Herne Hill Velodrome Local Residents' Open Day Report

An Open Day was held at the Herne Hill Velodrome (HHV) on Sunday, 6 June 2010, to encourage local residents to come and see this hidden gem in their midst. First built here in Dulwich in 1891, before any of the houses which now conceal it, the gates at number 104 Burbage Road are the only outward evidence of its existence.

Despite the cool, mostly grey day, a steady stream of visitors of all ages arrived at the Open Day gazebo on the bank behind the track, which afforded an excellent view of the day’s cycling - men’s advanced training in the morning, vintage cycle racing in the afternoon, including some on penny farthings, and then junior track cycling.

There was opportunity to look at the proposed plan for modernisation and extension of facilities at HHV to create a comprehensive Community Cycling Centre - adding children’s track, BMX track, bicycle polo pitch, family cycle path, cycle training area, better mountain bike course and replacing derelict grandstand buildings. Visitors were able to discuss the plan with HHV Manager, Peter Cattermole (also British Cycling’s Regional Manager for London and Chairman of the home cycle club, Velo Club Londres), or talk with the volunteers. More than a hundred registered their support for HHV, with many leaving email addresses to receive news of progress.

It was gratifying to be able to welcome several local Councillors, some newly elected, and bring them up to date with developments at HHV. It was also good to meet local teachers, including a strong contingent from Dulwich College, whose sports masters had organised the inaugural Dulwich Inter-Schools Cycling Championships at HHV on 19 May 2010, showing the potential for schools of this exciting non-ball sport.
Unsurprisingly, the visitors seemed in favour of continuing cycling on the track and those there for the first time were impressed by its sheer size and the tranquillity of the setting, even with cycle racing in progress. Many parents came with young children and were keen to know when they could start on the track, which is age 7 to 8yrs, or 6yrs for the Saturday morning, mountain bike sessions, run by Herne Hill Youth Cycling Club. And Bill Wright, one of their cycle coaches, was in that area of the site to give information and advice. Visitors expressed interest in safe cycling opportunities for adults and children and thought the family cycle path would be a good place to get back into cycling. There was also interest in cycle-craft classes, expanded perhaps to include cycle repair. Parents wanted off-road paths round Dulwich for children to cycle to and from school, as proposed by the Dulwich Society last year, and some Charter School parents wished their school had access to more open space for outdoor sporting activities.
Neighbours inevitably mentioned traffic in Burbage Road, especially with children being dropped off on Saturday morning, occasional friction with cyclists, and noise from the race starting pistol (now banned and replaced by a whistle). No-one expressed a desire for cessation of cycling or for a major leisure development on the site. But there was some suggestion of possible demand for year-round, daytime, weekday, exercise classes in that part of Dulwich.

Further negotiations on HHV between the Dulwich Estate and its advisers, Southwark Council and British Cycling are eagerly awaited.

C. Hornsby