Less well known than Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Wood is Dulwich Upper Wood in Farquhar Road. The present day shape of Dulwich Upper Wood can be traced back to the Great North Wood and the rapid land-use changes within the Crystal Palace area since the mid 1800s. From the 12th to the 15th century the Manor of Dulwich, the area which today contains the wood, belonged to the Abbot of Bermondsey. The Manor stretched for more than two miles from Herne Hill to the southern tip of Sydenham Ridge. This was mostly covered by mixed Oak woodland and was part of the Great North Wood which then extended from New Cross to Croydon. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1542, he had the Dulwich estate surveyed. In 1605 the Manor was sold to Edward Alleyn, who later set up the College of Gods Gift which today owns Dulwich Upper Wood. In the woodland there are two old Woodland boundaries, a line of Ancient Coppiced and Pollarded trees and a ditch marking the subdivisions of the Great North Wood.
In 1852 the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park (The Crystal Palace) was re-erected on the ridge of Sydenham Hill. With the Crystal Palace came the High Level Railway Station and residential roads. It was at this time that eight large houses with gardens were built along the east side of Farquhar Road.
In 1936 the Crystal Palace burnt down and thereafter the area went into decline. The High Level Railway Station fell into disuse and was demolished and prefabs were erected on the vacant site. Some of the Victorian houses were bombed during World War II and others were neglected. By 1960 most of the site was overgrown and only number 18 Farquhar Road was still lived in. The basements of the houses can still be seen today and have become an important feature of the wood.
In 1981 the Dulwich Society, together with the Greater London Council and the London Borough of Southwark (who lease the Wood from the Dulwich Estate) arranged for the Trust for Urban Ecology (then the Ecological Parks Trust) to manage the wood as a Nature Reserve. Spinney Gardens Housing Estate was built in 1986 replacing the prefabs, with Bowley Lane linking it to Farquhar Road. This link road cut through the southern section of the wood separating a small triangle of land from the rest of the wood.
Since 1988 a number of improvements have been made to the site to enhance wildlife value, improve educational facilities and disabled access. This includes the Fungi & Fern Gardens developed in the basements and a Pond/Marsh area. A grant was obtained in 2003 to renovate the Terraces/Wild area.
A new Woodland Centre is being built on the site using Traditional Oak building techniques; this will be a focus for the site and increase educational and community use. In 2010 a Woodland Food Garden was created at the end of the wood to show Shaded Gardening, where our food comes from, and wild edible plants.
A name change means that The Conservation Volunteers Urban Ecology now manage the Wood that has also been designated by Natural England & Southwark Council as a Local Nature Reserve.
Over the last two years we managed to gain a Green Flag Community Award for the wood with a very strong likelihood it will be repeated this year. We are pleased to be part of a nationwide scheme that recognises good practice and management for parks and wildlife sites.
We were fortunate to get a grant of £5000 from “Cleaner Greener Safer” Southwark council for “Greening the Portakabin” - we aim to cover the outside with green walls consisting of varied insect habitats and places for shade loving plants to grow out of the wall. We will also put on a green roof with ferns & possibly sedges. As well as providing habitats this will insulate the Portakabin, help with security and the visual appeal. Also for security we will be putting in some Bat Friendly lighting.
The Friends of Dulwich Upper Wood & The Conservation Volunteers have a blog type in Dulwichupperwoodfriendsblog to reach it. The Conservation Volunteers also have a website where you can find out more about volunteering and the work that we do. www.tcv.org.uk
From a sightings perspective we have had all three Woodpeckers, and Tree Creepers seen in the last year. Stag Beetles are out in the wood at the moment with a number of sightings of this endangered species and because of the amount of Dead Wood on the site, these numbers are likely to keep increasing.
Some interesting Fungi are already emerging this year and come autumn this will increase as the site has records of over 400 different species.
Site Manager Dulwich Upper Wood LNR