephen Farrant. The Metropolitan Police state that the role of the team will be to patrol and police Village Ward in order to prevent or reduce anti-social behaviour, prevent crime and the fear of crime and work in partnership with the local community. The message is that policing in Dulwich is getting back to basics by providing a significant uniformed presence on the streets. The area of the Village Ward is the same as its electoral area.
In July 2004 the Dulwich Community Council was awarded £316,000 to make grants for projects proposed by the community. A number of these have made a significant contribution to the appearance of Dulwich and some of these are illustrated below. Other important but less dramatic improvements were carried out with traffic calming in Jasper Road and Dulwich Wood Avenue. However, the £18,000 grant for pedestrian safety around the Court Lane entrance to Dulwich Park is either not completed or appears poor value for money. The £25,000 awarded to Streatham & Marlborough Cricket Club for "ground improvements and community access" has allowed the club to offer youth cricket coaching but surely the sum awarded was sufficient to tidy up the poor appearance of the entrance to the ground which is opposite The Harvester, Dulwich Common. Torn down fences, accumulated rubbish and ugly porta-cabins tarnish the view of this otherwise well-kept ground. And was it really necessary to spend £5000 on "signage rationalisation between Burbage and Stradella Roads?
Bill Higman of the Dulwich Society called last year for a more co-ordinated approach to Community Council grant making by all the parties and different interests involved, with a local plan presided over by the Community Council. This suggestion should be taken up. The danger at the moment is that pressure from well organised groups in support of their own individual causes may not necessarily relate to any overall order of priority or be the most efficient use of money in the wider interests of the community.
Over ten years has elapsed since the predecessors of the Dulwich Estate were refused, on appeal, permission to redevelop the site of Beechgrove, a large house on Sydenham Hill they demolished in 1983 and which had previously lain derelict for a long period.
In 1984, Southwark Council proposed to compulsory purchase and redevelop the sites of two former houses in the area belonging to the Dulwich Estate, called Fernbank and Lapsewood on Sydenham Hill but which had long since been demolished and reverted to woodland, into a housing estate comprising some 93 houses. This plan was rejected following a Public Enquiry in 1985. A year later the then Estates Governors submitted their own plans to build 36 flats on the same two sites. After an intense battle, in what became known as the "Save Sydenham Hill Woods" campaign, in which the Dulwich Society backed a scheme for the area to be maintained as an area of woodland, a Public Enquiry rejected proposals for any housing and instead the entire area was ultimately designated Metropolitan Open Land. The sites of Fernbank and Lapsewood were subsequently leased to Southwark Council and became part of the Sydenham Hill Wood and Nature Reserve administered by the London Wildlife Trust.
However, in 1985 the Estates Governors submitted plans to build three houses, later reduced to one, on the remaining site of Beechgrove. Despite this application being refused, the Estates Governors persisted and between 1986-1990 started a number of expensive Appeals, all of which were refused. The legal cost of these Appeals was expensive to the beneficiaries of the Dulwich Estate; it is believed that the costs ran to a six figure sum.
For a number of years following, the site was squatted by an elderly West Indian who built a shack on the steep slope below the boundary wall of the former house. He gave the wall itself a lively colour scheme of lilac and terra-cotta and ensured the Royal Mail knew his presence by posting up the house name and number on a tree where it remains today.
After he left, the Dulwich Estate put up a wire fence on the Beechgrove frontage. The rest of the site had long since been overtaken by nature and its boundaries are now virtually impossible to define. Recently the Dulwich Community Council awarded the London Wildlife Trust £25,000 to erect a new security fence along its Sydenham, Hill and Crescent Wood Road frontages and the Trust invited the Dulwich Estate to continue the fence along the Beechgrove frontage at a cost of £6000. The Dulwich estate declined this offer, although their wall and fence is in a poor state. Has the Estate got new plans for Beechgrove? It is hoped not. The climate for conservation has grown even stronger since the last application was turned down; surely it would be far better to join this site to the remainder of the Wood in a lease to London Wildlife Trust.
Diana Bell retires at the end of the summer term after celebrating twenty years as a headteacher, the last thirteen as head of Dulwich Hamlet School, one of London's largest primary schools. She has spent her entire teaching career in London, starting at St. Jude's, Herne Hill followed by eleven years as a deputy head in Brixton followed by seven years as a headteacher in Wandsworth.
She says that she has seen many changes since she moved to Dulwich Hamlet, some major, others quite subtle, not all desired. When she arrived staff morale was low and opportunities for experimenting difficult. Parents were not encouraged to be actively involved in the school. Much has changed since then. Supportive governors and parents have all contributed and the calibre of the staff has allowed the school to achieve the distinction of Training School status for student teacher training. One of the most exciting developments has been allowing the children to take a greater role in the running of the school. Representatives from each class form a School Council which meets regularly with Diana Bell to make requests and suggestions.
When she started teaching, class teachers were more or less able to teach what they liked. Since then, the imposition of the National Curriculum has provided a clear framework but its initial rigidity has loosened sufficiently to allow schools like the Hamlet to develop various skills, indeed this is now encouraged. As a consequence music plays a big part in the children's life with over 230 children learning a wide range of instruments and the school now has a purpose built music centre - the Purcell Room offering space and state of the art electronic equipment. The flexible timetable allows the children to fulfil curriculum requirements but enjoy more sport or even take up such diverse interests as Greek dancing or theatre work in the summer term.
She says that over the years the interiors of the buildings have undergone change, at first small improvements such as re-carpeting and the conversion of the old cloakrooms into special learning areas. In 2004 the dilapidated huts in Turney Road finally came down and were replaced by the Pickwick building which contains a large library, three classrooms an ICT suite and a much overdue new staffroom. Currently the Village entrance is being altered to provide a better reception area and school offices.
Last November the OFSTED inspectors judged the school was outstanding in all areas, in addition it retained, for the third time its Investors in People status. Diana Bell can be proud of her school and her contribution towards its success. Although she retires in from Dulwich Hamlet in July one suspects she has not quite retired from the world of education just yet.
Since taking over the running of the Herne Hill Stadium in Burbage Road last year, the Velo Club de Londrés has developed an excellent youth programme on Saturday mornings. Young riders can receive induction and training in both track and mountain-bike cycling between 9am-10.30am from expert riders at the track. The more experienced riders can train and have coaching between 11am-1pm. The charge for children is a nominal £1. The mountain-bike circuit has a series of challenging slopes and bends. A cyclo-cross circuit has also been developed for winter cycling. The club has recently acquired 100 extra track bikes of varying sizes for children, youths and adults to train on. These may be borrowed free of charge for training sessions. The traditional, annual Good Friday meeting was well attended despite rain in the morning and the chaos caused by a fractured water main on Dulwich Common. Any resident interested in watching cycling at the stadium can see events on Wednesday evenings in the summer months.
The President of Croquet at Dulwich Sports Club has written in protest at the claims of the Old College Croquet Club made in the last issue of the Newsletter that the Dulwich Sports Club does not play Golf Croquet. For an explanation of the differences between Golf and Association Croquet please refer to Pam Le Gassick's article in that issue. The Dulwich Sports Club has thrown down a challenge to the Old College Club to accept an invitation to a Golf Croquet match this season. They are obviously hoping to hammer Old College as one of their players; Pierre Beaudry represented Belgium in the recent World Golf Croquet Championships in New Zealand. The Notebook questions whether it is British for distinguished croquet clubs to behave like professional soccer clubs and rely on foreign support in times of crisis. However it would be delighted to award a modest trophy to be competed for annually between the two clubs. Will the challenge be accepted? Watch this space or hoop!
The Dulwich Sports Croquet Club invites anyone interested in learning more about the game to contact the Hon.Secretary: Michael Goodman on 020 8693 3564. Club Afternoons are held on Sundays (mainly for Golf Croquet) and Club Evenings on Wednesdays (mostly for Association Croquet) and there is coaching in each form of croquet on Tuesdays in June when all are welcome.