We asked Ian Holt, of Sydenham Hill Wood Local Nature Reserve (London Wildlife Trust) to recount a typical day in the life of the Warden.

The post arrives with a request from a student to carry out the filming of an interactive movie, a project based upon the unfinished novel Azathoth by H.P Lovecraft (not one I know), a quick scan through Southwark planning applications and off to a meeting with Angus.

Angus is a local man that happens to work in the conservation of historic buildings and monuments. A slightly unusual person for me to be meeting you might think but within the Wood is a folly, a relic from the Victorian gardens which once stretched from grand villas on Sydenham Hill down to the now abandoned Nunhead to Crystal Palace High Level Railway. On our way to the Wood we cross the top end of the Sydenham Hill Estate where I look to check that the slope adjacent to the reserve has been left un-mown. An agreement with Southwark Housing supported by the Boroughs Ecology Officer has led to a buffer zone being established where the bluebells spreading from the reserve can be allowed to bloom for the benefit of wildlife and residents alike. A pleasant surprise then to see a colony of previously unrecorded Wood Anemone is flowering now that they have been spared the blade.

The folly looks like a ruined stone church, but on closer inspection a brick and render construction is revealed. For some time I have been concerned that the folly may be deteriorating due to its age, weathering, and the number of children which regularly climb upon it, not to mention old rumours of robed figures holding service of an evening. Angus not having been to this part of the Wood before is pleasantly surprised by the find and immediately points out the high standard of craftsmanship and sets about trying to assess any damage or potential weaknesses in the structure. Bits of masonry are scattered around the main body of the folly and each has to be looked at in detail as we try to work out which piece belongs where. We quickly find the missing section of the arched doorway but what we cannot tell is whether it is where it should be, or not. It is difficult to assess the condition of something meant to look like a ruin, how much is decay as opposed to design? Angus suggests that it would have been built as a complete arch but whether it was then deliberately smashed apart by the builders or whether it has fallen due to another mishap we cannot tell as of yet. More research is needed and any old photographs of the folly would be greatly appreciated for this purpose.

Unfortunately there is no time to enjoy the bird song or spring flowers today as I have to leave the Wood and return to the office. The reserve's new management plan is taking longer to write than expected and the deadline for a funding bid is looming large. However I look forward to a whole day in the Wood with the volunteers tomorrow.

At a Dawn Chorus walk in Sydenham Hill Woods in late April, the following list of birds were heard or seen: Robin (first bird sound at 0405 hrs), Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Tawny Owl (at least 4 birds), Woodpigeon, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Green Woodpecker, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (drumming), Treecreeper, Jay, Blackcap, Mallard.

If you would like to support Sydenham Hill Wood and the work of The London Wildlife Trust join us. Details can be found at wildlondon.org.uk or by calling 020 7261 0447 mentioning Sydenham Hill Wood.


London Wildlife Trust values and needs your support in order to maintain reserves like Sydenham Hill Wood. A victim of its own success, Sydenham Hill Wood desperately needs to upgrade footpaths and erect internal fencing and educational signs to protect its plant and animals.

This July the London Wildlife Trust (LWT) has 12 runners in the British London 10K Run and aims to raise £10,000 for their work to protect wildlife in London.

For further information about the London 10K run and possible sponsorship (and running) opportunities, please contact Sydenham Hill Wood volunteer, Sarah Eldred on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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