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.
As part of the Living Landscapes initiative, London Wildlife Trust was awarded a grant of nearly £700,000 from Heritage Lottery Fund to launch the Great North Wood project in June 2017.
London Wildlife Trust has been successful in securing funding for a new phase of the Great North Wood project from the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The Government's Green Recovery Challenge Fund was developed by Defra and its Arm's-Length Bodies. It is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission.
Seasonal spotter sheets and project leaflet
You can download our printable spotter sheets and leaflets about the Great North Wood below. Take them with you on your next visit to the Great North Wood - the leaflet includes a handy map. Why not save them on your phone and view them digitally?
Maybe you'll use them as a school group, with family or even with friends and enjoy discovering the different types of wildlife found in the Great North Wood.
Click on the images below to view and download the spotter sheets and leaflet.
The Great North Wood leaflet
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.
Life on the Hedge Podcast features the Great North Wood team
Listen to Life on the Hedge, a podcast from The Tree Council, and find out what it’s really like to have a career in nature from members of our fantastic Great North Wood project Team Chantelle and Max. They are also joined by colleague Bobbi Benjamin Wand who works in our youth programmes team and Cheryl Duerden, a forester and arborist.
Great North Wood - Woodland Management Toolkit
We have created a Great North Wood woodland management toolkit is aimed at landowners, land managers, community groups and local residents who either manage or have an aspiration to manage woodlands and greenspaces within the Great North Wood area.
The toolkit promotes a collaborative approach to managing sites within the Great North Wood and sets out principles and practises that, if adopted across sites, will lead to benefits for the wildlife and people that use them.
Blogs, News and Events from Great North Wood
Cleave To This Life - the power of music and nature
Mark Davies shares his story, celebrates the Great North Wood and discusses how music and nature can provide refuge during difficult…
Nature, Framed - an anthology of nature writing
This is a collection of ultra-short Thumbnail Nature pieces from a workshop I co-led on 26 February 2022 with Helen Jones, inspirational…
Song of ice and footprints - an anthology of nature writing
This is a collection of ultra-short Thumbnail Nature pieces from a workshop I co-led on 18 December 2021 with Rebecca Gibson, wildlife…
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.