Sydenham Hill Wood is a part of the ancient Great North Wood which once stretched across south London. The remaining woodland is now crisscrossed by trails covered in soft, dappled light. It’s home to more than 200 species of trees and plants as well as stag beetles, green woodpeckers, and the rare silver-washed fritillary. The woodland is managed by the London Wildlife Trust who host volunteer and educational days on-site. Information can be found on their website or on bulletin boards in the woodland itself. Sydenham Hill is free to access and can be reached by foot or by bike from other green spaces in South London along the Green Chain Walk. If you have the time you can walk along the chain for 50 miles! Alternatively, you can get there by numerous bus routes or overground trains to Sydenham Hill or Forest Hill.
Average rating: 3.6 (good)
Average spend per person: $2 – entrance is free so the only costs are transport and any food or drinks you might need on the way
Number of reports: 9
Best time to visit: May – August
Typical activities: bird watching, walking
Wildlife in Sydenham Hill Wood
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the species visitors most want to see here are:
Green Woodpecker – 0% of visitors (0/9) reported sightings
The European green woodpecker is the largest of the three woodpeckers that breed in Britain. They have a loud call but, unlike other species of woodpecker, they don’t drum to communicate and spend much of their time on the ground feeding. They can be seen in Sydenham Hill year round although can be tricky to spot. While they roost in the woods they tend not to feed there, preferring grassy areas where they can feed on the ground – such as the nearby golf course. Listen out for their distinctive call and you might spot one!
Silver-washed fritillary – 67% of visitors (6/9) reported sightings
Silver-washed fritillaries like sunny, deciduous woodlands, especially oaks. They are strong fliers, and more mobile than other fritillaries, so can be seen gliding above the trees at high speed. They are on the wing from July to August and can be seen feeding on bramble blossom. While they are rare in the UK, Sydenham Hill Wood is a good place to spot them. We saw them – as well as loads of other butterflies – fluttering through the open glades to the south of the site. If you’re out looking for fritillaries in July or August you can get involved in the Big Butterfly Count and help to protect these beautiful insects!
stag beetle – 0% of visitors (0/9) reported sightings
Stag beetles are named because the male’s jaws look like the antlers of a stag. They use these jaws to fight for a mate just like stags during a rut. They are Britain’s largest (and rarest) land beetle and can grow up to 8 cm long. They can be quite hard to see because, although they can live for up to 7 years, much of that life is spent in the ground or in rotting piles of wood.
Sydenham Hill Wood has a number of wood piles deliberately provided as habitat for the stag beetle. The best time to see them is during ‘stag beetle season‘ from May to July. Males can be seen at dusk when they fly around looking for a mate. While females are typically seen on the ground close to piles of rotting wood. South London is a stronghold for the species however sightings are rare. If you see one of these incredible insects please report it to the London Wildlife Trust.