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Bringing an ancient landscape back to life

Posted: Friday 8th September 2017 by trustadmin

Volunteers at Low Cross Wood, part of the Great North WoodVolunteers at Low Cross Wood, part of the Great North Wood

South London's ancient wooded landscape is making a comeback

Throughout the Middle Ages, across a large swathe of south London, an ancient wooded landscape provided timber, charcoal and firewood for the capital, and a home to wildlife and nature. 

The Great North Wood once covered the high ground between Deptford and Selhurst, and while much has been lost to urban development over the last century or so, echoes of the Wood still exist as a series of small woodlands, parks, cemeteries, sports grounds, railway embankments, and even back gardens. Although these sites no longer form one continuous natural habitat as they once did, all of them still provide a home for London’s wildlife.

The Great North Wood now falls under the ownership and control of many different landowners and managers, and is subject to a variety of modern pressures including overuse, fly-tipping and varying levels of care, but at London Wildlife Trust we are determined to ensure that this special Living Landscape is recognised and valued, before it is further degraded.

Over the next four years the Trust will be working with volunteers, community groups, landowners, and local councils, in a collaborative project reviving and reimagining the Great North Wood as a home for nature and people - in a modern urban landscape.

The Great North Wood project will raise awareness of this largely forgotten woodland, encouraging people to explore, enjoy and value the natural wealth on their doorsteps. With strong community involvement, it will focus on resident woodland species such as woodpeckers, purple hairstreak butterfly, stag beetle, oak and hornbeam trees; with surveying, guided walks, and family activities such as minibeast hunts and teddy bear picnics. Conservation work will also enhance ancient woodland areas and help people discover them.

This project is only possible thanks to a £699,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with further support from the Mayor of London, Veolia Environmental Trust, the Dulwich Estate, and Dulwich Society.

London Wildlife Trust will also be working closely with borough councils in Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham, and Southwark, throughout its duration.

You can visit and enjoy parts of the Great North Wood at woodland sites such as Dulwich Wood, Sydenham Hill Wood, One Tree Hill, Streatham Common and Grangewood Park. For more information on the project visit


This text was first published in London Wildlife Trust’s membership magazine Wild London in August 2017. For more information on joining the Trust click here.


Volunteer for the Great North Wood

Would you like to volunteer with the Great North Wood team? Workdays are taking place in eight woodland sites and will include practical conservation, wildlife surveying, and training. There are a mixture of weekday and weekend sessions which all run 11am-3:30pm. For more information email

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