Great North Wood
South of the River Thames, an ancient landscape of woodland and wooded commons once covered the high ground between Deptford and Selhurst.
The Great North Wood is a sprawling ancient landscape that gradually became fragmented by the development of south London's suburbs – but whose name lives on in districts such as Norwood, Gipsy Hill, Forest Hill and Penge (‘edge of wood’).
Once stretching for several miles between the Thames and Croydon, today the Wood consists of a series of small woodlands, parks, cemeteries, sports grounds, railway embankments and gardens – all of which provide a home for nature within a modern urban landscape.
The Great North Wood now has the potential to grow again, to act as a rich wildlife and natural heritage resource for Londoners, and a more effective ‘green lung’ to clean the air and provide a place for people to relax and enjoy.
There are around 20 woodlands or wooded areas where you can still see green woodpeckers high in the trunks of oak trees and purple hairstreak butterflies floating among the leaves.
What we're doing
As part of the Living Landscapes initiative, the Trust was awarded a grant of nearly £700,000 from Heritage Lottery Fund to launch the Great North Wood project in June 2017. Over four years the Trust will work 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 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 butterflies, stag beetles, 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.
Further support for the project comes from the Mayor of London, Veolia Environmental Trust, the Dulwich Estate, and Dulwich Society.
Brief history of the Great North Wood
Stretching from Selhurst at its southern limit to Deptford near the Thames in the north, trees such as sessile oak and hornbeam dominated the Wood.
Throughout the Middle Ages it had a history of strong ownership by local people and was managed for timber (including shipbuilding), charcoal, tannin (for Bermondsey’s leather-making industries), as well as firewood.
The Industrial Revolution and the Enclosure Acts from the late 18th Century onwards led to the Great North Wood losing its economic validity, and much of it was partitioned and sold off for housing development.
Project aims 2017-2021
- Train 250 volunteers in practical woodland conservation;
- Carry out habitat improvements to 13 woodland sites;
- Deliver 975 metres of path improvements at eight woodland sites;
- Train 250 volunteers in wildlife identification and monitoring techniques;
- Monitor the five key woodland species; hornbeam, oak, purple hairstreak butterfly, stag beetle, woodpecker;
- Help 208 people attain their John Muir Award;
- Create new and improved interpretation materials for Great North Wood sites;
- Deliver a community outreach programme for 5,060 people, including group visits, heritage skills workshops, and guided wildlife walks and talks;
- Deliver regular outdoor learning sessions for primary schoolchildren and create a teaching resource pack to support independent visits;
- Organise and host a woodland festival at a different site each year, plus an annual smartphone photography competition;
- Host a family learning programme with drop-in activities including mini-beast hunts and woodland arts and crafts.
Explore the Great North Wood
Discover London's history and walk in the footsteps of generations gone by with our Great North Wood Go Jauntly walking trails.
There are different routes to choose from to explore the ancient woodlands and get your dose of forest bathing.
If you're exploring the Great North Wood, why not document what you find along the way! You could win a meal for two at the Great North Wood pub as well as see your image printed in a calendar series.
The only rules to the competition are that photos need to be taken in and around the Great North Wood (woodlands, parks, gardens, cemeteries and surrounding streets) of wildlife or people interacting with wildlife.
They don't have to be super high resolution - or taken with a fancy camera, phone photos are fine.
Take a look last year's winning images for inspiration.
News and Events
Biggin Wood Woodpecker Walk
The perfect half-term and family-friendly woodland walk, learning about the two species of woodpecker that can be found at Biggin Wood…
Great North Wood Walk - Streatham Common to Crystal Palace Park
A guided walk through several fragments of the Great North Wood.
Autumn Wildlife Walk at Sydenham Hill Wood
Enjoy the Autumn colours of Sydenham Hill Wood, London Wildlife Trust's oldest reserve, and learn about trees, fungi and more.
Blogs and Tweets from Great North Wood
Find out more
If you are interested in volunteering with the Great North Wood project or would like to find out more you can get in touch with the project team or sign up to our mailing list below:
Call 020 3897 6151 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org