Daniel Greenwood

I am living with the animals

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Trees: Old field boundaries of Dulwich Park, Southwark, London, September 2016
Species: English oak, Quercus robur
Age: Between 200-500 years?
Status: Fair

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This sizeable boundary oak lost a limb in a recent storm but it should be able to recover. It’s important to remember that many ancient trees lose their heartwood through storm damage, lightning strikes or by other means. It is also very pleasing to see that the fallen limb has been left to decay next to the tree. Southwark Council are generally good at doing this where conservation policies make it to grounds maintenance.

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One of the more intriguing trees is this heavily belted pollard oak. I like to call it the toilet oak. It has put on a lot of bulgewood over the centuries as it’s had to reach out to the light. My images are slightly distorted by the 10-24mm wide angle lens I use, seen in the lean of the toilet block. It seems in fair condition despite the erosion around its base, likely from the soles of children’s shoes as they climb it.

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In the fenced nature reserve area is a neat line of former field boundary oaks from the time of farmland smallholdings, likely dating further back to when this was Dulwich Common. These oaks also show a great deal of bulgewood from the interal shifting of the tree’s woody fibres as it has reached out towards the light. They once grew in full sunlight, undeterred.

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The one nearest the gate has all the signs of recovering from lost limbs, epicormic growth and the need to put on bulgewood. Immediate trouble for this tree is coming from the yew growing on the right hand side.

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It’s an impressive pollard, probably about 300 years old. It is reaching for the light outside the nature reserve.

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The furthest oak has lost one of its limbs and has a large wound in the heart of the tree. I can’t underline enough how important this is as a habitat feature for the fungi and invertebrates. It is a major wound but it should be able to recover over time now that the excess weight has been lost.

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The largest of the oaks is this fine one next to the boating lake. I remember this well from childhood (decades not centuries). It has fairly complete leaf cover, so few signs of stress despite its closeness to the path and amenities.

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The trunk shows the bulge of a former limb, the buttresses at the base holding the tree steady. When I photographed the oak it had been marked by the business card of a commercial dog walker.

Oaks of London archive
I’m leading a tree walk at Dulwich Park on Saturday 29th October 2016 
Dulwich Society
Dulwich Park Friends
My oaks of London gallery on Flickr

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5 Responses to “Oaks of London: Rural remnants of Dulwich Park”

  1. Paul Millington

    Very interesting information about the Boundary Oaks. There is also a line of oaks that run alongside the children’s playground. There are 6 old oaks and 3 more recent

    Reply
  2. Richly Evocative

    My children always climb into the ‘toilet oak’ whenever we’re in Dulwich park. It’s so broad at about 4 feet up, three of us can comfortably sit there. Nice to see it get a mention as part of your project. There’s a fine Oak in Crystal Palace park too, in case
    haven’t already noted it – near the footbridge over the lake/weir.

    Reply
    • D. Greenwood

      Hi, thanks for commenting! Yes I climbed it as well when I was a kid (I think), and know people in their forties who still do. I think it’s 500 years old.

      Do you mean the oak near the dinosaurs in Crystal Palace? It’s a fine tree, sadly looking to be suffering from the path work around the and lack of protection. We measured it and think it’s 250-300. So a relic of Penge Common.

      Daniel

      Reply

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