The Great North Wood

by Sam Bentley-Toon

Stretching from Deptford to Croydon, the Great North Wood was a vast tract of woodland and wooded commons that was implemental in the development of London It provided a source of charcoal for bakers and blacksmiths, tannin-rich oak bark for the tanning industry and timber for construction and ship-building. As the industrial revolution rendered these products obsolete the economic value of woodland waned, leading to destruction and urbanisation.

Streatham Common, once used by landless locals for grazing cattle, sat on the eastern boundary of the great wood. The site is now a designated Local Nature Reserve and the secondary woodland which covers the eastern part of the common is an important part of the matrix of woodland sites which forms the contemporary Great North Wood Living Landscape. These woodlands continue to support a rich ecosystem with rare dead-wood dwelling insects and a multitude of fungi, birds and small mammals, as well over 200 species of trees and plants.

Unfortunately a lack of management in some of these woodlands has led to critical threats to wildlife and to the continued existence of the woodlands themselves. Amongst these threats are erosion and trampling, encroachment by invasive plant species, fly-tipping and vandalism.

London Wildlife Trust’s new Heritage Lottery funded project: The Great North Wood will seek to address these threats by enlisting local people in efforts to manage woodland for wildlife. Working alongside the five borough councils which the project area encompasses as well as the Forestry Commission, the Greater London Authority and numerous Friends groups and community groups the project aims to make significant improvements to south London’s woodland environment. An extensive programme of community engagement events will allow a diverse audience to learn about and experience the woodland and remind people about the largely forgotten landscape of the Great North Wood.
Streatham Common Woodland is one of our 13 project sites. Throughout the four year span of the project we’ll be running public events on the common as well as working alongside Streatham Common Cooperative and Friends of Streatham Common to help better manage the woods for biodiversity.

To find out more about the project and how to get involved contact Sam (Project Development Officer) - [email protected]/07734 599288 or visit the Great North Wood online: 
Twitter @GreatNorthWood

Image of Great North Wood map as overlayed on London

​Click above to see larger image