I’ll start with an introduction: my name is Rachel Dowse and I’m the new London Wildlife Trust conservation project officer for Sydenham Hill Wood. I took over from the previous project officer Daniel Greenwood in July, and have been getting stuck in getting to know the wood, its wildlife and its very special character. I’m already quite familiar with the Dulwich area, as previously I was the Lost Effra project officer at London Wildlife, which involved creating flood-preventing and wildlife friendly gardens along the route of the now-underground River Effra, which used to flow through Dulwich!

Not everyone thinks of visiting the woods in winter, but those that do are rewarded with a landscape transformed from the lush vegetation of summer. Bare branches mean birds become far easier to spot - in November and December we caught sight of jays, greater spotted woodpeckers and even the elusive goldcrests and firecrests - the UK’s smallest birds - who spend their winters in Sydenham Hill and Dulwich woods. Their tiny bodies, hovering almost like hummingbirds, and striking orange or gold crests that give them their name make these birds a really special sight for 32

As part of London Wildlife Trust’s Heritage Lottery Funded Great North Wood project, electronic gate counters have been installed on four of the entrances to Sydenham Hill and Dulwich woods, and thanks to them we know that the cold and mud didn’t put many visitors off, with a huge uptick during the week after Christmas. It’s great to know that so many people spent the holiday period enjoying nature on their doorstep!

Hopefully those visitors appreciated the hard work of our dedicated volunteers over this period. We’ve been building dead hedges alongside paths to protect the delicate woodland understorey from being trampled. This involves hammering stakes into the ground and weaving branches through to create not only a barrier, but also a brilliant habitat for insects, small mammals and even some birds! They’re also quite beautiful, and we’ve had lots of lovely comments from passers-by!

For those interested in the work of the Great North Wood project on One Tree Hill, 2018 saw the first full survey season of butterfly transects at One Tree Hill and Brenchley Gardens, these weekly surveys will continue in 2019. Great North Wood staff and volunteers at One Tree Hill will also be working to clear the few remaining invasive shrubs, restore areas of acid grassland, clear space around the site’s veteran trees and run a series of events at this well-loved site.

As we move into Spring, be sure to keep your eyes peeled in the wood for delicate wildflowers starting to emerge, and listen out for birdsong beginning to increase as birds stake out their territories ready for the breeding season. You might even hear the drumming of a woodpecker echoing through the wood - this noise is the male greater and lesser spotted woodpeckers’ way of announcing its presence to any females!

If you’d like to get involved with volunteering at Sydenham Hill wood, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you’re interested in volunteering with the Great North Wood team at various sites around South London, including Dulwich Wood, Low Cross wood and One Tree Hill, please email Sam Bentley-Toon and Edwin Malins at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Between the two projects there are volunteering opportunities every day of the week except Monday, so why not come along and get stuck in!

Rachel Dowse

Woodpecker Walk, One Tree Hill,
Wednesday, 20th March - 8:00am - 9:30am
Join us for a guided walk to explore the fascinating world of woodpeckers (and other feathered creatures).
Meet by the gates of St Augustine's Church. This event is offered free as part of the Great North Wood project and there is no need to book.
Contact details Tel: 07734 599286 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dawn chorus walk in Sydenham Hill Wood
Saturday 20th April - 5:00am - 7:00am
Join us for an early morning bird walk in the woods. We'll be looking and listening out for the many species of birds that use the woods at this time of year.
Meeting point is inside the southern entrance to Sydenham Hill Wood on Crescent Wood Road, by the noticeboard. There is no need to book and the walk is free.
Contact details Tel: 079 7131 5245 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Spring walk at Sydenham Hill Wood
Thursday 25th April- 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Guided walk in Sydenham Hill Wood to find spring wildlife. Celebrate the coming of spring in London's ancient woodlands!
Meeting point is inside the southern entrance to Sydenham Hill Wood on Crescent Wood Road, by the noticeboard. There is no need to book and the walk is free.
Contact details Tel: 079 7131 5245 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The Dulwich Society - Registered under the Charities Act 1960, Number 234192

The Society’s aims and objectives are to foster and safeguard the amenities of Dulwich, both in the interests of its residents and the wider local community of which it is a part, and to increase awareness of the varied character that makes the area so special.

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