Cox’s Walk footbridge

Southwark Planning Department have now rejected Southwark Highways’ most recent application to remove two oak trees at one end of the bridge to enable the remedial work on the bridge to go ahead. Instead, they issued a provisional group Tree Protection Order (TPO), covering all of Cox’s Walk and Sydenham Hill Wood. It was good to see the Council responding to the huge level of community support for an alternative proposal which would allow the two oaks to be retained. There were 177 objections to the application, two responses in support and one neutral, together with a petition with 6,692 signatures.

The officer’s report said that, on balance, it was considered that relevant national, regional and Southwark policies outweighed those of retaining highway infrastructure within ancient woodland, which is a priority habitat. The proposed removals were therefore incompatible within the context of recently adopted and emerging policy or practice. In particular, the benefits of the proposed bridge reconstruction did not clearly outweigh the biodiversity impacts or seek appropriate compensation. The report added that both trees were healthy, in good condition and as a keystone species within their habitat could be expected to grow for a considerable length of time and they also have a significant historical and cultural value as part of the Great North Wood. There was also a section about the relative costs of the two schemes and it noted that the Council’s preferred engineering design, although initially cheaper, did not take account of the net value of trees proposed for removal. When the actual tree value (Capital Asset Valuation of Amenity Trees) was discounted from the estimated full cost of the alternative design, it became the most economical and ecologically sensitive option.

Medieval Court Rolls translated

Dulwich’s Court Rolls, the earliest of which dates from the 14th century and which are preserved in the Archives Department at Dulwich College, are being transcribed and translated from their original Latin, written by scribes representing the Priory of Bermondsey, Dulwich’s medieval landowner, by Patrick Darby, a member of the Society’s local history group. Patrick has now completed the rolls up to the end of the 15th century. The rolls deal with local issues of land tenancy as well as disputes and minor criminal acts, all of which were recorded at the quarterly courts held in Dulwich.

Patrick’s earlier translations formed the basis for two accounts of life in medieval Dulwich which appeared in the 2017 Spring and Summer editions of the Journal. These can still be read online. It is also anticipated that the latest translations will also be made available online as well as forming a basis for further articles on this fascinating glimpse of Dulwich’s past.

Working from Home

The total number of applications to alter properties in Dulwich in 2020 under the Scheme of Management was 15% higher than pre-Covid with 186 applications compared with 161 in 2019. There was also a noticeable increase in applications to erect single storey ‘garden buildings’, a euphemistic name it is thought for home offices. Some applications for these have been objected to by the Dulwich Society’s Planning & Architecture Group, a sub-committee largely made up of local architects and planners, on the grounds that some of the proposed new buildings do not conform to the Dulwich Estate’s guidelines regarding the size of a proposed building in relation to the size of the garden.

David Roberts, who has chaired the Group for many years has retired from this post and has been succeeded by Penny Stern. David is to be congratulated on the part he has played in inspecting such a large annual number of applications, all of which require careful scrutiny. Where possible, he has encouraged applicants to modify their designs to comply with current guidelines. We are delighted to hear that David will remain a member of the Group’s committee.

Gardens and Gardening

Dulwich Gardens open for charity 2021

Enclosed with this Journal is a copy of our 2021 Dulwich Gardens open for Charity booklet, with details of over 40 local gardens that - subject to Covid restrictions - will be opening this year and that we hope you will take the chance to visit. These garden openings are one of the industries and marvels of Dulwich and a great source of ideas and inspiration, as well as raising significant sums for local and national charities. Further copies of the brochure are available in local garden centres and other outlets.

The booklet is thinner than usual and space for pictures is limited. However it is backed by a new website which has several pictures of each garden as well as information about volunteering, the allotments and related matters. If there are Covid-related restrictions on openings this year, we will publicise them on this website and on the “Gardens” section of the Dulwich Society website .

Many thanks once again to Ann Rutherford for producing the booklet, to colleagues on the Gardens committee for help distributing it, and - above all - to the garden owners for their hard and inspiring work.