The Great North Wood, which once bordered Brixton and places like Brockwell Park, is to be “revived and reimagined” with the help of nearly £700,000 of National Lottery money.
The London Wildlife Trust will use £699,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to work with volunteers, community groups, landowners, and local councils, in a four-year project.
An ancient wooded landscape that covered a large area south of London provided timber, charcoal and firewood for the capital and a home to wildlife throughout the Middle Ages.
The Great North Wood once covered the high ground between Deptford on the Thames and Selhurst near Croydon. Much is now lost to urban development, but echoes of the Wood exist in small woodlands, parks, cemeteries, sports grounds, railway embankments and even back gardens.
While these sites no longer form a single habitat, all of them still provide a home for wildlife.
They are owned and controlled by many landowners and managers and subject to pressures such as overuse, fly-tipping and inconsistent management.
The trust says it is determined to ensure that this special “Living Landscape” is recognised and valued before it is lost forever.
It defines a Living Landscape as one in which wildlife-rich sites are linked to create a dynamic and robust landscape for wildlife in the long term, while also benefiting the health and wellbeing of local communities.
Over four years the trust will work with volunteers, community groups, landowners, and local councils, in a project “to revive and reimagine the Great North Wood as a home for nature and people in a modern urban landscape”.
It will encourage local residents to explore, enjoy and value the natural wealth on their doorsteps.
“With strong community involvement,” says the trust, “it will focus on resident woodland species such as woodpeckers, purple hairstreak butterflies, stag beetles, oak and hornbeam trees”.
It will also conduct surveys and organise guided walks and family activities such as minibeast hunts and teddy bears’ picnics.
As well as the Heritage Lottery Fund, support will come from the Mayor of London, Veolia Environmental Trust, the Dulwich Estate, and Dulwich Society.
London Wildlife Trust will work with councils in Lambeth, Bromley, Croydon, Lewisham and Southwark.
Significant remnants of the Great North Wood can be found at places like Streatham Common, Dulwich Wood, Sydenham Hill Wood, One Tree Hill and Grangewood Park.
Sam Bentley-Toon, the trust’s Great North Wood project officer, said the project would boost South London’s natural heritage and encourage Londoners to value, enjoy and care for help their local wildlife hotspots.
Stuart Hobley, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in London, said: “This project will protect, enhance, and celebrate the remnant 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.”