This meeting broke with hallowed tradition! I hope that Rachel Jackson of LBS realises the honour bestowed on her. The Friends’ policy to is make decisions at its own independently chaired meetings, but arriving with a cold, and seeing how business-like Rachel looked, I decided to defer to her on this
occasion. Forthcoming tree work will be concerned purely with health and safety issues and will be quite separate from previous controversial suggestions about felling or coppicing trees for any other reasons. Rachel explained that there were 919 trees noted in the Park, ignoring tiny saplings. There would be 57 tasks, involving 6% of the trees. In six cases, there would be felling. This would involve three dead cypresses, a dead silver birch, a dead alder on the Wildlife Walk, and a willow beside the lake. A horse chestnut leaning over the lake (on which a rope is sometimes fastened to make a swing), must be pollarded (not removed), as would the large oak on the railway side of the lake. Jill Manuel of the Dulwich Society’s trees committee sought clarification on several points. The task of interpreting the contractor’s notes continued the next day. The birch was not the small specimen (still alive) on the Wildlife Walk, but stood by the road. Rachel favoured putting mulch around the base of the two large oaks on the eastern field, to discourage disturbance. Angela Wilkes of the Dulwich
Society’s wildlife committee asked about the possibility of railings. She also raised issues about protocols for protecting bats, which will be pursued with relevant Southwark Officers.
New trees would be planted to replace felled specimens and the Friends were invited to consider what these trees might be and where they could be located. The meeting was re-assured by Rachel’s openness and expertise, and by the way that she was prepared to explain her decisions at as much length as necessary. She also told us a little about the methods used in modern arboriculture, so we departed knowing more than when we arrived, which is always a rewarding experience. No formal vote was taken, but the opinion of the meeting was clearly supportive of the plans. Our thanks to Rachel Jackson, Paul Highman and Robert Roach of LBS for giving us their time and for making the Francis Peak building in Dulwich Park available.
Martin Heath, Chair, Friends of Belair Park.