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Remnants of the Great North Wood in focus: Long Lane Wood

Posted: Monday 25th June 2018 by Edwin-Malins

Bluebells at Long Lane Wood (Sam Bentley-Toon)Bluebells at Long Lane Wood (Sam Bentley-Toon)

In the third of a series of blogs on the Great North Wood, project officer Edwin Malins explores Long Lane Wood, its southerly outpost

With the remaining fragments of the Great North Wood loosely spiralling around Crystal Palace and the Sydenham Ridge, Long Lane Wood is an intriguing outlier further to the south, loved by local people but largely unknown by the wider public.

London Wildlife Trust launched the Great North Wood project in 2017 and now works with volunteers, community groups, landowners, and councils, to revive and reimagine this ancient landscape as a home for nature and people.



Long Lane Wood is recorded on famous cartographer John Rocque's 1762 Map of Surrey, as well as Thomas Bainbridge’s 1800 Map of Croydon. Its 6ha (15 acres) extent has remained largely intact since, although fields that once bordered it have now been superseded by suburban sprawl. Unlike nearby areas of the Great North Wood which formed part of the Archbishop of Canterbury's estate, Long Lane Wood is thought to have belonged to nearby Ham Farm, later being absorbed into the Monks Orchard estate. Although this name might paint a poetic image of monastic woodland management, the name simply relates to a family called Monk from nearby Addington.

The area began to be developed into suburban housing in the 1920s and Long Lane Wood was purchased by the County Borough of Croydon in 1924 from F.E. Loyd for use as a public open space. This included the adjacent Bywood Avenue Bird Sanctuary which was designed to be an undisturbed counterpart to the public area of woodland.

Long Lane Wood (credit Daniel Greenwood)



Long Lane Wood is largely dominated by its tall and mostly even-aged stand of oaks. This is indicative of lapsed commercial timber management of these trees, a common theme across the Great North Wood. Other tree species of interest include mature field maples, patches of suckering English elm, aspen saplings with their characteristic trembling leaves, and a scattering of crab apples. Notably absent is hornbeam, usually found in tandem with oaks across the Great North Wood. It is possible that this may relate to past commercial management of the wood, with the harder hornbeam wood being less favoured for woodworking than oak.

Among the tall oaks are a number of dead and decaying trees, and credit must be given to the council for allowing these to remain standing since they provide significant habitat, especially for great-spotted woodpeckers. This is a characteristic species of the Great North Wood which can be heard drumming in the early spring. The distinctive 'yaffle' of the green woodpecker can also be heard as it forages around the wood.

The most striking ecological feature of the site is its magnificent English bluebell display in spring, a majestic carpet of blue and purple that is arguably unrivalled across the remaining fragments of the Great North Wood. English bluebell is indicative of ancient woodland (land that has been continuously wooded since 1600), as is the delicate wood anemone, another flower which is generously scattered throughout Long Lane Wood.

Wood anemone at Long Lane Wood (credit Sam Bentley-Toon)



Long Lane Wood is owned by the London Borough of Croydon, and since late 2017 the Trust's Great North Wood project team has been working on the site with volunteers from both the local community and further afield. Work has focused on removing bramble that has been swamping the array of English bluebell and removing the large quantities of rubbish and fly-tipping waste that have blighted the wood in recent years. Staff and volunteers recently worked on compiling a plant species list for the site and have also run seasonal wildlife walks for the general public.



Long Lane Wood is somewhat isolated from other remaining fragments of the Great North Wood, but is still accessible by public transport. The Croydon Tramlink runs nearby, stopping at Arena, and the nearest National Rail station is Elmers End. There are local buses that stop adjacent to the wood on Long Lane. A trip to Long Lane Wood could be very easily combined with a visit to nearby South Norwood Country Park.

Find Long Lane Wood on Google Maps


The Great North Wood project is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, the Mayor of London, Veolia Environmental Trust, Dulwich Estate, and Dulwich Society.  


Read Edwin-Malins's latest blog entries.


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