Sydenham Hill Wood Local Nature Reserve (LNR), together with the adjacent Dulwich Wood, forms the largest remaining parcel of the old Great North Wood that once stretched from Selhurst to Deptford. The woodlands were managed as a system of coppice with standards until the Croydon Enclosure Acts and selling of estates that took place from the late 18th Century. Forming the main path through the wood is the trackbed of the former Crystal Palace High Level Railway Line, which opened in 1865. By the 1870s several large Victorian villas with extensive gardens were established on Sydenham Hill that incorporated large areas of the woodland. The railway closed in 1954 and the last villa was demolished in 1982, in the same year that London Wildlife Trust began to manage the site. The composition of the wood has been greatly influenced by its interesting social history resulting in a unique mix of ancient woodland plants and trees, Victorian garden relicts and recent secondary woodland.
Floral surveys have revealed that the wood contains over 200 species of trees and flowering plants, which include wild garlic (Allium ursinum), bluebell (Hyacynthoides non- scripta), sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)and early dog violet (Viola reichenbachiana). A lichen survey last winter discovered Physcia stellaris; a new record for London. The wood is also host to almost 250 different species of fungi and a multitude of birds and elusive woodland mammals, including hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) and woodmice (Apodemus sylvaticus). Nighttime surveys have found 7 species of bat feeding in and around the wood. Last year London Wildlife Trust set up a butterfly transect and recorded 21 species of butterfly, including the impressive silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia), and an ongoing invertebrate survey has so far turned up a Red Data book pink eyed fly (Paraclusia tigrina) and a ‘Nationally Scarce’ leafhopper (Issus muscaeiformis). There must be countless more fascinating discoveries to be made.
Many of the wildlife surveys that the Trust carries out in Sydenham Hill Wood involve the help of volunteers. This spring and summer surveys will include small mammal surveys, regular bat surveys and we will continue our weekly butterfly survey. London Wildlife Trust also engages volunteers in practical conservation activities in Sydenham Hill Wood every Wednesday and every second and fourth Sunday of the month, with additional days as necessary. We run a range of activities such as seasonal habitat management including scrub clearance, coppicing and also other tasks such as path maintenance, public events and formal education sessions. Over the next couple of months volunteer sessions will include bat hibernation surveys of the old railway tunnel, installing handrails, rebuilding muddy paths, and planting a species-rich hedge along Cox’s Walk. Volunteer sessions are open to all adults, no experience is required- just a love of nature!
We have a comprehensive programme of events planned for 2011, with approximately one event per month aimed at a range of age groups and interests. The events will include a Dawn Chorus event in April, a Minibeast Safari in May and a Wildflower Walk in June. Details of all events will be published on the events page on our London Wildlife Trust website up to one month in advance.
I have been managing the wood since November 2009 so I am lucky to have experienced the wood and its changing flora and fauna through all seasons. Thanks to funding from Natural England we have developed four seasonal trails for all the family, which will soon be available to download and print from the Sydenham Hill Wood Nature Reserve page on our website.
For more information about Sydenham Hill Wood, volunteering or events please contact:
Ashley White, Sydenham Hill Wood Manager