The Dulwich Society Journal for Summer 2021.
With the fine weather this Spring and the requirement to ‘stay local’, few places match Dulwich as the place to be. When the local hospitality venues opened their outdoor spaces on 12th April the Village itself came into its own. Imaginative arbors sprang up, tubs of flowering plants appeared and masses of people from Dulwich and its environs clutched some moments of bliss that they would, in normal years, have enjoyed in far-flung destinations, but this time albeit, without the hassle of getting there.
There can be no doubt that the imposed restrictions on traffic through the area went a considerable way towards achieving this seeming nirvana. Children could scoot, adults could chat without being overly concerned about traffic dangers and ancient cyclists could wobble along roads with a degree of confidence.
Imaginative schemes like attractive benches appeared, such a change from a year ago when yellow and black tape festooned any seat with a warning to keep off.
Some aspects of Dulwich Village are changing, but of course they always have. Nevertheless, the streetscape of elegant houses, picturesque cottages, grass verges and trees remains, even enhanced by the lack of traffic. The popularity of staying local is likely to continue, especially if facilities or venues have improved. We hear that one large, and two smaller hospitality venues are to open at the north end of the Village.
Of course, all this comes at a cost. In addition to the inconvenience for residents living near areas of road restrictions that have delivered them into virtual cul de sacs, the real losers are those who reside in roads which the displaced traffic has been to diverted to. Not only is there hugely more traffic congestion but there are risks of high concentrations of toxic fumes. This of course is the crux of the problem. Indeed, the issue has great similarity with the kind of questions posed at old Civil Service examinations once a candidate has passed the initial interview. For example; -
- Question: Would it be feasible to suggest that a solution could be to financially compensate those living on congested and polluted roads by reducing their council tax or even installing air-conditioning? Discuss
- Question: If this course were adopted, would it be reasonable to increase the council tax on residents in areas not affected by pollution in order to maintain financial balance? Discuss
- Question: Might it be reasonable to propose that polluting diesel powered delivery vans should be banned and the scrappage paid in compensation for getting lower emissions vehicles should come from a surcharge imposed on every home delivery? Discuss
- Question: Will the public be prepared to accept major curbs on the use of private cars in order to avoid traffic clogged roads , air pollution and frustrated drivers becoming a lethal danger? Discuss.
Last year’s Annual General Meeting was held in September 2020 on Zoom and the Society’s Executive Committee has decided to postpone the 2021 meeting until September this year in the expectation that we will then be able to meet in person and, hopefully, hold an event to mark the retirement of our President, Dr Colin Niven, after ten years’ service.
We have recently received a letter signed by a number of members who are upset with the Society’s initial support for the Phase 1 of Southwark Council’s emergency traffic measures and its repeated statements that, given the diversity of views among our membership, it would be inappropriate for the Society to take a position either for or against the Phase 2 and 3 emergency traffic works. The Society has also pointed out to the Council several times that there may be unintended consequences of the measures and has pressed it to carry out a full consultation with all residents both in Dulwich and in the areas around it. I am pleased to say that this is shortly to start.
These members also believe that the Society’s Travel and Environment Sub-committee, and the Society, is biased in favour of the emergency traffic measures and that, in some way, it has been working in conjunction with the Council to have them introduced. While it would be flattering to think that the Society had such an influence on Council policies, it is not the case.
These members have asked the Society to put two motions to members at the AGM. The first requires the Society to set out ‘the process for appointing of members of the Society’s sub-committees and publish all minutes of their meetings on the Society’s website, including declarations of interest.’ Historically, minutes of meetings of sub-committees have not been published on the Society's website but the Executive Committee will do so in the future.
The second motion asks the Society to undertake ‘a formal, independent and impartial survey about the remit the membership wishes the Society to adopt with regard to the Society’s long term policy position on travel and environment, and to publish the findings of this consultation in full on the Society’s website.’ The Executive Committee is NOT in favour of this as the Council is about to conduct its own survey on the current temporary measures and the result of this survey will certainly impact on the future of travel in Dulwich and the Society’s views on it. This survey will include both local residents and those outside the immediate Dulwich area, not just the relatively small proportion of residents who are members of the Society. We cannot see what benefits a Dulwich Society would bring with its cost and impact on the Society’s other activities.
To accommodate those members with different views to the Executive Committee, the Committee has decided to hold a Special General Meeting (SGM) where these motions can be considered. There will also be an additional motion proposed by the Executive Committee seeking member support for the current remit of the Travel and Environment Sub-Committee.
This meeting will be held on 28th June on Zoom and the Zoom link will be published on the Society’s website www.dulwichsociety.com and in the June eNewsletter. You will also find a separate formal notice enclosed in this copy of the Journal which convenes the meeting and gives the Zoom link. It also sets out the motions to be considered, gives your Executive Committee’s views on them, and how you can vote on them. We would ask as many members as possible to attend the meeting.
5G Rollout in Dulwich
Over the last few months, the countrywide rollout of 5G, the new generation of wireless technology, has reached Dulwich. Ofcom’s website is enthusiastic about the benefits telling us that not only is it more responsive and much faster than previous generations of wireless technology, it also offers greater capacity, allowing thousands of devices in a small area to be connected at the same time. It also implies that the way we use mobile technology will change and that the connectivity and capacity offered by 5G is opening up the potential for new, innovative services.
A recent letter from the Department of Media Culture and Sport (DCMS) to Councils asks them to actively promote investment in the roll out of next-generation networks in their area and to facilitate this by ensuring that the highways and housing/estates teams are working together to enable digital infrastructure deployment (no mention of the planning department). They are also asked to Identify a senior executive within the council to act as a ‘Digital Champion’ to ensure a cohesive digital infrastructure strategy and to work with the Government’s ‘Barrier Busting’ Task Force to identify and remove local barriers to deployment - presumably planning controls and concerned local residents.
The first application in the area was on the Southwark Community Sports Trust (SCST) Sports field off Turney Road. There is already a mast there and members with long memories will remember how long it took to agree its location - given that fact, the Society did not object. The next application was in a prominent position on Dulwich Wood Park on the junction with Lymer Avenue. The 18m post planned would have dominated a pleasant open space leading onto the Dulwich Wood Park Estate and there were over 170 objections - the Council turned the application down but it is currently at appeal. The next application was on the pavement on Dovercourt Road at its junction with Court Lane, again for an 18-metre pole. Here there were over 260 objections and. again, the Council responded to residents’ concerns and turned the application down - and the applicant has subsequently confirmed that he will not be appealing the decision.
Shortly afterwards the Estate provided the Society with a copy of a letter sent to Alleyn’s School asking for their comments on a site on the corner or Townley Road and East Dulwich Grove, right outside Alleyn’s School’s new building. This is a pre-consultation and, hopefully, the school will have responded negatively, but the reality is that these masts are coming whether we like it or not, and the community will have to work hard to make sure that the locations chosen do not impact too heavily on our local environment.
Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) consultations
During March Southwark Council distributed a leaflet on the upcoming public consultation to households in the current LTN areas, plus all addresses on both sides of boundary roads. Residents were originally told it would start in February but because of internal delays in agreeing the consultation format, and the impact of the pre-election period of the London Mayoral elections, was delayed. The leaflet confirmed that the eight-week consultation process would enable the Council to understand local views on all the LTN measures it had recently introduced. The consultation will be online or, for those who prefer it, there will be paper copies of the consultation documents to allow a response by post. People living outside or adjacent to this area can also register their interest in the consultation. To register see this link: https://consultations.southwark.gov.uk/environment-leisure/dulwich-review-registration-form/.
The Council says that the review will be conducted as follows:
- Full public consultation will commence in May 2021 and run for 8 weeks into July 2021
- Online meetings in May/June 2021
- Assessments of previous feedback and objections
- Traffic Counts (before and after)
- Cycle and pedestrian movements
- Congestion monitoring to help measure changes to the amount of traffic on key roads
- Air quality monitoring (including comparisons with any prior monitoring) The outcome of the review will then inform a final decision by the council in autumn 2021 on which permanent measures will be implemented and which measures will be amended or removed.
But the Council also needs to provide additional information regarding the detail:
- Who will be included in the consultation, how will they make sure that local residents have the biggest say?
- Who will be chairing the online meetings in May/June and who will be invited to attend?
- Who will assess the previous feedback and who will have access to the reports once an assessment has been completed?
- What are the locations and precise dates of the traffic counts?
- Where and when will cycle and pedestrian movements be measured?
- How will 'congestion monitoring' be undertaken and which are the key roads that will be used, and on what basis were they selected?
- Where will the air quality monitoring units be installed and how long will they be active? Where will this data be published and what will the results be compared to? Will residents' diffusion tubes information be included in this data?
- When will the results be published?
Southwark Council has now installed a ’parklet’ in front of Romeo Jones and added some temporary seating to the temporarily closed off Calton Avenue/Dulwich Village junction as part of the emergency traffic measures works. Parklets are part of Southwark’s ‘Kerbside Strategy initiative but the current proposals are also linked to the current LTN trial. For more information, see https://www.southwark.gov.uk/environment/climate-emergency?chapter=6
The Council did discuss their plans with one or two shopkeepers but there was no consultation with anyone else, neither the Estate or the Society. None of those approached said that the parklet was necessarily a bad idea but the key question is of course why there wasn’t a wider discussion and should there not have been a more general consultation with the wider community dealing with public seating throughout the Village? On a more practical level, how much did the additional works cost and who will be responsible for maintenance of any planting and keeping any paved areas clean, tidy & free from litter?
Birch trees can mean misery for many from March to May
Many people suffer allergic reactions to the pollen from the catkins on Birch trees which can cause sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and asthma. Allergy UK’s website www.allergyuk.org states that the Birch is one of the most allergenic species currently planted in streets, school playgrounds and urban gardens. An example is Ruskin Walk where over the last 30 years a variety of flowering street trees which produced attractive blossom in the spring have gradually been replaced by Silver Birch trees. A survey in the road in March 2021 found 22 Birch trees and only 19 non-Birch ones. Birch trees have one advantage in that their roots do not spread out and damage the pavement surface but that does not override their allergenic impact. Several local residents have asked Councillors to ask officers to stop planting Birch trees along streets and find a more suitable alternative species.
Help for Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Woods
The very wet winter coupled with an 80% increase in footfall, amounting to 340,000 visits in 2020, due to the lockdown requirement to stay local has seriously eroded or widened the paths in the Woods. Muddy in normal winters, social distancing and searches for firmer routes has led to new paths being made into sensitive natural areas. With the covid restrictions preventing the use volunteers from addressing the problem, the paths deteriorated further. As the LWT report on page ?? says, it has some money to repair the worst damage, but other paths also require attention.
The Dulwich Society has agreed to fund part of this extra work and is looking at ways to assist the London Wildlife Trust, which manages the woods, in raising additional funds from local users who have enjoyed the benefits a walk in the woods has brought in recent months. More information on this will be published in the next issue of the Journal.
Meet Sam Taylor - Manager of Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Woods
Sam graduated from Leeds University in 2009 with a degree in Geography. After leaving university he worked for a start-up food delivery business in North London offering local and seasonal produce, supporting small, sustainable food producers around London. Sam then took some time out to realise a long-held ambition to cycle across Europe to Istanbul. On his return he worked as a gardener for two years before starting a job with the charity Trees for Cities. He was there for five years and during this time helped deliver tree planting projects across London, including woodland creation projects, street and park tree planting. These projects were successfully carried out with the support of volunteers. Sam has always had a love of working outdoors with a particular interest in trees. When the opportunity arose to help manage Sydenham Hill Wood, a woodland he has always been fond of, he jumped at the chance.
Since the onset of the pandemic urban green spaces have proved to be indispensable. With restrictions on meeting indoors, our parks have become the focal point of our social lives and an escape from the confines of lockdown. At Sydenham Hill Wood gate counters have enabled us to monitor changes in visitor numbers and we have seen a dramatic increase in visits since the first lockdown back in March 2020. In 2020 there was an 80% increase in numbers compared to 2019 with around 340,000 individual visits. This is something to be celebrated as more people are enjoying the numerous physical and mental health benefits of the simple pleasure of being in nature. However, the popularity of the Wood also puts it under certain pressures. These pressures are by no means new but certainly the recent surge in numbers has seen an escalation of the issues.
Trampling of sensitive ground flora by walkers straying off the established path network can be a major problem if unmanaged. Plants such as bluebells, wood anemone, and sweet woodruff make spring a wonderful time in the wood but with increasing footfall and associated trampling populations are at risk of decline. It is not only the more delicate ground flora that is at risk. There are a few places within the Wood where the damaging impact of heavy footfall is obvious, marked by patches of bare earth and exposed tree roots. Compaction of the ground also impedes any chance of tree regeneration. The recent construction of a boardwalk around the grand cedar of Lebanon was necessitated by years of heavy footfall around its base leading to severe erosion and compaction.
The creation of new informal paths (not helped by the closure of Cox’s Walk bridge) means the parts of the Wood relatively undisturbed by people are increasingly fragmented and reduced in size. This presents challenges for wildlife. For example, ground nesting birds are easily disturbed by dogs and will abandon their nests if disturbed too often.
High footfall also causes deterioration of the main path network which is more pronounced in winter when parts become very muddy. As walkers attempt to skirt around bad patches paths are widened and finding your own path becomes a more attractive option. Though the mud is not universally disliked; I have seen many a delighted child stomp through squelching quagmires and runners relishing the splattering of mud that plasters their legs and gives a jog the feel of a cross country slog. A reminder that we must be careful not to give the Wood a manicured, sterile feel.
These issues lead to questions about to what extent restricting access is acceptable or indeed, if any restrictions are permissible at all. People have an understandable desire to explore and get a bit lost in the Wood. The ‘wildness’ is a large part of its appeal. Standing in the middle of the Wood it is easy to forget the centre of London is just 10km away. What must be recognised is that Sydenham Hill Wood cannot sustain high levels of unrestricted access in the way that a rural woodland may with far fewer visitors. We must balance the right to access with the responsibility to protect the health of the Wood. It is a designated nature reserve not a park and this distinction is important. Whilst the primary purpose of a park is to provide amenity space for people, the Wood is for wildlife and people’s contact with nature, and our management must reflect this. Besides, many of the things that make the Wood so special - magnificent spring blooms, vibrant bird life, butterflies, fungi - could be lost without any management. Its urban context and the number of visitors requires us to take action.
At Sydenham Hill Wood volunteers have been constructing dead hedging for many years as a ‘soft’ measure to encourage people to keep to the main paths. These natural barriers help demarcate the main paths and block off new paths. They also double up as a habitat for birds and insects and make use of material cut when coppicing around the Wood. They are by no means impenetrable, but they provide a soft nudge to stay on the path. Recent vandalism of large stretches of dead hedging, constructed over the past few months with such love by volunteers, shows that this is a measure that some deem an unacceptable restriction on their perceived ‘right to roam’.
Fencing has also been used to section off areas for the recovery of ground flora and to create areas of the Wood that are free from disturbance from humans and dogs. This is a last resort and can provoke anger from some users of the Wood. We are mindful of minimising the amount of fencing we erect but there are times when it is the only responsible course of action to protect the integrity of the Wood’s ecosystem.
Ultimately, we rely on the cooperation and understanding of those that visit the Wood. Raising awareness of the Wood’s fragility with visitors helps them to enjoy its nature without damaging it; it is the best way we can ensure a healthy balance between conservation and people’s enjoyment of a glorious tract of London’s countryside. More carrot and less stick.
EXTENDED UNTIL 30 AUGUST 2021
Dulwich Picture Gallery’s first photographic exhibition, interrupted by the last lockdown has been extended until 30th August. It traces the history of photography as told through depictions of nature, revealing how the subject led to key advancements in the medium, from its very beginnings in 1840 to the present day. Unearthed: Photography’s Roots brings together over 100 works by 35 leading international photographers, many never seen before.
Presenting just one of the many possible histories of photography, this exhibition follows the lasting legacy of the great pioneers who made some of the world’s first photographs of nature, examining key moments in the medium’s history and the influences of sociological change, artistic movements and technological developments, including Pictorialism through to Modernism, experiments with colour and contemporary photography and new technologies.
Arranged chronologically and with a focus on botany and science throughout, the exhibition highlights the innovations of some of the medium’s key figures, including William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) and Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) as well as several overlooked photographers including Japanese artist, Kazumasa Ogawa (1860-1929) and the English gardener, Charles Jones (1866-1959). It is also the first show to publicly exhibit work by Jones, whose striking modernist photographs of plants remained unknown until 20 years after his death, when they were discovered in a trunk at Bermondsey Market in 1981.
Questioning the true age of photography, the exhibition opens with some of the first known Victorian images by William Henry Fox Talbot, positioning his experimentation with paper negatives as the very beginning of photography. It will also introduce a key selection of cyanotypes by one of the first women photographers, Anna Atkins (1799- 1871), who created camera-less photograms of the algae specimens found along the south coast of England. Displayed publicly for the first time, these works highlight the ground-breaking accuracy of Atkins’ approach, and the remarkably contemporary appearance of her work which has inspired many artists and designers.
Dulwich punches well above its weight in the number and variety of its garden openings for charity, and these are now in full swing - this year there are over 40 separate gardens opening, some more than once and some with others as part of a group or a Garden Safari. All are great sources of ideas and inspiration, and most have home-made teas or refreshments to add to the enjoyment.
Openings this year are slightly complicated by Covid entry rules. Until 21st June tickets for larger gardens are “on the gate”, with pre-booking online required for smaller gardens opening for the National Garden Scheme (see www.ngs.org.uk ) and encouraged for gardens opening for Link Age Southwark (see www.linkagesouthwark.org/Events). From Monday 21st June, it’s back to normal, with no pre-booking requirements.
Full details of the gardens are included in the brochure distributed to members with the last Journal. The brochure is also downloadable from the Society’s website www.dulwichsociety.com/garden-group and is available in local garden centres.
Cultivation in the time of Covid
Activities like gardening and wildlife management have proved to be of immense benefit to the constrained life of many during the past year. The subsequent increase in volunteers, when restrictions were relaxed, has had a beneficial impact on Dulwich’s green spaces.
The Friends of Sunray Gardens had a busy spring with the creation and planting of new flower beds to augment the services supplied by Southwark Council. Nearby, in Dylways, a small area of woodland is providing a fascinating area for local children to study nature at close hand. Bessemer Grange School, also in Dylways had already sown a wildflower meadow the length of Greendale which displays a huge diversity of native wildflowers.
Elsewhere in this magazine you will read of groups of volunteers working in Bell House, College Road, garden and in the Upper Wood in Farquhar Road. The Friends of One Tree Hill, the Friends of Dog Kennel Hill Wood, the Friends of Dulwich Park are among many doing rewarding and enjoyable tasks for the local environment.
Dead (recycling) Centre
The thoughtlessness of Southwark Council in placing a large electrical item recycling bin against the Grade 2 listed railings of the Old Burial Ground is beyond belief. Not only that, but the spot chosen is bang in the middle of the Dulwich Village Conservation Area which the Council is required to maintain. This is clearly something that the Council needs to reconsider.
Scruffy Dulwich? - North Dulwich Station piazza
Regrettably, there is another example of the poor siting of recycling receptacles. At North Dulwich Station forecourt -, where a lot of money and effort was spent on York stone paving and restoring the exterior of the listed building, the first thing you see is a row of recycling bins, some of them covered in graffiti. Is that what we want visitors to remember us for? And why should the view of the Dulwich Picture Gallery from Gallery Road be ruined by rows of wheelie bins parked on the pavement - they could easily be parked on site behind the fence.
Dulwich Grove or Grave?
The road crossing at the junction of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane, called in days of yore, The Grove, must surely be the most dangerous in London. While Southwark Council or TfL sit and ponder which shrubs to plant in their new parklets, no thought appears to be given to provide a pedestrian controlled traffic-light system at this point. Anyone hoping to cross either road takes their life into their own hands. There is nothing to stop cars (who descend at 30mph - the legal speed limit on the South Circular Road) and coming down from the Horniman Museum area turning left onto Dulwich Common while northbound traffic on Lordship Lane is held at a red light. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the photograph shows the hazard in a flash. Pity the poor family, pushing a buggy and having to dash across in order to take a stroll in Dulwich Woods.
Another honour for Stanley Martin CVO
Dulwich Society member, Stanley Martin CVO has been awarded an OBE for services to British diplomacy. He served as a diplomat for 35 years, First Assistant Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps and Associate Head of the Protocol Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He continued as special adviser for many years after his retirement. He was appointed Extra Gentleman Usher to the Queen in 1996. He is a former Chairman of the Royal Overseas League. Stanley Martin is the author of The Order of Merit: One Hundred Years of Matchless Honour for which HRH The Duke of Edinburgh contributed the Foreward.
The Dulwich Players Present (In person!) - Much Ado about Nothing
By William Shakespeare
In the gardens of Bell House, 27 College Road, Dulwich, SE21 7BG
Much about something?
We've got so used to wanting to do something this summer, but on this occasion you might just want to think about making much ado about nothing! War heroes Don Pedro and his soldier-boys turn up at Governor Leonato's house hoping for a well-deserved rest … but when has that ever worked out? Claudio loves Hero; Benedick despises Beatrice (and the feeling is mutual she will assure you). Pedro's pals are either obstinately love struck or in denial of their emotions allowing the Don's half-sister Donna Juana and the beastly Borachio to hatch a plot to tear their worlds apart. But never fear! The local neighbourhood watch are on call to intercede swiftly and bring them to justice ... right?!
The beautiful Bell House beckons you to do nothing but be bewitched by a sharp fast-paced rom-com based on trickery and mistaken identity. In a generation of fake news, The Dulwich Players bring clarity, modernizing a scorching Shakespearean sizzler with a citrus-fresh twist.
Be a Hero (not a rotten orange) and join us!
Saturday 26th June : 2pm and 5pm
Sunday 27th June: 2pm and 5pm
Saturday 3rd July: 2pm and 5pm
Sunday 4th July : 2pm and 5pm
Tickets £12 and £8 (under 18) are available to buy online www.dulwichplayers.org (Ticketsource - a small fee payable.)
We will be offering refreshments (but of course you are welcome to bring your own). Please bring your own seating, be it chairs or rugs.
Peter Pan - the video!
You might also be interested in watching some or all 17 episodes of Peter Pan performed online over the past year and now available on YouTube so you can now binge-watch every chapter from the comfort of your own home!!
"Peter Pan" by J.M.Barrie, was adapted and directed by Hayley Blundell, with co-director Anna Kandasamy and Animation & Special Effects by Gill Daly.
Peter Pan can be viewed on the Dulwich Players YouTube Channel here:
It has been a hard winter, not just from the Covid lockdown but the persistent cold north easterly winds. In a particularly cold snap during February a few Fieldfares joined the abundant Redwings and there was a record of a Meadow Pipit and a Skylark in the open grassland of Brockwell Park. The winter was slow to release its grip and in spite of warm days there were regular night frosts lasting into late April. The winter Redwings stayed with us up to the end of March perhaps to avoid the north easterly head wind of a North Sea crossing.
At the time of writing it appears that we may have a repeat of last year’s Spring drought which spells trouble for the fledging of the Thrush family nestlings. If you are lucky enough to have Blackbirds or Song Thrush nesting a regular supply of mealworms may assist survival, which can be bought at the garden centre. There seems to be fewer Blackbirds this year but there are plenty of Robins that would also benefit.
Goldfinches are doing particularly well this year as are the Tits which are surprisingly territorial. Brian Green has a very feisty Long Tailed Tit, which has been named ‘The Headbanger’ that regularly attacks its reflection in his window. Long Tailed Tits often exhibit this behaviour as do to a lesser extent Blue Tits and even Goldcrests. Maybe it is purely territorial pugnacity but perhaps it enhances self esteem. At any rate it provides close views of the birds and some entertainment.
In spite of the cold nights the annual natural cycle is underway, and the Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps have appeared. Migrant warblers such as Willow Warblers with their liquid cascading song have been heard both in the park and the West Norwood cemetery, which is a quiet haven for small birds. Once more our one pair of Kestrels have taken up residence in St Peter’s church spire at the entrance to Cox’s Walk and Sally Casey has taken this fine photograph of a beautiful male. But even more spectacularly, Peregrine Falcons are once more breeding on the tower of St Luke’s church in West Norwood. Hugh Pimblett has taken a series of Peregrine photos of which this is one. Both the Peregrines and the Kestrels will be on show for the first part of the summer, but you will probably need binoculars for good views. The Peregrines may be dismembering pigeons which Hugh said was not a pretty sight.
Readers may have seen an elegant little duck in the lake in Belair. It is a Marbled Teal whose natural home is southern Spain where it visits as a summer migrant. This bird is undoubtedly an escapee from a collection. It does not carry a leg ring and it is likely to be a second-generation bird that has become free flying and feral. Birds which were once feral such as Canada and Egyptian geese and of course Parakeets have become a major part of urban ornithology and recognized as part of the British bird list once they became self-sufficient and breeding true. A main risk of non-native birds escaping from collections is that they may hybridise with a similar native species and dilute the wild strain. The prime example of this is the all too familiar town pigeon which originated as a domestic bird but hybridized with our native Rock Dove. Now the only pure bred Rock doves are a small population in the far north west of Scotland and the species is well nigh extinct. Some of the feral pigeons that we see do have the double wing bar and the white rump of the Rock Dove but they do not breed true and emerge as mixed plumage mongrel birds. Luckily our more secretive native Stock Dove which we also have in Dulwich as a tree nesting bird has remained free of hybridisation with a modest but tasteful plumage. Feral pigeons however are a major reason for the arrival of Peregrines on St Luke’s church and are much easier prey to catch than cliff nesting coastal birds and give a major addition to our natural history.
We can hopefully look forward to a Covid free summer to enable us to get out and about and observe the nature around us. It will be good to hear of records not just of birds but also the invertebrates on which so much of our lives depend and we welcome photographs if you are able to get them.. It will also be good to know how Hedgehogs are faring as there was no news of them last year.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder
020 7274 4567
I recorded 305 species of moth in my garden in 2020, which is slightly down from the past few years; I didn’t run the trap much in the autumn because of the weather, which will account for some of the difference. This was my fifth year running a moth trap, and the number of new species is declining; this year I ‘only’ added 26 species to the garden list, which now stands at 574. That number is remarkable, but there are still plenty of relatively common species that I haven’t had.
The most striking looking new species were a huge Privet Hawk-moth, the amazingly pink Small Elephant Hawk-moth, and Buff-tip, famous for its uncanny camouflage to look like a broken twig.
Another remarkable mimic is the Hornet Moth, with its clear wings and stripy yellow and black body that make it genuinely look more like a wasp than a moth. I haven’t seen an adult moth, sadly, but the caterpillars live inside the trunks of poplars, and I found large exit holes with the remains of the chrysalis at the base of poplar trunks in Dulwich Park and Brockwell Park. It’s unlikely to come to light, but my sister gave me moth pheromones for Christmas, and Hornet Moth is one of the species I can hope to attract.
I also had was what was approximately the third Surrey record of the migrant moth Udea fulvalis (Dulwich is still in Surrey for nature recording purposes). And in Dulwich Park I found the nationally scarce Dystebenna stephensi, a tiny mottled moth which can be found in July resting on the trunks of oak trees. The book Smaller Moths of Surrey has a record in Dulwich Park from 1948; I don’t know if they have been there all along, it may well have been 70 years since someone went to look for them.
The final, most notable record is not actually new; in 2017 I had a little moth which seemed to be a close match for Caloptilia honoratella, a species which had not been recorded in the UK — although it had been spreading westwards across Europe. At the time, the Surrey moth recorder was, understandably enough, not willing to accept it as a new species for the UK on the basis of a photograph without a specimen. However, since then there have been several confirmed records from southern England, and on that basis he has accepted my record. I never imagined, when I started running a moth trap, that I might end up getting a first for the UK; I was just curious about what kinds of moths were in the garden!