The Great North Wood was once a huge landscape of woodland and common grazing land, covering the hilly ridges to the north of Croydon and stretching towards the Thames at Deptford.
By the 20th century much of this wooded countryside had been lost to the growing city, but fragments remained in the form of small woodlands, parks and gardens, whilst new woodland has grown along railway embankments and in other green spaces.
Following a one-year pilot project, the London Wildlife Trust is now launching a four-year Great North Wood Living Landscape project.
The aim is to raise awareness of these important woodlands, made possible by funding of almost £700,000 from National Lottery Players through the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Trust will work with volunteers, community groups, local councils and other landowners, to raise awareness of this largely hidden and forgotten woodland, encouraging people to explore, enjoy and value the natural wealth on their doorsteps.
Conservation work will benefit some of the amazing wildlife that can still survives in these special spaces, such as woodpeckers, purple hairstreak butterfly, stag beetle, and hedgehog, alongside trees such as oak and hornbeam.
The Trust will be teaming up with local people to help them discover their neighbourhood nature, with family activities such as minibeast hunts and teddy bear picnics, opportunities for outdoor conservation work, wildlife surveying and guided walks.
Gordon Scorer, chief executive of London Wildlife Trust said: “Many Londoners don’t realise how wooded parts of London are, or how close they are to fresh air, nature and wildlife.
“The Trust will be working with hundreds of volunteers across five London boroughs, improving wildlife habitats and access, and showcasing these valuable and often majestic woodlands with local people.
“If you would like to be involved or find out more, just get in touch with the Great North Wood project team.”
Shirley Rodrigues, is deputy mayor for environment and energy at the Greater London Authority.
She said: “We’re proud to support this excellent project, which will help Londoners of all ages access and enjoy the Great North Wood.
“The Mayor is committed to making London the world’s first National Park City and has unveiled a range of measures to achieve help this, including a £9million Greener City Fund to plant more trees and improve green spaces in every neighbourhood.”
Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund, London, said: “The Great North Wood once stretched across south London and was an integral part of the development of London as a global city, providing wood for charcoal burning, construction and ship building.
“This project will protect, enhance, and celebrate the fragment sites, and allow a fantastic number of people to explore this fascinating woodland heritage.
“We are delighted that money from National Lottery players can help make this happen”.
The Great North Wood project officially launched last Monday, October 16, a date that marked the 30th anniversary of the Great Storm which battered England in 1987, uprooting an estimated 15 million trees.
Locally, the Great North Wood lost hundreds of trees during the storm, although in many ways this dramatic event led to a greater appreciation of our trees and woodlands.
Fortunately, nature is resilient, trees naturally regenerated and many others were planted, and these precious breathing spaces still provide sanctuary for both wildlife and those seeking space and fresh air in a crowded city.
The Great North Wood Living Landscape is being led by London Wildlife Trust. The project is supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, Mayor of London, Veolia Environmental Trust, The Dulwich Estate, and The Dulwich Society.
To find out more visit www.wildlondon.org.uk/great-north-wood
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