diamond geezer

 Tuesday, October 27, 2020

At this time of the year, with the trees on the turn, it's hard to beat a walk in the woods.

So long as there are any woods nearby, that is.

In England only 18% of the population live within 500m of accessible woodland. This varies a lot according to where you live, for example from 8% in Suffolk to 26% in Surrey, or from 4% in Portsmouth to 62% in Southampton. Greater London manages a lower-than-average 14%.

But 68% of England's population live within 4km of a larger area of woodland (specifically at least two hectares - the size of three football pitches). Again this varies according to where you live, for example from 2% in East Yorkshire to 82% in East Sussex, or from 6% in Leicester to 100% in Sheffield. Greater London manages an above-average 75%.

In Tower Hamlets, alas, woodland is very thin on the ground. The council are only able to give four examples.
» Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park: This is fabulous to have on your doorstep, a Victorian cemetery last used in 1966 and since repurposed as a nature reserve. It now resembles natural woodland with towering sycamores, winding muddy paths and bluebells in the spring, although a large amount of gravestones and funerary monuments are scattered almost everywhere. It's definitely the nearest thing Tower Hamlets has to woodland, but hard to escape the notion that you're really in a cemetery.
» Mudchute Park and Farm: According to the council this "contains wooded areas and woodland trails", and these are very pleasant, but nowhere's extensively planted enough that you could describe it as a proper wood.
» Mile End Park: This has hundreds of trees and a couple of small areas described as woodland walks, but these both have gravelly paths bounded by chunks of treetrunk and are of very limited extent, so they're not woods.
» Weavers Field: This has a woodland trail, which is essentially a thin strip of trees planted along one side of a park. It's just wide enough that you could take poorly-travelled children there and say "this is what a wood looks like", but it's not a wood.
Newham nextdoor doesn't fare much better. Again I can think of several parks with trees, long stripped paths through Beckton and a decently wooded churchyard nature reserve in East Ham. But proper woods, I'd argue, should have an air of natural development about them, and parks and cycleways and cemeteries don't quite cut it. They should also be accessible to the public, at least two hectares in size and allow you to wander off piste beneath a canopy of branches. Essentially if you're not sure if somewhere is proper woodland, it probably isn't.

But some boroughs have woods aplenty, particularly in outer London, and their lucky residents get to enjoy the autumn colours in their natural habitat.

So I thought I'd have a go at compiling The Best Wood In Each London Borough.

In some boroughs it's really easy to pick the best woods, and in others much harder. Some boroughs are hard because there are too many good woods (e.g. Bromley and Croydon) and others are hard because there aren't enough (e.g. Kingston and Ealing). You may disagree.

Bromley: Petts Wood
Croydon: Selsdon Wood
Hillingdon: Ruislip Woods
Havering: Thames Chase Community Forest
Waltham Forest: Epping Forest
Richmond: Ham Common Woods
Merton: Wimbledon Common
Redbridge: Hainault Forest Country Park
Wandsworth: Putney Heath
Greenwich: Oxleas Wood
Bexley: Lesnes Abbey Woods
Brent: Barn Hill Wood
Camden: Hampstead Heath
Barnet: Monken Hadley Common
Enfield: Trent Country Park
Southwark: Sydenham Hill Wood
Haringey: Queen's Wood
Hackney: Wick Woodland
Lewisham: Beckenham Place Park
Harrow: Stanmore Common
Ealing: Horsenden Hill?
Hounslow: Donkey Wood
Lambeth: Streatham Common
Hammersmith and Fulham: Wormwood Scrubs
Kingston: Coombe Hill Wood
Sutton: Big Wood

Islington: Barnsbury Wood??
Kensington and Chelsea: Holland Park??
Barking and Dagenham: Ripple Nature Reserve??
Tower Hamlets: Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park??

Newham: no woodland?
Westminster: no woodland?
City of London: no woodland

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