Sexiest place for outdoor lovers

Sydenham Hill WoodsAccording to the Evening Standar, Sydenham Hill Woods rate as one of the top ten places in London for people who love the outdoors.

Sydenham Hill Wood once belonged to the Abbey of Bermondsey and formed a chain called the Great North Wood linking New Cross with Norwood Common. The wood is the last of the Dulwich coppices – oak woods which went from Selhurst to Brockley. In the 17th Century, the woods were acquired by Edward Alleyn and devolved to Dulwich College. Alleyn had 10 coppices on the hill and they were managed by the Estate and leased out. By the end of the 19th Century however, the Board of Governors was developing the ridge for housing and a railway line was cut through to Crystal Palace. The woods have been managed by the London Wildlife Trust since 1982 although it is still owned by Dulwich Estates, and now incorporate the grounds of several demolished houses as well as the old railway line to Crystal Palace High Level station. The wood remains ancient woodland, despite the railway, and together with Dulwich Wood to the west of it (separated by a row of green posts – private access), is the largest surviving fragment of the Great North Wood.

The wood has winding paths on a steep hillside and can be entered from Cox’s Walk footbridge or Crescent Wood Road. The nature reserve is on a steep clay hillside and is dominated by sessile oak and hornbeam but there are several glades where the under storey is holly and hazel. The wood is home to over 200 species of trees and flowering plants including wild garlic, early dog violet and bugle. The wood is also home to a multitude of fungi, rare insects, birds and elusive woodland mammals. Talking a stroll along Cox’s Walk you’ll find an old avenue lined with oaks and, if you look closely, you may well spot nuthatch and green woodpecker. Other species are leopard slugs, rare spiders, wasps & flies, and stag beetles. There are bluebells, wood sorrel, lesser celandine and wild garlic growing close to the former railway with Foxgloves and red campion close to a small pond, which can flood in winter and there is a damp hollow of uncertain origin. A cedar of Lebanon is a relic of the plants in the grounds of the demolished Victorian housing.

There are springs near the junction of Crescent Wood Road and Sydenham Hill – the highest springs in the arc of the whole hill range. These run into a small stream in the woods to the west of and parallel with the trackbed of the railway. This is called the Ambrook and is a tributary of the River Effra.

There are two entrances to the wood; one on Crescent Wood off Sydenham Hill and the other on Cox’s Walk by the Harvester pub.