An ancient wood in south London has been saved for the public

Locals in Lewisham have raised £100,000 to buy an area of woodland that they hope to reopen as a public park. The ancient forest in Brockley was at risk of being sold to developers, but locals, with the help of Lewisham Council, have managed to save it.

Gorne Wood in Brockley was originally leased to nearby residents as a ‘thank you’ to local Scouts who patrolled railway bridges in the area during the First World War. The park was taken out of public use in the 1980s after being sold privately. Since then, it’s fallen into disrepair after the Scouts were evicted from the site in 2004 – it’s now a hotspot for fly-tipping, sex workers and drug use. At risk of redevelopment the wood was crucially designated as ‘ancient woodland’, after maps from the seventeenth-century proved that the area had been continuously wooded for more than 400 years. 

Gorne Wood is the closest surviving area of ancient woodland to the City of London. Spanning three acres, it’s a rare survivor of the Great North Wood, a giant forest that once spread across the highground between Deptford and Selhurst. Resurrecting the forest could be awesome news for London’s wildlife. Over its hundreds of years, the habitat has been home to slow worms, endangered hedgehogs, woodpeckers, sparrowhawks and owls. It’s also home oak trees, field maples and some of the capital’s last remaining elm trees.

The Fourth Reserve Foundation, which led to the campaign to save Gorne Wood, said it will be restored by ‘planting trees and restoring ponds and meadow habitats’. The charity will also get rid of the decaying old Scout hut and replace it with ‘more environmentally sympathetic structures’ that can be used for all kinds of activities.

Anna-Maria Cahalane, a local resident involved in the campaign, said: ‘We are over the moon that the community have come together to raise the funds for this special place.’

‘The acquisition process may take several months but eventually the unstable hut will be removed, years of damage will be undone and a beautiful oasis will be created for environmental education and creative projects, and a resource for community groups. Wildlife will be cared for and protected and will finally be in safe hands.’

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