Five acres of trees, direct descendants of the Great North Wood, are coming back to life near Crystal Palace.
The land in Farquhar Road, SE19, will become the Dulwich Upper Wood City Nature Park. The new wood is managed by the Ecological Parks Trust, which was started from an idea of the Silver Jubilee London Celebrations Committee.
The purpose of the Trust, a registered charity, is to show how an area of city wasteland can be converted into a renewed natural refuge for plants and urban wildlife. Our environment is improved and we can be taught about natural history.
The warden Jonathan Mullard has attracted much favourable newspaper publicity as he is also warden of the William Curtis Ecological Park near Tower Bridge.
The woodland in Farquhar Road descends directly from the ancient forest of south-east England and the City Nature Park totals nearly five acres of land. Much of it was originally oak forest and the Great North Wood extended from New Cross to Croydon. The forests were valuable and parts were’coppiced’, so that trees were cut down for use every 10 years. One coppice was taken in turn each year and this woodland management technique is being reintroduced by the Trust.
When the Crystal Palace was re-erected on the ridge of Sydenham Hill in the 1850’s the High Level Station was built alongside it. On the slope next to the station an area of woodland partly escaped development, although some houses were built along its lower frontage to Farquhar Road named after the Secretary of the Crystal Palace Company. This area will become the park.
So far, work has been confined to clearing glades and removing the quantity of rubbish and undergrowth that accumulated over the years. Volunteers have been recruited from local groups; the Dulwich Society being especially involved.
The Abbey National Building Society has purchased the old site of the High Level Railway Station adjoining the upper part of the City Nature Park for housing. It is proposed to work in conjunction with the Abbey National in the construction of drainage and necessary buildings for the City Nature Park to benefit those carrying out field studies and sitework.
During the summer Jonathan Mullard conducted a group around. It was amazing to see how nature had taken over the large variety of wild flowers that abounded on the site of the former station. It was also a delight to see butterflies flitting around and in particular I noticed a Small Blue.
The Trust depends upon donations and grants for support and those interested are invited to become members, to contribute financially or just sign the visitors’ book. There is an interesting and informative leaflet obtainable price 40p which gives a brief history of the site compiled by the Dulwich Society.
Hilda M. Gilbert
The Norwood Review Edition #84. Published 1982