The Dulwich Society Journal for Winter 2012.
The Dulwich Society is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It was founded on a wave of concern in the 1960’s about the scale of building and redevelopment which the Dulwich Estate (then named Alleyn’s College Estates) was undertaking in order to maximise income to its Foundation and which followed, and sometimes coincided with, the creation of large Council estates among what had been Dulwich’s most attractive corners.
The sense of powerlessness as individuals among Dulwich residents in the face of these huge changes to the local landscape made them aware that collectively they might be able to influence some of this change. In this, they were supported by a countrywide civic movement which was spearheading the formation of conservation societies elsewhere.
The Dulwich Society’s first major success came in 1967 following the Leasehold Reform Act when it formed a team of legal experts from its own membership in order to be represented at the High Court which was to consider the Estates’ application for a scheme of management after the implementation of the Act. They worked on a pro-bono basis and the Society’s officers took personal financial risk in this undertaking. Through their efforts the Dulwich Society was able to have provision of an advisory committee representing the interests of freeholders and leaseholders, in the scheme. It continues to represent residents’ interests at the regular meetings of the Scheme of Management.
Other battles followed, including arguing strongly against development in Dulwich and Sydenham Woods in that area of the wood now managed by the London Wildlife Trust for the benefit of all. Through the Society’s efforts, conservation status has been given to wide swathes of Dulwich, thereby giving these areas greater protection against unsuitable development.
It has supported and encouraged the efforts of those who sought the restoration of the quality of local parks after their decline following the demise of the Greater London Council and it has similarly supported Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Horniman Museum as they sought to improve their facilities. More recently it has been at the forefront of the campaign to secure the future of the Herne Hill Velodrome.
The Society is concerned with the entire area it encompasses, roughly the boundary of the Dulwich Estate but also areas immediate to it where residents might not be represented by a similar society. Recently it has supported the restoration of the Concrete House in Lordship Lane and has greatly improved the appearance in that corner of Dulwich around St Peter’s Church. It is currently assisting in the proposed restoration of the fallen down wall of the church. It has successfully objected to an unsuitable development in the spinney at Spinney Close just below the Crystal Palace Parade. It hopes to play a part in securing the future of Kingswood House.
The 50th anniversary year of The Dulwich Society will commence with an exhibition at Dulwich College entitled Dulwich 63 highlighting the changes in Dulwich over the past fifty years. The exhibition will open on Saturday 26th January at 6.30pm with a Private View and Reception for Dulwich Society members who apply for tickets. Full details of this event and others to celebrate the anniversary are listed in this Journal.
A short article in the last Journal detailed some of the proposed changes to the set up of the local Safer Neighbourhood Teams, which appeared to make them potentially less accountable to the local Safer Neighbourhood Panel. Subsequent to that, requirements for security at the Olympics affected the team's manpower and this was exacerbated further by the promotion of two of the local PCSOs (police community support officer) to full PCs. Even more concerning we now have the confirmed closure of our local police station.
The future of the East Dulwich Police Station has been in doubt for some time but its demise was finally confirmed during a presentation by the local Borough Commander at the Dulwich Community Council on September 18th. Other than the small College Ward SNT (safer neighbourhood team) outpost on the Kingswood Estate there will no longer be a 'front desk' police station in any of the three Dulwich wards by the end of this year, the nearest will be in Camberwell.
Does this matter? You can report crime on line, the new 101 telephone reporting system appears to be working well, the safer neighbourhood team should be back to full strength in November, and should we be concerned?
The answer for the residents of some roads in the area is definitely yes. In the western part of Village Ward there has been a worrying increase in crime including muggings, burglary, and vandalism to property. In addition, the level of illegal activity in the Norwood Road area fronting Brockwell Park remains unacceptable despite the introduction of CCTV and increased cross border liaison between Southwark and Lambeth police.
The Mayor is on record as saying that front line policing will not be affected by budget cuts and the BBC has reported Bernard Hogan Howe, head of the Met Police, as confirming that there will be no closures without consultation. There has been no consultation and there have been police station closures and the new SNT regime will affect front line policing. With the best will in the world a base in Camberwell rather than Dulwich will mean that the actual deployment of officers will be less flexible and for some people, particularly the elderly, crime reporting will be more difficult - Camberwell is one of the least accessible places by public transport from both Village and College Wards.
The Safer Neighbourhood Panel has joined with local amenity societies and residents' associations to campaign for a police station to remain in Dulwich. They have lobbied the police, our MP and our members of the London Assembly. There has been a reasoned response from the Met Police and firm support from Tessa Jowell, Val Shawcross and Caroline Pidgeon.
There is also a good alternative location to accommodate a police presence in the area - the East Dulwich Hospital gatehouse and site.. The police and the Mayor's office should think again.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner replies-
Dear Ian McInnes,
Thank you for your email dated 30 September 2012, in which you express your concerns about the future of East Dulwich Police Station. I recognise that there are a number of matters of great concern to Londoners and the confidence of the public in the MPS is dependent on the way we address those concerns.
Before addressing your specific points about East Dulwich Police Station, I thought it would be helpful to explain the context in which the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is examining potential changes to the policing of London. Our approach starts with identifying ways in which we can improve our performance at cutting crime and deliver a higher quality public service to the people of London. At the heart of this will be our commitment to safer neighbourhoods, and a specific promise to strengthen our Safer Neighbourhood Teams with an additional 2,000 police officers. The provision of appropriate bases is vital to ensure we are able to respond to local demand, and we are clear that our current ward structure and borough partnerships will continue to be the foundation of neighbourhood policing.
We are also committing further resources to dealing with incidents to make London safer, with an additional 500 officers into the teams that respond to 999 calls. We believe that the provision of extra officers to our neighbourhood and response teams will be welcomed by Londoners, and it should therefore be central to our thinking around any potential changes.
In addition to this commitment, we have been reviewing the ways in which the public can access our services. This has changed considerably in recent years, with the introduction of a standard 101 non-emergency number; internet access; the opportunity to make diary appointments to see officers; and the commitment we have made that every victim of crime should be able to see an officer if they wish. We are examining the potential for further provision of surgeries at community venues such as local authority facilities.
This Public Access review will make proposals for enhancing the quality of service provided by the MPS, in response to changing public demand. These proposals could include the permanent closure of East Dulwich Police Station, which has very low numbers of visits by the public. These will only take place when a local Public Access Plan has been signed off by MOPAC. Such closures would allow your Borough Commander to return operational officers to their primary role of emergency response and crime prevention in neighbourhoods.
The financial context in which the MPS is conducting this review requires us to save approximately £350million from our budget, and so we have to focus on how we can offer the best value to tax-payers at the same time as improving the quality of our service. My commitment is to increase the numbers of officers working in Safer Neighbourhood teams. The exact numbers in each team will be decided as part of our Public Access review. But we are considering establishing a minimum staffing level for every team and giving local commanders the discretion to increase numbers according to the specific demands of each ward.
Once the MPS has completed its Public Access review, we will submit proposals to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime who will have the final say on the sale of any buildings. This will be undertaken by Christmas 2012 and MOPAC will then assess our proposals. We are clear that no decisions on closure of individual stations will be made until a new plan for Public Access has been approved as MOPAC will want to uphold the Mayor’s pledge that no front counter will close unless an equivalent or better facility for public access has been identified. I can confirm that I had said in my interview with BBC in September that there will be consultation with local people before big changes are made to policing.
I hope that this provides you with the necessary reassurance you were seeking however should you have further concerns I would ask that you direct them to your Borough Commander in the first instance. Alternatively you may wish to address your concerns to Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne, via
Events to Celebrate the Society's 50th Year
As part of its programme to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Society will be holding an exhibition at the Dulwich College Archive Centre called 'Dulwich 63'. The aim is to highlight the changes in Dulwich over the last 50 years and the Society's contribution to those changes. An application form for the Private View and Reception for this Exhibition in the Lower Hall, Dulwich College on Saturday 26 January at 6.30pm is enclosed in this copy of the Journal.
Integral with the exhibition will be a series of three Sunday afternoon talks, held in conjunction with the Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery, highlighting the development of Dulwich from the mid nineteenth century to the present day.
Bernard Nurse, chair of the Society's local history group will start on 17th February with a talk called 'Setting the scene' - covering the period between 1850 and 1920 and this will be followed by two further talks on 17th and 24th March by Ian McInnes covering the post war period from 1945 to 1969, 'Wates and reinvention', and from 1970 to the present - ''Leasehold reform, conservation and wealth'.
In addition, on 3rd March, there will be a local history walk led by Ian McInnes along Dulwich Common looking at both the old and new houses there, as well as the sites of the Toksawa Hotel, the covered tennis courts , the old windmill and the tile kiln. Meet at corner of College Road and Dulwich Common at 2.30pm.
All the events will be advertised in the Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery's 'In View' and booking is via the Picture Gallery ticketing system at the gallery or on their website.
The lasting legacy of its 50th anniversary will be the unveiling of twelve memorials to civilians killed in Dulwich during World War 2 which will take place throughout 2013 at dates nearest to the actual event. It is intended that these modest ceremonies will be low-key but hopefully memorable for friends and relatives of those killed as well as local residents.
Thinking of Extending? Permitted Development Rights
There have been several articles in the press outlining the Government’s intention to change the rules over householders’ permitted development rights. While the headlines say that extensions up to 8m long will be permitted without planning consent, this does not apply in conservation areas and also does not apply to listed buildings – and the restriction that any extension cannot cover more than 50% of a property's garden will also remain. Large parts of Dulwich lie in either the Dulwich Wood Conservation Area or the Dulwich Village Conservation Area and those properties not in a conservation area, but which are subject to the Scheme of Management run by the Dulwich Estate, will also be unaffected as the Scheme of Management regulations overrule normal planning.
Community Infrastructure Levy
The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a tax that councils are starting to charge on new developments in their area. The money raised is used to fund a ‘Project Bank’ which will pay for additional infrastructure that local community and neighbourhoods want but that the council can’t afford. On large developments it will replace the current Section 106 agreement but it will now be introduced on all new development including new single houses and basements and house extensions over 100sq metres in area. Once the rates have been agreed they are non-negotiable.
Southwark is currently consulting on the proposed rates for Southwark's CIL and has prepared a ‘Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule’. The suggested rates for residential development range from £400sqm on the riverside to £50sqm in central Southwark. Rates for offices range from £100sqm on the riverside to £0 elsewhere in the borough. Retail properties range from £0-£250 but education, health, industrial, and public funded sports/community facilities will be exempt.
The current consultation closed during October but there will be further consultation in January 2013.
Solar Panel Survey
The response to the solar panel survey in the last Journal was very disappointing. Only 35 members came back to us, just over 3% of our total membership. While this level of response could not be considered representative, of those that did respond:
- A small majority thought that solar panels should never be installed on front roofs
- A large majority thought that solar panels should be permitted on side roofs with no restriction
- A large majority thought that solar panels should be permitted on rear roofs with no restriction
- A large majority thought that solar panels on brackets should be permitted
- Most people thought that the period and character of a property should be taken into account when assessing applications for solar panels but a number said that this should only apply if a building is listed.
Public meeting with Councillors
The Society has set aside 4th March next year for an evening meeting with local councillors. The pattern will be similar to the one undertaken with the Dulwich Estate couple of years ago and will give local residents an opportunity to hear what the Council has planned for our area and to ask questions on any aspect of the council’s work. The meeting will be advertised further nearer the time with posters and on the website.
Oral History project
As part of the Archive project, and the 50th anniversary celebrations, the Society is setting up an oral history project. Our aim is to invite local residents of varying ages to a series of discussions where we will record their memories on tape. These will then be transcribed and kept in the Dulwich Archive and the Southwark Local Studies Library. The project will start in the summer of 2013 and if you would like to volunteer, either as a participant or as part of the recording and transcribing team, we are keen to hear from you. Please contact Ian McInnes on 0208 693 6313 (
There was a good response to our request in the last issue for members’ email addresses, but we need more. The facility to send our members information and updates is essential and email will let us do this. The addresses would only be used for important local issues and upcoming Society walks and talks or other events which do not fit easily with the Journal’s regular time table.
If you are happy for us to contact you via email please send an email to
Planning and Architecture Group report
The Planning and Architecture Committee is largely composed of architects and those with planning experience. They give a great deal of time and thought to the consideration of planning applications.
License Applications to the Dulwich Estate
Fourteen applications were commented on by the Society in the August - five objections were made, and in two tranches of applications in September, ten license applications were considered at the first viewing and no objections were made. The objections at a second viewing included the following
Hitherwood Drive – “ Objection to ground floor rear extension due to excessive increase or disproportionate increase in the footprint of the house. Objection to the first floor and roof extension due to excessive bulk and the loss of amenity to neighbours. Objection to rear dormer window due to not complying with the guidelines.”
Half Moon Lane – “ Objection to front boundary wall and gates due to excessive height and loss of amenity. Advice note : A height of 1.2 metres with fewer brick piers would be better received. No objection to front garden landscaping. “
Woodhall Drive – “ Objection to replacement house due to lack of information on three dimensional aspects of the design, how the various materials would appear and relate to other properties on the Woodhall Estate, the bulk of the gable end towards the Estate road, what trees and planting are to be retained or included in the scheme, overlooking from the terrace at the rear into the rear garden of the neighbouring house. Advice note: A model including the position of the neighbouring house would be well received. Better and detailed information on materials, e.g. timber boarding.
Dovercourt Road – Objection to a lean-to store at the side and front of the house. Advice note: a front parapet would be better received.
Pymers Mead - Objection on the grounds that the information provided is inaccurate and insufficient to fully assess the impact of this external change. The percentage area of the rooflights to the roof advised is not accurately calculated. The drawings do not indicate the level of the rooflights within the house and whether there would be extensive overlooking. Advice note: It was noted that the Estate is largely screened from Rosendale Road by mature trees along the boundary with the playing fields and that the rear roofs face an internal common garden area. While there are satellite dishes on rear elevations in the Pymers Mead Estate the introduction of rooflights would be a new element. As a new feature a maximum of two small rooflights ( conservation size ) that are flush with the roof plane and confirmation that there would be no extensive overlooking would be better received. Further advice note : Even small rooflights to a top storey will provide a very high level of illumination to the space or spaces below.
Planning Applications to Southwark Council : Objection to the applications
Court Lane objection to the application on the grounds of inadequate parking provision due to the scale of the proposed development.
The scheme has been developed since earlier plans were informally discussed at a Dulwich Society’s Planning and Architecture group meeting on 13 June 2012. There is no objection to the existing building being replaced by a modern residential development with a high quality of design, incorporating an efficient use of energy.
However, there is a substantial problem with the scale of the proposal in that there is a lack of adequate off-street parking for a private residential development that comprises two large family houses each with five bedrooms where only two off-street parking spaces are provided. The application has omitted any assessment of the current street parking in the local area and how the proposal would impact on parking.
The probability of the need for on-street parking will compound the existing lack of on-street parking in the adjacent roads, putting local residents under even great difficulties in finding a parking space. For this reason I object to the application, which will seriously affect the amenity of local residents. A scheme that substantially reduced the accommodation and provided adequate off-street parking would be better received.”
Alleyn Park - The Dulwich Society has examined the application documents and visited the site. There is no objection in principle to the existing house being replaced by a quality modern design with high energy efficiency and no loss of amenity to the neighbouring properties. However, there is a loss of amenity to neighbours on both sides by way of overlooking into the rear gardens from the first floor level and the bulk of the rear extension. The justification given by the applicant’s agent for the rear projecting two storeys is that it is to align with no. 35 Alleyn Park, two houses to the North. However, this reasoning has little regard for the adverse effects this approach will have on the adjoining neighbours through loss of privacy and loss of amenity.
A design that, more reasonably, aligned the rear extension with the adjacent house and sufficiently controlled the issue of overlooking either directly or indirectly into the rear gardens of neighbouring houses would be better received.”
Dulwich Village : A modest planning application has been submitted which is described as, “ Demolition of existing single storey 20th C rear kitchen extension to allow the construction of a new enlarged single storey extension at garden level; providing additional accommodation for dwelling house.”
Of importance to the neighbours, the rear terrace above the kitchen remains the same size. There are no immediate grounds for objecting to the application.
Spinney Gardens : (Off Jasper Road) The planning application for four eco-flats on the spinney was refused by Southwark Council.
The Dairy Site, 13-19 Croxted Road
The Dulwich Estate will shortly be submitting its planning application to Lambeth Council for the redevelopment of the former Dairy Site. Further to the previous planning application which was refused consent, the Estate has been in discussion with the Council regarding an alternative use for the site and its revised proposals include a state-of-the art medical practice for the Rosendale Surgery alongside ground floor retail accommodation and residential over three upper floors. The Estate's intention is to bring the site back into productive use and to enhance the Croxted Road street scene in order to make a positive contribution to the locality.
A public consultation was held on 11 October, when local residents, businesses and Councillors had the opportunity to discuss the proposed scheme with the Estate's consultants. The scheme was generally well received although some concerns were raised about car parking. The Estate has engaged a consultant to advise on this issue. If you were unable to attend and would like details of the scheme, these can be obtained from the Estate's Consultant Surveyors, Daniel Watney, on 020 3077 3400, or alternatively at
Dulwich Society Garden Group
Preparation of ‘Dulwich Gardens open for Charity 2013’ has just started.
This new edition will be published next March.
If you are considering opening your garden to raise funds for a charity, or organising an outdoor event, and would like to have details included in this guide, please send full information, as soon as possible, to: John Ward, 135 Burbage Road, SE21 7AF Email:
Alleyn’s School celebrates in style
On 12th October Alleyn’s re-enacted a moment from its past when a representative contingent including the headmaster Dr Gary Savage and senior staff in Victorian dress marched behind a drum and fife band from The Old College in the Village to the School in Townley Road.
As our illustration shows, it replicates the march made in 1887, 125 years ago, when Alleyn’s marched off to their brand new school. The anniversary day began with the entire junior school and its staff dressed as their Victorian forebears, a Victorian menu for lunch and an evening performance of an Olde Time Music Hall.
The opportunity was also taken on the day to launch Advancing Alleyn’s – a project to raise funds for additional means-tested bursaries and to show visitors the plans for the proposed new junior school and dining hall.
Victorian dress was also on display at the naming of ‘Lovers lane’, the footpath between Gallery and College Roads in September. The path, variously called Pensioners Walk or Grove Walk was more popularly termed Lovers Lane and appeared so on the numerous postcards published in the Victorian and Edwardian period. The Dulwich Society organised the signage of the now official name and this was unveiled in the presence of an appropriately attired couple of lovers. A small reception was held afterwards.
Presence through absence – Replacing Barbara Hepworth’s Two Forms
The theft of Barbara Hepworth’s Two Forms (Divided Circle) from Dulwich Park overnight on 19th December 2011 set off a wave of interest in the artist and her work. As one lover of the piece put it, “In some ways, Two Forms has had more presence by its absence.”
As owner of the lost work, the London Borough of Southwark is now holding £400,000 of insurance proceeds, which the leader of the council, Peter John, has confirmed will be ring-fenced to fund the purchase of a suitable replacement for the Hepworth.
A steering group established to progress this comprises two Southwark cabinet members, Councillors Barrie Hargrove and Veronica Ward, alongside three Southwark officers, and Ian Dejardin of Dulwich Picture Gallery, Ian McInnes of The Dulwich Society and Trevor Moore of Dulwich Park Friends.
Following a public consultation that ended in June, the appointment of a specialist to advise on shortlisting three or four appropriate artists is imminent. The chosen artists will be asked to submit their ideas for showing to the public. It is not expected that a replacement work, in whatever form – but not made of precious metal – will be ready for installation before December 2013.
To meet the considerable public interest sparked by the theft of the Hepworth, Dulwich Park Friends is working with three local artists on A Homage to Hepworth event to celebrate the artist and her work. This will take place on Thursday 10th January 2013 at 7.30pm in the Michael Croft Theatre at Alleyn’s School. The programme is being finalised but will include a keynote talk from Tate Britain’s Hepworth expert, Chris Stephens, the showing of extracts from the film The Art of Hepworth and a photo display of the many collected images of Two Forms being made and in its park location. For more information call Trevor Moore of Dulwich Park Friends on 07967 000546.
Among so many dazzlingly happy memories of this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games one stands out for me. Though I was based at the Equestrian Games, I managed to slip away to Woolwich to watch the archery. 148 competitors had fired their arrows and no one had yet achieved three perfect tens. In the first match a one legged and one armed Briton aimed from his wheelchair and achieved perfection, only to see his opponent, also with one arm and one leg, do the same. I thought at first the American was kissing his bow for luck, when I suddenly noticed a string attached to the middle of his bow-string. He caught it in his mouth, pulled back, opened his mouth, and the arrow hit the bull’s eye. In the final shoot-off he did it again to win by a point, the men embraced and I had witnessed the greatest feat I have known in nearly seventy years of sport. That moment encapsulated for me all the expertise, courage and sportsmanship that so exemplified those wonderful Olympic weeks.
It all began with an invitation to be interviewed for the anti-doping section. A charming Indian lady told me she was also a volunteer and I was her very first candidate. Half way through she interrupted the interview and asked eagerly, “please, how am I doing?”. “Brilliantly!” I replied sincerely and I was enrolled. Collecting the cheerful uniform, red for the Guards and purple for our Royal heritage, I saw how immaculately other volunteers had organised the tailoring and distribution, an encouraging portent of the magnificent organisation I encountered at Greenwich.
The course for the three-day event had stunningly enriched the lovely park. Glistening horses sailed over one jump from East to West, leaped over Saturn’s rings by the Observatory and hurtled past Toad Hall . Over the stadium fluttered some thirty flags, anthems sounded, soldiers saluted and volunteers rushed to help the appreciative crowds. Most movingly, here a lady with cerebral palsy (and a Master’s degree in maths) won three golds, at one with her horse in the demanding dressage by means of her voice and her hands alone.
I was lucky to be in a team of fourteen, based in the anti-doping control hut. We’d keep a constant eye on the athletes as soon as they dismounted, using our walkie-talkies as they went off to press conferences, medal ceremonies or just to cool down. It was intriguing to take down their details as they came in for their urine tests, some at first too exhausted to produce a sample. One Aussie came out of the gate I was guarding and I asked if all was going okay inside. “They’re just taking the piss, mate!” he informed me accurately.
I found in fact they all welcomed the tests as it keeps their sport clean. Most memorable was the arrival of a rider introduced by a colleague as Michael Young. I happen to teach German and his uniform was covered in gold, black and red and he had GER in big letters across his chest, so I cleverly guessed his nationality. “Ist das Michael Jung?” I asked, as it had to be spelt correctly. “Jawohl!” he beamed. Next day this world and European champion on his thirtieth birthday won an individual and a team gold medal. And like all of them he was utterly modest and delightful.
Up on the Heath I visited the stables prior to the Pentathlon and learned that the riders only met their horses twenty minutes before they jumped, so inevitably there were some spills. I saw a Korean thrown off as his horse reared and crashed horrifically on top of him. To everyone’s intense relief he slowly remounted; hopelessly out of time, but completing the course to a crescendo of cheers and symbolising the spirit of both the Olympics and the Paralympics. In this Jubilee Year we really have seen the country at its best.
More than Gold, (MTG), was delegated by LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) to co-ordinate service and mission among UK Christian churches of all denominations. Founded by the Salvation Army, MTG was first represented at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, then at the Games in Sydney, Athens and Beijing.
MTG records that contributions made by UK Churches to support the Games in London – the largest ever – amounted to some 13,000 hours of voluntary service, including 160 hosts providing 2,000 nights of free hospitality (athletes of families hosted won 45 medals, including 8 golds), an estimated 500,000 attending community events run by churches from sports clinics, family fun days, children’s clubs to big screen festivals and 300 serving as Games Pastors at London’s main line rail stations. 500,000 free bottles of water were handed to visitors and some 9,100 cups of water given out during the three marathons. In addition 2,100 mission and service volunteers came from 40 countries to participate in street art, music and exhibitions throughout London boroughs (including Southwark Cathedral) and UK cities.
Over 30 men and women were nominated by their ministers to act as MTG ‘ Gold Champions ‘ in Southwark, helping to envision and co-ordinate service and mission in their churches. I was invited to be the Southwark Borough Co-ordinator for a great team. A number of us also acted as Games Pastors to be available to deal with any unexpected personal issues and needs arising, doing our beats on the main line stations each day through both the Olympics and Paralympics. We were required to wear blue waistcoats and caps which were provided with identity badges. In addition to seeking to answer some interesting questions while passing the time of day at different London rail stations two instances I especially recall were : being asked to assist an overseas lady with a baby in her arms en route to Paris in the carrying of what seemed to me to be a vast collection of outsize cases. I cannot recall handling luggage of such a size before and was amazed that I managed to do so – and collecting paper wrappers from all and sundry at Waterloo station who were offered free ice creams on arrival by South West trains. I came to understand a bit more clearly that friends do seem to be made through serving. These two experiences led to some fruitful conversations!
For over 3 months, we had danced in the freezing wind and rain and on a rare occasion some sun. Spending our time in a Dagenham car park wearing wellies and our essential ponchos’ we had learnt to make shapes with beds, encouraged children to jump and dance without falling off, cracked a few ankles with those beds, picked up the odd dance move ourselves and learnt how to stop mattresses - and on occasion children - flying off in the aforementioned wind. Terms such as doing the dusty, dusty; the nurses’ return, up-rocking and party time became essential parts of our vocabulary, though friends and families were not in on the secret of what these terms meant. I heard a child on a train recently say “ its party time” and I nearly jumped up to start the lindy hop routine!
We had learnt the moves; how to apply the make-up and do the hair, we had practised in our fabulous new costumes and had finally got the lay of the land in the inspiring Olympic stadium – technical and dress rehearsals lay behind us and this was it, our moment in the limelight, our time to perform in front of the 1 billion worldwide audience.
Nerves were heightened, particularly for those of our young co- stars who couldn’t quite grasp the 1 billion numbers, but certainly knew they didn’t want to mess up. My children – well that’s what I like to call them – Waisef and Mahamuud had given their all to the rehearsals, doing about as many as the adults and were very excited. Unfortunately the excitement had become too much for Mahamuud and he was running a fever and feeling totally rubbish on the night of the opening ceremony. With the aid of an onsite GP and a number of icepacks we got him cooler and he was determined to do the ceremony. He was really taking the patient /nurse relationship seriously.
As the 2nd verse of the national anthem rang out we moved. Rocky’s voice, the mass movement lead for the NHS, rang through our ears counting us in and encouraging the “G” of GOSH to “get there quickly – but safely”; as we came out the light effects were in full flow, tubular bells where ringing out and it was our time.
The next 15 minutes passed in a blur, performing for the audience, the camera and trying to remember every second is tough…also trying to make sure that we all hit our cues and marks and didn’t get in the way of Dalmatians, skaters, demons, child catchers and of course the Mary P’s. The nurses on spell out – had successfully delivered GOSH, NHS and the often ill- fated Crescent Moon…ohhh that pesky moon had caused more than one or two headaches. At the end of our performance the roar that went up from the crowd for us, the children and of course the institution of the NHS that we represented was astounding. We stood there and took it in, soaking up the applause and marking down our time in history when we had performed on the world stage and the world had loved it!
We were off as quickly as we came on, encouraged every step of the way to get off fast! The hi-fives and hugs were shared and then it was over and time to have a real party. Goodbyes were said, especially to the children, who were up way past their bedtime and then we were leaving the stadium, the place which, if for only a brief time, we had been able to call our own. Friendships have been formed and the whole experience from the first audition to the performance has been one I will remember for the rest of my life.
It is a fading memory of how much Dulwich was affected by World War 2. Bombed houses have long since been repaired or replaced, shelters which populated streets, gardens and parks have long been removed. The scars have healed to such an extent that seemingly all traces of the devastation which took place have disappeared. It is, however, important for future generations that we remind ourselves just how much life was affected. The Dulwich Society felt that it was appropriate that in its 50th anniversary year that it should play a part in commemorating those civilians who died in Dulwich as a result of air raids of all kinds.
Over 500 high explosive bombs and countless incendiaries were dropped on Dulwich. They were followed by 35 V1 flying bombs and 3 V2 rockets.
The official record issued by Camberwell Borough Council (of which Dulwich comprised roughly a third of its area and population) noted that only 403 homes out of a total of 40,104 in the borough escaped damage and a very large number received damage on several occasions. In September 1944 14,000 houses in the borough had their roofs off and 4000 men were still employed on major war damage repairs in May 1945. The cost of repairs was in excess of £10million (in 1945)
The articles by Corinne Wakefield and Alan Woodfield who were present at the incidents being commemorated in January give a vivid picture of life in Dulwich during the war.
It has clearly been a difficult year for our wildlife both nationally and locally, most notably in the relative absence of our butterflies that come under the genus Nymphalidae. i.e. the colourful ones. This made the photography of a Comma by Gardner Thompson all the more remarkable for the year’s report. It is I think called a Comma after the comma shaped mark on each forewing most clearly seen on Gardner’s photo rather than the intricate wing shape unique to this species. All this family of butterflies which includes Red Admirals, Tortoiseshells and Peacocks have two broods and the first ones to be seen will have overwintered hibernating in garden sheds or sheltered places. Most of them use Stinging Nettles as the preferred food plant for their caterpillars (not the preferred weed for gardeners) and these are necessary for the second brood most loved in our gardens over the summer. The population of Red Admirals and in some years Painted Ladies is augmented by immigrants from the continent and a few Red Admirals did indeed appear but they were few and far between.
Holly Blues and some of the Grass Butterflies such as Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers did better and I was pleased to see for the first time for a number of years a Humming Bird Hawk Moth taking the nectar of Lobelias, but this will have also been an immigrant.
The status of our birdlife is also somewhat uncertain. Wood Pigeons, Carrion Crows, Magpies, Jays and Parakeets are clearly doing well, but there were notably fewer Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs around than in previous years. David Clark helpfully does a regular early morning count of the birds in Dulwich Park which provides an indicator of the relative stability of the populations. In his latest autumn count Song Thrushes and Starlings were noticeably absent. Song Thrushes can be secretive but they ought to have done well this year from the abundance of snails, so their absence is worrying. It has been noticed nationally that Starling numbers although still reasonably abundant are, like the House Sparrows dwindling, and although we are seeing twos and threes in our gardens the large flocks filtering out the Leatherjackets from our lawns seem for now a thing of the past.
Some or perhaps most of the losses are from factors beyond our control. Climate change can result in a mismatch between hatching and fledging time, and the quantity of the preferred food for the young birds quite apart from the accidents of extreme weather events. Many of our summer visitors seem to be in trouble in their African winter quarters. This would appear to have affected Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Whinchats and Redstarts and some Warblers which we would regularly see both as passage migrants and in some cases breeding. There is often now better feeding for migrants in towns than the countryside so it behoves us to provide enough wild places in our parks and gardens for refuge and replenishment.
Populations, particularly of small birds can recover quite quickly as a poor year can result in a food glut next time round which gives greater chances for survival of fledglings and if the weather is right butterflies can achieve good hatches.
This year did provide some nesting success with a family of Sparrow Hawks in Dulwich Woods, at least one family of Tawny Owls, also in the woods and a family of Little Owls in Belair. At the time of writing the summer migrants have gone and the winter visitors have yet to arrive and there are plenty of berries available for them when the time comes.
Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567)