Dulwich Park - A Queens Park but Not a Royal Park (Part 1)

Posted by @NEILMUIR1 on
Dulwich was known to exist as a hamlet in 967AD and the word Dulwich in old English literally means "where dill grows." In the later Victorian era 'American Gardens' were becoming popular so an "American Garden' was designed in 1887 and opened to the public in 1890. Queen Mary enjoyed her visits here to see the Rhododendrons and Azaleas; she in fact made an annual visit every year in May! Although a much loved park by Queen Mary, it is not a Royal Park like our eight Royal Parks in and around London.

Dulwich was recorded as having a population of 100 in 1333 AD it has changed a bit since then, but not like other places. The village is astonishing; it is like stepping back into the 18th or 19th century, and yet it is only six miles from the bustling city of London. The park itself is part of the village and community life, and rightly so. The park was at first the work of Charles Barry (Jnr.) in 1884, but was taken over and refined by Lt. Colonel J.J.Sexby in 1887.  Sexby designed the Planting of an 'American Garden'. It was designed for sweeping lawns and Azaleas and Rhododendrons plus other acid loving plants which were then arriving from the eastern United States. Many of the plants today are original from that time. As you walk in one of the gates a towering cedar awaits you and then the start of Rhododendrons, Azaleas and other things begins!

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So many trees and so many Rhododendrons and Azaleas grow in 72 acres of southeast London. Unfortunately some had been hit by the late frost we had. But with thousands to chose from it was a case of capturing photos of what I could, while dodging the rain and volcanic ash. The Park was awarded a grant and was refurbished in 2006 back to the Victorian standards; irrigation was put in for the Rhododendrons which were suffering in the droughts. It went on to win a Green Flag Award.

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Near some yew trees the understory had flowering Hollies, Ilex aquifolium and Rhododendron ponticum happily growing.

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Although the 'American Garden' has amazing sights like these everywhere, it is said that Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson had an influence on the design.

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The colours as far as the eye can see are stunning and it is quite easy to see why Queen Mary came to vist in May!  Queen Mary even has a gate to the Park named after her.

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I was getting lost in the little dells that are in the park, absorbed by the mass of everything. After getting these two photos I went to get some fresh air and to see the sweeping bits.

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The trouble with this remarkable place is that it has everything for everybody and you are constantly stopping to admire some other wondrous thing. The plant in the picture on the right is in fact Bell Heather and not a Rhododendron.

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I love these sweeping 'Rooms' as I call them, for you are constantly steered around into different bits of beauty! The small tree on the left is common all over the Park, it is a silver birch or Betula pendula.

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Then as you walk around another corner a space opens up and there is a huge blue cedar by a lake, or a massive oak! A lot of the boundary oaks are far older than the park and the amount of stunningly beautiful trees everywhere left me wanting more. This Park did not let me down on that matter! Wait for Part 2.

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To my surprise there were two members of the pea family looking beautiful in the same place! Laburnum anagyroides and Wisteria floribunda 'Macrobotrys' are both quite stunning.

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Suddenly the sound of trickling water could be heard. I had seen the wildlife lake and the boating lake but where was this coming from or going to? A water garden was the answer! I saw this amazing Japanese maple with a wisteria underneath it on the bridge. Looking over the bridge this is one bit of the sight I got, a drake surfing in the stream!

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On the side of this tiny stream are some wonderful tulips with a small Paperbark maple, Acer griseum and some Bergenia. Unfortunately there are no names on the plants at all in the park so the Rhododendrons are just impossible to find anything about!

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Then another flash of orange was followed by some long thinking!  To me the next plant looked liked purple variegated Japanese knotweed.  I asked a gardener and it is; he assures me it is not invasive and does not breed with the normal knotweed. I simply do not trust that stuff whatsoever.

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Some of you may have noticed a sand track going round the 'American Garden' and other places. This is for Horse and Pony riders as the Park has private stables near it and as no cars are allowed in the Park, it is a safe place to learn to ride! Whilst going over the wildlife walkway this little Coot had just hatched, the egg yolk can be clearly seen on his\hers head.

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This wonderful Drake Mallard was not posing for me! He was showing off his strength to a very not interested female. Finally I leave you with these picture as there are a lot of other pictures and things to do to before the next article on this busy Park: its Pavillion Cafe, wildlife gardens, Friends of the Park, planting help, more bird pictures, cycle hire and the Victorian-must-go-to fun fair.

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I do hope that you have enjoyed a bit of your visit to this exceptional place. To my American friends who I know read my Articles; who would beleive you if you told them we have an 'American Garden' built in 1887 and often visited by the then Queen six miles from the City of London!

Here are some links: Dulwich Park.

Dulwich Park Friends.

The Pavillion Cafe. A must for a cup of tea, a lunch or breakfast!

Part 2 on the Park.

A map is available on the top link!

 My thanks to the keen and knowledgable Gardeners I met, it is indeed a credit to your hard work that this wonderful and majestic Park is what it is, simply beautiful! Plus to the Friends of the Park, I admire your charitable and indeed other hard work for this remarkable place.




For Nancy.


Comments and discussion:
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Just Too-Too Beautiful by Happy_1 May 21, 2010 9:36 PM 6
Thank you! by Dutchlady1 May 20, 2010 10:33 PM 2
Dulwich Park, by murielw1 May 20, 2010 4:45 AM 4
Amazing history by mekos May 18, 2010 12:57 PM 13
Beautiful! As always by Ridesredmule May 18, 2010 9:28 AM 1

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