Join the mailing list

Subscribe to our newsletter

Great North Wood on Twitter

The Great North Wood - fragments of a mighty woodland in south London

Sydenham Hill Wood nature reserve is part of the Great North WoodSydenham Hill Wood nature reserve is part of the 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

Great North Wood launch event at Brockwell Park

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.


Explore the Great North Wood

This map highlights the most significant remaining fragments of the Great North Wood, and the area it once covered.



What we're doing

Great North Wood launch at Brockwell Park

As part of the Living Landscapes initiative, the Trust was awarded a grant of nearly £700,000 from National Lottery Heritage 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. 

Great North Wood walk. Image credit Luca Migliore


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.


Aims for the Great North Wood 2017-2021

With the Great North Wood project now underway, these will be our main aims over the next four years:

  • 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.

Get involved with the Great North Wood

If you are interested in volunteering with the Great North Wood project or would like to find out more, email the project team on, or call 020 3897 6151.


Great North Wood on social media

Like Great North Wood on Facebook 

Camley Street is on TwitterFollow Great North Wood on Twitter

Funding the Great North Wood Living Landscape Project

The Great North Wood Living Landscape Project is predominantly funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund with further support from the Mayor of London, Veolia Environmental Trust, The Dulwich Estate, and The Dulwich Society