London is one of the greenest cities in the world – 47% of its area is green space and there are eight million trees, making it the world’s largest urban forest, and now there is a new campaign to make London the world’s first ‘National Park City’. South London is fortunate in having a large number of parks, commons and other areas where nature can flourish – we’re going to look at some of the wonderful and diverse areas where we can enjoy those green spaces.
We start with Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods, the largest remnants of the ancient forest of the Great North Wood (the origin of the word Norwood) which occupied much of the land on and around the ridge stretching from Grangewood Park, Norwood through Crystal Palace, Forest Hill and on to Brockley. Although there are two woods, it is in fact one continuous area of woodland, starting at Cox’s Walk near the junction of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane, and going up to Sydenham Hill Station at the other end.
However, the two woods have different recent histories since the building of the Crystal Palace High Level Line in 1865, which split the woods into two parts. The course of the old railway track, taken up in 1954, is still visible, along with the Crescent Wood Tunnel entrance (the other entrance can be seen from Crystal Palace Parade, looking down over the wall). The whole area is owned by the Dulwich Estate, who manage Dulwich Wood, and lease Sydenham Hill Wood to the London Wildlife Trust (via Southwark Council) who’ve managed it since 1982. Sydenham Hill Wood now enjoys protected status as a Local Nature Reserve.
A walk through these woods is one of the loveliest in south London, with a wide variety of trees including oak and hornbeam, and plentiful bird life, as well as different species of bats. Part of the woods was once the grounds of Victorian villas on Sydenham Hill, so relics of gardens abound, including a ‘monkey puzzle’ tree. After a good walk, thirst can be quenched at the Wood House on Crescent Wood Road.
If you’re interested in nature why not join the London Wildlife Trust, either as a supporter or an active member, helping to manage nature reserves such as this. You can also get involved with the campaign to make London a National Park City. Lets green the city!