Caring for our natural heritage

17 March 2021

Meet the Estate’s latest team member, local South Londoner and landscape adviser Oliver Stutter.

Local South Londoner and landscape adviser Oliver Stutter

Local South Londoner and landscape adviser Oliver Stutter

As a resident of Herne Hill for over 20 years, I’ve come to know well the unique ‘rus en urbe’ character of Dulwich, by cycling through the village, enjoying woodland walks or peering into gardens and along tree lined avenues from the top of a double decker bus. It is the trees and greenery of Dulwich that give the historic centre and surrounding neighbourhoods their essential appeal; somewhere that really does deserve being called the urban forest.

The apparently timeless nature of playing fields, fine listed buildings, and ‘bone structure’ is deceptive, however. That’s because the green framework of open spaces and veteran trees need as careful management and upkeep as the built environment, whilst something called shifting baseline perception can lead you to presume that where there was once a mighty elm, a bare stretch of tarmac is now the natural state.

When thinking about what I can bring to the area as an arboriculture specialist, my first thoughts were the way it had changed whilst I had lived in the area, what residents, businesses and visitors think are important, and what managers responsible for its look and feel can achieve.

Chief amongst those is an understanding not just of the importance of preserving Dulwich’s green heritage, but how it needs to be planned for and considered within new development, especially through replacement planting schemes and landscape maintenance.

Elsewhere, continuing to ensure the Estate's trees and woods are managed and enjoyed safely is paramount, whilst recognising that there is a balance to be made between managing risk and providing amenity.

The effects of drought and other more frequent extreme weather events, together with new and more prevalent pests and diseases, will unavoidably result in a greater strain on mature trees. The heat waves we experienced over the last few years are likely to be the norm by the time trees planted now just begin to contribute to making open spaces pleasant to be in.

As spring, and the recovery from the pandemic, gather pace, I very much look forward to meeting residents and working with the Estate to help plan a green strategy for the future so that its best loved features; its woods, mature avenues, ancient oaks and well-tended landscaping, continue to lend Dulwich its special character.

Oliver is responsible for maintenance on The Dulwich Estate’s managed land. Tony George continues to advise on trees within the Scheme of Management. Call 020 8299 1000 for further information and appointments.